1. Water rower. This is as close as you can get to actual rowing without getting wet or yelled at by a coxswain. The muscles used in rowing tend to be the most neglected by most gym goers. I'm talking about the upper back, rear deltoids, mid-trapezius, and low-back. The water rower effectively trains these muscles like no other piece of equipment you'll find. You will rarely find a water rower because you can't read a magazine or book while you use it, so it isn't the sexiest machine in the gym, but it is one of the most effective.
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2. High incline treadmills. Research has shown a threefold greater fat burn walking 2 miles per hour at 21 percent incline than running 6 miles per hour at 0 percent incline. Plus, a side benefit of using the high- incline treadmill is that it is very effective at, ah, building your rear assets. A better bum. A boosted booty. You get the point. Unfortunately, the high-incline treadmill is also a rare find because of price. So mostly higher end chains will have them. So double up un your annual "gym improvement fee," and ask for one of these.
3. Jacob's Ladder. This bad boy is the tops in my view. It is pretty much just what it sounds like, a ladder. It doesn't look like much, until you jump on, and realize what you just got yourself into. The angled ladder mechanism continually rotates at a speed that matches how far up the ladder you are. The higher you climb, the faster it goes. I LOVE this machine for interval training, or a 5 minute finish to my strength training. These are the RAREST of my faves, I've only seen them in a handful of clubs I've been to.
Like I said, getting to the gym and moving is good. But if you are looking to maximize your time, and have one or all of these machines available, jump on them and you'll get more results in less time. If your gym doesn't have these particular pieces of equipment, tell the manager that you want these put on the annual member wishlist. They will breath new life into your fitness efforts.
Chad Smith is a Hagers-town personal trainer and co-owner of Home Team Fitness LLC. Go to www.home teamfitness.net for more information.