Bare-bones gyms on a strap, cable or cord

"Come on — you can actually get a workout with that?" That was my first reaction to these four products, but I was wrong. Simple and relatively inexpensive though they might be, you can work up a sweat with these low-tech yet innovative strap- and string-based resistance devices. They won't turn you into Arnold (the bodybuilder, not the governator), but they can be used at your desk and on the road, and, with a little effort, can make you feel the burn.

Gear: A review of resistance-exercise products in Monday's Health section said no DVD was available for the Lebert Buddy System training strap. A free DVD comes with the product. Also, the website address for the product was incorrect. It is, not —

Wee whizzing wonder Forbes Riley SpinGym: A 6-ounce, 21/4-inch-wide aluminum disc with two cords through it that spins like a gyroscope as you pull on the tightening strings with two 2-inch rings. Likes: Five minutes of this and no more falling asleep at your desk after lunch. The SpinGym quickly delivers real muscle fatigue to your chest and shoulders — delts, lats, biceps, triceps, etc. Seated or standing, you feel like a ninja warrior, pulling the ever-tightening strings apart like an archer drawing back a bow or punching a fist forward like a boxer throwing jabs. Whirring crazily just inches from your eyeballs, the spinning wheel whizzes like a bumblebee in Dolby as you work it high overhead, side to side, behind your back, whatever you can think of. You can even work your legs and, if you get on the floor, do crunches and obliques. Two DVDs are included. Great for all ages. Do it while watching TV and take it anywhere; everything fits in a pocket-sized pouch. One extra cord included. Other cords $6.99 each; must be replaced every 12 weeks if you use it three times a day for five minutes each time. Dislikes: Macho men pushing the envelope beware. The 1/8-inch-wide cord is not reinforced with Kevlar. Mine snapped after 20 minutes of use. Price: $29.99. ; Poor man's Pilates Balanced Body Tower on the Go: Two long straps and stretch band/springs with foot or hand loops that turn any door into a Pilates reformer. Likes: It works. Lying on a mat (not included), you can perform a variety of core and upper- and lower-body exercises. Attaches to any standard door. Rubber slider clamps on the straps let you position the stretch cords at various heights for resistance in reclining, standing and sitting positions. Good DVD by Pilates instructor Balne Askby. Compact enough to travel. Won't scratch door. Dislikes: No carry bag included. Price: A kit with Slastix bands retails for $125, with higher-resistance springs $145. (800) PILATES; You versus you Boom Board Fitness: Two handles attached by a length-adjustable cable running under a 21/4-foot-long platform on which you stand or sit. Resistance is created as one arm pulls or pushes against the other. Likes: A real muscle-screaming workout for anyone, any age, any athleticism. I was shocked; it was as if one side of my body was pitted against the other. As you pull or push with one arm, doing an endless variety of curls, presses and lifts, the other arm resists, essentially making you battle yourself. If you're lazy, you will quickly walk away. If you're competitive, you will get a true workout. The handles have a push-button that, like a retractable dog leash, shortens or lengthens the cable to account for different exercises and different heights of users. Yoga-style floor mat, door situp attachment, DVD and handsome zippered, pocketed shoulder bag included. Dislikes: None. Price: $159.95. (877) 9-GET-FIT; New Age tug of war Lebert Buddy System: Elaborate five-handled resistance training strap, with a U-ring slider bracket, designed for tandem workouts. Likes: Fun and functional. With one person serving as a static, or variable-resistance anchor, holding the U-bracket handles, the other person can do alternate arm rows, presses and a host of other exercises, providing the resistance for himself à la the Boom Board. Dispensing with the bracket, each person can grab the pair of handles at each end for conventional tug of war exercises. Dynamic and challenging, it encourages you to be creative and social. You and your buddy motivate one another. Can be used alone if you hook it to a stationary object such as a pole. Dislikes: No DVD included. Price: $99. (905) 785-0626; Wallack is the co-author of "Bike for Life: How to Ride to 100."

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