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As Seen on TV
(Shake Weights and the Ab Roller)

What crazy claims are they making now?
What crazy claims are they making now?

There's an interesting science behind the commercials that run on late-night television. The ads are often for products that you might not purchase in the light of day. But later in the night, your defenses tend to drop. As you get sleepy, you start to believe in the power of vibrating weights and rocking chairs that can build a six-pack.

Then you place an order. A few days later, some crazy contraption arrives in the mail and you're left trying to figure out why you bought it. To help save you money, here are the details on a couple of popular "as seen on TV" exercise devices.

The Ab Roller Evolution. Image from Ab Roller Evolution.
The Ab Roller Evolution. Image from Ab Roller Evolution.

The Ab Roller Evolution. This replaced the original Ab Roller. The "Evolution" is that it's now designed to be turned upside down so you can use it for a "total body workout." In addition to abs, you can do pushups and dips with your hands on the bars.

I'm guessing that your body isn't made up of just abs, chest and triceps. The Ab Roller Evolution completely ignores your back and the lower half of your body. You can't claim a "Total Body Workout" when you skip more than half the body.

The Ab Roller goes on to say it supports the "Neck, Head & Upper Body." But in reality, back and neck pain are often the result of poor exercise form when doing crunches. Keep your head and neck in a neutral position throughout the crunch and you should be able to do it pain-free. If you find yourself putting hands behind your head or neck and pulling, STOP. Lightly rest your fingertips on your ears when you do a crunch and you'll avoid the strain.

You don't have to take my word for it. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) evaluated the Ab Roller against other types of fitness equipment performing modified crunches. Those were all compared to a conventional floor crunch. ACE found devices like the Ab Roller don't trigger any greater activity in the rectus abdominus and obliques than conventional crunches. Skip the Ab Roller and buy a nice mat to do crunches on.

The Shake Weight product for sale in a store by Flicker user: Herrea
The Shake Weight product for sale in a store by Flickr User: Herrea

The Shake Weight is designed to look like a dumbbell. As you move it through a range of exercises, you "shake" it back and forth. (No it doesn't come with batteries. You're responsible for shaking it.) The company claims you can "Shake your way to Firm & Fabulous arms & shoulders in just 6 minutes a day!" Supposedly the act of shaking the weight can cause up to 240 muscle contractions a minute that give you an upper body workout.

Here's the problem. Muscles don't grow simply by contracting them. You have to load them with weight and put stress on them before they'll grow. The Shake Weights are just too light to adequately fatigue your muscles.

There's another problem. People with carpal tunnel syndrome should be warned that the constant shaking could lead to further injury and pain.

Shake Weights are marketed with versions for men and women. There are no specific changes in design that would benefit one sex over the other, it's just another marketing trick. Avoid weights that vibrate and use ones that'll actually challenge your muscles.

Be careful looking up reviews for these products online. Many of the companies that sell them have put up websites that pretend to offer objective reviews. Instead of the truth, these "testimonial" websites are simply fronts full of glowing reviews from people that don't exist. Many even use website names with "scam" and "alert" built right into the title to make you think they're legitimate. They're not.

You wouldn't keep hearing about these products, and they wouldn't continue to be advertised unless someone was buying them. Save your money and use it for something that will do you some good. Buy a pair of shoes to walk in. Invest in a bike that you can ride. Pick up a jump rope and use it a few minutes every day. Those are miracle fat loss devices worth the money.

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Updated 1/16/2022