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Gym equipment: The most useful and the utterly useless

There is no end to ‘fresh’ and ‘innovative’ fitness equipment constantly hitting the market. But which ones are actually useful? Lounge asks the experts

Is a barbell useful or useless?
Is a barbell useful or useless? (Unsplash/Mariah Krafft)

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Innovation is as important as motivation in the world of fitness. After all, even the best of us can sometimes get bored of the same equipment and routine. The fitness industry tries to stay fresh with new exercise trends as well as new fitness equipment. 

For instance, in recent times we have seen the rise of continuous blood glucose monitors, or the connected exercise bike with on-demand workouts like the Peloton. However, not every new equipment that hits the market is great. Some are undeniably useful, while many are quite useless. I asked fitness coaches and experts about their favourite fitness equipment tick and which ones they would avoid.

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Gagan Arora, celebrity coach and founder of Kosmic Fitness, Delhi

Useless equipment: Arora, who also loves running and organises plenty of running camps through the year, finds the Twister machine the worst invention of the fitness world. It has a rotating plate on which people stand and twist away while holding on to a handle in the hope of burning fat from their tummies. “I dislike it so much that I have never ever used it. All it does is make you pivot your body from left to right doing nothing at all for your strength, endurance, flexibility or mobility. Overdo the twists on this machine and you will just pile on unnecessary repetitive load on your spine.”

Useful equipment: “The assisted pull-ups and parallel bar dips machine is my favourite,” Arora says. The machine mimics two very powerful movements, which are otherwise very hard to pull off for most people, even the active ones, he explains. “If used well, this machine can help improve the functionality of your core and upper body strength,” he adds.

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AK Abhinav, coach and founder, Namma X-Fit, Bengaluru

Useless equipment: Abhinav, who was recently appointed the strength and conditioning coach for the Tripura cricket team, cannot stand the Airbike. “I hate the Airbike with a vengeance, so much so that I sold all the airbuses in my gyms when the pandemic hit us,” he says. The fact that you can do just one mundane and repetitive movement with the Airbike while going nowhere irritates Abhinav. “And, the thing is so ungainly and heavy. Also, the unsolicited air that hits the face combined with dust if not used for a while doesn’t exactly make me fall in love with it,” he says.

The Best: “It has to be the good old barbell,” says Abhinav. “When you want to build strength and power, the barbell has no equal. It is versatile enough to even take you into endurance territory. All you need to do is just use the empty bar without any weights and you could perform more repetitions to build up your endurance,” he says.  

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Sandeep Sachdev, personal trainer, nutritionist and co-founder of Easy Human Fitness Studio and Cafe, Mumbai

Useless equipment: Sachdev, who won the reality show India’s Biggest Loser by losing the most weight of all contestants in the show’s first season, simply won’t buy or get on to a Recumbent bike. It is essentially a comfortable chair with a set of pedals in front of you to pedal away at leisure. “It is definitely the laziest equipment I have every set eyes on and if you are serious about seeing results, run away from one of these bikes as soon as you see them,” says Sachdev.  

Useful equipment:  Sachdev picks the treadmill as his favourite. The Techno Gym treadmill, he specifies. But he has his reasons, as his first and most successful fitness goal was to lose weight for the reality show. “Right from my first day at The Biggest Loser till today, I am a treadmill loyalist despite having switched to road running over the last two-and-a-half years because of the pandemic. After the treadmill, I love the rowing machine,” he adds.  

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Rajesh Parameswaran, coach and founder, The Den Fitness, Bengaluru 

Useless equipment: Parameswaran, who loves doing handstands, can’t be bothered to use the smith machine, which you might have spotted being used for squats and bench press. “It restricts the angle of movement and positioning. Sustained use of the machine for squats, bench or shoulder press could lead to joint pain. It also hampers your natural movement path,” says Parameswaran.

Useful equipment: His favourite workout equipment is the Glute Hamstring Developer (GHD) machine, which is used for GHD sit-ups as well as hamstring raises. “The GHD machine is extremely functional  and specifically targets the gluteus muscles, hamstrings and core. It’s quite challenging but a lot of fun,” Parameswaran explains.  

Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and the co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness.

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