Whether you’re a gym newbie or a fitness pro, there are probably some pieces of equipment at your gym that you look at and wonder, “What in the world am I supposed to do with that?” You might also wonder if you can get a good workout using them. Well, we polled top trainers to find out what they think the best but most underused pieces of gym equipment are. We got them to tell us how to use them too! Keep reading to find out how you can refresh your fitness routine and take it to the next level.
1. The Bosu Balance Trainer: You know that thing that looks like half of an exercise ball? That’s a Bosu, and it’s totally badass. “The Bosu is a versatile tool designed to enhance cardio, strength, core and flexibility work,” explains Shannon Fable, personal and group trainer. “Whether you stand, sit, kneel or lie on the half ball, you recruit your core to maintain your balance on the unstable surface.” Not only does it help you tone your core muscles, but it also develops them in a way that helps improve your posture and protect you from injury.
To get started with the Bosu, Shannon recommends three things: “light jogging on top or on and off the dome as a bit of cardio in between sets, or for the beginning of a warm-up; squatting with both feet on top, or one foot on top and one on the ground; or, of course, simple hand weight exercises such as biceps curls, front raises, overhead presses and the like are enhanced when performed standing or kneeling on top of the dome.” You can incorporate it into pretty much any workout, which is why it’s so awesome!
2. Jump Rope: Looking at a jump rope may bring back childhood memories, but anyone who uses one at the gym knows it’s a crazy sweat-inducing piece of equipment. “The first thing I look for when I walk into the gym is a jump rope,” says Jenna Wolfe, TV personality and author of Thinner in 30. Why use it? Well, according to Jenna, “It strengthens your feet, calves and bones while improving your conditioning, endurance and agility.” In other words, the jump rope is a true multitasker. Jenna recommends jumping rope for three to five minutes to warm up before working out, or making the jump rope part of your actual workout. “I’ll often use it as my actual workout by doing a sequence, like 30 fast skips, 30 push-ups, 30 jump squats, 20 fast skips, 20 push-ups, 20 jump squats, 10 fast skips, 10 push-ups, 10 jump squats. Repeat three times.” They are also awesome for travel, since they barely take up any space in your bag.
3. TRX Suspension Trainer: Those black and yellow straps you see hanging in your gym are called the TRX Suspension Trainer, and they’re pretty amazing because they allow you to use your own body weight to do all kinds of exercises. Todd Durkin, owner of Fitness Quest 10, says it’s an “awesome tool that can be used by people of ALL levels, from beginner on up to advanced.” The straps can be used to support lunges, push-ups and body weight rows. “All of these moves can be modified to make it as easy or as difficult as you desire by simply adjusting your body angle when performing the move,” explains Todd.
4. Exercise Ball: Many people use exercise balls to do crunches, but they are capable of so much more! “I love to use them for squats, hamstring curls and push-up pike combos,” says Lisa Corsello, the founder, creator and CEO of Burn. Lisa suggests placing the ball between your back and a wall for squats, which will allow you to go lower than you usually do. Plus, you can increase the intensity by slowing down the movement. For the push-up pike combo, she explains: “Come into a plank position with your feet on top of the ball, hands in push-up position. After each push-up, slowly lift your hips up by contracting your abs and keep your legs straight as the ball comes closer toward you. Pause at the top and return to starting position.” It’s a tough one, but you’ll feel like a boss afterward, promise.
5. Rowing Machine: If you’ve never used a rowing machine before, it might seem confusing at first, but once you get the rhythm down, you’ll be all set. “Strap your feet in tightly so that they are secured,” instructs Dempsey Marks, fitness expert and co-creator of the PreGame Fit fitness program. “Hold the handle with an overhand grip. Your arms should be straight, knees bent, torso bent slightly forward. Start with the weight on the balls of your feet. Keeping your core engaged and back straight, drive through your feet and use your legs to push yourself back, and then use your upper back to pull the handle to your chest. Return to the start by releasing your arms and then re-bending your knees and allowing the seat to slide forward.” If you’re confused, a good way to remember this is legs, arms, arms, legs, Dempsey says.
“Contrary to what many people believe, the rower is more of a legs exercise than an arms exercise,” she explains. “The rowing machine will strengthen your entire body — legs, core, arms and back. Unlike the treadmill, the rower is low impact and won’t hurt your knees, feet or ankles.” Basically, it’s a much more body-friendly way of doing cardio while also strengthening key muscle groups. Sounds like a win-win to us!
6. Boxing Bag: Chances are your gym has a boxing bag that no one uses. Noah Neiman, co-founder of Rumble Boxing, touts the exercise as “the ultimate full-body conditioning workout WITH bonus stress-relieving properties.” Um, yes, please. “Hitting the heavy bag teaches you muscular coordination, improves balance, strength and aerobic capacity, plus it just feels good after a hard day to throw your knuckles into something.” Truth. “The best bang, literally, for your sweat bucks is combining strength training with boxing,” says Noah. “I love to work with three-minute rounds. Set a timer for three to five-minute rounds, and switch up exercises or the work you’re doing on the bag every 30 to 60 seconds. This is a great way to get a full-body workout that bodies of all shapes, sizes and genders respond well to.” When it comes to boxing, you can go as fast or slow as you want, so it really is adjustable for every fitness level.
7. Kettlebell: You know those round weights with the handle on top? Those are pretty great too. “If you’re looking for a piece of equipment that forces you to engage every muscle in your body, this is it,” says Dustin Hogue, trainer at Studio Three. “Kettlebells are not meant to focus on isolating a specific muscle group like many strength-training machines; they are designed with an off-center weight distribution that forces you to engage every stabilizer within your body.” Basically, they give you a crazy-good core workout, and you can get both cardio and strength training done with them. “Since many of the movements done with kettlebells are explosive power movements, these bad boys are perfect for HIIT training,” explains Dustin. “In addition to being effective, kettlebells are also extremely convenient and versatile. Whether you are in the gym or at home, one bell allows you to go through a myriad of movements without changing equipment.”
What’s your favorite piece of gym equipment? Tweet us @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)