These easy-to-use tools pump extra excitement and motivation into your workout, plus they'll engage muscles in new ways to challenge your body and rev calorie burn.
Incredibly, these lightweight strips of rubber really do whip muscles into shape, increasing strength and endurance. To use, loop one around your waist, feet, or hands, then pull on the ends to create resistance. Another big benefit: You can take them anywhere.
One to try: Altus Pilates Resistance Bands With Handles ($19.99, sportsauthority.com). This set comes with three latex bands that offer different levels of resistance, enabling you to step up the challenge as you gain strength. Also, the attachable cushioned handles take the "ouch" out of wrapping the bands around your hands.
Back in the day, you were probably having too much fun jumping rope to realize you were also getting a total-body workout. Challenge your workout buddy (or the kids) to a jump rope contest and burn about 175 calories per 15 minutes.
One to try: C9 by Champion Pulse Rate Jump Rope ($24.99, Target). Although a rope without bells and whistles is sufficient, this one, which adjusts to your height and tracks exercise time, number of rotations, and calories burned, makes goal-setting simple.
These colorful weighted balls make a great alternative to dumbbells, plus they help build serious "core strength." Hold one during shoulder presses or lunges, or tuck
it between your knees during reverse crunches.
One to try: Danskin's Weighted Toning Ball (6 lbs, $16.99; 8 lbs, $19.99; fitnessem.com). With a soft, squishy "shell," this model is easier to grip between your hands or knees than those with a tough rubber exterior.
These king-size balls have gained a huge following-and for good reason. They can improve flexibility, balance, and posture while building muscle strength, especially in the abdominal region (stabilizing yourself on the ball engages your core). And then there's the versatility. You can lie on your back for ab work, stretching, or upper-body moves, or rest your belly on the ball for push-ups. You can even substitute the ball for your office chair to keep your core muscles engaged while you're working.
One to try: Gaiam Tie Dye BalanceBall Beginners Kit ($30, Barnes & Noble, Borders, and Ulta stores), which includes an air pump and a 35-minute DVD with three different core-enhancing workouts using the BalanceBall. Most stability balls offer the same features, but the cool, cheery pattern on this ball (it comes in tie-dyed pink or green) can inject a little energy into your workout.
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