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Gear: Power up with hybrid workout machines

Not just cardio. Not just strength. For better calorie-burning, muscle-toning and all-round, time-efficient fitness, advocates of so-called fusion training say you need both — which explains CrossFit, P90X and the sudden rise of the hybrid, all-in-one workout machine. Three of the products below graft stretch cords or weights to bikes and ellipticals. Another works you head to toe with precarious off-the-ground movements that test agility and balance. All deliver fast, effective all-body workouts — provided you’re willing to do the work.

Weight gains

Avanti CardioGym CG6: Recumbent exercise bike combined with dual pulley-activated 75-pound weight stacks and a touch-screen video instructor.

Likes: A great body-blasting workout with simple programming. After you set the weight and time intervals and choose from one of 10 workouts (such as “front,” “back” or “boxing”), an animated personal trainer cycles you through challenging two-in-one workouts. Example: While pedaling, the “front” routine cues you to do back extensions, biceps curls, triceps kickbacks, shoulder high-lows and seated rows. The seat swivels 180 degrees to let you switch from pull to push exercises. Doing aerobic and strength training together quickly elevated my heart rate and prompted muscle fatigue. Also, it’s very motivating to compete with your own previous scores. The bike is a standard exer-cycle, with 20 levels of resistance and a variety of programs. Kayak bars, an exercise chart, iPod port, heart-rate sensors and USB port are included. The lower-end CG3500 model ($2,999) is a great deal, offering the same routines without the fancy monitor, while ingeniously folding up into a self-enclosed cabinet.

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Dislikes: The dual 75-pound weight stacks, though fine for use while pedaling, may be too light for those who also want to use it as a regular, off-the-bike gym.

Price: $5,995. (888) 499-5533; https://www.cardiogym.com

Strength in elliptical

Octane ellipticals with Cross Circuit+: A program built into Octane’s Q47ci and Q37ci models alternates cardio intervals with off-machine strength exercises, which can be performed with your own gear or with optional weights and stretch cords that attach to hooks on the machines.

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Likes: Simple but effective; the first minute of strength work noticeably ramped up my respiration. You choose your preferred Cross Circuit+ program (upper, lower, core or total body), set preferred aerobic and strength interval times, then do a regular elliptical workout until a beep sounds and a screen prompt appears. Hop off the machine and do stretch-cord, dumbbell or body-weight exercises such as pushups, lateral raises, rows, curls, triceps extensions, lunges and leg raises. This definitely makes you incorporate strength work you probably would not do on your own. As a pure elliptical, Octanes are among the best, extremely smooth and solid. A $249 optional Cross Circuit+ kit includes three different weight-resistance cords and stationary platforms that go alongside the pedals and have additional hooks for different strength exercises. A Powerblock kit with adjustable Powerblock dumbbells and stands is $1,299.

Dislikes: The optional stretch cord and Powerblock kits are overly expensive, and the Cross Circuit+ program itself, while providing valuable cues that you might forget on your own, is primitive, providing no way to input the specific strength exercises you’d like to do. Also, the program strangely is not standard on the regular Q47c ($4,199), Q37c ($2,599) or Q35c ($2,199) models, although these do have stretch-cord hooks.

Price: $4,699 (Q47ci) and $3,099 (Q37ci). Octane’s weights and stretch cords cost extra. (888) OCTANE4; https://www.octanefitness.com

Vertical virtuosity

Brendle Systems FitWall Edge Twin Column: A climbing wall on steroids. A two-sided, 8-foot pillar with hand holds and optional attachments for stretch cords, pull-up bars and platforms subjects you to dynamic “vertical training.”

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. https://www.fitwall.com

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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; https://www.ballbike.com

Wallack is the co-author of “Barefoot Running Step by Step.” roywallack@aol.com


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