The Ab Circle Pro is yet another exercise device that claims remarkable results with little effort. It's advertised as "a treadmill for your abs." To use it, you kneel on two pads, hold on with your arms, and swivel your body back and forth along a track. The company claims that using it for only three minutes a day will flatten your stomach in weeks. We did find confirmation that the Ab Pro is easy to assemble and store, and theoretically, three resistance levels should give you room to improve.
The Ab Circle Pro comes with a nutrition plan, and reviewers note that it's this calorie-restricted diet that actually leads to fat loss -- not the device itself. Tests show that using the device for three minutes doesn't burn any more calories than a three-minute walk. The jury is still out on how well the Ab Circle Pro strengthens core muscles, but there are certainly far less expensive ways to do it.
Some owners also complain that using the Ab Circle Pro can be hard on the knees and back. Even owners who find the device fun to use say it's poorly made, and we found many complaints about build quality and early breakdowns. Reviewers also complain about the company's pricing and customer service.
The 30-day trial, advertised at $14.95, actually costs a lot more because there is an extra charge of about $35 for delivery. If you decide to return the device for a refund, you'll have to pay return shipping, too -- amounting to a $70 trial. Signing up for the trial also enrolls you in a subscription to a bimonthly vitamin order that can be difficult to cancel. Clearly, if you decide to try the Ab Circle Pro, it's important to buy it from a local retailer with a good return policy rather than from the Ab Circle website.
The Better Business Bureau has received many complaints about overcharges, missing parts, difficulty getting refunds and lack of response to inquiries. The Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program and the Los Angeles Better Business Bureau also evaluate complaints about the company's ads and customer service. The Chicago Tribune summarizes these reports, and a review at BurnMyBellyFat.com illuminates some of the fine print in the 30-day trial offer. We also found useful owner-written reviews at Amazon.com and BlurtIt.com.
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This full review of the Ab Circle Pro reports on tests by 13 panelists. Four people used the device while their energy expenditure and muscle activity were tested. All 13 panelists did the DVD workout.
Review: Abdominal Exercisers: Ab Circle Pro, Editors of ConsumerReports.org
This blog review and video clip provide a full critique of the Ab Circle Pro commercial, and warns consumers not to expect the results that manufacturer promises. The clip also reports the results of a panel of users who test the Ab Circle Pro by measuring the amount of calories burned. Skinner finds that the three-minute workout burns about the same amount of calories as a brisk three-minute walk.
Review: Ab Circle Pro: Hope for Your Love Handles -- or Hype?, Ginger Skinner, Jan. 6, 2010
3. Better Business Bureau
The distributor of the Ab Circle Pro, Fitness Brands Inc., earns a grade of F from the Better Business Bureau of Los Angeles. This report calls attention to the Ab Circle Pro's misleading ads as well as many reported complaints about customer service from Fitness Brands. The 30-day trial period starts with the order, not with delivery, and the trial automatically enrolls buyers in a subscription to vitamins. Customers report a wide range of problems, including overcharges, missing parts and inability to cancel an order or receive a refund.
Review: Business Report: Fitness Brands, Editors of Better Business Bureau
4. Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program
This report by an online retail watchdog group, sponsored by the Better Business Bureau, recommends that Fitness Brands revise some claims in its ads for the Ab Circle Pro, but notes that the fine print about a restricted-calorie diet does support the weight-loss claims.
Review: ERSP Finds Direct Entertainment Can Support Certain Claims for Ab Circle Pro, Editors of ERSP, Nov. 16, 2009
5. Chicago Tribune
This brief news article summarizes some points from ConsumerReports.org and ERSP reports criticizing claims about the Ab Circle Pro. The author also notes that even if the advertising and customer service problems are resolved, it's not clear how effective the device will prove to be.
Review: Julie's Health Club: Health Claims Ab Circle Pro, Julie Deardorff, Jan. 12, 2010
This review notes that the 30-day trial for $14.95 will actually cost much more -- there is a $35 delivery charge and an additional shipping fee if the product is returned after the trial. The author also notes that the device can strain the arms, and lists other drawbacks as well -- concluding that there are better ways to lose fat and strengthen core muscles.
Review: Ab Circle Pro Review, Editors of BurnMyBellyFat.com
About 75 owners review the Ab Circle Pro here and less than one-third of them are pleased. Complaints include poor build quality, breakdowns, plus sore knees and backs. Even owners who find it fun and effective complain that it's poorly made.
Review: Ab Circle Pro, Contributors to Amazon.com
More than 400 comments are published here, most criticizing the Ab Circle Pro and recommending other ways to lose fat and strengthen core muscles. The company's customer service also earns criticism here.
Review: Has Anyone Tried The "Ab Circle Pro" If So Is It Worth The Price?, Contributors to BlurtIt.com
This detailed review provides a nice summary of points made elsewhere, concluding that it's unlikely to be the best choice for exercising abs.
Review: Ab Circle Pro Review, Editors of Galttech.com
The Air Climber is a simple, lightweight device consisting of two oversized pedals set atop two air-filled bellows. The air in the bellows provides resistance as you pump up and down on the pedals while holding a strap in each hand to maintain your balance. The company website promises that the Air Climber facilitates "cardio, weight loss, and tighter abs and core" without the need for expensive workout equipment.
We had a particularly hard time finding reliable reviews of the Air Climber. Not only is the Internet littered with suspiciously positive "reviews" at suspiciously named websites such as AirClimberZone.com and AirClimberReviews.net, but there's no way of knowing how many of the people who praise this product on user-review sites have actually used it over long periods. To be fair, the majority of the nearly 200 posted reviews we found say positive things about the Air Climber; many owners claim they've lost weight and felt true muscle burn from their workouts.
Buried among the rave reviews, however, are owners who say the Air Climber could be more durable, and that it began to fall apart after weeks of use. In particular, we found numerous complaints about deflated bellows, sticking pedals and overall questionable construction. Other issues with the product include that it's difficult to balance on, it's loud, there's limited range of user motion, and customer service from the manufacturer was limited.
More than 100 owners post to HSN's website about the Air Climber, giving the product an average rating of 3.7 stars out of 5. Most are pleased with the product and their workout results, but more than a few say it's shoddily constructed. We found numerous complaints about the bellows breaking or deflating after only a few weeks of use. A few reviews say the device sometimes slips, it's hard to balance on and it's very loud.
Review: Brenda DyGraf's Air Climber With BodyCord and Workout DVDs, Contributors to HSN.com
In this short video posted on YouTube, Exercise.com contributors Clark and Anita Bartram test the Air Climber to see whether it really provides cardio, toning and abs all in one workout. After using it for a few minutes, Anita says it's an exercise machine that anyone can use, but that workouts could get dull and repetitive, especially if using it without the instructional DVD workouts. She likes that you can adjust the intensity of the workout by changing the resistance and adding the bands into the mix. Anita says the Air Climber is best for a person at the beginner or intermediate fitness level.
Review: The Real Deal: "Air Climber" Review, Clark and Anita Bartram
Of the more than 40 owners posting about the Air Climber to Amazon.com, most give this product good ratings. However, the most helpful review on this site, which also goes into the most depth, is extremely critical. The writer says the Air Climber is "lightweight, gives you a good workout and is easy on the joints," but he points out serious durability issues, including leaking bellows and unmovable pedals. Essentially, "this product was designed for folks who are lightweight and will use it occasionally." There were also a few complaints about customer service from reviewers who said they had a hard time returning the product and received little assistance when they called for support.
Review: Tristar Air Climber, Contributors to Amazon.com
Most of the 10 or so owners posting here have good things to say about the Air Climber, noting that they use the product regularly and it provides a good workout. The minor negatives include noise factors and improper packaging.
Review: Tristar Air Climber, Contributors to Target.com
The Pitch: "Up to 408% more effective than ordinary crunches"
March 2009. The Bender Ball is a small exercise ball that, according to the manufacturer, gives you a workout that's about four times more effective than doing abdominal crunches unassisted. Developed by trainer Leslee Bender, this inflatable green ball is about 7 inches in diameter. To use it, you're supposed to place it under your lower back to target your abdominal muscles while doing crunches. The product also comes with two DVDs, and the advertising tries to get you to sign up for monthly delivery of additional DVDs.
Despite the manufacturer's claims, the majority of user reviews for the Bender Ball are critical, deeming the Bender Ball a waste of money. Many of the complaints don't involve the ball itself as much as the exercise DVDs: Many consumers don't read the fine print when they order the Bender Ball off the official website, and are automatically charged for new DVDs each month -- discs they say they don't want. Others users complain that the DVD workouts are too short and don't motivate them. Another criticism is that the Bender Ball is unsupportive and doesn't fully inflate.
On the other hand, a minority of reviewers say the Bender Ball is an inventive, affordable and easy way to target your abdominal muscles. A few users praise the product for aiding in low back pain.
Many sites, such as InfomercialRatings.com, Viewpoints.com and Amazon.com feature both positive and negative consumer feedback, Fitness experts also weigh in at VitalHealthPartners.com and Dailyspark.com, expressing mixed opinions.
There are more than nine pages of Bender Ball reviews on this site, and it receives an average rating of two stars out of a possible five. The majority of owners complain that the manufacturer automatically charges their credit card each month for new DVDs. Others complain that the ball does not hold air for more than a day, and some say the ball hurts their backs. Many feel the DVDs are boring, but do teach you the core exercises. On the positive side, some reviewers say the Bender Ball ups the intensity of abdominal workouts and can be used for other exercises as well.
Review: Bender Ball Reviews, Contributors to InformercialRatings.com
This user-review site gives the Bender Ball a low rating of about 1.5 stars out of a possible five and features more than 20 reviews. More than half of owners writing here use the word "scam" to describe the automatic, monthly billing of new DVDs. Some reviewers say the DVDs offer little instruction and do not promote good form. Many users say the customer service department is not very helpful. Only about a fifth of users say they'd recommend the product. Users who like the Bender Ball say it's simple to use and helps support the lower back during crunches.
Review: Bender Ball Reviews, Contributors to Viewpoints.com
This site explores all aspects of weight loss and reviews products based on their safety and effectiveness. The Bender Ball receives twice as many negative comments as positive ones here. On the upside, reviewers say the Bender Ball enables you to work your abs in a way that basic floor crunches don't allow. The editors say if you use it consistently, you're likely to notice changes in your abs and waist. If you are unhappy with the results, the company does offer a 30-day money back guarantee. On the other hand, editors think the DVDs that accompany the Bender Ball are short and unmotivating. The editors also say the Bender Ball includes additional hidden charges that customers may not be aware of.
Review: Bender Ball Review, Editors of VitalHealthPartners.com
A handful of users review the Bender Ball on Amazon.com. Owners say if you order from distributor sites, rather than the official website, you will avoid monthly charges for additional DVDs. Some reviewers say the only truth to the infomercial advertisements is that the Bender Ball helps with flexion and extension; you need both motions to work your entire midsection effectively. Dissatisfied customers say the DVDs are useless and in order to see the best results, you need to do other workouts, such as cardio, along with the Bender Ball.
Review: Bender Ball Mini Ab Ball, Contributors to Amazon.com
Nicole Nichols, a health and fitness writer and exercise instructor, tests and reviews the Bender Ball on this healthy living blog. Nichols says the Bender Ball is nothing more than a ball, an inexpensive piece of equipment that has been used for years in the fitness industry. Nichols also tries the DVD workouts and says, "Don't let the short length of these workouts fool you. I found them to be extremely effective and challenging." She mentions that the company continues to ship and charge for new DVDs each month, but you can cancel anytime. The blog also contains more than 235 user comments that illustrate both the positive and negative aspects of the Bender Ball.
Review: Does It Really? We Test the Bender Ball, Nicole Nichols, Aug. 19, 2008
The Body By Jake Tower 200 is a home exercise machine that's designed to attach to any door without damaging it. Instead of using metal plates, the Tower 200 creates resistance with tension cords that approximate the feel of weights. The set includes two 25-pound cords, two 35-pound cords and two 40-pound cords that can be used separately or in combination for the desired amount of resistance with a maximum of 100 pounds on each side. A DVD with an 11-minute total-body workout is also included, as well as a chart that describes 200 exercises that can be done with the setup.
The cords used with the Tower 200 gradually increase resistance the farther they're stretched. According to advertisements, the cords have an advantage over free weights and some other resistance bands because they place more stress on the muscle at the ideal time.
Despite these claims, we found skeptical reviews from serious bodybuilders, most of whom say using resistance bands -- while better than not exercising at all -- can't substitute for free weights or gym machines. On the other hand, we found some positive reviews noting that resistance band setups are convenient and compact -- a useful home accessory even for people who go to a gym. Overall, we didn't find a huge consensus on how well it performs, but as with many home gyms, most reviewers say it works well enough. Will you get as ripped as the guy on TV? The likelihood is pretty slim.
Reviews confirm that the Tower 200 frame is sturdy and easy to attach to a door. But we did find several complaints from users about dangerous near-misses when the eyelets or plastic ends of the bands broke, causing the band to snap loose. This quality-control issue seems to be the main drawback cited users in reviews, yet Body By Jake Global LLC receives a grade of A-minus from the Better Business Bureau, where it has been an accredited business since 2002. Note that once the 30-day trial period is over, only the frame is covered by the limited warranty.
We found the best reviews of the Tower 200 doorway gym at YouTube, where a reviewer compares it to the similar Weider X-F Factor, and in forum discussions at BodyBuilding.com. Detailed single-product reviews at AssociatedContent.com and Epinions.com provide perspective from at-home exercisers. A brief forum discussion at Calguns.net compares the Tower 200 to a less expensive resistance set. We found one anonymous but very irate complaint about breakage at Complaints.com.
This user review includes a brief video and detailed text comparing the Tower 200 with another doorway gym, the Weider X-Factor (*Est. $100). The Tower 200 is quieter, with better pulleys, and offers higher maximum resistance. The Tower 200 is also more apt to fit on a door. The X-Factor provides a longer range of motion with a more consistent resistance throughout. The reviewer can't tell which device is more durable, and warranty information for both seems vague. About 50 readers add comments.
Review: Tower 200 vs. Weider X-Factor, "mxracer3651", Jan. 23, 2010
This forum discussion starts with a positive review of the Tower 200 door gym, but also includes comments from less enthusiastic buyers -- including reports of eyelets breaking on a 25-pound resistance band. The company replied to complaints, saying that only the frame is covered by the warranty after the first 30 days. Some contributors say the Tower 200 is good for beginners, people with a small frame, or as a supplement to gym workouts -- but no one seems to think that it's adequate by itself for building a lot of muscle. Another forum thread at this site recommends less expensive solutions, such as Bodylastics resistance bands.
Review: Tower 200 Review, Contributors to BodyBuilding.com
This reviewer gives the Tower 200 a grade of B, saying its main advantages are convenience and a space-saving design, but that you can achieve good results with less expensive equipment. He notes that after six months of use, the resistance bands are showing some wear.
Review: Body By Jake Tower 200 Review, Michael Snow, Dec. 21, 2009
The sole user reviewing the Tower 200 here says she prefers it to the various other exercise band setups she's used. She notes that 30 minutes is a more realistic estimate than 11 minutes, for running through all the exercises.
Review: Body By Jake Tower 200, Contributor to Epinions.com, Feb. 15, 2010
This brief forum discussion compares the Tower 200 with several other home exercise systems that use resistance bands. The top choice here is the Bodylastics set, which has a 300-pound maximum resistance.
Review: Body By Jake -- Tower 200 Home Gym and Other Rubber Band Systems, Contributors to Calguns.net
This irate buyer has three main complaints: first, that the resistance bands break and pose danger (one almost broke his foot); second, that the company is trying to charge him more after he's already paid in full; and third, that customer service calls involve long waits.
Review: Body By Jake -- Tower 200 -- !!!Scam!!!, Contributors to Complaints.com, Jan. 16, 2010
7. Better Business Bureau
Body By Jake Global LLC, the company that distributes the Tower 200, is given a grade of A-minus. It has been an accredited business since 2002. Over the last 36 months, Body By Jake has received 32 complaints and all of them were resolved, demonstrating good responsiveness.
Review: Body By Jake Global LLC, Editors of Better Business Bureau
The Pitch: "Get fit with a whole new twist."
April 2009. The CardioTwister is a compact stair-stepping machine with handlebars that swivel horizontally. In high-energy TV infomercials, the manufacturer claims that the CardioTwister will help you shed pounds and inches from your waistline by combining an aerobic workout with an included diet plan.
Reviews, however, say that the CardioTwister exercise machine doesn't live up to the hype. The most common complaint is that the machine feels unstable. Numerous owners complain that the CardioTwister makes a clanking sound during use. According to some reviewers, assembly takes far longer than the 15 minutes promised in the instructional manual, and there are reports of broken digital readout devices and loose handlebars. A major consumer magazine tested this product and found that the CardioTwister burns about as many calories as walking on a treadmill at a relatively leisurely pace, but that traditional exercises are better than the CardioTwister at toning muscles.
A small number of people who buy the CardioTwister exercise machine say it provides a fun workout, but the majority of owners say that they don't intend to keep the machine. We read numerous complaints that the manufacturer, Tristar, is slow to respond requests to return or replace defective units. In some cases, it takes weeks to receive a return label, and reviewers say it's a hassle to disassemble and repackage the 37-pound metal machine. This 48-inch-tall machine, which is not collapsible, comes with a diet plan and 30-minute workout DVD.
The CardioTwister has been included in testing at Consumer Reports, and we read more than 60 user reviews of it at HSN.com, where it's an as-seen-on-TV staple. We also found a handful of reviews at Buzzillions.com and Amazon.com. The CardioTwister is also the subject of a discussion among contributors to SparkPeople, a fitness site.
Consumer Reports tests nine fitness machines marketed via infomercial, including the CardioTwister. Testers compare the number of calories burned and the effectiveness of the exercises as compared to more conventional workout moves. Diet plans that accompany each machine are also rated.
Review: Rating the Infomercial Fitness Machines, Editors of ConsumerReports.org
At HSN.com, the CardioTwister exercise machine earns an average rating of just 1.6 stars out of five in more than 65 reviews. The majority of owners are very unhappy with this machine, particularly with noise and build quality. Numerous owners say that the motion of the handlebars is jerky, and there are some reports of hard-to-push pedals. Reviewers also complain about Tristar's customer service, which is said to be slow.
Review: Reviews of the Brenda DyGraf CardioTwister Pro System with Workout DVD, Contributors to HSN.com
About 10 owner reviews posted at Buzzillions award the CardioTwister exercise machine an average of 3.4 stars out of five -- a more positive result than the generally poor reviews posted at HSN.com. Here, most owners say that the CardioTwister works, is easy to use, gets the blood pumping and targets the legs (if not the abs). However, a couple users complain that it's noisy, and one says that the build quality is poor.
Review: Reviews of the Cardio Twister, Contributors to Buzzillions.com
At Amazon.com, the CardioTwister exercise machine earns an average of 1.5 stars from just a handful of users. One reviewer says that the machine is easy and fun to use, but the build quality is sub-par. Two reviewers say that the machine is jerky -- both note that they have returned it. One notes that the handlebars cannot be adjusted to fit very tall individuals.
Review: Reviews of Cardio Twister, Contributors to Amazon.com
SparkPeople is a site that aims to "inspire millions of people to reach their goals and lead healthier lives." The site offers free nutrition and health trackers and other diet tools. A contributor to the user forums asks for opinions about the Cardio Twister, and contributors describe their experiences with it. One owner says the Carido Twister works to tone the legs and buttocks, but one owner says that the company failed to send a complete machine, and the other says it took "over 2 hours to put together" and does not recommend it.
Review: Has Anyone Tried the Cardio Twister?, Contributors to SparkPeople.com
6. Exercise Equipment Expert.com
The anonymous "expert" behind this blog, which offers reviews of fitness equipment, claims to be independent, but does not provide credentials or explain the methodology behind each review. Although the reviewer describes the Cardio Twister as a "pie in the sky fitness product," there's no evidence that the product was actually tested. However, in the comments section, the reviewer claims to have tested the machine in person and found it unsatisfactory.
Review: Review of the Cardio Twister System, Editors of ExerciseEquipmentExpert.com, Oct. 9, 2008
According to developer and fitness expert Linda LaRue, Crunchless Abs is a revolutionary method of training your entire core and abdominals. By following these exercise videos and working out only 10 minutes per day, the manufacturer claims you'll get a flatter, more sculpted stomach.
The majority of user reviews we found, however, are consistently negative; many consumers who buy Crunchless Abs say the workouts are too challenging and not exactly "crunchless." Some users say the moves strain the neck and lower back the same way crunches do. Users also caution that you must read the fine print: After your initial payment, you are automatically enrolled into a monthly DVD club and your credit card is charged each time (this scheme is called a "continuity program" in the infomercial industry).
On the other hand, some reviewers like Crunchless Abs and say the DVD exercises are a quick and easy way to tone your abs each day -- if it's used in conjunction with a cardio and strength training routine. A few users find the workouts interesting and challenging.
Many sites, such as Viewpoints.com, Amazon.com, and DietSpotlight.com feature a diverse amount of consumer feedback, mainly negative reviews of the Crunchless Abs DVDs. Testers weigh in on other sites, such as Associated Content and the blog Crunchless Abs Review, offering their personal feedback on the products.
This user-review site gives the Crunchless Abs workout DVDs a low rating of about two stars out of a possible five. More than 80 percent of users say they would not recommend this product. Over half of owners describe the automatic monthly billing of new DVDs as a "scam." Some reviewers say the workouts are boring, the exercise moves pull on the neck and strain the lower back, and there is not a warm-up or cool-down session. The few users who do like the Crunchless Abs DVDs say it's a quick workout to do each day and it actually does challenge the abdominal muscles.
Review: Crunchless Abs Three Workout DVD Review, Contributors to Viewpoints.com
More than 15 users review the Crunchless Abs DVDs, assigning it an overall score of just 1.5 stars out of a possible five. The majority of reviewers complain about the automatic billing and shipping of new DVDs each month and don't discuss the workouts themselves. A handful of users say the exercises are effective and challenging, but are geared toward seasoned exercisers rather than beginners. One user says that the exercises caused neck and back strain, resulting in an injury.
Review: Crunchless Abs DVD Review, Contributors to Amazon.com
This site explores all aspects of weight loss and reviews products based on their safety and effectiveness. The Crunchless Abs DVDs receive mainly negative comments, most of which focus on the automatic shipping and billing issues. This is the cause of a large percentage of consumer complaints. The reviewer also says the DVDs are not a good value for your fitness dollars. On the other hand, a positive comment is that there is little to no specialized and expensive exercise equipment to buy. The workouts can be done almost anywhere and the 10-minute sessions easily fit into a daily exercise routine.
Review: Crunchless Abs Review, Editors for DietSpotlight.com
While it is unclear whether reviewer J. Rica Middlebrooks tests the Crunchless Abs DVD, she does offers a thorough description of the workouts. Middlebrooks claims it is an "excellent program for reducing the fat around the abdomen area as well as for strengthening one's core region." Although Middlebrooks does not mention the issues with the auto-enrollment DVD program, two users post comments to warn of the problem.
Review: Review of Crunchless Abs, J. Rica Middlebrooks, Sept. 10, 2008
5. Crunchless Abs Review
Blogger Doris Winters, a self-described diet and fitness expert, says she has tried almost every weight-loss and exercise infomercial product out there. She is very happy with the results she's seen in her abs over the past six months. Winters says she loves the variety in the Crunchless Abs exercises and encourages users to rotate the workouts to keep it interesting. She also says the workouts are quick and easy, helping her to relax throughout the day. She advises consumers to read the fine print and be aware of the automatic billing issue.
Review: My Honest Review of Crunchless Abs, Doris Winters, Jan. 11, 2009
The Pitch: "You'll sculpt your legs, arms, buns, and thighs while target toning your abs with every move you make."
April 2009. The Malibu Pilates Chair is a less expensive version of the exercise equipment found in professional Pilates studios. It looks like a stool with two spring-loaded pedals that provide resistance and can be adjusted to your body strength. The chair is designed for many different exercises. For example, you can sit on the stool and push down on the pedals with your feet, or you can lie down on the stool and push down on the pedals with your hands. The Malibu Pilates Chair comes with several DVDs demonstrating exercises and workout routines, a guide offering diet and meal suggestions and a wall chart listing the exercises.
According to reviews we read, the Malibu Pilates Chair works best for people who have prior experience with Pilates and are already in good physical shape, rather than for novices looking to begin a fitness program. Users say they see results quickly, in some cases after just a few workouts. Many owners enjoy working out with the chair, especially with the accompanying DVDs.
A few people who buy the Malibu Pilates Chair say that the exercises are awkward and the pedals hurt their feet; for some, the resistance is too firm, and for others it is not hard enough. Shorter people can have trouble reaching the pedals. Some reviewers note that all of the exercises can be performed with other, less expensive devices, such as resistance bands and exercise balls. Quite a few people think that the chair is poorly constructed; there are reports of breaking springs. The chair can be folded for storage, but some people find it difficult to do so.
Several people complain that Malibu Pilates Chair pricing is misleading. The infomercial and website advertise a "risk-free trial offer" for $14.95, plus shipping and handling, but that is just to try the chair for a month. If you keep the chair, you'll be billed $49.95 per month for the next six months. The shipping and handling charge is a nonrefundable $29.95. You'll also have to pay shipping charges if you choose to return the chair for a refund within the 30-day trial period.
We found extensive user reviews of the Malibu Pilates Chair on sites such as EzineArticles.com, AssociatedContent.com and Viewpoints.com. Shorter reviews and ratings are listed at InfomercialRatings.com, FitnessInfomercialReview.com, QVC.com, Amazon.com and About.com.
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At InformercialRatings.com, about 50 owners give the Malibu Pilates Chair generally good reviews. Many people say they enjoy the workout and experience positive results within a few weeks. This machine seems to work better for people who are already in good shape. There are several reports of poor construction. A few people were unaware of the true price of the chair, and several complain about the cost to return it.
Review: Malibu Pilates Reviews and Ratings, Contributors to InfomercialRatings.com
2. FitnessInfomercial Review.com
About two dozen owners post mostly upbeat reviews of the Malibu Pilates Chair at this site for fitness products. Owners like that the chair provides an all-over workout, utilizing muscle groups in every part of the body, and several say they notice increased muscle tone quickly. A few users complain that construction is poor and the chair can be hard to fold up for storage. For one reviewer, the Malibu Pilates Chair provides a good stretch but not a good workout. Other owners note that this machine is not for people with back problems, and that some of the exercises are too hard for a beginner.
Review: Malibu Pilates Reviews and Product Ratings, Contributors to FitnessInfomericalReview.com
Questions about the Malibu Pilates Chair prompt about two dozen owners to describe their experience with the chair. The reviews are more positive than negative. Owners say the chair is sturdy and that it provides a good workout. People like that the resistance can be adjusted. Most reviewers say the Malibu Pilates Chair is easy to set up, though some do have trouble. A few people complain that the pedals hurt their feet. Reviewers seem to agree that this chair is best for people who already have experience with Pilates chair.
Review: Malibu Pilates Chair Reviews, Contributors to QVC.com
There are about 10 reviews of the Malibu Pilates Chair posted on Amazon.com, which features both the original and a 2009 version. One review is from a Pilates instructor who thoroughly outlines the pros and cons of this machine. She thinks that the Malibu Pilates Chair matches the quality of professional Pilates equipment and is even safer and more stable than other Pilates chairs. She also says the accompanying DVDs are very helpful. The reviewer notes that the range of motion is less than on a professional Pilates machine, and that the springs are not interchangeable with those from other chairs (which can vary the difficulty of workouts). Another reviewer cautions that the chair is not helpful for shorter people.
Review: New Malibu Chair 2009 Upgradeable Model with 3 Dvds, Contributors to Amazon.com
About.com's guide to Pilates asks for feedback on the Malibu Pilates Chair. About two dozen owners share their experiences, and the chair receives good reviews overall, even from people who have never tried Pilates before. A Pilates instructor says that many of the exercises are too challenging for a beginner and the DVDs don't provide competent instruction. Several people are very happy with the chair, saying that it provides a good workout. (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation.)
Review: Malibu Pilates - What Do You Know?, Marguerite Ogle, Nov. 10, 2008
Giles describes various exercises that can be done with the Malibu Pilates Chair. He is very enthusiastic about the chair, saying that it allows you to exercise "without strain or harm to your muscles, joints, or ligaments," and may be especially helpful for people who are "looking for a leaner core."
Review: Pilates and Malibu Pilates, Steven Giles, March 27, 2009
In this extensive user review on AssociatedContent.com, Yvonne Cote describes the Malibu Pilates Chair as "a revolutionary exercising tool" that has helped her lose weight and define the muscles in her arms and legs. She likes that several different exercises can be performed with the chair, and that the springs are adjustable. She also likes that the pedals allow her to exercise aerobically. Cote does find the chair to be "bulky," but she says it's lightweight and easy to store.
Review: Malibu Pilates Chair Workout System Review, Yvonne Cote, Feb. 9, 2009
Right now, there's only one review of the Pilates Chair posted here. This anonymous reviewer is a self-described at-home exerciser who is familiar with yoga and Pilates. She thinks that working out on the Malibu Pilates Chair is fun, and that it exercises every muscle group. She likes that the machine can be used gently or vigorously. She does note that "there is no exercise you can do with this chair that you can't do with something else."
Review: Malibu Pilates Chairs Review, Contributors to Viewpoints.com
Invented by an ex-Navy SEAL, the Perfect Pushup is a pair of rotating handles designed to augment this most basic of calisthenics. The majority of reviews we looked at laud the Perfect Pushup's effectiveness and versatility. Most users say how much more comfortable pushups turned out to be with the aid of the device's swivel handles. A large number mention that they've incorporated the device into their regular workout routines and feel the device helps stimulate more muscle groups than the ordinary pushups. Convenient storage and portability are also big advantages with many users. Another plus is that they don't cost much.
Very few reviews we looked at had anything at all negative to say about the Perfect Pushup. Of those negative reviews, about half have to do with concerns about further straining an injured or recovering rotator cuff. This is a legitimate concern to be sure, and potential users obviously should use common sense and proceed cautiously if convalescing from shoulder injury. The other caution we read is that the claim they'll "get you ripped" is exaggerated; while pushups are a great workout move, they aren't going to build muscle mass like weight lifting will.
The only other complaints we saw were about pricing for the Perfect Pushup. The device is now available online and at retailers like Dick's Sporting Goods and Wal-Mart, as well as from telemarketers. The pricing varies from about $20 to $40, but reviewers caution that consumers may not receive the same extras, depending on where you buy the Perfect Pushup; some buyers say their purchase didn't include the instructional DVD. Others say the versions sold for around $20 at Walmart are of lesser quality than the pricier ones available online through the manufacturer or at sporting goods stores.
ConsumerReports.org reviews the Perfect Pushup, but the article is limited. We found more detailed testing at AnswerFitness.com, where a self-proclaimed "fitness nerd" thoroughly tests the Perfect Pushup and details his results and opinion. Pittsburgh news affiliate WTAE also gives the Perfect Pushup a workout and deems it a success. Fitness guru Chad Davies posts a well-written critique on his website Exercise-Equipment-Review.com, but he doesn't discuss how he tested it. We found also reviews from more than 500 consumers at Amazon.com.
ConsumerReports.org's editors assemble two panels to evaluate various as-seen-on-TV exercise products. The Perfect Pushup is among the products studied. The first panel's users were asked to report on how well they felt a product lived up to its advertisement. In a second panel, the editors compared users' muscle activity and calories burned while both working out with the Perfect Pushup and doing traditional pushups.
Review: Get Fit? Get Real., Editors of ConsumerReports.org, January 2009
This self-proclaimed "fitness nerd" publishes reviews of exercise equipment, among other things. He posts an exhaustively thorough review of the Perfect Pushup, summarized in a helpful bullet list of pros and cons. He finds the product sturdy and well constructed and says that the ergonomic design protects against wrist strain and the rotation may protect against shoulder strain. He admits that they are more challenging than a standard pushup, although he's careful to say that pushups won't build a lot of muscle mass. On the down side, he finds the price a bit high for what they are, and says the workout plans included are a bit limited.
Review: Perfect Pushup Review: Is the Perfect Pushup Hit or Hype?, "Matt", Nov. 16, 2008
In this TV segment, the Perfect Pushup is tested by the station's meteorologist and a fitness specialist. They conclude that it does what it claims, but you don't need the Perfect Pushup to do a pushup effectively.
Review: Test It Tuesday Returns: The Perfect Pushup, Andrew Stockey, Jan. 29, 2008
4. Exercise-Equipment- Review.com
A certified personal trainer, nutritionist and test engineer, Chad Davies also runs a website dedicated to reviewing exercise equipment. Davies strongly recommends the Perfect Pushup. The swivel handles, he says, are helpful to build muscle and reduce strain on joints. He mentions the device is particularly suited to those with injured or weak wrists, as well as expressing concerns that the device's plastic construction may be unfounded.
Review: Perfect Pushup Review, Chad Davies
Nicholas Deleon says the Perfect Pushup works well because he is able to increase his pushup repetitions quite a bit. He concludes, "I can think of far worse ways to spend $30."
Review: Review: Yes, the Perfect Pushup, Nicholas Deleon, March 2, 2009
Nearly all of the roughly 600 user reviews for the Perfect Pushup are mainly positive, awarding an average score of 4.5 stars out of 5. Dozens say it's the best piece of exercise equipment they've ever owned. A couple of posts discuss quality differences between the $20 version of this product that Walmart sells and the $40 one available online or at sporting goods stores. Some think that the Walmart version is more cheaply made. Some users with a history of shoulder problems caution that the device places undue stress on the rotator cuff.
Review: Perfect Pushup -- Original, Contributors to Amazon.com
The Perfect Situp -- from the same company that makes the Perfect Pushup (*Est. $30) -- is a body-length device designed to be used while lying on the floor. Insert your head in one end and your feet in the other, and the Perfect Situp allows you to perform, well, the perfect sit-up -- signaled by a clicking sound. The manufacturer's website claims that the Perfect Situp works both upper and lower regions of the abs, and that "unlike traditional sit-ups and crunches, the Perfect Situp gets you in the perfect position to perform an abdominal curl while leg and back blades intensify the movement."
Reviews of the Perfect Situp are mixed. GadgetReview.com reviewed Jeff Bordeaux says this product may be appropriate for beginners who don't know enough about basic technique to perform effective sit-ups on their own, but not for individuals who already know how to do a sit-up. When Indianapolis TV station WXIN runs the Perfect Situp past two exercise professionals, both say the device works as advertised but they disagree on whether it's really necessary. At StuffWeLike.com, a reviewer demonstrates the product and says that while it does work, there are many facets that can be improved upon, such as the resistance blades and complex assembly process. Meanwhile, owners posting to Amazon.com and Walmart.com are split down the middle: Half say the Perfect Situp works as advertised (even though it may not be appropriate for tall people), while the other half say it's not durable and they wish they hadn't purchased it.
In this detailed review complete with photographs, Jeff Bordeaux tries out the Perfect Situp. He allows that it might be a good purchase for beginners, but says it's awkward to store, sometimes clumsy to use and makes an annoying clicking sound. And "for those of you that already have an established workout, the Perfect Situp isn't really going to open your eyes to some magical abs oasis."
Review: The Perfect Situp Review, Jeff Bordeaux, Oct. 27, 2010
2. WXIN (Indianapolis)
This Fox affiliate reporter asks two local trainers, Matt and Emily, to test the Perfect Situp, and both agree that the product does engage the core. Matt says it isn't "perfect" as the name of the product suggests, but that it does work as advertised. Emily says that while it does work, she believes it's more worthwhile to educate yourself on proper sit-up technique than spend $100 on a gadget.
Review: Does it Work: Perfect Situp, Sherman Burdette
In this video review, David Rodriguez describes the process of using the Perfect Situp. He begins with assembly and says the instructions are very hard to understand. He notes that the cushion is soft and comfortable, but that the mat can easily rip if the user isn't careful. The 6-foot-1-inch Rodriguez says he fits on the device when extended to its greatest length, and he notes there are two pressure points on the Perfect Situp that may cause some discomfort. Last, he mentions that the leg extenders feature 10 pounds of resistance and that added resistance of either 20 or 30 pounds can be found in blades sold separately.
Review: Perfect Situp, David Rodriguez, Dec. 27, 2010
Most of the owners posting here say the Perfect Situp works as advertised, and they appreciate the clicking sound that indicates when they've execused a proper sit-up. However, one skeptic notes that "the Perfect Situp adds nothing to what you can do simply by lying on the floor and going through the same exercises without the device," while another owner says the unit clicks even if you perform a less-than-perfect sit-up.
Review: Perfect Situp Perfect Fitness, Contributors to Walmart.com
The dozen or so reviews of the Perfect Situp on Amazon.com are split down the middle: Half of the owners posting here love this product -- though there are some complaints that it's not appropriate for tall people -- while the other half say it's "garbage," a "waste of money," a "neck buster" and that it falls apart during use. Other owners say they are disappointed that they had to buy separate leg pieces if they wanted to up their workout resistance.
Review: Perfect Situp, Contributors to Amazon.com
The Shake Weight has gained a lot of notoriety -- not for its effectiveness, but for its suggestive infomercial. It's sparked countless YouTube spoofs and TV parodies, including a demonstration on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show." Even some favorable reviewers say it can be embarrassing to use in front of others.
Essentially, the Shake Weight is a 2.5-pound handheld dumbbell with springs at each end. Originally marketed to women, it's supposed to tone arms and shoulders. (There is also a Shake Weight for Men -- identical except for a 5-pound weight.) According to its manufacturer, the Shake Weight is based on a concept known as dynamic inertia, which means shaking a weight is more effective at toning muscles than lifting. The Shake Weight includes an instructional DVD that features a guided, six-minute workout.
The main question, though, is whether the Shake Weight workout is effective. Press releases cite results from two studies -- one by a commercial laboratory, the other by a San Diego State University researcher -- that claim Shake Weight burns more calories and engages the arm muscles better than free weights do. However, these studies probably should be taken with a grain of salt because they are being used for commercial purposes, rather than appearing in a non-commercial, peer-reviewed academic journal. What's more, the studies seem to be comparing the Shake Weight with the use of a standard 2.5-pound free weight. A traditional weightlifting regimen for toning arms would gradually increase the weight well beyond 2.5 pounds.
Quite a few reviewers criticize the Shake Weight's effectiveness as limited, instead recommending traditional weightlifting with a full range of dumbbells to build and strengthen muscle -- including reviews at WalletPop.com and Wired. Claims that the Shake Weight creates lean arms also come in for criticism, since "lean" implies fat loss. The Shake Weight is not a total weight-loss solution. We also found a few complaints at RipOffReport.com and WorldOfDiets.com about poor customer service when buying the Shake Weight online -- including refusal to refund shipping charges for a damaged product.
Some do find the Shake Weight to be convenient, however, and it earns a positive rating from a fitness expert at ABC'S "Good Morning America." She recommends leaving it in a convenient location so you can use it often throughout the day. Overall, using the Shake Weight is certainly better than not exercising your arms at all. The main caveat is not to expect too much from it.
1. Good Morning America
The Shake Weight is one of five fitness products evaluated in this segment of ABC'S "Good Morning America." Tester Becky Worley gives the Shake Weight a grade of B-plus, saying that though you wouldn't want your kids to watch you using it (apparently because of the sexual innuendoes), the device does exercise the shoulder and entire arm and is convenient to use in your spare time.
Review: Grading Infomercial Exercise Products, Becky Worley, Jan. 21, 2010
Certified personal trainer Sal Marinello points out that just because you can feel something -- fatigue, soreness or muscle burn -- doesn't mean you're performing an effective exercise. He also notes that the studies that supposedly support the Shake Weight's claims are not available for scrutiny.
Review: The Healthy Skeptic: The Shake Weight Gets a "Do Not Buy" Recommendation, Sal Marinello, June 26, 2010
Tester Lisa Kaplan Gordon reports that the Shake Weight hurt her neck and was awkward to hold and use. Ultimately, the Shake Weight fails to wow her and it gets WalletPop.com's lowest Buy-O-Meter rating.
Review: Shake Weight Review: As Seen on TV Flop, Lisa Kaplan Gordon, Aug. 12, 2010
Although they poke plenty of fun, Wired editors take this evaluation of the Shake Weight seriously. However, reviewer Steven Leckert says it doesn't raise the heart rate much compared to regular weight lifting and did not produce any muscle soreness.
Review: The Shake Weight Review: Hilarious But Useless, Steven Leckert, Aug. 26, 2010
5. KIDK (Idaho Falls, Id.)
Reporter Tommy Noel interviews a body builder, Kendall Cameron, who tries the full set of Shake Weight exercises and judges the device useless: "There's no tension on the muscle whatsoever." Other body builders at the gym agree that for serious muscle strengthening, the Shake Weight is not a good solution.
Review: Does it Really Work? -- Shake Weight, Tommy Noel, Feb. 11, 2010
A Canadian doctoral candidate studying the effects of exercise on obesity criticizes the Shake Weight as based on ineffective "vibration training." He also probes the credentials of the experts cited in the Shake Weight infomercial, finding them quite unimpressive. (We checked out the credentials of the studies cited on the Shake Weight website, however, and they're valid.)
Review: The Shake Weight: Spot Reducing Arm Fat Through the Science of Dynamic Inertia!, Peter Janiszewski, Ph.D., Aug. 5, 2009
Over a hundred reviews of the Shake Weight at Amazon.com result in a mediocre average rating, with as many 1- and 2-star scores as 5-star raves. Some of the negative reviews warn of neck injury from doing the exercises on the included DVD.
Review: Shake Weight Dumbbell, Contributors to Amazon.com
This user-written review acknowledges the limitations and hilarious aspects of the Shake Weight, but does recommend it as likely to get rid of "triceps wiggle" and accomplish some toning. Another user comments on this site that the two triceps exercises on the DVD are important to do in order to get results.
Review: As Seen on TV Shake Weight Reviews, Contributors to Viewspoints.com
This balanced review notes that the Shake Weight is convenient and doesn't require much space to use. The author is skeptical about the effectiveness of a large number of rapid contractions, however, compared with the tried and true method of gradually increasing the weight lifted.
Review: Essential Shake Weight vs. Dumbbell Exercises -- Which is Better?, Editors of ExerciseBallAbs.com, Jan. 5, 2010
10. Ripoff Report.com
This owner-written review reports that the company didn't honor its promise to refund shipping charges or pay return shipping for a Shake Weight that arrived damaged.
Review: Report: Shake Weight, "UNT Momma", Jan. 8, 2010
Over 200 comments here cover the gamut from enthusiasm to skepticism. Several people report serious customer service problems with ordering the Shake Weight online.
Review: Shake Weight Reviews (For Men and For Women), Contributors to WorldOfDiets.com
This reviewer criticizes the Shake Weight commercial for implying that it's possible to spot-reduce fat and for claiming that significant results can be achieved in only six minutes a day. However, it should be noted that the reviewer is also promoting his own book on losing fat.
Review: The Shake Weight, "Alan", Jan. 25, 2010
This press release reports that computer modeling of the Shake Weight by a commercial lab finds that it uses more energy than exercising with a regular 2.5-pound weight. For example, an average woman would burn 150 calories in a six-minute session with a Shake Weight, compared with 26.4 calories with a free weight.
Review: Leading Research Company Lifemodeler, Inc. Releases Study Proving Effectiveness of Shake Weight, Life Modeler, Feb. 12, 2010
The Shake Weight for Men doubles the weight of the original 2.5-pound dumbbell designed for women. According to claims on the manufacturer's site, using the men's version for just six minutes a day can strengthen, build and define chest, shoulder and arm muscles. As with the original Shake Weight, the manufacturer says the springs at each end of the dumbbell give it "dynamic inertia" that fires up muscles much more than ordinary weight-lifting -- up to 240 contractions a minute. An upper body workout DVD is included with the Shake Weight for Men.
Although the ads for the women's version say using the Shake Weight tones muscles without adding bulk, the heavier men's version is supposed to build muscle. Ads for both versions cite the results of lab tests conducted by Daniel Cipriani at San Diego University, showing that the Shake Weight causes muscles to contract faster than they do when using regular dumbbell. We emailed him to confirm the study results, and Chris Woolston interviewed Cipriano for a review of the Shake Weight for Men published in the Los Angeles Times.
Quite a few owners reviewing the Shake Weight for Men at Amazon.com confirm that using it for brief workouts does give muscles a pumped, burning sensation right away. However, Cipriano -- in agreement with several other exercise experts -- recommends a regular weightlifting program for better results overall. A traditional and more successful approach to building and strengthening muscles would gradually increase the weight far beyond five pounds. The bottom line: The Shake Weight for Men might give your arms some minor toning but don't expect miracles.
We found three reviews of the Shake Weight for Men based on personal tests by the authors. Chris Woolston's review at the Los Angeles Times tops our list, because it includes information from exercise experts as well. The review at ColumbusAlive.com, a weekly entertainment publication for Columbus, Ohio, discusses both the Shake Weight and the workout featured in the included DVD. A review at Wired specifies the product's pros and cons. An article by Johann Verheem at Inc. magazine is also on hands-on testing. We found skeptical reviews of both the men's and women's versions at WalletPop.com, WorldOfDiets.com and HealthAndFitnessAdvice.com, plus ratings and comments from about 30 owners at Amazon.com.
1. Los Angeles Times
The author reports on his own experience trying the Shake Weight; he says his arm muscles were exhausted after just 30 seconds. He also consults two exercise experts, both of whom agree that the Shake Weight is not a substitute for a regular weight-lifting program. David Swain, a professor of exercise science at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., is quite skeptical about the Shake Weight. Daniel Cipriani, whose lab tests confirm that the device gets muscles fired up, agrees that it's more useful for brief breaks than for six-minute arm workouts.
Review: Weighing in on the Shake Weight, Chris Woolston, May 10, 2010
2. Columbus Alive
In this weekly publication based in Columbus, Ohio, Jesse Tigges shares his own experience using the Shake Weight, and he provides useful details about the six-minute workout featured in the DVD that comes with it. He does the complete routine three times for a full 20 minutes, but discovers "That next-day burn that usually accompanies a good workout was sorely lacking."
Review: We Tried It!: Shake Weight, Jesse Tigges, Aug. 19, 2010
This review is based on personal tests conducted by the author. Leckart concludes that the Shake Weight and its exercise DVD have potential for hilarious entertainment, but not for serious exercise. Using the Shake Weight as directed can result in some sensations of muscle tension, but it doesn't come close to matching a regular weight-lifting regime -- either for raising heart rate or inducing the eventual muscle soreness that usually indicates a successful workout.
Review: The Shake Weight Review: Hilarious But Useless, Steven Leckart, Aug. 26, 2010
4. Inc. magazine
Christine Lagorio interviews the inventor of the Shake Weight, Johann Verheem, who discusses the evolution of the device as well as its amazing burst of publicity. Verheem says he's not at all dismayed by the spoofs on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" and "Saturday Night Live" -- instead, he finds them hilarious. He says part of the point of the Shake Weight is to make a device that catches people's attention, adding "Part of our job is to get them motivated to exercise."
Review: Shaking America By Storm, Christine Lagorio, Aug 16, 2010
This brief review of both the men's and women's Shake Weight models concludes that "shaking just about anything for six minutes a day is a better workout than lying still on a couch." The reviewer says she consulted several personal trainers, all of whom say it's a waste of money. Kim Sanborn, a trainer based in Virginia, says the Shake Weight is not heavy enough to tone muscles or increase heart rates successfully.
Review: Shake Weight Review: As Seen on TV Flop, Lisa Kaplan Gordon, Aug. 12, 2010
This skeptical review of both the men's and women's versions of the Shake Weight notes the discrepancies in the ads -- preventing bulk for women, but adding bulk for men -- and doubts that the difference in weight could possibly achieve this. The fixed weight is another drawback, but the reviewer notes that some users do report results and that using the Shake Weight is "better than not exercising at all." More than 170 readers add comments, and feedback is pretty split: Some say they notice a difference in their arms, while others say the Shake Weight is a dud.
Review: Shake Weight Reviews (For Men and For Women), Staff of WorldOfDiets.com
A certified personal trainer says that just because you can feel something -- fatigue, soreness, or a "burn" -- doesn't mean you're performing an effective exercise.
Review: The Healthy Skeptic: The Shake Weight Gets a Do Not Buy Recommendation, Sal Marinello, Nov. 3, 2009
The Shake Weight for Men earns largely positive ratings here from the 50 or so owners reviewing it, with about 75 percent saying they're happy with it. Detractors find it hard to use as directed, while others say that its effectiveness is very limited. However, many users say they can feel their muscles burn after using the Shake Weight. One unsatisfied user says he never received a refund on return shipping (though it's promised on the site).
Review: Shake Weight for Men Dumbbell, Contributors to Amazon.com
The Slendertone Abdominal Toning Belt is a battery-powered fitness device that emits electric signals designed to tone your abs by causing the muscles to tense and flex. If used daily for 20 to 30 minutes -- in combination with a healthy diet and other forms of physical exercise -- the manufacturer claims you will see results in eight weeks. Models are available for men and women; both include a controller with four programs, three AAA batteries, three gel pads and a travel pouch.
Based on the reviews we've found, the Slendertone works -- as long as you have realistic expectations. As one user points out in his Amazon review, this device isn't intended for folks who are grossly overweight and looking for an easy weight-loss solution, but rather for relatively fit users who simply want to tone their abs. Other reviewers say you can't expect results after one or two days; you have to use the Slendertone every day for several months. No reputable source we found claims that Slendertone will help you to lose weight; that requires diet and exercise.
Reviewers say there are a couple of drawbacks to the Slendertone. In a test conducted by the British newspaper Daily Mail, a test subject says the Slendertone Abdominal Toning Belt is very uncomfortable to use. We also found several complaints from users who say the product simply doesn't work, as well as grumbles about the steep cost of replacement gel pads (*Est. $30).
1. Daily Mail (United Kingdom)
This British newspaper asks three test subjects to try out three different types of electronic toning equipment, two of them made by Slendertone. One tester finds that the Slendertone Abdominal Toning Belt is very uncomfortable to wear, saying "one thing it did help me do was run more, as any alternative to the belt was preferable!"
Review: Electric Toning Equipment: Tried and Tested, Charlotte Harding
Most of the users participating in this thread have good things to say about the Slendertone Abdominal Toning Belt; one owner points out that "you have to do the required sessions for the number of times per week, and the pads do need replacing."
Review: Slendertone Belt, Contributors to MoneySavingExpert.com
3. KYW (Philadelphia)
Reporter Stephanie Stahl talks with a local personal trainer who endorses the Slendertone belt. She also talks with physician, who says devices that use electrical stimulation have little benefit, and with a mother who says she experienced some positive results with the belt. Stahl's conclusion: Slendertone might help you lose weight, but so will regular exercise.
Review: Health: A Workout Free Way To Tone Your Abs, Stephanie Stahl, Sept. 25, 2007
Many of the users posting here are pleased with the Slendertone Abdominal Toning Belt, saying this product works best if you don't expect miracles. Others complain about disappointing results, defective units out of the box, or the cost of replacing the gel pads (Est. $30) -- on top of the $150 retail price of the belt itself.
Review: Slendertone Abdominal Toning System, Contributors to HSN.com
Most of the three dozen or so owners posting here are pleased with the Slendertone Abdominal Toning Belt, though there are a few complaints about ineffectiveness. One reviewer points out that Slendertone isn't appropriate for folks who are extremely overweight, but may benefit users who are already in fairly good shape and want to strengthen their abs.
Review: Slendertone Men's Flex Abdominal Toning System Belt, Contributors to Amazon.com
Teeter Hang Ups are a line of inversion tables designed to make it easy to recline in an inverted position by one's ankles. The user controls the degree of inversion -- from reclining just a few degrees (recommended for new users) to completely upside down. "In theory, inversion therapy takes gravitational pressure off the nerve roots and disks in your spine and increases the space between vertebrae," Dr. Edward R. Laskowski explains. The manufacturer doesn't claim any medical or health benefits beyond temporary relief of back pain, and adds it's not for everyone.
By far, most of the user-written reviews we found say the Teeter Hang Ups inversion table works, with owners reporting consistent pain relief plus a pleasant sense of stretching. At Amazon.com, for example, hundreds of users review various Teeter Hang Ups models and about 90 percent give it 4 stars or more. We've included feedback from reviews on older versions of the Teeter Hang Ups, since the main design has not been altered and the product has only seemed to improve.
Reviews say it's important to seek medical advice before using an inversion table. Persons with certain medical conditions, such as glaucoma or bone weakness, should not use inversion tables, experts caution. Professional reviews of inversion tables at WebMD.com say pain relief is temporary, and the experts we consulted are not convinced of any long-term benefits to spine health.
Berkeley Wellness, a collaboration between the School of Public Health at UC Berkeley and a national team of writers and editors, does not recommend inversion tables, as they "can have serious side effects, including increased blood pressure and bleeding into the retina." If you are considering purchasing one, we highly recommend consulting your doctor first.
Most users find the Teeter Hang Ups inversion table sturdy and well made. Plus, it comes with a five-year warranty covering all components. At approximately 70 pounds, Teeter Hang Ups can support users up to 300 pounds. Its robust build makes it somewhat difficult to move, according to some users, but they add the pain relief is worth it.
Users do urge watching the instructional DVD carefully, and some warn against using the device without someone nearby in case you need help. The main complaint we found from users is that using an inversion table can be hard on the ankles. Gravity Boots (Est. $100), designed to minimize pressure and strain on the ankles, are one possible solution recommended by the About.com reviewer.
This medical collaboration between the School of Public Health at UC Berkeley and a national team of writers and editors does not review the Teeter Hang Ups specifically, but discusses the practice of traction -- applying force to the spine so that the vertebrae are pulled apart slightly -- for back pain relief. The authors especially recommend against inversion tables.
Review: Ask the Experts: Lumbar Traction, Editors of BerkeleyWellness.com, March 1, 2012
2. Mayo Clinic
This short yet informative article explains how inversion therapy works, advising that it does not provide lasting relief from back pain and could be risky for people with certain health issues. The Teeter Hang Ups table is not specifically mentioned.
Review: Inversion Therapy: Can It Relieve Back Pain?, Edward R. Laskowski, M.D., June 24, 2011
Colette Bouchez recommends against inversion for anything more than very temporary relief of back pain, saying the effects don't last long. Like other sources, this article warns that inversion treatments may be dangerous for those with several medical conditions.
Review: Inversion Boots, Colette Bouchez, Dec. 4, 2007
Well over 200 users leave feedback for the Teeter Hang Ups EP-950 inversion table and give it 4.7 out of 5 stars. Other models, such as the EP-550, receive similar ratings and feedback. The vast majority of owners are more than satisfied with the quality of the table and say they have found relief from back pain.
Review: Teeter Hang Ups EP-950 Inversion Table, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of August 2013
This article discusses whether inversion therapy actually heals back pain. The authors consult Dr. John R. Corcoran, the director of inpatient therapy services at NYU Langone Medical Center.
Review: Teeter Hang Ups Review -- Does Inversion Therapy Heal Back Pain?, Editors of Viewpoints.com, April 26, 2010
This brief review by the About.com guide to holistic healing is based on her personal experience with the Teeter Hang Ups F5000 inversion table. She notes that it can be uncomfortable if used without boots and that the "spring-loaded ankle bar is a bit tricky." She recommends getting medical advice before trying an inversion table. The F5000 is an older version of the Teeter Hang Ups but shares the same basic design. Common complaints, such as the "tricky" spring-loaded ankle bar, have been addressed in newer models.
Review: Hang Ups F5000 Inversion Table, Phylameana Lila Desy, Not Dated
Over two dozen users report on whether inversion therapy helped them. Almost all say it has worked. Most reviewers have back pain, but several have chronic pain, fibromyalgia or ankylosing spondylitis. The Teeter Hang Ups is not specifically mentioned.
Review: Inversion Therapy, Contributors to DailyStrength.org, As of 2013
ExpoTV.com contains video reviews for a few different versions of the Teeter Hang Ups. Each reviewer demonstrates the product's use and gives their opinion. They highly recommend the Teeter Hang Ups, saying it helps with their lower back pain immensely.
Review: Teeter Hang Ups, Contributors to ExpoTV.com, As of 2013
Twenty users give the Teeter Hang Ups F5000 inversion table an excellent rating. However, one user reports that a defective foot release caused severe pain and would have been disastrous if she'd been using the equipment alone. Of newer models, the EP-550 is also listed but is not rated, and the EP-950 receives two 5-star reviews from consumers.
Review: Teeter Hang Ups F5000 Inversion Table, Contributors to Epinions.com, As of 2013
Two exercise physiologists from the American Council on Exercise advise against using an inversion table for exercising. They say it often strains the lower back in men and is dangerous for several medical conditions. However, both experts' comments are brief and do not address all uses of the device.
Review: Workout Devices Get Rated, Jeanie Lerche Davis, Not Dated
The Hawaii Chair (also called the Hula Chair) is advertised as an easy exercise option for those who don't like to work out. It looks like a desk chair, but the seat rotates in a circular motion, causing the sitter to simulate the movements of a hula dancer. This is supposed to strengthen the user's abdominal muscles, slimming the waist and increasing blood circulation. The commercial even claims that the Hawaii Chair can be used in an office and won't interfere with performing routine activities like typing or using the phone.
There aren't many user reviews available for the Hawaii Chair, but those who have tried it say it comes up short in almost all of its claims. The rotating seat is much too strong to make performing any work tasks possible -- reviewers have compared it to both a carnival ride and a mechanical bull. The chair also doesn't seem to offer any real fitness benefits in terms of toning ab muscles. At best, reviewers speculate, the Hawaii Chair may improve blood circulation for those with mobility problems.
Linda Dahlstrom, a health editor for MSNBC.com, tests the Hawaii Chair in her office and is unable to perform even the most basic tasks due to the violent motion of the chair. She also consults with an in-house fitness expert, who negates the fitness claims made by the Hawaii Chair. Personal trainer Karen Wendler reviews the Hawaii Chair on Examiner.com and says there are several much cheaper fitness solutions that will offer better results than the Hawaii Chair.
Linda Dahlstrom, a health editor for MSNBC.com, tests the Hawaii Chair at the office to see if it offers a decent workout. She finds the chair motion to be so jarring that she is unable to type or hold a phone and talk. Dahlstrom also interviews fitness expert Jay Blahnik, who says the chair won't tone ab muscles but may improve the circulation of someone who limited mobility.
Review: Hula Chair: Sitting Down Gets Dangerous, Linda Dahlstrom, June 5, 2008
Karen Wendler, a certified personal trainer, discusses whether the Hawaii Chair is a legitimate piece of workout equipment, although she does not conduct a hands-on test. She says the chair could be beneficial for those with mobility problems who are looking to stimulate blood circulation, but the Hawaii Chair doesn't offer any exercise benefits.
Review: The Hawaii Chair: Ha-Why Would It Be Useful?, Karen Wendler, March 6, 2009
3. The Ellen Show
Talk show host Ellen Degeneres tests the Hawaii Chair in front of a studio audience. Setting the chair on high speed, she attempts to pour a glass of water and do other office tasks. Slipping and sliding all over the place, Ellen asks an audience member to sit on another Hawaii chair and test it with her. As they both are bounced around in their chairs, Ellen discusses the so-called benefits of the chair to the audience's amusement.
Review: The Hawaii Chair, Ellen DeGeneres, Oct. 21, 2010
The Rack is a relatively light (30-pound), compact workout station that can be configured in three different ways, allowing users to perform sit-ups, crunches, push-ups and dips without the need for bulky equipment.
Because this product is so new, we couldn't locate an abundance of reliable reviews, but owner posts on Amazon.com and an objective evaluation at the Fast, Easy Fit blog were very helpful. Early reviews of The Rack workout station are equivocal. The lead reviewer on Amazon.com, who appears to have genuinely tested out this product, calls The Rack "elegantly simple" and lightweight, but says it's not nearly the all-purpose device it's advertised to be on TV.
For instance, there's no way to do leg exercises, and sit-ups, curls and ab work can be awkward. The blogger at Fast, Easy Fit points out that The Rack's weight has a significant downside because it simply doesn't offer much resistance. However, the reviewer does say this might be a good purchase when combined with other fitness equipment like free weights.
Some of the 5-star reviews of The Rack on Amazon are ecstatic, but there are also more balanced comments. One user says this workout device is "elegantly simple" and compact. He notes, however, that sit-ups, curls and ab work can be awkward, and there's no way to train your legs. One non-fan calls The Rack "a flimsy and rusty set of hollow tubes." There are also a few complaints about the manufacturer adding on extra charges and shipping mishaps resulting in a damaged Rack on delivery.
Review: The Rack Workout Station, Contributors to Amazon.com
2. Fast, Easy Fit (blog)
In this balanced review of The Rack Workout Station, anonymous blogger "JS" points out that this unit is "great in terms of being very portable and easily storable," but not so great in that 30 pounds of resistance isn't very much when it comes to exercises such as squats, lunges and biceps curls. The review also says The Rack doesn't offer any effective back exercises; a user comment appended to this page notes that it isn't good for biceps, either. While there are downsides and limitations to the product, the review does recommend The Rack as a successful workout tool that's fun to use while engaging and toning multiple muscle groups.
Review: The Rack Workout Review, "JS", March 26, 2011
Chuck Norris and Christie Brinkley pitch the Total Gym home exercise machine, a simple device that promises a variety of exercises for the entire body. You sit or lie on an incline board that glides on tracks, using pulleys and your own body weight to work legs, chest, abdominals, arms and more.
Reviews for many home fitness machines are pretty iffy, but we found plenty of balanced reviews saying the Total Gym works well for beginner or intermediate exercisers, although it does have a few drawbacks (and it's expensive).
Owners like the fact that the Total Gym comes fully assembled. Beginning exercisers report that they are able to start working out right away, although some find the Total Gym tricky to get on and off. A few owners report that parts wear out quickly, but most say the build quality of Total Gym models is perfectly adequate.
The most common complaint is that the Total Gym doesn't fold up or store as easily as the ads make it seem. Several users note that the Total Gym is too long (one model is more than 8.5 feet long) to set up in a small room, let alone slide under the bed. Others say the Total Gym is awkward and heavy, and we read some reports of injuries sustained when trying to fold it. A few reviewers say long hair gets caught in the sliders.
Although the Total Gym does allow a wide range of exercises, some experienced users say it's too easy and that owners may get bored with this simple machine. Bodybuilding experts say it isn't for those who want really bulky muscles. A few users complain about having to change the position of the incline, handgrips, footgrips, etc. every time they want to do a new exercise.
We found professional reviews of the Total Gym at PeerTrainer.com and BodybuildingForYou.com. FormerFatGuy.com and ExerciseEquipmentExpert.com also have reviews, but are dated (although ExerciseEquipmentExpert.com does review one current model). User reviews at Amazon.com and Epinions.com round out the review picture.
This review describes the features of the Total Gym and includes testing by this website's staff. They "found it a great form of exercise," although they admit that most of the people who tested it like bodyweight-style exercises, which is what Total Gym uses. It isn't for bulking up or building bone density, they say. It excels at overall strength-building. They like its ease of use and flexibility of options and say they really can't find any negatives about it.
Review: The Total Gym -- This Is A Great Piece of Equipment, Habib Wicks
This article features a good overview of what to expect from a Total Gym, and links to another article to help readers choose between the many Total Gym models. The verdict: It's a decent machine for overall fitness, but not for those who want to get serious about developing bulky muscles.
Review: Total Gym 1000, Total Gym 1500, 1700 Club, Total Gym 2000 and Total Gym 3000 Reviews, Editors of BodybuildingForYou.com
This review of the Total Gym 1000 is mostly positive, although reviewer Scott Bird admits that he isn't using it to "build large slabs of muscle." He finds it more effective than a bodyweight workout, though, and is "very good at what it does." He likes the versatility and effectiveness of the setup, but doesn't see the point of some of the extras such as hooks, pins, cables and plates, so he recommends a lower-end model for consumers. Bird's bottom line: "I love this thing."
Review: Review: Total Gym 1000, Scott Bird, Aug. 12, 2007
Five different Total Gym models receive reviews posted at Epinions.com. The Total Gym 1500 earns a 4 out of 5 star rating in more than two dozen owner-written reviews, while the Total Gym 1000 gets 3 out of 5 stars in more than one dozen reviews. The other models reviewed -- the 1400 and 1700 -- only get a handful of reviews, but similar star ratings.
Review: Total Gym, Contributors to Epinions.com
5. Exercise Equipment Expert.com
Bret Spottke, a personal trainer, reviews dozens of home fitness devices including several Total Gym models (some of which are outdated). His reviews concentrate on the models' features and there is no mention of actual testing. Spottke always recommends a competing Bayou Fitness machine over the Total Gym.
Review: Home Gym Reviews, Bret Spottke
Several Total Gym models -- including some older models -- are sold and reviewed at Amazon.com. All earn high ratings, but some models have only one review posted. However, although criticism and negative reviews are included, many of the reviews are suspiciously gushy.
Review: Total Gym, Contributors to Amazon.com