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.
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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