The Best Gadgets to Make You Slim
Going to the gym can be like walking onto an overwhelming playground for grown-ups—so many toys, so little time! You just want to know: Which piece of equipment is the absolute best for transforming your trouble spots? And what the heck do you do with it to get fast and fabulous results?
To find out, we turned to the hottest trainers around and asked them to reveal the best workout gizmo for each goal—flat belly, toned thighs, etc.—plus the ultimate move to whip that area into amazing shape.
Workout like a pro
Read on for the ultimate picks and moves from Ramona Braganza, a Los Angeles–based celeb trainer whose clients include Jessica Alba and Halle Berry; Amy Dixon, a Santa Monica, California–based trainer, exercise physiologist, and fitness DVD star; and Health's own Kristin McGee, a New York City–based trainer and yoga and Pilates instructor with nine exercise DVDs to her credit.
To use this guide, pick the move designed for the area you want to target. Or put all the moves together and do two sets of each move (with no rest in between) for a 20-minute body-beautifying workout. Either way, do the moves four times a week, and you'll start looking sleeker in just three weeks. Now that's time well-spent.
The best tool for fab abs: Stability ball
Plank Tuck with a Twist
Here's why: "This exercise works your core like no other," McGee says. "You have to engage your entire transverse abdominals—the innermost layer of muscle that acts like a girdle—just to maintain your balance on the ball." Pulling the ball in toward your chest pinpoints your hard-to-reach lower-ab muscles, and the twisting movement engages both your obliques (side-ab muscles) and rectus abdominus (the major ab muscle responsible for the hallowed six-pack). "By balancing on a large, unstable surface, you can't cheat," McGee explains. "It forces you to engage all of your ab muscles, front to back and side to side."
How-to: Plank Tuck with a Twist
Lie facedown on the ball with your hands on the floor in front of you. Walk your hands forward until you are in plank position (the "up" part of a push-up) with only your shins and tops of your feet on the ball (A). Brace your core and bring your knees in, pivoting them sideways so they come toward your right armpit (B). Shoot your legs back out to plank position, then repeat on left side; that's 1 rep. Do 10 reps
No gym or ball? Do the move on a smooth floor with your feet on a kitchen towel or paper plate that will allow them to slide—you'll still have to work your core big-time to bring your knees in.
The best tool for a beautiful butt: Plyo box
Here's why: "A plyo box is a tremendous tool for training the glutes fast," Dixon says. "You not only build great muscle but also get an added cardio benefit that helps trim inches." It's versatile, too—boxes come in a variety of heights and materials, including some with "give" that are easier on your joints. Why the Box Jump? "It's a basic move in that it's simply a squat jump up onto the box and a squat jump down—but there's no quicker way to get results," Dixon explains.
How-to: Box Jump
Stand facing a 12- to 18-inch plyo box with your feet hip-width apart. Push your butt back and squat down until your thighs are almost parallel to the floor (A), then push strongly into your feet to jump up onto the box, using your arms for momentum. Land gently in squat position (B), allowing the toes of each foot to hit before your heels (your feet should land at the same time). Push off with your heels and jump back down, landing softly, toes first, in squat position. Repeat for 30–60 seconds (depending on your strength)
No gym or plyo box? Do the move using a sturdy step or low bench. Or, skip the equipment and simply jump forward and backward instead of up and down.
The best tool for lean legs: BOSU balance trainer
Reverse Lunge with Touch-Down
Here's why: "A reverse lunge works both the quadriceps and hamstrings, plus the movement helps you build balance and agility," Dixon says. Add in the instability of the BOSU and your muscles have to work even harder to complete the exercise—so you get better results in less time. "You'll definitely feel the burn while doing this move!" Dixon adds.
How-to: Reverse Lunge with Touch-Down
Place the ball dome side up. Stand on top of it with feet hip-distance apart and reach your arms up by your ears, palms in and shoulders relaxed (A). Step your left foot back onto the floor behind you, bending your right knee to 90 degrees to come into a low lunge. At the same time, hinge forward at the hips and touch the dome of ball on either side of your right foot (B). Next, push off with your left foot and return to standing on the ball, arms reaching up. Do 12–15 reps, then switch sides and repeat.
No gym or BOSU? Do the same exercise with both feet on the floor. To add more of a balance challenge, lift your knee after each lunge instead of returning to the starting position.
The best tool for great shoulders and back: Kettlebell
Clean and Press
Here's why: Using a kettlebell builds muscle and boosts your stamina and power, thanks to the lifting motion—and your shoulder and back are largely responsible for that. "This move not only helps even out muscle imbalances in those areas since you're targeting just one side at a time," Braganza explains, "but the dynamic movement helps keep your shoulder joints in great working order." Just be sure to do a quick warm-up first with arm swings and circles.
How-to: Clean and Press
Stand with feet a little more than hip-width apart and the kettlebell on the floor between your feet. Keeping your torso straight, hinge forward at the hips to pick up the bell with your right hand; put your left arm out to the side for balance (A).
Explosively raise the bell (keep your elbow high) by squeezing your butt muscles and driving your hips forward. Near the top of the move, rotate your elbow around and under the kettlebell to end with your wrist facing up and the bell slightly behind your shoulder (B). With knees slightly bent, continue pushing the bell up over your head, extending your arm (C); hold for a second. Reverse the motions to return to starting position; that's 1 rep. Do 10 reps, then switch sides and repeat.
No gym or kettlebell? Try the move using a sandbag or heavy dumbbell held vertically with a firm grip.
The best tool for a strong chest: Medicine ball
Roll-the-Ball with Uneven Push-Up
Here's why: "Stabilizing yourself on the ball—and rolling it back and forth—requires you to engage all of your chest muscles, including the smaller ones that often get bypassed," McGee explains. "And a medicine ball is the perfect size for push-ups." The unevenness of the push-up also helps balance out your strength by not allowing your stronger side to compensate for your weaker one. Plus, the position targets the underside of your chest, helping give the girls a lift.
How-to: Roll-the-Ball with Uneven Push-Up
Come into plank position (the "up" part of a push-up) with right hand on the ball and left hand on the floor or mat (A). Tighten abs and squeeze shoulder blades together as you bend your elbows to lower your chest toward the floor (B). Push back up, then use your right hand to roll the ball to your left hand. Repeat sequence on the left side; that's 1 rep. (Too challenging? Drop your knees.) Do 10–12 reps.
No gym or medicine ball? Use a basketball or soccer ball instead. Or, use a stack of books: Do 10 reps with one hand on them, then walk your hands over so the other hand is on top and repeat.
The best tool for awesome arms: Resistance band
Here's why: Toned triceps are what give you killer-looking arms when you go sleeveless, and the kickback is the easiest move to do with perfect form—key to getting good results. "Using the band allows you to isolate your triceps and truly target the smaller muscles that are often difficult to involve when using traditional weights," Braganza says. "Plus, the stretchy material gives more resistance at the top of the move, forcing your muscles to work harder."
How-to: Tricep Kickback
Stand with feet hip-width apart on the center of the band, holding an end in each hand and bending elbows to 90 degrees. (Hold the band so there's no slack.) Keeping your back straight, head in line with your torso, and upper arms glued to your sides, hinge forward at the waist. Extend both arms back (as shown), flexing your triceps muscles as they straighten. Bend your elbow again to bring your hands forward. Do 20 reps.
No gym or band? Do the same move using dumbbells or full water bottles instead. You won't get the increased resistance you get with the band, but the weight will tone your arms almost as well.