The L.A. Fitness Expo, to be held at the Los Angeles Convention Center next weekend, is always a good showcase for innovative, far-out and just plain weird new fitness products. Here's a preview of four standouts that tackle full-body and upper-body workouts.
Mass Suit: A full-body stretch-cord resistance suit makes every movement harder and makes you look like a medieval Terminator. It's composed of eight lengths of rubber tubing attached to a chest harness and ankle, knee and elbow straps.
Likes: It works — and it's exhausting. The Mass Suit adds resistance to squats, push-ups, overhead presses, rows, throwing punches and almost anything else you can think of. It turns the common jumping jack into a 10-rep torture test. After you take a couple of minutes to figure out how to put it together, it's easy to take off and on and change the cord positions for different exercises. A carry bag and manual are included.
Dislikes: None, really, except that it does not come with a DVD (although you can get good workout ideas from the website and manual).
Price: $299.95; http://www.MassSuit.com
The Burn Machine Speedbag (SB8): The oddly beautiful 7.6-pound, 15-inch-long chrome hand weight has two rotating handles.
Likes: Surprisingly different and effective. Although the Speedbag and its handful of movement patterns (end-over-end, lateral wrist-rolling and one-hand "gun slinging") seem a bit ridiculous at first glance, it delivers a serious "burn" in your arms and shoulders in as little as 10 seconds. It's hard to do them for more than a couple of minutes. The movements provide a legitimate, though limited, upper-body endurance workout.
Dislikes: Even being creative, you might struggle (as I did) to invent more than a few exercises; boredom might set in quickly.
Price: $129 (4-pound plastic model); $149 (7.6-pound chrome model). (800) 380-6527; http://www.theburnmachine.com
Pull-ups for everybody
LifelineUSA FitAssist: Stretch-cord device that effectively lightens your body weight and helps you do a pull-up.
Likes: It's simple and works great; ideal for newcomers to
Dislikes: The cords do not provide uniform assistance through the entire range of the pull-up, as do the hulking pull-up assist machines in the gym. The cord assists you most at the bottom of the movement and very little near the top.
Price: $39.99. http://www.lifelineusa.com
Walking arm pump
Halsa Resistance Poles: Walking poles have a built-in telescoping spring action that provides upper-body resistance when pushed.
Likes: Pushing down on the poles as you walk the streets for fitness is a fun and effective arm pump, to a point. The company claims the pole provides 13 pounds of resistance, which may be satisfying for some new or older exercisers. The poles are length adjustable form 50 to 65 inches.
Dislikes: The Halsas are not nearly as effective as solid poles, which provide a much better upper-body workout during fitness walking because they allow you to propel your entire body. And Halsas do not lighten the load and relieve stress on your legs, as solid poles do.
Price: $129. http://www.halsafit.com
Wallack is coauthor of "Bike for Life: How to Ride to 100" and "Barefoot Running Step by Step."