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The Best Exercise Equipment You're Not Using

These 12 underrated fitness machines and gadgets could give your workout a boost.

Cardiovascular Fitness Equipment

Step mill (a stair-stepping machine with actual steps). Choosing this machine over the treadmill will likely give you a better workout, says Moreno.

"It's like a really nice cross between not having to do too much and getting a lot," she says. "If you walked at the same pace, you wouldn't get the same benefit."

Because it closely simulates climbing steps, and you have to pick up your feet to get to the next step, it burns more calories than walking while it works the hamstrings and glutes, she says. Just 1-5 minutes on this machine can be beneficial, says Moreno.

"It will help you develop leg strength you can't develop on any other machine, besides, it's everyday life," she says. "We need to be able to walk up stairs."

Upper body (arm) ergometer. Most often used by people trying to get a cardiovascular workout while recovering from an injury, this machine can do a lot more. It's great even if you're not injured and don't need to sit, says Moreno.

She recommends hovering over the saddle in a mini-squat (dropping the seat a little, if necessary), which makes you use your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and core for balance while you work your entire upper body and increase your heart rate.

"It brings the calorie expenditure up and it brings the fun up," she says.

For more challenge, Moreno suggests timing yourself to keep the rhythm of the song you're listening to for one minute, trying single-leg squats while using the machine, and switching directions without losing the beat.

Versa climber. You remember this oldie but goodie: the vertical climbing machine with pedals and handles you slide up and down to simulate climbing.

This machine goes back to basics, says Moreno: "You're moving your body weight. It's whole-body movement. There's a simplicity to it."

With arms and legs moving up and down, she says, you can incorporate more and different muscle groups that you would with an elliptical machine, bike or treadmill.

Rowing machine. The rowing machine has "tremendous applications for all kinds of individuals," says Westcott. "No. 1: it's not weight bearing, so there is no landing force.

Better still, he says, this exercise machine works more major muscle groups than any other cardio tool in the gym -- including the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and anterior tibials (shins) in the lower body, and the pecs, shoulders, triceps, rhomboids, and lats in the upper body.

Exercise Equipment and Safety

All our experts advise working at your own level and getting instruction from a qualified professional if you're not sure how to use a particular machine. And as always, be sure to get cleared by your doctor before starting any new exercise program.

"Begin everything by taking a moment to stand in good posture," says Moreno, with ears over shoulders, shoulders over hips, hips over knees, and knees over ankles.

When executing a strength exercise, "try placing a small squishy ball (yoga block or towel) between the knees," she says. "You get extra inner thigh work plus an awareness of form and alignment."

Reviewed on February 14, 2008

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