6 Fitness Fads That Don't Work

Get-Fit Guy reveals the truth about 6 fitness fads that can waste your time and money - without getting you fit! But don't sweat it, he also has 5 tips for choosing fitness products that will get you real results.

Ben Greenfield
5-minute read
Episode #169

From the Shake Weight to sauna suits, fitness and fat loss gizmos, gadgets, and gimmicks abound. The American weight loss industry is huge. How huge? More than $60 billion per year huge.

But most of the trendy, made-for-TV, late-night infomercial quick fixes are a big waste of your time and money..

So in today’s episode, you’re going to discover 6 fitness fads that don’t work (no matter what the infomercials say). Plus, you'll learn how to cut through the misinformation, figure out what’s really going to get you results, and get 6 Quick and Dirty Tips to help you choose the best fitness products that will actually make a difference:

Fad #1: The Shake Weight

This dumbbell weighs 2.5 pounds, but to get an adequate fat burning hormonal response and build and tone lean muscle, you’re going to need to lift heavier weights than 2.5 pounds (even if those 2.5 pounds do shake). But it certainly does make a good gag gift!

Fad #2: Vibration Platforms

As I wrote in the episode Double Your Calorie Burn, vibration platforms can actually work. But you can’t just stand on them like 99% of people do – expecting the machine to do all the work for you. You actually have to exercise while standing on the platform. I recommend starting with squats. And as for vibration belts – those funky contraptions that jiggle the jelly on your waistline? Research shows absolutely no effects from them, aside from a lot of moving and shaking!

Fad #2: Sauna Suits

These giant trash bag-like suits certainly make you sweat and lose a significant amount of weight – but it is simply through a process of dehydrating you – and you quickly gain all that weight back once you start eating and drinking again. This is one fitness fad that is downright dangerous!

Fad #4: Minute Abs

No ab workout – not 6, 7, 8, or even 20-minute one – holds a candle to a full body, multi-joint fitness routine like I outline in the episode Best Exercises for a Flat Stomach. As a matter of fact, 6 minutes of a simple exercise such as a kettlebell swing will completely decimate any targeted tummy workout you’ll find in a fad ab DVD.

Fad #5: Leg/Butt Toning Shoes

In the episode Do Fitness Shoes Actually Work?, you learn the truth about toning shoes – namely that every fitness shoe ever tested shows no significant increase in metabolism or muscle use, and no enhanced fitness benefit over the average running shoe.

Fad #6: The ThighMaster

There’s a reason that Suzanne Somers' popular “As Seen on TV” ThighMaster device is collecting dust in many attics across America: it simply requires lots and lots of squeezing with very little actual results. (It so happens that the ThighMaster was developed by the same guy who invented, of all things, the mood ring!). Any exercise that puts you in a position where you are lying down (or even sitting down) is never going to get you the same results as a full body, multi-joint exercise. Squats, lunges, and deadlifts are the holy trinity of exercise combos for the butt, abs, and thighs, and also burn far more calories than the ThighMaster ever can. And yes, you can even do these exercises while you’re watching TV, just like Suzanne’s device.

How to Choose the Best Fitness Products

Now that you know which fitness fads to avoid, here are 5 Quick and Dirty Tips to help you choose the best fitness products that will actually get you results:

  • Tip #1: Look out for lingo and hype.  If you see verbiage such as “proprietary formulas,” “top secret blends,” “never-before-seen technology” or any other far-fetched claim, then it's probably too good to be true. Most effective and long-lasting fitness solutions are simple and easy-to-understand, such as the barbell, a good pair of running shoes, or eating less food at night.

  • Tip #2: Beware of instant results. Sure, I’m a proponent of injecting short workouts into your daily routine, like these 10-minute exercise routines. But I can tell you from personal experience that pricey 4-minute exercise machines and 6-minute abs videos are simply empty promises.  Three minutes a day to washboard abs? Rome (or that rock hard bod) wasn’t built in a day. Research has shown that when it comes to fat loss, you actually have to put in time and work, along with a healthy diet to get results – and quick fixes are usually a quick road to injury or frustration.

  • Tip #3: Celebrity endorsements don’t mean anything. Just because Jillian Michaels or Brad Pitt happen to be on the label of a fat loss supplement or providing a shining testimonial for a fitness device, does not mean the thing actually works. All it means is that the celebrity got paid or got free product in exchange for saying something nice. As a personal trainer with a bit of media sway, even I have been approached by companies wanting me to put in a good word or testimonial without even trying the actual product! Of course, I put anything I personally recommend through rigorous testing before forming any opinions, but I know that many other personal trainers, and even more celebrities, are willing to slap their name on a product willy-nilly if the price is right. Beware!

  • Tip #4: Do your research. If you want to check out the real story behind a product, you can use consumer agencies like the Better Business Bureau and check for any lawsuits on the FTC website before spending your hard earned money on a trendy piece of exercise equipment or investing in a fitness fix.

  • Tip #5: Some things work – for a little while! Many fad fitness equipment will work for a very short period of time, until your body adapts to the demands that you place upon it and you quit getting results. In most cases, the body does best with frequent changes in workouts, fluctuations in loads and joint loading angles, and a constant game of “curveball” for your mind and your muscles. There’s no one single piece of fitness equipment that your body won’t eventually get used to – so don’t put all your eggs in one basket. This is why my own personal home gym has a variety of equipment from dumbbells to Bosu Balls to kettlebells to elastic bands. There’s never one perfect solution for your fitness needs – and the best workout is the one you aren’t currently doing!

If you have more questions about these fitness fads that don’t really work, then post them in Comments below or over at Facebook.com/GetFitGuy

About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.

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