When you’re overweight but want to get fit, picking the right fitness tools can make all the difference in staying safe and seeing good results. These three tools are among the best you can get if you want to get back to a healthy number on the scale.
1) Resistance Tubes
What They Are: These are stretchy pieces of rubber (usually latex) attached to handle grips or ankle bands. Similar to the flat, Theraband-style resistance bands in function, they are the most common alternative to dumbbells.
Why to Buy: If you’re like most overweight individuals, you may have a decent amount of strength in your larger muscles, as you have to move a lot of extra pounds around on a regular basis. Your small, deep, intrinsic muscles, however–the ones that truly stabilize your joints–probably are weak. Resistance bands force these muscles to engage and strengthen, which helps address the postural and balance issues you might have from being heavy. It also allows you to work with heavier weight loads safely. You can get stiffer tubes or double them up for more of a challenge as you advance in your program.
The continual resistance from a tube means you won’t be able to cheat and use gravity to your advantage the way you can with dumbbells. Unlike on a machine that might limit your range of motion, you can work through every plane (horizontal, vertical, diagonal, etc.) in preparation for functional, everyday movements. The muscle you gain from using the tubes will help you burn a few more calories, as muscle takes more energy to maintain. As bonuses, you can use your tubes for yoga, Pilates or post-workout stretching just like resistance bands. This capability is incredibly important given most overweight individuals need to improve their flexibility–it’s very common for heavier people to have a limited range of motion, as the body tries to compensate for all the increased force the extra weight puts on the joints.
2) Step Platform
What It Is: This tool is a rectangular section of hard plastic large enough to stand on. Normally, this platform has ridges so your feet do not slip as you move. It’s usually about 4 inches in height, but the length and width varies. The larger steps are designed more for use in public gyms or fitness centers, while the smaller ones are made specifically for home use. You can use the platform by itself, or you may place it on top of supporting risers, which are also of hard plastic and which are shaped in such a way that the platform remains stable even during rigorous movements. Most steps support up to 250 pounds, but heavy-duty ones can support double that without a problem.
Why to Buy: “Regular” exercises that torch calories and improve cardiovascular fitness (e.g., running) can be challenging for overweight individuals, as they put too much impact and stress on the joints. Although many step routines provide jump options, most instructors provide alternatives to keep everything joint friendly. Instructors also choreograph their routines to include a huge range of moves, which makes working out feel more like dancing. The more risers you use, the higher your intensity will be. Even though cardiovascular exercise is the step’s main sell point, don’t discredit it for resistance moves. You can use it to do uneven squats or lunges, for example–that lower body strength will help with basic tasks like sitting and standing. It also works as a pushup platform or, with enough risers, a place to perform seated or prone/supine exercises such as the chest press, fly or shoulder press.
3) Swiss/Stability Ball
What It Is: This exercise tool is simply a round, plastic ball large enough for you to sit on. Normally, it is hollow and quite lightweight, and it is inflated with a simple hand or foot air pump. Some models, however, are made of firmer plastics, are weighted with sand to prevent rolling or do not deflate. Most hold only up to 250 pounds, so they’re often overlooked by overweight individuals who want to exercise, but for an understandably bigger price tag, companies such as Ball Dynamics, GoFit or Duraball Pro manufacture burst-resistant balls that can hold 1,000 pounds or more.
Why to Buy: As their name implies, stability balls are phenomenal for helping you achieve proper posture. Aside from just sitting on them, you can use them for crunches, incline pushups, wall squats, back extensions, abdominal rollouts, isometric holds and much more, all without high impact. They can increase your flexibility as well as your strength.
Being overweight doesn’t mean you can’t exercise. You just need the right equipment to get started. Resistance tubes, a step platform and a good stability ball are a great start.
Contributed by Wanda Marie Thibodeaux