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Home gyms that can hide away

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There's a million ways to get fit without joining a gym. And with lots of innovative space-saving fitness devices hitting the market every year, there's no need to turn your entire living room into one. Here's four economical workout machines that'll get you surprisingly fit and even make you feel muscles you never thought of. Then the machines will disappear into your closet until the next round.

Throwing you a curve

Rip:60 TriFlex Push-up Stand: This push-up/dip bar with a curved frame is designed to cause an inherent instability that increases the difficulty of the exercises. Padded handles position your hands 5 to 8 inches off the ground. It is 32 inches long with handles fully extended and 17 inches in the folded position.

Likes: More workout in less time. This simple, compact, inexpensive and highly effective device squeezes far more bang for the buck out of your push-ups and dips (the dips are done in a back-down, face-up position). The curved shape, which forces more muscle recruitment as you struggle to keep balanced, makes these basic bodyweight exercises seem twice as hard as normal. Folding the handles inward for close-grip versions multiplies the difficulty even more. Although you are limited to two versions of both exercises, this is plenty.

Dislikes: None

Price: $24.99. http://www.sportsauthority.com


Get the bar rolling

TNT Core Bar: A hollow, 5-foot exercise bar is filled with large steel balls that roll from side to side when the bar is tipped, causing a destabilizing shift in weight, balance and momentum that challenges your core to make constant adjustments. Models are available in 6, 8, 10, 15 and 20 pounds.

Likes: The 30-minute workout DVD, led by inventor Derek Mikulski, provides a surprisingly challenging, satisfying and effective all-body workout that blasts your core muscles and shoulders. The simplest exercises, such as arm curls, twisting squats and overhead side bends, suddenly become a perpetual struggle against the inertia caused by the loud but unseen balls rolling from side to side with the slightest tip from parallel. You quickly learn that you are not perfectly balanced. The balls' dynamic action turns the relatively lightweight bars (I used the 15-pounder; my teenage son the 6) into tough, thorough workout tools for anyone and would be a worthwhile core- and coordination-builder for athletes trying to fill gaps in their fitness. The DVD workout includes three rounds of 10 exercises; find more on the website or invent your own.

Dislikes: None

Price: $64.99 to $139.99; http://www.hardcoretrainer.com


Stretch of the imagination

Slide Effect: The stretch cord resistance device has wheeled handles attached by carabineer-clipped cords to a stand-on/sit-on base. A DVD, designed by inventor and figure skater Brandon Larcom, includes three workouts and a variety of on- and off-the-floor exercises.

Likes: Lots of variety. You can put your knees on the board and do ab rollouts, snow angels and lat raises on the floor. Stand up to do biceps curls, overhead presses, upright rows, squats. Bottom line: Adjust the resistance by wrapping the straps on hooks underneath the pad. This simple product is a wheeled variation of similar stretch cord-and-base devices that give you back what you put into them. Foot straps for leg exercises are included.

Dislikes: The caster wheels don't roll smoothly all the time, stalling occasionally; we would have preferred a ball-style wheel. Also, while at full extension during floor exercises, the plastic wheel housings can scratch your wood floors.

Price: $149.85. https://theslideeffect.com/


Body-blasting bear trap

BowFlex UpperCut: An A-shaped, 22-inch-high, wheeled apparatus with a chest pad provides stretch-cord resistance when its legs are splayed open like a bear-trap by the force of your body weight. It allows for several unusual takes on exercises like chest flies, push-ups, dives and pike tucks.

Likes: We found two of the four exercise groups illustrated on the wall chart, the flies and the dives (a classic ab rollout), to be quite challenging and beneficial. The stretch cords that attack the legs have three levels of resistance. Tool-free assembly takes about 20 minutes.

Dislikes: It's a big ugly thing that takes up a lot of space, and it's somewhat limited. The push-ups are too easy, as the spring action helps you push up. The pike tucks could just as well be done with a physio ball. That leaves flies and dives as the only real worthwhile exercises. Also, an exercise booklet would be handier than the big wall poster.

Price: $99.95 or $129.95. http://www.bowflexuppercut.com


Wallack is the coauthor of "Barefoot Running Step by Step" and "Bike for Life: How to Ride to 100." roywallack@aol.com

health@latimes.com

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