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Fitness | GEAR

Old school, but new

August 02, 2004|Roy M. Wallack

Medicine balls aren't just for prizefighters anymore. Innovative new products can help average Joes or Janes improve core strength, flexibility, balance and total-body conditioning through natural functional movements. While traditional balls are made of leather stuffed with rags and sand, the new models may include handles and non-leather covers, plus videos and accessories.

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You can even dribble it

SPRI Xerball: Inflatable rubber weight ball.

Likes: The only medicine ball that bounces like a heavy basketball. Provides a superb dribbling workout. Includes a one-page exercise book that demonstrates how to do chest presses, pullovers, heavy sit-ups and other basic exercises.

Dislikes: None.

Price: Five versions, from 4 pounds to 12 pounds ($29.99 to $54.99.) (800) 222-7774; www.spriproducts.com

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Good medicine

Exertools Soft Shell Medicine Balls: Rubber-coated, gel-filled heavy ball.

Likes: Basic exercise program includes chest press, pullover and more. When used with an optional Plyoback adjustable-angle rebounder ($349), a small trampoline, it provides a challenging strength and aerobic workout.

Dislikes: No printed instruction sheet included; exercises available only on company website.

Price: $ 12.80 to $46.80 (2- to 15-pound balls); (800) 235-1559; www.exertools.com

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An old favorite

Everlast: Classic leather medicine ball conjures up images of gritty boxing gyms.

Likes: Nice leather feel when you're performing your exercises or letting a trainer drop it on your stomach (to strengthen abs against punches). Not perfectly round, which adds to the difficulty of a workout.

Dislikes: No instruction manual.

Price: $49.99 (12- and 15-pound versions). (800) 821-7930; www.everlast.com

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Tough love for real men

Kettlebells: Cast-iron medicine ball with handle that was developed in the former Soviet Union.

Likes: Tough workouts with attitude. Good motivation for hard-core jocks looking for a challenge. Video instruction by Pavel Tsatsouline, right, a former KGB agent and fitness trainer. Videos, geared to men, include titles such as "Cruel and Unusual Kettlebell Exercises for Real Men" and "From Russia With Tough Love."

Dislike: May be too difficult for some. More expensive than other products.

Price: From $89 (4 kilograms) to $179 (40 kilograms), including video. (800) 899-5111; www.dragondoor.com.

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-- Roy M. Wallack

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