SkyMall Monday: Talking Hand Exerciser

I hate working out. I’m not proud of that and, despite my aversion to exercise, I do engage in quite a bit of it. I enjoy long bike rides, hiking and getting caught in the rain. That said, staying fit can be tedious. Perhaps that’s because exercise equipment is so dull. Treadmills? Without outdoor scenery, running is the fitness equivalent of watching paint dry. Plus, they confuse cats. Elliptical machines just look like medieval torture devices. And free weights? Talk about a death trap. On top of all that, gyms smell like BO and make me itch in my special areas. However, I understand the importance of maintaining my health, so I’ve been searching for a piece of exercise equipment that seems logical and will hold my interest. Thankfully, SkyMall will help us all break a sweat without ever having to step foot in a gym (which is great, because I hate having to leave SkyMall Monday headquarters). Put on your Spandex unitard, do some stretches and prepare to get into the best shape of your life with the Talking Hand Exerciser.We all tend to neglect our hands when working out. Most people prefer to focus on their vanity muscles: abs, biceps and tongue. Our hands, however, do all of the heavy lifting. Improving hand strength is critical to personal development. In fact, I’ve been working out my hands since I was about 13 or so. Back then, I could pump out some reps a few times a day. Now, I tend to need more recovery time in between workouts.

Think that hand exercises are stupid? Believe that fitness equipment should be seen but not heard? Well, while you’re sweating to the oldies, we’ll be reading the product description:

Work to increase your grip force and improve your hand and finger strength with this easy-to-use hand exerciser. Featuring an LCD display plus voice announcement, the Talking Hand Exerciser will tell you the number of grips, grip force (current and accumulated) and max grip force.

How many times have your doctors, trainers and clergymen told you to work on your accumulated grip force? Isn’t it time that you stopped shaking their hands flaccidly and started taking their advice?

Plus, who has time to count their own number of grips? Not me. No, I need my max grip force announced in a voice that (I presume) sounds like Stephen Hawking.

Crush those around you by getting your hands in shape with the smartest pieces of exercise equipment in the world today. It sure beats whatever the hell is happening at this spin class.

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.

Workout with the locals – International travel tip

I’m a black belt in Kenpo Karate and I hate missing a workout. The workouts keep me sane and balanced during periods of long travel. During one particularly long stint, I covered 22 countries in 18 month’s time. At every stop, I asked the hotel concierge to book a karate program with the local master.

In Tokyo, I worked with Shorinji Kenpo in an elementary school; in Stockholm I worked out at Stockholm Athletic University; Mexico saw me at Kempo Americano; and China was Tai Chi in the park at Guanzhou.

In short: just because you’re traveling doesn’t mean you can’t exercise. In fact, pick your favorite workout and have a blast! You’ll probably meet some new friends and have a great time. At the least, you’ll feel good.

[Photo: Flickr | Cheetah100]

Gadling Gear: Kettlestacks

A little under a year ago I decided to get serious about working out and keeping my body in peak shape. After a ton of research (the kind that finds all these cool things that I write about every week), I decided that Crossfit was the best possible choice.

Not only is it great for strength, endurance, dexterity, power, and a number of other metrics, but it’s also efficient. That means that instead of spending an hour in the gym I can spend just 20-40 minutes and still get huge results.

This is acheived by combining huge compound movements which work out several muscles at once with old fashioned weights.

The favorite tool in the Crossfitter’s arsenal is the formidable kettlebell.

The kettlebell, in its original form looks like an iron cannonball with an oversized handle on the top. It was overwhelmingly popular until the dumbbell took over by virtue of being adjustable. With cheap weight plates available to adjust the weight of a dumbbell up and down, the kettlebell found it’s way to obscurity in the main stream.

Still, serious weightlifters and trainers continued to use the kettlebell. Despite not being adjustable, the kettlebell was favored for the wider range of exercises it could support. For example, the handle can be gripped with two hands and be swung from between the legs to shoulder height.

This exercise, appropriately called a “swing”, works the back, quads, and glutes. There’s no equivalent with a dumbbell, other than awkwardly trying to replicate the movement with a dumbbell (I’ve tried it).

One of very few compromises in my lifestyle which had to be made when I decided to go totally nomadic was my workout routine. Gyms are easy enough to find everywhere, but kettlebells are usually nowhere to be seen.

To the rescue comes a company called Kettlestack, which makes the first fully adjustable kettlebell. When I found out that they use standard dumbbell weight plates that can be found in gyms and stores around the world, I was excited.

A few weeks later a package was delivered to our apartment in Tokyo containing two Kettlestacks. At first I was a bit skeptical. All kettlebells I’d ever used were made of heavy solid metal. These were a hard plastic handle and a thin steel frame, coupled with a heavy duty axle to hold the weights.

The instructions are deceptively complicated. Once you understand how they work, loading and unloading the kettlestacks is a trivial procedure barely worth mentioning.

I loaded up 35 pounds, about half the capacity of the lightest model, and started doing snatches with it. I was blown away – the handle felt at least as good as any other kettlebell I’d used, and the overall experience was exactly like using a regular kettlebell. I anticipated weights clinking around and shifting, but there was none of that. All of the plates moved as if they were fused together.

But could it handle heavy weights? I loaded up all the weight I could and did a few swings. The result? I got winded and the Kettlestack showed no signs of stress.

I’m an ultralight packer, which makes the kettlestacks perfect for me. They take up almost no room in my pack and I just buy new weights everywhere I go or bring them to a gym and use them there.

Here’s a video of me packing my 28L pack with everything I own, including the Kettlestacks.

And here’s a picture of me doing some overhead swings on the lawn of Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall in Taipei, Taiwan last week

Besides being perfect for traveling, these are ideal for the home gym or even a regular gym rat who wants a more effective workout. Get yours at