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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

Likes: A fun fitness frenzy that takes you back to childhood and makes you do things once thought possible only by cast members of Cirque du Soleil. Vertical training — the act of fighting gravity while balancing above the ground with precarious foot and hand holds and no other support or stability — is said to work the strength and aerobic systems at once by activating the "autonomic nervous system," which is responsible for the fight-or-flight response in animals. No matter what exercise was dictated to me by certified FitWall teacher Eric Flowers — vertical wall squats, 360-degree crab crawls, elevated wall rows, even Spider-Man-like leap-and-holds — it was all-consuming, coordination-building, exhausting and thrilling. My heart raced for several minutes after each exercise set; my muscles tingled with life and felt completely worked. That's because, according to FitWall inventor Doug Brendle, "every muscle is on-line and demanding and consuming calories during every exercise, so you can work out for five minutes instead of 40." Flowers, who offers FitWall classes at his Body Builder Gym in Silver Lake, calls it "3-D fitness." I agree. Less expensive single-sided wall-mounted models are also available.

Dislikes: As a floor-mounted model, the Edge Twin Column must be anchored in concrete in an open area by four large bolts, which are included. (If you don't have space, FitWall offers one-sided wall-mounted Edge models beginning at $1,100).

Price: $4,900. (307) 638-4046.

On the ball

The Ball Bike: Recumbent bike that has an exercise ball in place of a seat and stretch cords attached to the rear.

Likes: Fun, effective and cheap. I didn't get bored on this funky hybrid machine, rocking, rolling and bouncing as I pedaled and pumped at the same time. It was a revelation to discover that even a small amount of resistance work from the lowly stretch cords could radically jack up the effort, as did lean-forward presses on the handlebar. People who find small, hard bike seats uncomfortable or even painful may like sitting on the soft, wide ball, whose instability has the benefit of working the core. While the bike itself is not nearly as solid as a club machine and uses low-tech strap resistance on the flywheel, it does the job.

Dislikes: None

Price: $699. (877) 668-4402 or (330) 430-0056;

Wallack is the co-author of "Barefoot Running Step by Step."

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