4 Alternatives To Pricey Fitness Equipment

This is about the time of year when I forget I ever made new years resolutions. I always start off gung-ho to better myself, but by the time the last of the holiday clearance sales have disappeared and heart-shaped boxes of chocolates have replaced wrapping paper, I fall back into my normal routine and let my resolutions slide.

This year, though, Im trying to hold on to one resolution: being more physically active. I even considered buying some fitness equipment until I saw the price tags. Those machines can cost thousands of dollars, which is way more than Im willing to spend. Turns out, there are some dirt-cheap alternatives to several popular fitness machines. Check out these four, for example.

1. Bowflex

Weve all seen Chuck Norris tout his Bowflex machine. These machines use resistance rods that can provide up to 220 pounds of resistance for the upper body (or 300 pounds if you want to pay more), according to the company website. The rods are bendable, meaning youll have more movement options and exercise methods than traditional weight machines.

The cheapest Bowflex model I found was the Bowflex PR1000 for $397 at Walmart.com. But if you want a top-of-the-line Bowflex, youll have to cough up $2,999 for the Bowflex Revolution Home Gym.

Instead, try out a set of resistance bands like this $30 set from Black Mountain Products. Resistance bands give you the same freedom of movement and variety of exercises. Granted, you wont get 210 pounds of resistance; instead, youll be working with a maximum of 75 pounds (and only by combining various bands). However, if youre anything like me, youll never work with anything beyond 25 pounds let alone 210 pounds and youll save $2,969 over that top-tier Bowflex.

2. Treadmills

Chances are you know someone who uses a treadmill for nothing but a clothes rack. In my family there are four treadmills, and all of them are in storage.

So why spend hundreds of dollars when all you need is a pair of running shoes?

The cheapest motorized treadmill I found for sale at Amazon was the Confidence Power Plus Motorized Treadmill, which retails for $250. Some manual treadmills cost $100 less, such as the Stamina InMotion Manual Treadmill, which sells for $111 at Amazon.com.

On the high end of the spectrum, youll end up paying much more. Take, for example, the Precor 9.27 Treadmill with Ground Effects Technology, which sells for $1,999.

Call me crazy, but I dont want to spend $2,000 on something that I can do for free running. Granted, I cant adjust the lay of land at my whim, creating hills and dips like a high-priced treadmills workout program can simulate, but at least Ill get to enjoy the outside for a while.

Instead of a treadmill, invest in some good running shoes, a pair of running shorts and/or pants, and possibly an armband accessory to hold your smartphone.

You can buy running shoes at a discount on sites like Zappos.com. Zappos has a highly customizable search option that allows you to filter results by areas such as performance, support, shoe weight, insole, brand, and color. Best of all, they offer free shipping on all returns, and as long as the shoes condition is like it was when you received it, you can make a return up to one whole year later, according to the companys return policies.

For running clothes, I buy mine at overstock retailers like TJ Maxx, Marshalls, or Ross. I usually pay $10 or less a pop, and Ive found other cheap accessories like armbands for my iPod there as well.

3. Smith Machines

A Smith Machine is basically a weight-lifting bar set on rails that can be safety-locked. These machines are often used for squats and bench presses. However, theyre big, heavy, and expensive machines. For example, one of the cheaper options, the PowerLine PSM144X Smith Machine, retails for $434 on Amazon, weighs 168 pounds, and only comes with the bar. A more expensive and inclusive option is the PowerLine Smith Machine Package that retails for $1,198 and weighs a whopping 437 pounds. It also includes an adjustable bench and some other features like a preacher curl station and a leg developer station.

If youre not a heavy weight lifter, just buy a simple adjustable bench and lightweight dumbbells. For example, this Cap Barbell Fitness FID Bench costs $65 and is adjustable, allowing for more exercises. A Cap Barbell 40-pound Dumbbell Set can be had for $55.98. You can buy both for $121, a $1,077 savings over the inclusive PowerLine Smith Machine Package.

If dumbbells arent your style, you can do bench presses with the Competitor Weight Bench with 100-pound Weight Set for $209. For squats and other, more advanced kinds of presses, youll need to start with a rack like the Best Fitness BFPR10 Multi Press Rack, which retails for $140. Then youll need to look for a bar, such as this Cap Barbell Weight Bar Standard 72-inch Threaded Bar, which retails for $39.04.

4. StairMaster

When I had a gym membership (read:a free guest pass from a friend) the StairMasters were some of the most popular machines in the joint. These machines have a rotating set of stairs that you can walk up at varying speeds. According to this article from Spine-Health.com, stair climbing has a lower impact rate than running, so it might be a more viable option if you have back pain.

So while StairMasters might better for your knees, they can also be hazardous to your wallet. On Amazon.com, the cheapest price I found for the current base model, the StairMaster Stepmill SM3[1], was $2,999. This model is more compact than others, has 10 pre-programmed workouts, and a LCD monitor screen. The most advanced model available, the StairMaster Stepmill TSE[2], has a 10-inch LCD screen and includes different workouts set to well-known landmarks. That model costs $6,949.

Stepping does burn calories at a lower impact rate than hitting the pavement, but you dont need to shell out nearly $7,000 for it. Instead, head outdoors and run some steps for free. Try the bleachers at your local high school stadium or even your own back steps. Indoors, a set of small plastic steps (known as step decks) will do the trick. Think of them as manual StairMasters for a fraction of the cost. Amazon.com[3] carries an adjustable step deck for $45.10 and it includes a 90-minute workout DVD. Buy the step deck instead of the StairMaster Stepmill TSE and youll save $6,903.09.

Bottom line

You dont need fancy gym equipment in the gym or in your home. Just pick up a good pair of running shoes, an inexpensive weight set, resistance bands, and maybe a step deck and youve got everything you need to get in shape this year without emptying your savings account.

This article was originally published on MoneyTalksNews.com[4] as ‘4 Alternatives to Pricey Fitness Equipment'[5].

More from Money Talks News


  1. ^ StairMaster Stepmill SM3 (www.amazon.com)
  2. ^ StairMaster Stepmill TSE (www.amazon.com)
  3. ^ Amazon.com (www.amazon.com)
  4. ^ MoneyTalksNews.com (www.moneytalksnews.com)
  5. ^ ‘4 Alternatives to Pricey Fitness Equipment’ (www.moneytalksnews.com)

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  1. Fitness Tips To Prepare To Join The Army? I want to join the army, and I would like some fitness tips so I can whip my butt into shape. I’m almost 16 right now, and I’m not really in shape. Any advice from people who have any kind of military experience would be great, or if you just know some tips. Thanks!

      • HealthNut
      • February 7, 2013

      Hey man,

      You will need to build mental toughness more than anything, but you will learn that once you join.

      you should start out by doing 200-300 push-ups, 200-300 sit-ups, and 50-100 pull-ups everyday. It does not have to be all at once.

      You will need to get your general fitness levels up. The best way to do that is by doing this

      Jumping jacks-30 seconds
      shuffle splits- 30 seconds
      mountain climbers- 30 seconds
      burpess 30 seconds.

      repeat that 3-4 times. Before joining the army you should be doing that for 30 minutes a day.

      That should help you get started. If you have anymore questions, please ask.

      Good luck.

      Danny lupiani

  2. Reply

    Any Fitness Tips For People With Asthma? Just need some fitness tips to help with my asthma. I want to be able to run for a longer period and have an overall better fitness level. I start losing my breath after about 1 minute of running. Any ideas and tips would be very much appreciated : )

      • HealthNut
      • February 7, 2013

      First, you have to choose a certain kind of exercise that they really can handle well. Some exercise that might be great choice for asthma sufferers are walking, swimming, riding a bike, as well as hiking. These kinds of exercise needs less physical move than tennis, hockey, gymnastics, long distance running, and many other else. You could also consult their doctors to choose the most appropriate type of exercise for you.

      Second, you can take advantage of your inhaler. You can use your inhaler about 15 minutes before you start to exercise. Besides, makes sure that your inhaler is always close enough to you. You will never know when the attack might hit you. Therefore, providing inhaler as first aid near you is very important.

      Third, breathing through your nose during the exercise is also important. Mouth breathing tends to trigger asthma attack since it causes you to inhale cold air right into the bronchial tube. In contrary, the air that you heal will be filtered well when you are breathing through your nose. Besides, nose breathing also allows the air to be warmer before reaching the lungs.

      The fourth thing you need to do is looking for a certain area that free from pollutions and allergens. However you should also avoid area with too many trees or grass. Then, you should also be aware of the symptoms of asthma that occur during the exercise. If you feel very tired and your chest begins to be tightening, you should be notice that those are the initial symptoms of asthma. Usually, those symptoms will be followed by wheezing. Stop doing any physical activity when these symptoms occur.

      By following those tips, asthma sufferers could still have exercise with less risk of asthma attack. Do not let asthma attack prevent you to have regular exercise activity.

  3. Reply

    How Can I Increase My Metabolic Rate? Which exercise/fitness tips can you give me to increase my metabolic rate? Also if you can explain the science behind it, I would appreciate it.

      • HealthNut
      • February 7, 2013

      -Eat breakfast. You metabolism is slow in the morning becasue you have been fasting all night. Eating breakfast revs it up.
      -Eat 5-6 small meals throughout the day. Same principal, when you go to long without eating your metabolism slows. Eat something at least every 3 hours.
      -Build muscle through resistance training. The more muscle you have the higher your metabolic rate because muscle is active tissue and burns calories even at rest.
      -Drink lots and lots of water. Being sufficiently hydrated makes you body carry out its metabolic processes more effiecintly.

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