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A steady approach to fitness

September 29, 2003|Roy M. Wallack

Instability is not a good thing in most aspects of life, but it's great for fitness training, helping to strengthen your heart, posture and coordination.

Trying to balance on a moving surface while stretching, doing aerobics and weightlifting works large groups of muscles. It's great for your "core" muscles -- the abdominals, back and glutes.

No wonder workouts with balance products are growing in popularity at health clubs. Here are four for use at home.

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Adding bounce to your workout

BOSU Balance Trainer: Bouncy, trampoline-like fun on an inflatable half sphere.

Likes: Excellent 30-minute video that provides a step-style aerobic workout. Great for crunches and push-ups. Can be used right-side up or upside-down (hence BOSU -- Both Sides Up). Easy to inflate with pump (included). Good for strengthening feet and ankles, which get worked at unusual angles.

Dislikes: None.

Price: $129.95 (three video/DVDs are $14.95 each). (800) 321-9236; www.bosu.com.

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Some cushioning underfoot

Dyna-Disc: Pillow-like, inflatable disc got its start in physical rehabilitation.

Likes: Useful for single-leg exercises and sit-ups. More than one disc can be used for double-leg exercises, squats, lunges and push-ups. Can be used as an unstable seat cushion.

Dislikes: Includes only a two-page exercise sheet, with no formal workout program.

Price: $29.99. (888) 556-7464; www.performbetter.com.

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Hanging 10 in your living room

Reebok Core Board: Tilting, twisting rectangular platform that will make you feel like you're riding a tiny surfboard.

Likes: A versatile, all-around workout. Twisting motion works the often-neglected transverse abdominal muscles.

Small, cut-out notches in the 26-by-19-inch board allows for stretch cord resistance workout. The solid platform is ideal for boxing and martial arts movements. Optional workout video.

Dislikes: Heavy at 30 pounds; carrying it may be cumbersome.

Price: $169. Three video workout tapes, $20- $25 each. (800) REEBOK1; www.reebok.com.

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A challenge for abs and glutes

Fitter First Balance Board: Updated version of the old wobble board, but tricky to use.

Likes: Simple balancing on the 16-inch plastic disc is initially quite challenging. Works your abs and glutes. Adjustable height lets you gauge the difficulty.

Dislikes: After a few basic moves -- rocking side-to-side, standing on one foot or doing push-ups -- you may run out of things to do.

Unsuitable for a good aerobic workout. Too unstable for comfortable use with dumbbells.

Price: $39.95. (800) FITTER1; www.fitter1.com.

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-- Roy M. Wallack

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