What the Heck Is That?: The Forgotten Gym Equipment You Should Be Using

How to use the gym equipment everybody else ignores.

Photos by Claudia Gavin

Photos by Claudia Gavin

You’ve seen it: the bands, steps, pulleys and other strange equipment gathering dust in the corner of the gym. You’ve probably even wondered (out loud, maybe?): What the heck is that stuff, anyway?

We wondered, too — which is why we enlisted Center City-based personal trainer Brian Maher to decode that oft-forgotten gym equipment we should have been using all along. Here, how to get a great workout with five awesome pieces of equipment most everyone ignores at the gym.

1. Gliders
Why it’s awesome: Placed under hands or feet to help you slide along the floor, they create instability, forcing you to use more muscle groups.
How to use it: Try it with mountain climbers: Get in plank position with gliders under toes. Slide your left foot along the floor to bring your knee toward your chest, and slide back out. Repeat on the right, switching legs rapidly.

2. Medicine ball
Why it’s awesome: Test your power — your body’s maximum exertion using an explosive movement — and get some frustration out, too.
How to use it: Try it with slams: Standing with feet hip-width apart, hold a medicine ball above your head with both hands. Forcefully slam the ball onto the floor in front of you as hard as you can. Catch it and repeat.

3. Versa-Loops
Why it’s awesome: Portability! Plus, you can add complexity to moves you’re already doing.
How to use it: Try it with wall sits: Put a band around both legs just above the knees. Find wall space and sit with your back flat against the wall, legs bent at 90 degrees. Resist the band slightly to keep thighs from turning in, working your outer-thigh muscles. Hold for at least 30 seconds.

4. BOSU Balance Trainer
Why it’s awesome: You’ll have to engage your core the entire time to find balance on this half-dome ball. Use it ball-side up for beginners or flat-side up for advanced.
How to use it: Try it with biceps curls: Stand on the ball with feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent. Without wobbling, perform curls using weights, resisting slowly as you lift and lower them.

5. TRX
Why it’s awesome: The suspension trainer adds instability to bodyweight moves and can be used to create hundreds of exercise variations.
How to use it: Try it with the Atomic Push-up: Get into plank position with hands on the floor and feet looped in the TRX handles. Do a push-up, but when you return to the plank position, draw your knees in to your core, hold, and release. Repeat.

This article first appeared in the April 2015 issue of Philadelphia magazine.

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