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Ultra-Low-Tech, Low-Cost Fitness Tools

Everyone loves the idea of having a home gym, but that with the recession people are getting by on less.

Liz Miersch, fitness editor of Self magazine and a certified trainer, shared some inexpensive equipment must-haves that won't work out your wallet.

Jump Rope - $4 and up
This isn't just child's play. We are going to let you in on one of the best kept fitness secrets: The jump rope is the biggest cardio, calorie burner -- seriously! It might look like an easy exercise, but it isn't. It is a total body workout that engages every muscle, in addition to developing speed, quickness, agility, balance, coordination, bone density, aerobic conditioning -- and trimming your glutes, abs and waist. Why do you think boxers have always trained with jump ropes? This inexpensive item will give you the most bang for your buck -- you can torch up to 12 calories per minute! Do this for even 5 minutes and you are going to get a serious workout. The fact that young children can easily learn how to jump over a rope is one reason the American Heart Association began its Jump Rope for Heart fundraiser in 1978. There are lots of different kinds of jump ropes -- that vary in lengths and in make (either rubber or rope versions.)

Quick tip: The length of the rope is also important, so be sure it can be adjusted. When jumping, if the rope smacks the surface, it is too long. Shorter ropes allow the rope to turn faster.

Hula Hoop - $15 and up
Workouts should be fun and here is a perfect example of that. It is an oldie, but a goodie. Hula hooping is everywhere. Everyone from Michelle Obama, Marisa Tomei and Beyonce are getting in on the action. Not only will you have a blast and target your abs, but you're burning major calories here. In about 20 minutes, you can burn 200 calories. And most importantly, blast belly fat and big thighs. And develop a sexy butt. And if you recall using a hula-hoop during your childhood years, then you know how much fun it can be. We're all so used to doing lower-body cardio (running, elliptical, etc.), but switching it up and doing cardio focused on using your upper body can up your burn since your body isn't as efficient at using energy this way. You don't have to be rhythmically gifted to succeed either. There are also some pricier workout hula hoops, which are weighted and range in price from $35 to $50. Inexpensive versions work equally, as well.

Stability Ball - $12 and Free Weights - $5 and up
You can do so much with a stability ball-crunches, pushups and squats. By working on an unstable surface and getting a bigger range of motion, you're going to engage abs more than you will doing standard crunches. Any ball will work, but at Self magazine, we love the G2 ball that has diagrams of exercises right on it-which is perfect for any skill level. It is like a personal trainer right there! Everyone should have a set of heavier and a set of lighter weights at home. These are you go-to tools to keep your muscles guessing. Studies have shown the best way to sculpt is by alternating days with heavier and lighter weights. You can even combine dumbbells and bands to work muscles 25 percent harder -- and you only have to do one set instead of two or three.

Gliding Discs - $20
This is one of those amazing "as seen on TV" products, but they actually work. When you do traditional squats and lunges, they are great for your legs, but are only one range of motion-just stepping. With these, the sliding engages muscles through a full range of motions, so you get double the benefits of traditional strength training. They are perfect to travel with as they are flat and don't take up much space in your luggage. We are actually featuring these in our November issue and will have a hotel room/travel workout video.

Playground Ball - $4 and up
Borrow this one from your kids! This is my favorite trick for engaging inner-thigh muscles and the lower portion of the abdominals. Just squeeze it between your knees during sit-ups. One of my favorite classes is Exhale Core-Fusion. But like all gyms there is a membership fee that people may not be able to afford. You can use this ball to recreate some of your own moves inspired by that class.

Can of Tennis Balls - $2 and up
After a hard workout, giving your muscles a little TLC is really important. Foam rollers are not expensive, but can be very cumbersome. A little trick of the trade is to use a tennis ball instead. You can use it to roll out sore muscles and get that lactic acid that can build up after a workout moving along.

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