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Gear: Power up with hybrid workout machines

Burn calories and tone muscles with exercise machines that focus on 'fusion training.'

October 24, 2011|By Roy M. Wallack, Special to the Los Angeles Times
  • The Ball Bike
The Ball Bike (Ball Bike )

Not just cardio. Not just strength. For better calorie-burning, muscle-toning and all-round, time-efficient fitness, advocates of so-called fusion training say you need both — which explains CrossFit, P90X and the sudden rise of the hybrid, all-in-one workout machine. Three of the products below graft stretch cords or weights to bikes and ellipticals. Another works you head to toe with precarious off-the-ground movements that test agility and balance. All deliver fast, effective all-body workouts — provided you're willing to do the work.

Weight gains

Avanti CardioGym CG6: Recumbent exercise bike combined with dual pulley-activated 75-pound weight stacks and a touch-screen video instructor.

Likes: A great body-blasting workout with simple programming. After you set the weight and time intervals and choose from one of 10 workouts (such as "front," "back" or "boxing"), an animated personal trainer cycles you through challenging two-in-one workouts. Example: While pedaling, the "front" routine cues you to do back extensions, biceps curls, triceps kickbacks, shoulder high-lows and seated rows. The seat swivels 180 degrees to let you switch from pull to push exercises. Doing aerobic and strength training together quickly elevated my heart rate and prompted muscle fatigue. Also, it's very motivating to compete with your own previous scores. The bike is a standard exer-cycle, with 20 levels of resistance and a variety of programs. Kayak bars, an exercise chart, iPod port, heart-rate sensors and USB port are included. The lower-end CG3500 model ($2,999) is a great deal, offering the same routines without the fancy monitor, while ingeniously folding up into a self-enclosed cabinet.

Dislikes: The dual 75-pound weight stacks, though fine for use while pedaling, may be too light for those who also want to use it as a regular, off-the-bike gym.

Price: $5,995. (888) 499-5533;

Strength in elliptical

Octane ellipticals with Cross Circuit+: A program built into Octane's Q47ci and Q37ci models alternates cardio intervals with off-machine strength exercises, which can be performed with your own gear or with optional weights and stretch cords that attach to hooks on the machines.

Likes: Simple but effective; the first minute of strength work noticeably ramped up my respiration. You choose your preferred Cross Circuit+ program (upper, lower, core or total body), set preferred aerobic and strength interval times, then do a regular elliptical workout until a beep sounds and a screen prompt appears. Hop off the machine and do stretch-cord, dumbbell or body-weight exercises such as pushups, lateral raises, rows, curls, triceps extensions, lunges and leg raises. This definitely makes you incorporate strength work you probably would not do on your own. As a pure elliptical, Octanes are among the best, extremely smooth and solid. A $249 optional Cross Circuit+ kit includes three different weight-resistance cords and stationary platforms that go alongside the pedals and have additional hooks for different strength exercises. A Powerblock kit with adjustable Powerblock dumbbells and stands is $1,299.

Dislikes: The optional stretch cord and Powerblock kits are overly expensive, and the Cross Circuit+ program itself, while providing valuable cues that you might forget on your own, is primitive, providing no way to input the specific strength exercises you'd like to do. Also, the program strangely is not standard on the regular Q47c ($4,199), Q37c ($2,599) or Q35c ($2,199) models, although these do have stretch-cord hooks.

Price: $4,699 (Q47ci) and $3,099 (Q37ci). Octane's weights and stretch cords cost extra. (888) OCTANE4;

Vertical virtuosity

Brendle Systems FitWall Edge Twin Column: A climbing wall on steroids. A two-sided, 8-foot pillar with hand holds and optional attachments for stretch cords, pull-up bars and platforms subjects you to dynamic "vertical training."

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