8 Playground-Inspired Fitness Props

Functional fitness equipment that's actually fun to use is popping up at gyms everywhere. Jump on the trend with these simple (and super-effective!) exercises

June 6, 2013
sandbag training
1/8 Courtesy of Ultimate Sandbag Training

Dumbbells are predictable because the weight is evenly distributed, but the weight in sandbags is fluid, which challenges your balance and stability, says Josh Henkin, CSCS, CEO of Ultimate Sandbag Training. 

How to play: Try the Squat-To-Arc Press: Hold the sandbag over one shoulder with both hands, then lower into a squat. As you stand up, lift the bag straight up above your head. Then lower the sandbag from over your head onto the opposite shoulder, and perform a second squat. Continue alternating sides. You can increase the pace or duration or alter your grip to challenge yourself. 

Get tight, toned and sexy in half the time with the Women's Health 15-Minute Belly, Butt & Thighs Workouts DVD.

ViPR exercise equipment
2/8 Courtesy of Performbetter.com

Short for Vitality, Performance, and Re-conditioning, you can do almost anything with this rubber-based cylinder. 

How to play: With a firm grip on both handles, lift and swing the ViPr up and around your head in a complete circle. Repeat and reverse. 

RELATED: 5 Ways to Get Your Butt to the Gym 

Battling Ropes
3/8 Courtesy of Battling Ropes
Battling Ropes

Because battling ropes require momentum to stay in the air and off the floor, they set the pace of your workout for you. 

How to play: Find a partner, and grab opposite ends of two parallel ropes. Then imitate a drummer's motion, alternating which hand goes up and down. For a challenge, increase the speed and shuffle back and forth together while you both continue "drumming". 

PLUS: The Best Workout For Your Body Type 

4/8 Courtesy of D-Ball Manufacturing

D-Balls are weighted medicine balls that have a gel-like center, a textured grip, and no bounce.  

How to play: Lift it, throw it, or hold it while you squat or lunge. 

RELATED: Rev Your Metabolism In 8 Minutes


weighted speed rope
5/8 Courtesy of LifelineUSA
Weighted Speed Rope

Weighing in at 0.75 pounds, which is heavier than a typical jump rope, a weighted speed rope works your arms, legs, and heart. 

How to play: Synchronize your jumps to upbeat music, jump forward and backward, jump side-to-side, or make up your own combinations. Increase your speed to boost the intensity. 

RELATED: The 5 Best Pre-Workout Foods

Power Wheel
6/8 Courtesy of LifelineUSA
The Power Wheel

This 14-inch wheel directly enhances core strength, says Jon Hinds, founder of Monkey Bar Gymnasiums. 

How to play: Slip your feet into the stirrups or hold the handles and crawl or try to roll forward and backward in any direction. 

RELATED: 10 Worst Exercise Machines to Avoid

Jungle Gym XT
7/8 Courtesy of LifelineUSA
Jungle Gym XT

Suspension trainers use your body weight and integrate your core in every exercise to create stability through your body, says Henkin. But unlike typical suspension trainers, this one has two anchor points so you can adjust it for a wide or narrow grip. Vary the length to increase or decrease your angle to the ground, which will change the difficulty level of the exercise. 

How to play: One of Henkin's favorite moves: the Body Saw. With the loops adjusted so they fall at calf height, put both feet in the stirrups (your toes should face the ground). Then rest your forearms on the ground so they're parallel to each other and your elbows are in line with your shoulders. Brace your core, and lift up off your knees so your body forms a straight line from head to toe. Then change the angle of your elbows to bring your whole body backward (away from your hands). Pause, then bring your body forward until your shoulders are over your elbows again. Continue "sawing" back and forth, increasing your range of motion to make it more difficult. 

MORE: The Superfast Total-Body Workout

tractor tire
8/8 Thinkstock
Tractor Tire

If you've noticed a humongo tire lying around your gym, take advantage of it. They're pretty heavy--usually between 100 and 200 pounds or more, depending on the size. 

How to play: David Jack, a performance coach and the director of Teamworks Fitness, recommends doing a tire flip: With feet shoulder width apart, stand half an arm's length away from a tire set on its side. Then, bend your knees and waist to grab the bottom of the tire with both hands. From this crouched position, come up on your toes and lean forward so your chest rests against the tire as you explosively lift from the legs (not your back) to raise the tire up off the ground. In one fluid movement, bring your knee up under the tire to help hoist it up into an upright position and over so it falls onto its other side. 
Tip: Wear training gloves to avoid scraping your knuckles on the ground--especially when the tire rests on an uneven surface. 

RELATED: The Best Kind of Cardio To Do