The Scene: Transformer looking pieces of equipment; huge with hard angles. People looking absolutely comfortable and in control of them. Panting, grunting, the sound of weights being dropped. The average person coming into the gym for the first time is going to be a little anxious, shall I say. For many people, a fitness facility, be it a gym or studio is- at least in the beginning- a scary, intimidating place. Once a person becomes accustomed to the big gear such as the weights, free weights, and cardio equipment, there are the oddball things such as, well, the Swiss ball, for example. Blades, purple disks, soft rubber balls, foam tiles- just when you thought you had the lay of the land, you encounter these foreign objects.
At the bigger club where I work these “toys” (as I refer to them) are found in cubbies. So today we are demystifying the cubbies starting with those thin purple disks, also known as “gliding disks.”
Gliding Disks enable you to glide across the surface. You can put them under your feet to work your lower body or under your hands or forearms to work your upper body. Gliding incorporates balance, cardio training, sculpting, and flexibility. One easy exercise to work the lower body is to put a gliding disk under your left foot and to bring the left leg out to the side and in (abduct and adduct the leg). An upper body exercise to is have the disks under both hands, extend the arms while laying prone on a mat. Circle the arms backwards and when the elbows bend, lift the chest.
Bender balls that look like soft, rubber balls allow you to work your core, chest, glutes, hamstrings, and back. By placing them between your palms or knees and squeezing the ball, you are contracting your muscles. They are roughly the size of volleyballs and are very effective for sculpting.
Pilates Magic Circles or rings are utilized similarly to the way you use the soft balls or Bender balls. Magic circles have been around a lot longer. It is said that Josef Pilates, fond of his evening cocktail, had a keg of beer on tap in his studio. A renown tinkerer, Pilates fashioned the first Magic circle from a sawed off keg and two wooden blocks. Today our rings and circles are a lot less primitive and have much more give. They can be placed between the hands, the knees, or the ankles and under the feet or on the forehead. Again it is a small contraction of muscle groups; great for toning.
The Bodyblade or SlimJim©-looking device is one you may have seen leaning in a corner is used for vibration training of the muscles. The blade strengthens your core as you steady yourself, oscillating the bar back and forth, flexing it forward and back. Vibrational training activates both voluntary and involuntary muscles, increases blood flow, and delivers both sculpting and proprioceptive strength and power.
Kettlebells, these are the cannonball looking objects with handles. They have been around for centuries and were historically used by Eastern European armies. Today they are alternatives to dumbbells and offer amazing cardio workouts as well. You can expect a “two-fer” when you work with kettlebells ballistically. In this type of training the athlete accelerates and releases the weight into “free space.” Common ballistic kettlebell exercises are snatches, swings and jerks.
Toning bar or Body Bar, these are the weighted bars, of varying poundage, covered in smooth foam. These are very versatile props that are used for sculpting. You can literally work your entire body using body bars. Follow the hyperlink at the beginning of this paragraph for a workout or check this book out from your library; I believe it to be the definitive guide to using the body bar: Body Bar: 133 Moves for Full Body Fitness by Greg Cook and Fatima d’Almeida-Cook.
The last of the toys to be demystified are the ones used for proprioceptive, balance training. If you are doing trampoline training, working on your JumpSport Fitness Trampoline,™ you’re already doing this; however, these “toys” can further develop that experience and improve your prowess.
Have you ever seen large square foam blocks or tiles? Maybe even rectangles or logs that look as if they have been cut in half? These are used for balance training. Balance training requires all of your muscles to fire so you stay upright. You create a firm foundation, literally, for developing a strong body. As you develop these muscles, your ability to burn calories is amplified, but balance training does more than improve your balance; it also increases stamina, increases coordination, and helps you lean out. Another balance toy you may encounter are whoopi cushion looking things with dimples or rubbery spikes, these are known as balance disks. You can stand on them and lift weights; you can do lunges, heel lifts, or do leg lifts front, side, and back; you can put them under your tail bone and use them while doing abdominal work. Like the foam blocks, these disks are used for stabilization, recruiting muscles to hold your body in place while you perform work.
Props are fun and can help you achieve new results, blast out of a plateau or rescue you from burnout. The Internet is bursting at the seams with workouts and information pertaining to each piece of equipment. There are books, YouTube videos, and there may even be classes at your gym or a studio nearby where you can take classes specifically for balance training or, an even more specific example, the use of kettlebells. Personal trainers are well-versed in these specialty props and can provide you with hands-on instruction. However you go about exploring the toy chest, I recommend you hop to it! Fitness toys are a lot of fun. Often they are ignored because they are not explained but now you have at least a primer to work with. Go play and share your experience: Tweet it @FitTrampolines, post it on the blog or share your work out on the JFT Facebook page. Each of these props dovetail beautifully with the JumpSport Fitness™trampoline; you can add cardio intervals for an extremely effective and innovative work out. Take pictures, video, give a hollar! Your stories can inspire another person to get on the health bandwagon and that’s an awesome thing! Pay it forward!
Until next week, wishing you a joyous time exploring the cubbies and corners of your gym. Have fun playing, maybe even schedule a play date with a friend!
Wishing you eternal health,
Heidi Aspen Lauckhardt-Rhoades
Writer and Social Media Correspondent
FB: The Write Fit