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The ViPR Strength Training Tool

I Got Bitten by the ViPR

I love experimenting with new fitness gear. Most often I feel like I'm playing with new toys rather than working out. When handling the brightly colored, rubber tube dubbed the ViPR at the Equinox Club around the corner from Sugar HQ yesterday morning, I totally felt like I was playing. Pronounced "viper," the hollow tube with strategically placed cutouts for handles has no hard edges, which definitely makes it feel like a toy. Kinesiologist Michol Dalcourt developed the ViPR for three-dimensional, full-body workouts. It's not designed to replace dumbbells, barbells, or kettlebells, but rather to enhance a workout bringing in elements of functional fitness. Dalcourt says, "Work the body, not the body parts."

ViPR is an acronym for vitality, performance, and reconditioning for the three general types of exercises — over 9,000 have been developed — one can do with this toy fitness tool. It's great for fitness enthusiasts and weekend warriors (vitality), elite athletes (performance), and those on the sidelines rehabbing post-injury (reconditioning).

Using the ViPR you can take a basic exercise, like a squat, and work your body in all three planes of motion (up and down, side to side, and twisting), which is important for preventing injuries and preparing for real-life moves (raking leaves, grabbing your heavy purse from the back seat of the car, lifting your road bike on the roof rack of your car). You can squat just holding the tube sideways or vertically ("This lights the abs up like a Christmas tree") for two very different challenges — both involving the core. With your hands placed in the cutout grips, you can move the tube from side to side as you squat, which challenges your balance and core, while working different parts of your glutes. You can keep the ViPR at your waist or really challenge your abs and take it overhead, arcing it from side to side. Circle the ViPR around your head in between lunges to increase flexibility in your upper back while toning your backside. And these variations are just the tip of the iceberg.

Used for conditioning in the NHL and NFL, the ViPR is not available yet for retail in the US, but can be found exclusively at Equinox. All Equinox trainers will be schooled on using the ViPR, and by January 2011, Equinox plans to roll out group classes with the tool, which I can't wait to try.

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