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Gear: New ways to be old school

Jump, push, pull, lift, move. The boom in functional fitness, led by hot, high-intensity programs such as CrossFit and P90X that use traditional exercise movements and gear, has caused people to look at old-school strength in new ways. The result: house-friendly innovations that update classic exercises to deliver surprisingly thorough all-body workouts.

Variations on push-ups

Power Press: A 3-foot-by-16–inch plastic board embedded with color-coded holes that allow you to plug a pair of handles into 15 push-up positions. A 10-week DVD workout program and chart are included.

Likes: An effective, time-efficient home workout that blasts your torso. The various hand positions work chest, shoulders, back and triceps from numerous angles. The DVD and chart cleverly create a P90X-style aerobic-and-strength workout by alternating the push-ups with plyometrics, core and cardio exercises such as split jumps, kickouts, burpees, jumping jacks and Russian ab twists. When you're done, the handles and the two interlocking sections slip into a convenient nylon zippered carry bag with shoulder straps.

Dislikes: The push-up positions are not numbered on the board. So when you see "C1" on the instruction sheet (a wide hand position), you must hunt for C1 on a small map of the board first, rather than look on the board. It's irritating, although you learn the hand positions eventually.

Price: $49.99. (800) 354-5117;

Radial dumbbells

Halo Balance Bell: Circular, rubber-coated dumbbell with the handle in the middle for use with all traditional dumbbell exercises. The radial design evenly distributes the weight, supposedly causing less torque to the wrists, a vulnerable link. A pair of Halos can be turned into a barbell with a proprietary bar.

Likes: Definitely more balanced than conventional dumbbells, easier on the wrists and prettier. The company says you get a better workout with less weight, but I can't be sure that it's harder or easier than a traditional dumbbell. One way Halos are better is their unique ability to morph into a barbell; they slip onto an optional bar ($115) via a sleek-locking interface that opens with the press of two buttons.

Dislikes: No adjustability, as with weight plate dumbbells. So as you get stronger, you're stuck with the weights you bought (10 to 40 pounds).

Price: $89.99 (pair). (800) FITTER-1;

Jump to it

GoFit Plyobox: A pyramid-sloped wooden box used as a landing pad during box jumps. This is a multi-joint, low-impact polymetric leap from the ground that builds speed, vertical leap, coordination, and glutes, hamstring and quadriceps strength.

Likes: Box jumps are a fantastic exercise that works the whole body. The Plyobox provides a solid platform, with two cutouts serving as handles. Made from five prefinished pieces of plywood, it assembles in about 40 minutes; 22 screws built into channels on the inside of the walls turn easily with a 6-inch-long Phillips head screwdriver (not included). Included is a laminated exercise flip book, which turns jumps into a full-blown workout routine by mixing them with lateral side steps, incline and decline push-ups, and one-legged squats. Plyobox is lower priced than similar jump boxes.

Dislikes: Although the top edges of the box are sanded, I'd have preferred them more rounded, to prevent the possibility of scratching your leg on an edge.

Price: $59.99 for 1 foot; $79.99, 11/2 feet; $99.99, 2 feet. (888) 530-4441;

Bend, stir and sweat

Core Stix: Like an old Bowflex gym, a Core Stix workout comes from pushing and pulling fiberglass rods, which in this case are attached to a multi-angled, ground-level hub on a base platform. Invented by Pittsburgh Penguins strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar, who was inspired by childhood memories of digging fence posts on his dad's cattle farm in western Canada, it comes with rods of three levels of difficulty.

Likes: A challenging and effective strength and flexibility workout of smooth sweeping movements and progressive resistance. I felt no need to hit the gym after this. The DVD workout, designed with Hollywood celebrity trainer Gunner Peterson, leads you through a functional, core-centric adventure that hits all body parts. The hubs, dotted with holes at different angles, allows the positioning of rods for endless arm and leg exercises. When done, the platform and rods easily slip under the bed or into a closet.

Dislikes: Not cheap.

Price: $849; $699 models designed for low-strength adults and youths. (855) COR-STIX, (855) 267-7849;

Wallack is coauthor of "Barefoot Running Step by Step" and "Bike for Life: How to Ride to 100."

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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