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Do-It-Yourself Fitness

A back-to-basics approach may be edging out high-tech exercise trends, experts say.

Low-Tech Doesn't Mean No Tech continued...

2. The New Power Weights. A new generation of "power weights," unlike the ordinary dumbbells used for strength training, has emerged. Their main draw: Home users can stock a set of these weights in a package not much bigger than a shoebox. You can work your way up to a variety of weight-training combinations without having to store dozens of bulky dumbbells between your CD collection and your big-screen TV.

"They've very compact -- weighing between 2.5 and 125 pounds -- and [take] up almost no space, compared to a rack of dumbbells, which take up a huge amount of space," says Rutstein. "Plus they are also more comfortable and more convenient to use at home."

How It's Done: Either with the help of a weight bench or on your own, you lift the weights in various positions, helping to isolate and tone different muscles. You adjust the weight using pins that lock various levels of the square weights into a box-shaped configuration.

Cost: PowerBlock costs from $119 for a starter set to $349 for the elite trainer set. Select Tech by Nautilus (a different design with a similar principle) costs about $400 for one set of small adjustable barbells.

3. The Fit Deck. Love to play poker? You can quench your urge to gamble and get healthy at the same time with a workout aid called The Fit Deck. The concept is simple: A deck of 56 cards, most of which feature illustrated exercises, pointers on how to do them, and a suggested number of repetitions or a time frame for beginners, intermediates, and experts. The deck includes instructions for a variety of simple challenge games that provide a spontaneous, ever-changing variety of exercises.

"Think of the calisthenics you did in the fifth grade -- good clean fun that really worked to keep you in shape," says Black, who helped develop the cards based on the exercises he taught Navy Seals.

How It's Done: Each card displays an exercise - such as lunges or sit-ups - to be performed for a specific amount of time. A few cards are "jokers," which either let you skip an exercise (think "Get out of jail free" card) or make you double the exercise (think "Go directly to jail" card!) The cards are equally divided among upper, lower, and full-body workouts. To use, you simply shuffle the deck, then randomly choose 5-20 cards and start working out. (Ten cards will fill 10 minutes of exercise time, while 20 cards will fill 20 minutes, etc). Alternately there are simple instructions for various games you can play by yourself, or with two or more people. A slow-motion instructional DVD is available for those who need help with form.

Cost: $18.95 for one deck or $24.95 for the deck and an instructional DVD. Also available is the Fitness Deck Jr. for children, including a book of easy-to-learn games, for $14.95.

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