I have a confession: fitness equipment scares me a little! And the sillier, the wackier, or the scarier it looks, the more I tend to run for the hills. While some of you may love ordering the latest and greatest “Seen On TV” gym equipment, I scratch my head and ask if we could just jump some rope or go for a run. My boot camp instructor has an entire fitness equipment trailer that she pulls in back of her SUV to all of our park boot camp sessions, and the thing is packed to the gills with dumbbells, barbells, balls, frisbees and lots of scary looking rope-like contraptions. She loves to invent all these crazy exercises using battle ropes and tethers that require as much brain power to get into as muscle power.
But you know what? All those exercises and contraptions and balls, bells and whistles usually do work, often to my shock and dismay. The other day, as she was having us bounce a heavy ball off another flat thing called a Bosu ball, I started thinking back to my mom’s Suzanne Somers’ Thigh Master, and how despite my relentless joking and teasing, I discovered the joke was on me when as a spry teenage track star, I could barely do 10 squeezes of the thing before it felt like my thighs would melt off. While I may not be the most eager of customers, I have to admit there’s a lot of workout equipment out there that may look really silly but does indeed get the job done.
I’ve rounded up 9 of my favorites, all of which have always given me a bit of a chuckle, but the reviews speak for themselves. Hundreds of happy customers can’t be wrong, and surely there must be something to these wacky fitness items.
Suzanne Somers’ Thigh Master 1 of 9
As simple as they come, the Thigh Master is basically a looped piece of metal on a hinge that you place between your thighs, to help shape, tone, and strengthen them. Made popular in the '90s through a steady stream of infomercials, over a decade later it is still one of the most popular at-home pieces of gym equipment, receiving a 4.5/5 rating on Amazon. I personally can attest to its effectiveness, and still remember feeling the burn after I used my mom's on a routine basis.
Buy it here for $55.95
Ab Wheel 2 of 9
Instead of naming this the Ab Wheel, they should call it the Ab Torturer, because this thing seriously works, despite its simple design. Targeting the abs, you basically just hold onto the two handle bars, and while on your knees, you use your core muscles to wheel yourself in and out. It may seem like child's play, but this thing is a killer on your abs and seriously works to strengthen your whole core, including your back. A personal trainer's favorite, don't knock it till you try it. And with thousands of positive reviews online, it receives a 4.5/5 star Amazon rating.
Buy it here for $14.99
Flex Belt 3 of 9
I know what you're thinking, the Flex Belt employs Denise Richards as the spokeswoman, and it claims to strengthen and firm your abs by simply wearing it around the house? Must be some sort of crazy joke, right? At least that's what I was thinking, but based on thousands of personal testimonials and some serious scientific backed research, it appears this little belt may indeed be an ab miracle. It uses patented EMS muscle stimulation technology to deliver abdominal contractions, which target all the muscles in your abdomen, in just 30 minutes a day. It's been around for over 15 years and has achieved over 2 million sales worldwide. The original patented Flex Belt gets a 4/5 Amazon star rating.
Buy it here for $199.95
Ab Rocket 4 of 9
So you sit in a chair and just twist from side to side. Sounds and looks too good to be true, right? While I can't attest to its effectiveness, the reviews online are stellar, earning it a 4/5 star rating on Walmart. What looks particularly valuable to me is that the rocket allows you to get a good ab workout in, while protecting your neck and back, which often suffer during floor crunches and with the use of other ab machines, a definite plus for those who may have weak core strength to begin with and may strain their back or neck muscles.
Buy it here for $97.00
Bodyblade 5 of 9
The Bodyblade is a 1.5 lb flexible blade that varies in lengths, but works by using small movement to oscillate, or flex, the blade, helping to strengthen and rehabilitate the shoulders, back, core muscles, and lower extremities. On average, in just one minute, the ends of the Bodyblade move back and forth 270 times, therefore your muscles have to react and resist the movement 270 times. While other gym equipment is a chore to store, this would easily fit in a closet or under a bed, and the technology makes total sense.
Buy it here for $69.99
Bullworker 6 of 9
Using resistance training, the Bullworker is an at-home piece of gym equipment that provides varying levels of resistance to give you a full-body workout, although many reviews found it to be most beneficial to the upper-body. It claims to help strengthen, define and increase flexibility, and it must be doing something right because it's achieved a 4.5/5 star Amazon rating.
Buy it here $160.00
Original Step Equipment 7 of 9
While the original stacking step equipment may have lost a bit of its luster over the years, there's a reason why this piece of equipment with a very basic premise grew in popularity; the material of the steps were made to absorb the user's impact, making it a safe and comfortable way to get a cardio and strength training workout. Many trainers and boot camp instructors now prefer to use park benches or stairs, probably because they're free and require less equipment, using an aerobic step will always be easier on your back and joints because it can absorb shock and pressure. Concrete, unfortunately, can't do that. So make fun of your mom all you want, at least she's getting a safe and effective workout.
Buy it here for $85.45
8 Minute Abs 8 of 9
This DVD series has received a lot of flack over the years, with critics claiming it takes more than just 8 minutes a day to achieve great abs. While they're right to some extent, as it usually takes a strict diet to really achieve great abs, one doesn't need to spend an hour a day on their abs, and if you're doing the right exercises with the right form, 8 minutes can make a huge difference. If not, this DVD series would have fallen off the charts years ago, but over 10 years later, it's still selling strong.
Buy it here for $13.88
The Shake Weight 9 of 9
According to the marketers of the Shake Weight, the workout tool uses "groundbreaking workout technology called Dynamic Inertia" to engage the muscles in the arms, shoulders and chest, which increases upper body muscle activity by more than 300% compared to traditional free weights. Because of its somewhat suggestive sexual nature, The Shake Weight has been the brunt of many jokes and online videos, even becoming the focus of a SNL skit. However testimonials and reviews claim that the product with the funny infomercial does indeed work. One reviewer even admitted that she bought it as a white elephant gift, but after using it, discovered it gave her a great workout and ended up buying another weight to use at home. Mock it all you want, Amazon reviewers consistently give it a 4.5-5 star rating.
Buy it here for $7.69