Ridiculous Fitness Equipment That Never Should've Existed

Six-pack abs without exercise? Sleek and sexy legs with a few simple squeezes? Bulging biceps by just moving a ball thingy around? If it seems too good to be true -- and gives you some borderline-creepy vibes while using it -- it probably is.

Despite these late-night infomercial guarantees, some of the trendiest fitness crazes over the last decade have been more hype than helpful. Listen, any exercise is better than no exercise. But save your hard-earned money; nine times out of 10, you'd be better off lacing up your sneakers and just going for a walk or doing some good old-fashioned push-ups. Here are some of the weirdest and most ridiculous fitness crazes people have unfortunately fallen for -- because those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. 

Free Flexor

Is this a barbell? A cat toy? It's not exactly clear what the Free Flexor is, but the promises are enticing: over 20 dynamic workouts! Circular strength technology (whatever that is?)! Get ripped! Make your muscles cry! But just because it makes your arms tired doesn't mean it's doing any significant strengthening, toning, or bulking. And most of all, it just looks absurd. 

Ab Lounge

If you're not doing regular crunches and ab workouts, what makes you think you'll use an entirely separate, slightly terrifying contraption? Throwing "lounge" into the name is a nice touch, even though nothing about the Ab Lounge seems relaxing. The infomercial promises "brilliant" and "ingenious" abs, but I don't know if your muscles will be any smarter than if you were to do, say, regular core exercises. Plus, one wrong move and the Ab Lounge could send you flying across the room. 

Vibrating platform

Shaking: really bad for babies, super healthy for adults! This Powerfit vibrating platform is bringing back major flashbacks from 1930s-era "exercise" contraptions; apparently violently shaking your body is a great way to slim down? The Powerfit can apparently be used to do push-ups and squats... if you can stay on it long enough to complete an exercise without falling off. Either way, research is lacking on how these platforms affect your overall cardio and muscle health. But maybe they're good for a foot massage?

Tony Little Gazelle

Tony Little's Gazelle is like an elliptical, except elliptical machines don't have small muscley dudes with big ponytails advocating on their behalf. And most ellipticals don't lead to uncomfortable moments of possible sexual harassment.

Elliptical machines also offer resistance, which some models of the Gazelle don't have; you're basically just swinging your limbs back and forth until you get tired. The Gazelle claims to be a full-body workout, and while your legs, butt, and arms are moving, the Gazelle is more of a cardio workout than muscle-building machine. At more than a hundred bucks a pop, you're better off sticking to the equipment at the gym. 

Shake Weight

It's not a workout... it's a revolution! As the potentially NSFW video above shows, if the barbell-looking device is good enough for the jacked randos on the street, it's good enough for your wimpy biceps.

Except it's not really a workout, either. Just because your arms feel a little tired from doing it doesn't mean it's building muscle strength and toning. And lifting weights in front of other people is 1,000 times less embarrassing than using a Shake Weight. Also, any piece of workout equipment associated with Mark Sanchez should be regarded with extreme skepticism.

Ab-toning belt

These are the best. Why do silly crunches or actually work out your body when you can shock your ab muscles into being toned? This ab-shocker belt and many like it on the market promised to strengthen your muscles while you literally just sat there. So it was perfect for the American market. Like an AED machine for your abs!

Not surprisingly, the results weren't promising. Plus, your muscles still sit under a layer of fat, and until that fat is burned off, no amount of muscle stimulation will make them magically appear. 

Skechers Shape-ups

Hahahaha, the greatest trick a company ever pulled was convincing the world that wearing ugly sneakers was the key to a better butt. Considering Skechers was the subject of a class-action lawsuit over these questionable toning sneakers, it's clear the "rolling bottom and kinetic wedge" technology wasn't exactly effective. But the company's biggest crime was claiming these were "stylish walking shoes." Best way to tone your legs? Put on regular sneakers and walk your ass to the gym. 


Ah, the legendary ThighMaster, the OG of infomercial fitness products. It's been around since 1991 -- just look at those leotards and high socks! -- and promises to strengthen and tone thighs. The resistance might actually be helpful in targeting specific thigh muscles, but it can't spot-target fat loss on your legs; that's scientifically impossible. You're better off gravitating towards exercises that hit more than one muscle group at a time, like squats, lunges, or step-ups so you get the most bang for your buck. Ironically, all those exercises are actually free. 

Ab Circle

OK, people are really obsessed with getting abs. Case in point: another contraption designed to target your abdominals, because things like planks, crunches, and V-ups apparently don't do a good enough job. The Ab Circle also claims to provide a good cardio workout (?), like a "treadmill for your abs," whatever that means. It's tough to believe that a device could top the Shake Weight or Flex Ball for sheer hilarity of the motion required to use it, but... yes, this does it.

It's probably safe to say that if you want to get in shape, buying a device from TV isn't the best strategy. Save your abs some electrical shocks and do a plank instead.  

Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email, and get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun.

Christina Stiehl is a Health and fitness staff writer for Thrillist. She used to use her mom's ThighMaster in the '90s, and is still waiting for those sleek, sexy legs to come in. Follow her journey @ChristinaStiehl.