7 unexpected fitness tools that really work

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If the last few years fell short of motivating you into six pack abs and easy breathing during the company 5K, then you might benefit from a couple fitness hack tools in 2018. They help remove the roadblocks between you and your goal and optimize the effort you’re already giving.

Some are no-brainers — cult-favorite socksfantastic wireless headphones, and maybe even an app that can help you navigate the landscape of routines by generating one for you. If you hate working out in front of other people or want to focus on safe but effective routines that are travel-friendly, check out the cult-favorite TRX systems.

Some, however, lay just to the side of the beaten path. Instead of sit-ups, try an ab wheel. Instead of doing mountain climbers for 30 seconds before diagnosing the awkward motion as a hoax, grab $10 sliders to make your motions smoother, deeper, and more enjoyable so you have fewer excuses.

Below are 7 tools you might not think of buying but have the potential to make a big difference to your workout routine:

Battling ropes

Steadily rising in popularity over the last few years, battling ropes might be something you’ve seen in your local gym or broadcasted as an intrinsic part of a celebrity workout regime.

The idea is that these thicker-than-average ropes are not only a fun new way to work in your cardio, but that the actions required to move them will more dynamically engage muscle groups all over the body. It’s a great way to work up a sweat at the same time you work out the entire body using one tool.

Get your own to and set up on a hook or anchor to a pole or tire for a great at-home workout.

Titan Poly Battle Rope, $41.99

Exercise sliders

Use the slick side for carpets and the foam side for hard surfaces to improve a nearly endless number of exercises. It’s a cheap way to make motions like mountain climbers, lunges, and reverse crunches more effective and enjoyable to do, so you have fewer reasons to put exercises off. For $10, it might wind up being one of the best buys you make to help you stay true to your resolution to work out more.

Double-Sided Elite Sportz Exercise Sliders, available on Amazon, $10

Leggings with built-in resistance bands

Physiclo’s leggings with built-in resistance bands have to be among my favorite fitness hacks that I’ve found while on the job here.

They can be a challenge to get on and off and the fit might not be as flattering as your pair from Lululemon, but they’re an actually helpful innovation to fitness in a sea of gimmicks.

While working at an NYU rehabilitation center, co-founder Frank Yao and his fellow med students and physicians wanted to make it easier for patients to improve their fitness with limited time and fewer opportunities. “Resistance clothing” helped patients turn everyday activities into opportunities to improve physical fitness and tone muscle.

The same benefits apply to athletes and casual gym-goers. You can find a full review here, but if you’re looking for a way to optimize everyday errands to arduous gym sessions, you might want to look into checking out a pair of Physiclo’s resistance leggingsyourself.

Women’s Pro Resistance Tights, available on Amazon, $71.24, (size XS only)and Physiclo, $125 (all sizes)

Men’s Pro Resistance Tights, available on Physiclo, $125

Ankle/wrist weights

They might not be the most stylish thing in the world, but they’re one of the easiest and most inexpensive ways to get a workout in at home. I actually have this exact pair, and on the nights when I don’t want to bundle up and go to the gym, I put a movie on and work through some exercises with these on to keep myself productive. They’re also helpful on “rest” days when you don’t want anything arduous but like the consistency of a routine.

Surprisingly, I’ve actually woken up sore from them before.

Valeo Adjustable Ankle/Wrist Weights, available on Amazon, $19.99

A bike desk


If it’s tough to find time for the gym or money for classes, you might benefit from some creative tweaks to other everyday tasks like working from home or wasting time on the computer. We had the chance to try out a bike desk in the office and loved it, but my own mother happens to swear by this more compact option.

LifeSpan Unity Bike Desk, available on Amazon, $299.99

Exerpeutic WORKFIT 1000 Desk Station Folding Semi-Recumbent Exercise Bike, $229.99

An ab wheel

ust like the battling ropes, the beauty of an ab wheel hides in its simplicity. It might not seem like a tough workout from afar, but you’ll know from the first roll that this is working. You’ll need to use your arms to roll the wheel out and back, but the instability will engage your core and other harder-to-reach muscles. If you’re looking to target obliques, simply roll it from side to side.

The wheel has a spring design that will actively work against your movements and add resistance, too, so you’re maximizing every roll. If you’re sick of sit-ups, want to engage more muscles, or hate the limited range of motion other ab exercises offer, this is a solid investment at $30.

Perfect Fitness Ab Carver Pro Roller, available on Amazon, $34.99

A foam roller

Foam rollers are crucial for increasing range of motion and mobility. It makes the short list of the best at-home exercise buys you can make, according to personal trainer Chris DiVecchio, because “more mobility means more muscle fiber recruitment, which translates to bigger and stronger muscles.”

DiVecchio recommends the Vyper, but if you don’t want to pay top-dollar there are many great options, like this internet favorite.

HyperIce Vyper 3-Speed Vibrating Foam Roller for Muscles, available on Amazon, $275.44

TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller, available on Amazon, $34.99

Note: HyperIce Vyper 3-Speed Vibrating Foam Roller currently unavailable

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