While the UK was in full lockdown, many of us turned to home workouts to keep on top of our fitness regimes while gyms and fitness studios remained shut.
Now leisure centres across the country have reopened their doors, and while some gym bunnies couldn’t wait to return, others still remain cautious due to the ongoing threat of Covid-19.
Meanwhile, some fitness studios are still offering virtual classes and haven’t reopened, while at others it’s tough to get a spot in a class while numbers are limited.
A recent survey of 2,572 people by OnBuy.com found just 63 per cent of gym goers have renewed their membership post-lockdown, meaning they’re at risk of losing up to 37 per cent of their revenue.
If you’re anxious about sharing machines with other people, there is a wide range of exercise equipment on the market that claim to offer as good results as a gym session – but do they live up to the hype, and are they worth investing?
And can you get the results you want, while also getting the same kind of motivation you feel from working out or taking classes around other people, not to mention the boost from the social aspect of going with friends or chatting with other regulars?
From leg toners to virtual reality sets and a ‘five-in-one’ exercise machine, here five FEMAIL reporters give their verdict on whether you can really recreate the gym experience from home.
Wild Training Urban strength bar
The Wild Training Urban Strength bar, £49.99 offers a wide range of exercises
COST: £49.99 including access to all of Wild X’s online programmes
Wild X’s urban strength bar aims to make you work on your core strength, balance and your flexibility using gravity.
The bar is about 1.80m long, and comes with two caps at the end to give the best grip. It can be propped against a wall or held upright. One of the advantages is that it can be easily stored under a bed or a sofa, unlike other machines which tend to take more space.
It can be used on its own, or with Wild Training’s app, which offers several types of workouts, and a series specially crafted for the bar itself.
The bar offers a wide range of exercise, from balance to core workout to stretching. It’s designed to offer a painless workout, which means you won’t suffer from neck, back or leg pain after using it.
I’ve tried several exercises with Wild Training’s founder James Griffiths, who showed me how to make the most of the bar.
He taught me how to use my body weight in order to hold the bar in several positions, during squats, planks and lunges.
James also showed me how the bar could be used when stretching my arms and legs.
Getting an online session to learn how to use the bar was very useful, as opposed to figured it by yourself.
James had experience handling the bar and could show me what I was doing wrong in terms of placing the bar and adapting my posture.
It was a struggle to get used to using it at first, especially exercises which required balance, such as planks. However, using the bar and maintaining the same position became easier each time I tried it.
What’s great about the bar is that it adds some weight to your workout without being unmanageable. So your core muscles get more out of an exercise using the bar than with no extra weight at all.
I particularly enjoyed the bar’s extra support when it came to stretching. It felt as if I was stretching further than I would have without any equipment, it gave me that satisfying feeling you get when you know you’ve stretched properly.
Overall, I would recommend the bar to someone who is looking for a creative way to workout, and is looking to increase their flexibility and core strength.
Thane Orbitrek X17 Deluxe
The Thane Orbitrek X17 Deluxe claims to combine the movement of five different exercise machines
THE WORK OUT
The Thane Orbitrek X17 Deluxe claims to combine the movement of five different exercise machines – a stepper, stair climber, treadmill, elipitcal and cycling – into one, so that you’re not repeating the same movement path over and over.
It looks like an exercise bike, but it doesn’t come with a seat and you’re more upright, in a standing position.
It’s designed to recreate running outside across different types of terrain in various directions. The idea is to help you remain focused while you activate more muscles and burn more calories (up to 34 per cent more than an exercise bike) – meaning you can reduce your workout time.
The good thing is, you apparently only need to spend 10 to 15 minutes a day on the Orbitrek to feel and see the benefits, meaning you have little excuse for not managing to fit a session into your schedule.
The machine itself is heavy, but it comes with roller wheels, meaning it’s relatively easy to transport from room to room, and its footprint is 4 sq ft, so it does tuck into a corner – though it’s quite tall.
‘Putting it together was more of a workout than the exercise programs,’ says Hayley
To be honest, I found putting this thing together more of a workout than its exercise programs. By the time I’d assembled it, which took me about two hours, I barely had the energy to get on it, never mind read up on its multitude of programs.
If you do invest in this machine – and it is quite the investment at £600 – give yourself at least half a day to get to grips with it, and if someone can help you build it, even better.
Due to the movement paths constantly changing, I felt like I couldn’t get into a rhythm. I also found it a bit boring, as while the type of movement changes, it does become a little monotonous.
You could always set it up in front of the telly, and there is an additional ‘media rack’ available for you to pop your phone or tablet on, but you have to pay more for that. You can also subscribe to Orbitrek’s online training library, again for an additional cost.
The Orbitrek felt sturdy enough, but it wasn’t half noisy once I got going – I can’t imagine the neighbours were too chuffed as I pedalled away with our patio doors open.
Personally I’d rather get back to the gym than invest in one machine that is this expensive. Though it’s convenient having something like this at home, I miss the atmosphere and find it harder to motivate myself without other gym goers putting me to shame!
For more information visit https://orbitrek.thanedirect.co.uk/
FitXR on Oculus Quest VR Headset
FitXR on Oculus Quest VR Headset (pictured) gives you access to more than four hours of boxing-inspired workouts
COST: £22.99 for the game, an Oculus is needed to play which start from £399.
THE WORKOUT: FitXR, a game for the Oculus virtual reality headset, includes more than four hours of boxing-inspired workouts, including classes to suit beginner, intermediate and advanced users.
The workouts are choreographed by professional fitness instructors to give users a full body workout involving squats, lunges, jabs hooks and more.
BRIDIE’S VERDICT: My first time trying the workout it was a bit of faff, familiarising myself with an Oculus, which I hadn’t used before was a bit strange. You need to draw out a boundary out in your playing area to avoid walking into or hitting anything.
But this is a one time thing, and as soon as you get going, any time you want to play you can slip on the headset and it’s easy to play.
Once its set up, and you open the game, you’re transported to a very realistic gym reception, where you can sign up and pick a class to do. It is slightly Black Mirror-esq, but I liked it.
After the initial novelty of trying out a VR headset (I had played around with Google cardboard before, but this was my first time using a VR console), which was both awe-inspiring and trippy, I was in and ready to box.
I love working out, and in lockdown I’ve ditched my overpriced gym membership for an online service app which is about 10th of the price, where I’ve been indulging in a mix of HIIT, strength and yoga every week – so I was really excited to try a new home workout.
But I’ve never done a boxing workout before, and have a tendency to ignore working my upper body, so I was extra keen to try a class that forced me to build up strength in my arms, shoulders and back.
One of the first times I tried it, having a mix of yellow and blue asteroid-like balls flying at me, I had to take the headset off and remind myself to breathe and that I was in my living room and not being attacked.
After a couple attempts, I got really into it, and it felt like a really fun game. If you’ve ever played Guitar Hero or used a dance mat it will feel familiar. Lots of orbs flying towards you which you have to hit, jab, cross, or uppercut (as well as other objects you have to block or squat to avoid).
It definitely seemed like a game than a workout – which is arguably a good thing – as it’s still a great calorie burner.
The programme has a mix of classes which last three – 60 minutes.
The programme was telling me I burned about 200-300 calories every ten minutes, which is very generous.
My fitness tracker and heart rate monitor predicted I was burning about 100 calories every 10 minutes, which is still a very good amount.
Overall, it’s very fun, and addictive. I found myself slipping on the headset every few minutes spare I had. While I was cooking dinner and waiting for a sauce to thicken I’d have a quick five minute box. It’s also quiet, which I’m sure my downstairs neighbours appreciated.
I felt like I was improving very quickly, and while at first I was struggling to get a streak (hitting enough orbs in a row) of more than 10, within a couple weeks I was getting triple figures every time.
Despite a mix of music and different moves, including Hip Hop, Rock, Pop and Electronica, there classes can be a little repetitive and there’s no obvious plan or way to take the classes.
There’s also no guidance on how to punch and squat correctly, this paired with the fact there’s no warm up or cool down makes me nervous about someone doing this and this alone could be barrelling themselves towards an injury or build up of incorrect form.
Because of this, I found myself using FitXR as a tough finisher or warm-up on top of another workout class rather than a standalone workout plan.
It’s better for gamers than people who are seriously into fitness, but it is fun, and accessible, and definitely not like any fitness class I’ve tried before (and I’m a sucker for every new health trend).
It’s founders believe VR is the future of fitness, and it might be. But I think it could be utilised for a lot more fun things too. With virtual reality you could be keeping fit by fighting zombies or slaying demons – rather than sitting in another gym.
Echelon Smart Connect EX3 Max Bike
The Echelon Smart Connect EX3 Max Bike is great for cardio and strength, but it also has a wide variety of other workouts on the app
COST: £1,199 plus membership from £24.99 a month
THE WORKOUT: Spinning is always a great way to get your heart rate up and burn calories, but I initially wondered if just having an exercise bike at home is enough to make up for attending a variety of classes at fitness studios or gym workouts.
However, for starters, there’s more to the Echelon bike than what you get from your regular spin class on a machine that feels really sturdy and good quality.
The bike works best with an iPad or other tablet, but you can use it with a phone to access the app for your classes.
With a bank of 3,500 on demand classes – that include a wide variety of other workouts such as yoga and Zumba – and live rides every day, you quickly get to know the instructors you love.
There’s a wide range of great trainers especially Brian Hager – very enthusiastic, great sessions and a wide range of music to keep you entertained and motivated.
One of the great things is that you can do workouts where you use weights while riding so you get in full-body exercise, it’s not just about cardio, and you have access to all these other workouts too – and even meditation.
The variety of classes available means that you can always find the kind of music you’re in the mood for. You feel like you are doing a spin class and the leadership board really helps if you want to be a bit competitive
The Echelon bike makes you feel like you’re really in a live spin class, thanks to the leaderboard and enthusiastic instructors
There’s no doubt this is a great quality bike, and it has all the technical spec you’d want to see, delivering speed, calories burned, heart rate and other stats to your smart device.
But what really impresses more than anything is the feeling that this one piece of equipment truly can replace the experience of going to the gym really effectively.
You get access to a great network of fellow cyclists, and you actually feel part of a community. There’s Facbook page where you can speak to the instructors, add your tips for cycling, connect with fellow riders etc.
So if part of going to the gym is the community feel and atmosphere, you really do feel like you are doing a spin class and the leadership board helps a lot if you want to be a bit competitive
It is easy to fit around your everyday life – no need to get to the gym, change, remember your towel and so on. Just jump on the bike and away you go.
I do have to acknowledge that it is an expensive piece of equipment, but if you look at it as a long-term investment, the monthly cost over two years would equate to what you’d spend on a decent gym membership or a block of ClassPass credits for more expensive studios.
Leg Master Total Body
The Leg Master Slim Total Body for £64.95
WORKOUT: The Leg Master Slim Total Body claims to help slim, tone and shape the inner thigh, outer buttocks, lower leg, front of the thigh, back of the thigh… essentially the whole leg.
All this is achieved through relatively small and largely sweat-free movements on the LegMaster, a machine conceived by founder Fiona Summers.
You stand with your feet on two pads attached to tracks on either side of a slight ramp. Working against gravity, you pull your legs towards each other to the top of the ramp.
At the same time you can pulse the flexible handlebars towards and away from you, creating some engagement in the arms and upper back. All this also requires engagement from your abdominal muscles and lower back to keep yourself steady.
While doing all this working out, your pelvic floor is being repeatedly contracted and strengthened. So there’s a lot going on!
STEPH’S VERDICT: My pre-lockdown fitness routine involved a mish-mash of spinning, circuit and barre classes, so I was immediately skeptical about the idea that one piece of equipment could replace it all.
First thing I noticed is the Leg Master is extremely easy to put together. It took me just a couple of minutes and was then set up and ready to go. The machine is also super easy to store away, making it a good choice if space is at a premium (as it is in my London flat).
Before getting started on the workout, I read through the Leg Master website and saw one of the FAQs was: ‘My muscles ache after just 20 reps. Am I doing something wrong?’ The answer: ‘No, that’s the Leg Master doing its job.’
As I considered myself to have a fair level of fitness I thought: ‘Surely that won’t be me…’ but I was wrong! The first time I stepped on the Leg Master I was surprised at just how tough it was to complete a seemingly simple movement (pulling the legs in and out).
The Leg Master Slim Total Body claims to help slim, tone and shape the inner thigh, outer buttocks, lower leg, front of the thigh, back of the thigh… essentially the whole leg. Pictured, founder Fiona Summers using the Leg Master Total Body
I certainly felt the burn on my inner thighs very quickly and could only manage short bursts at a time – making it ideal for a work-from-home lunch break or quick workout before dinner in the evening. However I struggled to feel equal engagement in other areas of the legs and buttocks and felt the impact to the arms and upper body was minimal.
One point to note is that a big draw of the Leg Master is its claim to improve pelvic floor control (as a result of the muscles being engaged from the movement of the leg). This isn’t something I felt I personally needed, but there are countless first-person accounts claiming the Leg Master helped so I’ll have to take their word for it.
Overall, I think the Leg Master Total Body gives a good, low-impact workout that would be ideal for users who want something a little gentler but still challenging. Easy to store and easy to use, it’s about as hassle-free as you can hope for and perfect for a smaller space. You can’t argue with the price, either.
However it’s definitely not a replacement for high-intensity gym workout or class. It’s very good, just not for me.
THERAGUN PRIME AND WAVE ROLLER
Theragun Prime: £275
Therabody Wave Roller: £125
THE CLAIM: Both the Theragun, and Therabody Wave Roller are used as rco ery tools post workout.
The Wave Roller gives a unique, powerful and efficient foam rolling experience through its signature wave pattern, working with the vibration to actively manipulate the tissue for a more effective muscle stimulation. Through smart technology, it will also pair with the dedicated Therabody app, five intensity settings to personalise your treatment acting to accelerate warm-up, aid recovery, increase blood flow, enhance mobility and release tension.
The Theragun Prime offers deep muscle treatment simplified for any need with the essential percussive therapy features to release everyday stress and strain
The Therabody Wave Roller is designed to give a unique, powerful and efficient foam rolling experience through its signature wave pattern (left). The Theragun Prime offers deep muscle treatment to release stresses and strains when you press it on to your body (right)
BRIDIE’S VERDICT: These are both really nice products. I’ve seen the Prime all over Instagram (I know fitness guru Khloe Kardashian is a particular fan) , and was keen to try, while the wave roller I knew less about, but have always been encouraged to use a foam roller.
Both devices come with an app, Therabody, and can connect to your phone via Bluetooth and have preset routines to put over certain parts of your body (you can chose this), where you might feel strain. You can also chose recovery based on your workout, for example there’s a preset routine for boxing.
I preferred the Thergun to the Wave Roller, it’s easier to use and you can put it over aching muscles and work out the tension very easily. It’s only slightly difficult to get your own upper back and shoulder muscles – which frustratingly is where I get the most pain.
The wave roller takes some manoeuvring, but still got out knots although the process isn’t always the most relaxing as you often have to bend into strange positions to get the roller to work.
Therabody Wave Roller