Fitness buffs who travel often have one of two options: make reservations at a hotel with a well-equipped gym or take exercise equipment along. But baggage weight limits and heightened security restrictions can make the latter difficult. Try lugging a set of dumbbells on a plane and you will end up looking like, well, a dumbbell. Luckily for you, several exercise equipment manufacturers have developed fitness gear designed with the traveler in mind. We tested three popular products on the market.
GET YOUR FILL
First look: AquaBells are plastic, doughnut-shaped bladders that you fill with water and slide onto a bar for use as dumbbells. The travel package comes with eight "weights" and two bars. When deflated, the AquaBells weigh 24 ounces and pack into a 10-inch-square bag. Once you fill them with water, the dumbbells weigh a maximum of 16 pounds. Just slide the bladders onto the bars and tighten the threaded plastic bolts.
Likes and yikes: The concept is great. The execution, not so much. Problem No. 1: It takes eight full bladders to produce 16 pounds of weight. Unless you are built like Olive Oyl, that's not nearly heavy enough for a serious workout. The second problem comes when you fill them. The valves are so small that you have to use a thin stream of water to fill the chambers. It took us 11 minutes to fill four bladders. Why not make the valves bigger, with screw-on lids to prevent leaks?
The 411: $59.95; ankle weights (next to the dumbbells) are $29.95; call (800) 987-6892 or go to www.aquabells.com.
GET READY TO ROLL
First look: The Ab Wheel by Altus Athletic is about as simple a design as you can imagine. It's a wheel with a handle on each side. Get on your knees, and with arms straight, grab the handles and roll the wheel forward until it is above your head. Roll it back until the wheel is directly under your shoulders. Repeat until your abdominal muscles scream in pain -- it won't take long. The handle slides out of the wheel for easy packing, and it all weighs less than 2 pounds. (Several versions of this product are on the market under names such as Ab Roller or Exercise Wheel. All work much the same.)
Likes and yikes: The Ab Wheel gives your abs a good workout in only a few minutes. The exercise can be tough on your knees so don't try it on hard floors. But the Ab Wheel raises one question: Why not save your knees some wear and tear and do some leg lifts or sit-ups?
GET WITH THE DRILL
First look: The Perfect Pushup is a pair of rotating handles you place on the floor, about shoulder's width apart, and then, as your Marine drill sergeant would say, "Drop and give me 20." The manufacturer says the rotating handles engage more muscles in the chest, shoulders, arms and abs than are used in old-fashioned push-ups. With the handles raising your hands about 4 inches off the ground, you drop down farther, making your chest muscles stretch farther.
Likes and yikes: The Perfect Pushup travel package snaps together and fits nicely into an 8-by-11-inch zippered pouch. Of the three products we tested, the Perfect Pushup packed away into the smallest container and gave the best upper-body workout. Twenty push-ups with the Perfect Pushup feels like the equivalent of 30 regular push-ups. Hey, Sarge! Permission to cry out in pain?
The 411: $59.95; available at Sport Chalet, Busy Body Home Fitness and Chick's Sporting Goods; call (877) 974-7733, or go to www.perfectpushup.com.