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I am compelled to write a review regarding weight loss pills, mainly because I get completely angered at the way they are marketed as a "solution" to weight loss, which just isn't true. They prey on people who are sometimes at the end of their tether regarding their own battle with the bulge and are perhaps enticed into thinking that pills such as these are the answer to their weight issues. Hopefully in this review I can dissect this issue and offer informative advise to the many people who may be in this predicament. This review is not set-out to disprove the effectiveness of slimming pills and in this case Adios Max, it is hoped it can act as an informative guide, so you know the associated risks of taking slimming pills. This is an updated version of one of my earlier reviews and whilst they're may be an element of repetition, I hope I have covered this issue in far more detail (its also a slightly different product).
WHAT IS ADIOS MAX
Adios Max is a slimming pill which is designed to "help speed up weight loss naturally". The cynic in me automatically has alarm bells ringing as for me a natural weight loss product is traditionally something like Prunes that help increase your digestive capabilities. Anything that's created in a lab is really pushing the envelope of "Natural" in my book. Anyway, here's what it contains:
1) Each coated tablet contains fucus dry extract 120m~ (equivalent to 600mg fucus). :
Fucus has been used in slimming pills for a number of years. Its main hypothesised qualities is to aid digestive and intestinal function by stimulating the thyroid. It is believed therefore to increase metabolic rate and thus increase the potential for weight loss. It does however have high levels of Iodine which has traditionally aided the treatment of diseases such as Goiter.
2) Tablet core:
lactose monohydrate: Literally just a tablet filler. Does not aid the slimming process, but if your are lactose intolerant then this could be an issue.
sodium starch glycol late: Basically included to make the tablet soluble.
calcium hydrogen phosphate dihyrate (E341), An inorganic binder which helps the flow of the tablet.
Talc: Another filler which just adds to the consistency of the tablet rather than having any nutritional impact on weight loss
magnesium stearate: Stearates are used to aid the dissolution of tablets. In laymens terms, it allows the tablet to dissolve easily
3) Tablet coating:
titanium dioxide (E171) talc: Yet more filler, gives the tablet its white colour and adds to the texture.
kaolin light: An interesting ingredient. Its main attributes are to act as an absorber (Aid the absorption of the tablet) but it is commonly used internally to control diarrhea.
Sucrose: Quite simply used as a sweetener to make the tablet taste better (hence the term bitter pill to swallow?!?!)
Acacia: It is employed as a soothing agent in inflammatory conditions of the respiratory, digestive and urinary tract, and is useful in diarrhoea and dysentery.
Well that's what is in these tablets, mainly filler and sweetener. However the critical ingredient is the use of the Fucus. We have seen what it does (Stimulates the thyroid), but what does that mean will happen?
Well Fucus is commonly known as "bladderwrack" and for the nautical members out there, this is seaweed. Now seaweed is traditionally high in iodine and iodine is one of the essential elements used to control and regulate thyroid hormone levels. Now if you have high levels of iodine in your system, it is hypothesised that two things will occur. One it acts as an appetite suppressant due to the increase of Seratonin in the body (hmmmm very interesting) and two it can increase energy levels and metabolic state. In short, it will give you a buzz!!!! Not bad properties for its use in a slimming pill!!!
On the flip side, it also has some less attractive qualities. When taken orally, Fucus can aid digestion. This is traditionally known as having a "laxative effect" (well, well well) and help conditions such as constipation. Also high doses of iodine are not recommended as they can cause health problems of their own, symptoms such as insomnia and anxiety, weakness and heart palpitations can all occur.
As yet there are no standardised recommendations for how much Fucus is good/bad for you and the advise of nearly all nutritionists is to only use Fucus under the supervision of a medical professional!!!! This is on the packet but you'll need a magnifying glass to see it!
So what is this pill really doing for you?
ADIOS MAX: PHYSIOLOGY
Adios Max is a stimulant "LAXATIVE", nicely repackaged so that it is not embarrasing to go to the shops and buy it. That's it, simple as that. You will go to the toilet far more often and therefore you will lose weight (mainly I might add) through huge losses of water in your body. Will you become chronically dehydrated?....yes, will you have periods of feeling quite drained and weak (especially if you go to the gym)......Definitely. I would comment that this tiredness is sometimes counter balanced with the seratonin "High" that some people experience when using the product, but this is really a smokescreen to your body's actual physiological requirements.
All dietary products are based around this principal. They ALL have laxative qualities to them. Take for example dietary milk shakes. Very low in fat in liquid form which are generally used to replace a meal (well its obvious you'll lose some weight if you don't eat!.........all of the milkshakes contain laxative (there are 4 different types, Bulk forming laxative, Stimulant laxative, osmotic laxatice and stool softner). Without going into too much detail, they are designed to make you go to the toilet.
The reason I write about this (as it is a strange topic). The pressure of losing weight for some people is so great, they will try these products without really knowing much about them. here is some cautionary advise...............
Using laxatives frequently, or every day, can be harmful.
For example, prolonged use of laxatives can make your body dependent on them so that your bowel no longer functions properly without the medication. Over-using laxatives can also cause diarrhoea, dehydration, and unbalanced levels of salts and minerals in your body. As stated before The effects of using Fucus based products over a long period is, as yet, unknown, but we do know that there are potential risks.
None of the products come with suitable warnings on them regarding the use of laxatives or Fucus. The official line is you should not use laxative products for anymore than 2 weeks (if not you should consult your doctor) NOBODY takes these products will have consulted there GP, which makes them slightly dangerous in my view.
PHYSIOLOGY OF DIETING
more importantly here is the science behind using these products and why they are purely a "Quick Fix" to losing weight.
1) Nearly all of the weight you are losing is water. here is how your body uses water; Approximately 85% of your brain, 80% of your blood and 70% of your muscle is water. Take that away and you will quickly find that you can become tired, irritable, your sleeping patterns will become effected, you will feel weak etc etc etc (the list is exhaustive....hence why were all told to drink a minimum of 2 litres daily!
2) Many products like this replace meals. dangerous nutritionally and counter-productive to your body (and ironically your weight loss) why?
when you start starving your body of food from the normal level its used too, your body goes into something collectively known as "starvation mode". What this means is, your body recognises that you are not taking in as many calories as it is used to. Therefore what happens is, it hold on to more of the calories when you do eat (i.e the two meals of the day you do eat). Somewhat ironically in the early days/week of a diet, you oftern find people actually put on weight as opposed to losing it. However, this is soon followed up by rapid weight loss as the body (despite its best efforts) cannot continually and efficiently keep holding on to the same amount of calories. Traditionally this is called "Crash dieting" and does work......BUT and its a big one, these diets are never sustainable, you will never be able to keep the weight off, because realistically you cannot live your whole life drinking milkshakes and eating like a sparrow....your body was never designed to work like that! This is the cause of phrases such as "yo/yo dieting and the most common problem "as soon as I stopped, I piled the weight back on"
That is because they DO NOT WORK in the long term, they are most definitely a "QUICK FIX" but with potentially large detriments to your health.
I am a fan of weight watchers/slimming world as an excellent way of dieting (I use this term losely because its actually a change of lifestyle that they both promote). Dieting is nearly always about the re-education of food and exercise and once you have an appreciation of this, your efforts become more focussed and much more sustainable. They also have a support structure which is the most important feature of successfully dieting, people often feel lost in their own weight issues and need that extra support...............products like adios never provide you with this. The products are also expensive......channel your money into something that will help you maintain the weight you want for ever not just a quick fix (which these products always tent to be. Even joining a good gym would help as most of the trainers should have a sound knowledge of diet as well as exercise (Holmes Place employ excellent staff for this, In saying that chain gyms tend to be less supportive than private gyms, so I would point you towards a friendly welcoming private club to get the support you need).
In conclusion and before I bore you (too late!). Adios Max is a product that will work in the short term, however its impact on your body if used continually is really a mystery. The biggest mystery to me however comes on their packaging "to be used in conjunction with a calorie controlled diet with exercise". If your doing that, then what is the point of taking Adios Max in the first place!!!!!
Exercise and a balanced diet are the answer to nearly all weight loss issues. Adios Max and the like are merely a quick unsustainable fix. However If your still keen to give them a go, please be safe and follow the guidelines below. (Details taken from the adiosdiet.co.uk website)
Can help slimming or weight control only as part of a calorie controlled diet
Adios is suitable for vegetarians. Gluten Free
How to Use
Please ensure that the tamper-evident band on the container is intact before initial use.
For adults (over 16 years): Swallow one tablet 3 or 4 times a day at mealtimes. Adios Max should be used as part of a calorie-controlled diet.
Suitable for adults and children 16 years and over.
Hazards and Cautions:
No significant adverse effects should occur when taking Adios Max at the correct dosage. However, diarrhoea may occur particularly in those receiving high doses, or those taking too many Adios tablets. If so, stop taking Adios and drink plenty of fluids. If you have any other undesirable effects or if your symptoms persist, you should talk to your doctor or a pharmacist.
DO NOT use if you are sensitive to any of the ingredients.
DO NOT use if you are pregnant or breast feeding.
DO NOT use if you are under 16 years of age.
This is a medicine. Consult your doctor or pharmacist if you have an underlying medical "condition, are taking any other medication or complementary therapy, or if", "symptoms persist. Seek advice before using if you are breast feeding,", "pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or suffer from allergies.",
Keep all medicines out of the reach of children.,
Price: £9/10 for 100 tablets depending on where you shop (available everywhere! (Boots/Lloyds/Tesco/Asda etc etc)
I hope this helps,
This is the review I have been looking forward to writing the most. The pinnacle of fitness gimmicks. The machine with the biggest claims but most ambiguous results. Perfect abs, the six pack to die for, this machine will make you more attractive to the opposite sex, you just sit back and let the machine do the work! Ladies and gentleman welcome to the world of the slender tone system abs toning belt, for me the biggest con since smoking was good for you.
The slender tone is a devise that uses EMS (Electronic Muscle Stimulation) to create a contraction in the muscle. In this case, the slender tone takes the form of a belt that is placed around the waist which will focus on the stimulation of the stomach muscles and obliques (The waist). When the machine is turned on, an electrical pulse is sent to the muscles in question which causes them to contract repeatedly. The contraction is claimed (I choose my words carefully) to be the same as a contraction that would take place as if you were doing a sit-up.
The machine itself has 30 different user settings, 1 being an extremely light contraction, 30 being a large (and somewhat uncomfortable) contraction. The belt has a handheld remote connected to it to make choosing the programme you want to use extremely easy. The belt itself is made of a neoprene type material and is actually very comfortable to wear. Within the belt there are 3 separate pads that create the muscular contraction.
The patented toning technology used in the System-Abs belts ensures all of the muscles in the region are toned (including the rectus, transverses abdomenius and the obliques) to give the entire area a full workout. Just one 20 minute session with the System-Abs belt is the equivalent of doing 120 crunches.
Quite impressive, so basically you can just sit down for 20 minutes while you watch Eastenders and it will be the same as doing 120 crunches, but without any effort? Sounds too good to be true? What else do they claim?
Used for just 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week, the System-Abs belt can deliver fantastic results in just 4 weeks. For maximum results, combine it with a healthy diet and exercise regime and follow the Slendertone 6 week plan.
Hang on a second, for maximum results you have to have a healthy follow an exercise regime AND follow there 6 week plan? Hmmmmm is anyone else starting to see that something is not quite right here? So what would happen if you just used the belt and didn't have a healthy diet and you didn't exercise and you did not follow their 6 week plan?
Let me answer that for you............not much.
Here in lies the biggest weakness not only of this machine, but any abdominal training. To achieve a 6-pack or flat stomach, it is not the strength or tonality that exists within the abdominal muscles (although this helps), it's the amount of fat that covers them. Even slender tone know this, hence telling you to combine it with a healthy lifestyle of good food and exercise AND following their 6 week plan.
So what is the 6 week plan? Please go to slendertone.com for full details, but this made me laugh the most. The plan has been devised by Ciaran Byrne and Elise Lindsay who are both health and fitness guru's. As an overview, the 6 week plan takes the format of 3 x 30 minute workouts a week which are all high intensity aerobic workouts. In short, they are cleverly designed to really act as a calorie/fat burning workout. The types of exercises you have to complete are skipping, leg ups, half jacks, leg curls, knee and kick combo?s, squats, press ups, chest press, lunges etc etc etc
The reason I say it makes me laugh is because this is an exercise regime designed to make you thinner (This will automatically make your abs and obliques look better). Why would you need to use the slender tone if you were happy to do all this exercise? They claim you can just sit down and let the machine do all the work in their advertising, yet in reality you have to follow what is an intense workout plan! Somewhat contradictory and I know why. If you just sat there and did nothing else, the machine would have absolutely no impact whatsoever!
In essence, this 6 week plan is a clever ploy to
a) cover up the fact that this machine will do very little for you unless you exercise
b) support they're testimonials for weight loss. What a joke that is, these people are losing weight because they're exercising, NOT because they are using the slender tone!
I need to make one point clear however. The machine itself does have an impact on the abdominal muscles. Machines like this have been used successfully for the last 40 or so years, in particular by physiotherapists. The impulses have been medical proven to help stimulate muscles, helping in the process of atrophy (the re-growth of muscle fibre). This is particulary relevant in things like knee injury's where the muscles around the knee will have wasted and need a "kickstart". It has also been used successfully for people with back problems. Many of the problems can stem from weaknesses within the core muscle's. EMS technology can help to stimulate these deep muscle's aiding recovery. Therefore the machine definitely has its uses, but has been marketed for the weight and diet community where its not that useful at all. It will not make you thinner!
Infact, if you delve deeper again, here are some of the testimonials written by the press:
COSMOPOLITAN "Using Slendertone System couldn't be more convenient-92% of users say is easy to fit in with their daily routine. No trips to the gym, no walks in the rain, no pricey exercise classes, just any time, anywhere, at the touch of a button".
Well that's all well and good but tells me nothing about how effective it is? The statistics are made to look like the machine is really effective, but it only tells us that its easy to use.
ESSENTIALS "Too lazy to shake your booty? Slendertone's FLEX BT toning shorts give you an easy 30-minute workout with no effort. Just pop the skimpy neoprene shorts on under your jeans and get a work out as you do chores!
Well we know that's not true, where's the mention of the healthy diet and 6 week exercise regime? I think this is a definite case of you cant believe everything you read!
Slender tone £117.44
Ebay £51 + £5 Shipping (second hand)
The slender tone toning belt has its principles built into a system that does contract muscle fibres and does promote the atrophy of muscles. The contraction of these fibres could bring about a slight increase in muscle size. However, the slender tone will not make you thin. It will have a negligible toning effect. Even the makers recognise that without exercise, the stomach muscles will remain hidden behind the subcutaneous fat of the stomach, the devise would really have very little impact hence they're 6 week plan.
I would not recommend this product. Its an expensive gimmick, with very little to offer. Its pitched to people who like the idea of achieving a washboard stomach without any effort (I would buy one if it actually worked) but in reality, if you sit down doing nothing, the machine will do nothing for you.
I hope this review helps,
Now when it comes to rowing machines, the concept 2 rower has been a mainstay in gyms over the last 10 to 15 years. However does that make a good piece of home gym equipment? In my opinion no, the machine is way too expensive for the home gym market, and despite is definite perfection as a rowing machine, the buyer with a smaller budget will be ostracized to purchase an inferior but cheaper machine. Logan investigates.
Perhaps the biggest misconception of rowing is the fact that people believe it is an upper body sport. Infact most of the power in rowing is dominated by the lower limbs (quads and hamstrings) to generate the power in the stroke. Rowing infact is the perfect balance between the lower body extention in combination with the upper body pull, this is what makes a successful and power rowing stroke. In many ways, this misconception of it being an upper body sport is infact the advantage of rowing as it is the perfect balance between an upperbody AND lower body workout, and in my opinion makes it one of the best exercises to participate in for the home gym gym user. Here's why.....
To perform the action of rowing, the following muscles are triggered.
ARMS (bicep and tricep)
BACK (trapezious and lats)
Core (both abdominals, obliques and lower back are worked out)
The ability to work out a number of different muscles within the one exercise, really makes rowing stand out above other peicves of home gym equipment. But its not just the muscles that it works, its the ability to train those muscles in a number of different ways. A rowing machine can be used for strength training, toning, fat burning and muscular and aerobic endurance. This really encompasses every aspect of training for ever type of user.
The best explanation of its use functionality is described by its designer......
The Indoor Rower is based on air resistance technology, which captures the rhythm and feel of rowing on the water by using a carefully balanced and calibrated flywheel. The resistance you feel in using the Indoor Rower is the wind resistance generated by the spinning flywheel. With no brake pads to wear out, and no friction mechanism to generate heat, the flywheel motion is smooth, long lasting, and maintenance free. Here's what double Olympic champion James Cracknell had to say about the machine: "Wherever we train we always take a Concept 2; it's brilliant. It registers your power output, monitors the distance rowed, all the stuff you need to know really. It's probably about 80-90 per cent similar to rowing a boat on the river."
Now as a review my job is to critially review how well the makers claims stand up to critisism. Does it do what they are telling us it will? The problem here is I cannot critisize the concept 2 at all. The machine is sturdy, it replicates rowing extremely well, it is smooth, easy to use, robust, shows all the variables you need (Time, distance, calories burned) and is comfortable. I really cannot fault it in terms of design manafacture or useability.
There is one major problem to this piece of equipment. The concept 2 will set you back close to £1000. perfection therefore does not come cheap!!!!!!!
In analysis, there are other rowers on the market that will do an equally good job for a fraction of the price (e.g Beny Sports V Fit Air Magnetic Combination Rower £260 from amazon)
Ebay £860 second hand (old model)
Ebay £1000 New
Fitness superstore £974
In conclusion. The concept 2 rower is faultless in terms of build quality, ease of use and performing the task it sets out to achieve. However at close to £1000 it is ludicrously expensive and would not be a recommendation for home gym use unless you are an elite sportsman.
Hope thats helpful,
For the eagle eye's out there, you may well be familiar with Life Fitness equipment. In particular if you are a member of an LA Fitness or Holmes Place gym, then you will have come across this kit as LA fitness tend to deck their gyms out with this equipment, whilst Fitness First have a contract with Technogym. Having worked with and trained on this equipment, I thought I would give you an insight into why its so good (and so expensive!!!!)
WHO ARE LIFE FITNESS
Life Fitness really came into existence in 1968, when a chap called Keene P Dimmock invented the lifecycle exercise bike. Seeing its potential, two young entrepreneurs, Ray Wilson and Augie Nieto bought the rights to the cycle an then took it to the health and fitness marketplace, gyms. This really started the health club boom that was to follow, and life fitness equipment was the main catalyst for this.
Today Life Fitness equipment is the number one choice of equipment for gyms around the world. They operate in over 120 different countries and have a portfolio of around 300 different cardio vascular and strength training machines.
The Life fitness signature fly is one in a series of resistance machines which forms the life fitness Signature series. Here's what the makers say about the series.
"....The Signature Series defies traditional selectorized equipment and gives new meaning to the word approachability. We packed more than 20 years of industry insight, biomechanical expertise, and customer feedback into this powerful line of resistance training equipment. The result is an uncommon blend of aesthetic sensibility with uncompromising craftsmanship, specifically designed to bridge the gap between intimidation and confidence."
I think what they're trying to say is it looks good, its built well and its easy to use. Perhaps this is why I do not have a job in their sales team!!! Essentially however the signature series is designed with some particular differences to all other resistance machines. Here are the main features of this series (Provided by life fitness website to support my review)
1) A unique increment weight system, which is integrated into the weight stack, allows users to simply turn a dial for gradual increases in their resistance training program.
I have not come across this before and I believe its an industry first. The basic principle is that on traditional gym equipment the weights move up in increments of 5kg. I have often found that sometimes the change in weight is too drastic and I struggle to lift the new weight while maintaining good form. This devise has been invented to solve that problem. You just turn the dial and it fills in all the increments upto the next weight (e.g if your on 5kg the dial can take you to 6,7,8,9kg, then when your up to 10kg you just move the pin)
2) Converging and diverging axes that correctly align with the user's joint movement, provide a natural, comfortable feel throughout the range of motion.
The feel of the machine when using it is second to none. I didn't feel like the machine was forcing my movements rather than just supporting it. It felt incredibly smooth, and in unison with my natural movements. You only really get this from expensive kit, because the manufacturers spend millions of pounds on the biomechanical perfection of the machine. Essentially this is why you are seeing a move away from fixed resistance machines like this one because its so hard to get that "Natural feel" to the equipment. Life Fitness seem to have this technique mastered.
3) Full shrouds and pulley covers make the equipment more approachable, less intimidating, and visually appealing to all users.
An interesting suggestion based on true facts. Apparently people are less likely to use a machine if it looks intimidating. I happen to agree that this can be an issue for gym goers, as I have often introduced clients to equipment and they have stated that they have never used it because "It looks difficult" or "I didn't know how to use it". This piece of kit has been cleverly designed to look user friendly and I think it does achieve that.
4) Stainless steel fasteners, precision welds, and internally lubricated cables give Signature Series its uncompromised durability.
In short the build quality on this machine is second to none. You get a lifetime warranty on the whole build as it is built to the highest standards. When your on the equipment, it feel sturdy and reassuring, always a good thing especially if your lifting heavy weights! Importantly the cabling looks extremely strong on this bit of kit, which is essential if the machine is under continual use.
FUNCTIONALITY OF THE FLY?
The Life fitness signature fly is a resistance machine designed to work the muscles in the Pectorals (chest) and deltoids (shoulder). The basic pattern of movement is bringing the extended outstretched arms inwards and forwards towards the front of the body.
The machine has a number of adjustable features built into it to cater for exercisers of all shapes and sizes . Firstly you can adjust the seat from 1 to 9 moving it up or down to get the correct height to perform the exercise. Essentially you need to make sure you shoulders are in line with (A couple of inches above) the handle bars to ensure correct position. The handles themselves will automatically adjust themselves to your grip as they can pivot. These adjustable features makes the machine extremely comfortable to use. The seat and back padding is also extremely comfortable and offers contoured support where needed.
Each arm of the machine can be controlled independently so they do not force the speed of your movement and also react to your body's natural exertions. Often you can find that people are stronger on one half of the body compared to the other, so the machine incorporates this tendency by having independent control.
The design of the cabling ensures that there is equal resistance through the full range of motion. This is a notorious problem with home gym equipment as you will find on many cheaper models that the resistance is not equal, especially at the start of the exercise. This is an important factor as it is essential that the muscle is exposed to continual resistance throughout the movement to ensure it is getting an effective workout.
The stack itself goes all the way through to 145kg which covers exercisers of all abilities. It does however mean that the machine is extremely heavy, totalling 293kg. With my rudimentary maths you can see that the machine on its own weighs 148kg, which just shows the quality of the frame and parts its built with.
Ok so here's the tricky bit. This machine will set you back a cool £3,795.00 from fitness superstore. The important thing here is to realise whilst to most this will sound ludicrously expensive, however this piece of equipment is not pitched at the home market, but rather commercial gym use. The machine is designed for continual use over many years, and on that basis offers excellent value for money. Gyms will generally keep their equipment until it breaks down or becomes outdated. On the basis that Life Fitness equipment is the front runner in innovations, this kit will be around for a good few years AND it will last.
I guess there is only one conclusion to this piece of equipment. It is brilliant. It is built to last through continuous use, with a build quality second to none. It performs the exercise it sets out to achieve with perfection, and also takes into account the biomechanics of the individual users. Whilst it is expensive, it still offers great value because it is built to last. In my opinion, the best there is for your money.
Thanks for reading,
Not sure why I keep writing so many fitness reviews, but I guess I should stick to what I know about (might make some of you get fit you never know!!). Having read through my reviews, I have noticed that I tend to have concentrated on kit that has not lived up to expectations. Well this time, I'm writing about a product that definitely exceeded my expectations, namely, the Pilates Power Gym.
WHAT IS IT?
Well to get an understanding of the Pilates gym, you need to know what pilates is:
"Pilates focuses on the core postural muscles which help keep the body balanced and which are essential to providing support for the spine. In particular, Pilates exercises teach awareness of breath and alignment of the spine, and aim to strengthen the deep torso muscles."
Ok, so what makes it different from any other exercises? Well, its founder Joseph Pilates believed that there were 7 different variables that influenced the effectiveness of exercise:
BREATHING: Breathing helps us to transport the oxygen successfully around the body. It is thought that if we do not breath correctly during exercise then it limit's the effectiveness of this oxygen transfer. In Pilates you are always taught to breath out on exertion and breath in when relaxing. This is because when you exert effort AND breath out, you have to force all of the air out of the lungs. This had the opposite effect of creating a larger inhalation, therefore your breathing instantly becomes more efficient.....clever eh!
CENTERING: It is believed in Pilates that every movment is determined by the strength of the "Powerhouse" muscles. To you and me this means the "Core" muscles. A good core and therefore good centering essentially means you set a stable platform for all other successfully movement.
CONTROL: All movements to be done slowly ensuring maximum control. This to me is common sense but its unreal how many people you see in gyms lifting huge weights with terrible posture!
PRECISION: The main aim is to perform each exercise as perfectly as possible, rather than many repetitions with imperfections. Its hypothesised that by achieving this, your exercise regime becomes incredibly focussed and effective.
FLOW: Each exercise is to flow into the next, therefore your body remains in perfect poise and balance. This will improve tonality, aerobic ability and muscular endurance.
FLEXIBILITY: Pilates should incorporate elements of stretching to improve overall flexibility of the muscles
PILATES POWER GYM
So now you know what the machine is focussing on, how does the machine work?
The Gym itself is a welded carbon steel construction which on face value looks absolutely terrifying! When I first saw it, I really didn't know where to start. The machine itself it's a mix-mash of cables, pads and pulleys, all in a neat little bundle (140 x 45 x 33 cm). The initial problem is I wasn't sure where to start or what it could do.
On closer inspection it was essentially a pully system, with a large pad in the middle that you could lie on or sit on with two pully's at the top of the machine. When you pull the pully's, the pad would slide.......simple. The machine could either lie flat to the ground, or you could incline it all the way up to 30inches. Obviously as you incline, the exercises would get harder. It also had 4 different power chords which means you can adjust the resistance of you work out. In short, there is a lot of scope for continued improvement. On the other end of the machine, there is an adjustable arm that can be extended to either help you to balance, or get out of the way for exercises when lying down!
The problem is, I still couldn't work out what exercises I could do. The makers claim you can do around 95 different exercises on the machine. At first I was a little sceptical as this is quite a claim! However as I began to experiment, it was clear that you could do pretty much any of the exercises I could think of from machines I would use in the gym. For example (And to name but a few):
Low cable row
However, importantly, as a man I was using the machine and comparing it to weight lifting devices in the gym. I think I secretly wanted it to fail on this front being a natural sceptic of all new exercise inventions!! Even in light of this the machine was actually surprisingly good, infact it was bloody excellent!. When you started to take the ethos of Pilates into account (slow, precise exercises) The machine was actually extremely challenging. I only managed to incline it half way before I was getting a muscle burn comparable to any of the machines I used at the gym. I hadn't even altered the band resistance (which was on the easiest setting!) I must admit, I was starting to get hooked.
The machine essentially focuses on using your own body weight as the resistance and also each exercise takes into account the natural movement of your body. In gym's this type of equipment is known as "free motion" equipment. It is becoming more and more popular and really highlights a move away from Fixed machines like a shoulder press. The main advantage is that by using free motion equipment like the pilates power trainer, you have to use all the stabilising muscles around the joint to control the movement, much like when you use free weights. Fixed machines don't do this as they concentrate on isolating muscle groups (e.g shoulder press on a fixed machine you just press upwards, you do not have to control the weight on its way up the machine does this). Free motion equipment is considered to be a much more effective way to train.
However in fairness to the machine, I had only used a tenth of its capabilities. There was a dvd which came with the equipment one which looks at strength training and one that looks at Pilates. Out of interest I thought I'd check out some of the Pilates moves you can achieve. Well perhaps I wished I hadn't as the lean lady introducing the exercises had me experiencing pain I did not realise a man could go through.
"Ok this time we're going to try the Mermaid" THE WHAT! 5 Slipped discs later but a whole lot more flexible, I retreated and returned to my usual "Manly" bench pressing and bicep curls.
Joking aside, it was clear that 95 different exercises may even be an understatement. The machine really offered limitless exercises, with the exerciser being the only limitation.
In essence however it showed me that this machine was actually a superb feat of engineering. It really was multifunctional as well as challenging. The dvd's and diet plan that accompanied it was useful, all be it like most exercise dvd's, you'll be cursing at them after hearing the same joke over and over again!
And so to the price. I immediately put my prediction in of around £400. The machine was sturdy, well built and comfortable...ithad an expensive feel about it. Factor in the fact that it actually worked too, I was confident in my prediction. I was however wrong.
£250 (thanedirect.co.uk) Excellent price
£90 second hand on Ebay!!!!!!! Unreal
I was staggered by this. In particular the eBay offer (all be it, it was pick-up only!). For this money, I could not think of any other machine that would give you an all over workout at such a good price. Not only is the machine made well and effective, its cheap too!
If you enjoy exercising and you are looking for a good piece of home gym equipment, this is definitely worth a consideration. Its small and relatively inexpensive compaired to its competition (Multigyms) but it is extremely effective as a training tool. This kit would be seriously suitable for all exercisers with an interest in toning/strength/flexibility/aerobic training. Perhaps if your into body building I'd give it a miss, but for the general exerciser it is second to none!. The machine comes ready assembled so you don't have the hassle of building it like many mutiny's, and there is also a 30 day back money guarantee from the company if your not 100% happy.
There was one downside however, when I first saw this machine in my friends bedroom, I was starting to wonder what she had got into (That was closely followed by the phrase...."you cheeky minx, can I have a go!"!!!!!!!! ;)
One of my top recommendations. 10/10
Hope that Helps,
This is a review on the POT BLACK STEPHEN HENDRY SNOOKER TABLE
well where to begin on this fine piece of engineering. The wobbliest, shakiest, slantiest snooker extravaganza known to man............and I love it! My biggest concern regarding this product is the fact that Stephen Hendry has actually endorsed this product. Quite clearly Stephen has never played on this table or he, like me would soon realise its pathetic efforts at mimicking the fine parlour game of snooker.
So before I tear strips into this plank of wood on stilts, lets have a look at what the manafacturers have to say...........
4ft 6" Stephen Hendry Championship Table
"Stylish folding leg table providing easy assembly and storage features.
* Pre-assembled mahogany effect folding table
* Metal legs with independent levellers for maximum stability
* Folding legs for easy assembly and storage
* Screwless finish on the side and end aprons for improved finish.
* Excellent family package
* Endorsed by World Number 1 Stephen Hendry
* Assembled size: L140 x W74 x H80 cm (4ft 6)
* 2 x 36" Black diamond cues
* Set of 38mm snooker balls (17 piece)
* 6 Extra yellow balls for pool
* Scoreboard, triangles, chalk, brush and rules
I love this description more than anything........stylish folding legs!!!! Now I'm not the most descriptive person in the world, but the last word I would use to describe the veenered wood and plastic covered meatal legs, would be "stylish". Perhaps I would plump for "retro folding legs" or even "top pins", but stylish they ain't.
Whilst were on the subject of legs, they do have independant levellers on them however these will become the source of hidden agression you never knew you had.
Picture the scenario; Its 3-3 and the final frame, its come down to a black ball finnish. As luck would have it, its an easy pot.
"yessss" you mutter under your breath as you play out the final moments in your head; pot the black, help yourself to the tenner over on the side and proceed bragging rights for the next 3 hours down the pub.
And so with hands shaking slightly less than the table, you take your position behind the white ball. To your delight, its as straight as a di, or whats known in the trade as "an easy one". So you take a few deep breaths to calm yourself.......hang on, lets get a bit of chalk on this badboy, we don't want any unforseen "bad contacts". Ok we're ready, just going to put a tiny bit of backspin on it to stop the white from following through into the pocket.
The beautiful sound of a perfect connection with the white ball. This one's in the bag........but wait...............its starting to deviate..........
Like a river finding its course of least resistance, the white ball begins to meandour its way towards the black ball. The disbelief on your face is mirrored by a widening smirk on your friends as the white ball eventually finds its target.......some 2 to 3cm to the left hand side of the black ball. Disaster, the pot has been missed and is met with delightful whoops of laughter from your soon to be "Ex" best mate.
"Does you husband play" is the mocking insults from the gallery. Head in hands, your despair soon turns to rage, the type of rage only an inanimate object can create. This piece of wood, metal and felt has just embarrased you infront of your friends, and yet, unapologetically, its path remains perfectly straight for your pals next shot. The table has "choosen" the winner and it wasn't you.
The next 5 minutes are the most dangerous for the table, as you try your hardest to remain calm, yet play out the possible acts of violence that could be adorned upon its velvety smugness. Instead, you opt for a more subtle approach and begin playing with the levellers on the legs of the table.
"did you see ther swerve on that, this things not straight". Plausable but a pathetic attempt to hide your disgust at the shoddy quemanship you've just displayed. What did you really expect for £69.99 or should I say £79.99, you've just lost a tenner.
Now at this point there's only one thing left to do......."best of 5"?
Your desperate attempts are met with smirks of derision. You my friend are stuck with £10 less in your pocket and the wobbliest table known to man. But one things for sure, at some point the luck of the table will turn.............an unlucky rebound off of one of the pathetic cushions for your friend, or the traditional near the wall effort where the cue has to be lifted to 90 degrees to play your shot.
When all said and done, this table will provide you with hours upon hours of entertainment. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you may even make a buck or two, but one things for sure, its the best £69.99 I've ever spent!!!!
Available from Argos £69.99
Tesco Direct (6ft version £78.29)
Now I do tend to get a little annoyed when it comes to exercise equipment and how expensive it is for home use. Unfortunately the York C201 fits into that bracket, needlessly expensive to achieve the same results as much cheaper bikes.
Here is the reason for my annoyance:
Cycling is specifically designed to work out the lower half of the body. In particular the focus is on the quadricep muscles (Thigh's), the hamstrings, the calf muscles and the gluteals (your bottom)
Cycling is also one of the best forms of a cardiovascular endurance exercises (heart and lungs), whilst still being a low impact exercise (I.e your joints are not getting effected with high impacts like running). This makes cycling a perfect exercise for any lower body toning/strength training, as well as being perfect for fat burning and increasing endurance/stamina. Because of the low impact nature of the exercise, it is suitable for all ages and sizes.
Now the physiological effects of cycling will not be changed by buying a more expensive exercise bike. Physiological change is determined by how hard you are prepaired to work as an individual. All more expensive exercise bikes do is provide you with a smoother, more comfortable ride and maybe more inbuilt programmes to work too. Now I'm not saying that these are not important variables, my point is that these can be found in bikes that are half the price of the York C201.
York C201 FEATURES
16 levels of computer controlled magnetic resistance
Hand grip pulse sensor
17 user programmes (12 preset, 3 HRC, 1 manual, 1 user)
Multiview large LCD console
Flywheel weight: 4kg
Self-levelling pedals, pedal straps
Maximum user weight: 125kg
Dimensions: 97 x 141 x 55 (DxHxW in cm)
Product weight: 30.4kg
Large padded seat with height and reach adjustment
Reading rack and towel holder
Recovery fitness test
Ok, here's my opinion on the key things to look for when buying an exercise bike.
Firstly, it is important that the bike is controlled by magnetic resistance. This basically means that the flywheel's resistance (i.e the wheel your legs are turning) is controlled by electro magnets. Now the reason this is important is on older exercise bikes, the flywheels resitance used to be controlled by a chord wrapped around the wheel itself. These had two major floors, firstly it made for an incredibly uncomfortable ride (it jolted alot and was not smooth) and secondly they used to wear out after 6 months of use). Electro magnetic bikes are smooth and the resistance is equal at all times.
Secondly its important that the bike is comfortable to sit on and is adjustable to your body shape. For instance, movable seat/handlebars etc. This is impertitive because poor form on a bike WILL cause back problems. The bike must be adjustable!!!!
Thats it!!!!! These are the two most important features of a bike. Everything else are just expensive add ons. That is to say, this bike comes with 20 different programmes to work out to, the reality is you will only use 3/4 that are applicable to you and personally I prefer to control the machine manually anyway and set my own levels of resistance - mainly because some days I feel great, others I just want an easy cycle. They are not necessary and cheaper bikes will come with 6/8 programmes which are suitable.
The heart rate monitor that is built into the handles is interesting feature but rarely utilised by home users of bikes. What I mean by this is the main use of a heart rate monitor is to achieve something called heart rate training (when you want to work within certain heart rate ranges to maximise performance). In reality not many people know how to use this training method, and those that do I guarantee would use a polar heart rate watch as it gives a lot more functionality. This really is a gimmick on bikes....It has its uses but is not imperitive.
Now for some people, they like all these add on's and if your one of those people then fantastic, this bike covers all bases. Its a comfortable bike, with a nice smooth action. There are lots of programmes and gimmicks to keep you interested, I particulary like the reading rack!
However for the £200 asking price, I think its a bit steep.
The problem is YORK are perhaps trading off of the quality of their brand. If your prepaired to look away from the big brands for a second, this is what you can get for £115.
MARCY DS 417 Magnetic Cycle
Smooth Ultra Quiet Action
8 Varying Levels Of Magnetic Resistance
7kg Aluminium Flywheel
Self Levelling Pedals With Toe Straps
Large LCD Display Monitors Distance, Speed, Time, Calories And Pulse
Height Width Depth
129cm 52cm 85cm
Ok so this bike does not have the same number of programmes built in to it, but its £85 cheaper and from a physiological point of view will do exactley the same job in the same level of comfort!!!!
In conclusion, this is not a damning review of the york C201, it is a fantastic home exercise bike. It offers comfort and functionality and I guess can still be considered good value at £200. However, I do feel that people are seduced into the gimmicks that bikes like this posses. There are cheaper options that WILL get you the same results. After all, to my knowledge, were still the ones pedalling the thing to try and get fit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Having said that, I would still recommend the bike as it is great, but I just feel there are maybe a few other options to consider first.
£200 generally (Argos/York) however in the current financial climate I have seen lots of deals flying about online. Cheapest I have seen was on Fitness supermarket for £189
I hope that helps!
Fitness gadgets come and go and for the most part they are gimmicks dressed up to suggest a marked improvement in performance, whilst in reality they are not that useful.
The Powerlung Trainer is different. It works and it works well. Respiratory training is not a new idea, but its intergration into the fitness industry has been quite slow. I'm guessing the main reason for that is advertising, because not many people I have trained have ever heard of it. It would certainly be more popular if people were aware of its effectiveness. So what is it and what does it do?
The powerlung was created by Barry Jarvis who in his youth was a competitive rower, but in his 40's suffered a debilitating heart attack. The result of his heart attack led to Barry not being able to do the things he used to regards his exercise. He found that he would tire quickly because he felt like he could not breath. Despite being given inhalers, he found there was nothing out there that could give him the extra oxgen he needed to be able to exercise again. In light of this, Barry began to work on the design of a devise that could help breathing. This was back in 1990 and fast forwarding 9 years, the first Powerlung was manafactured in 1999. Obviously over the next 10 years the product as been refined to improve its design and effectiveness
The powerlung itself is about 6 inches long and consists of a mouth piece (much like that on a scuba breathing tube) and two rotating indicators.
There is one indicator at the end of the device restricting the amount of air you inhale per breath. This has 6 level settings, 1 for easy through to 6 which is very hard. As you improve, there is enough scope within the devise to allow for a good progression.
The other indicator is on the bottom of the devise, this one restricts the amount of air you exhale. the indicator goes from 1 to 3, one being easy 3 being hard.
To find your ideal setting (because everyone is different) The devise comes with a full list of instructions on how to find your inhalation and exhalation setting and when to change the settings. alternatively you can visit the powerlung website which will provide you with full details (powerlung.com)
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Quite simply by restricting the amount of air you breath on your inhalations and expulsions, your lungs will be given a workout as they have to work harder. The resulting effect is an increase in your lung capacity and therefore an increase in the effectiveness of your oxygen transfer. Here's how to use the devise
The recommended use is 3 sets of 10 breathing repetitions twice each day. Each recommended use period takes about 5 minutes at most. A repetition begins when you breathe in and completely fill your lungs, and ends when you breathe out, completely emptying your lungs in 3 seconds. When doing a repetition, you are completing a full range of motion in training your breathing muscles.
At its most basic, this is how to use the powerlung, however for elite athletes, there are a number of different exercise programmes you can follow. For this I would again direct you to the powerlung.com website which will provide you with a full training programme.
DOES IT WORK?
The answer to this both from a statistical and personal level is YES
Much like any new devices that come onto the market in the health and fitness industry, the devise is scrutinised and tested by the best brains in the business. Sometimes the findings are inconclusive, which is the case for a good many products. The powerlunbg however seems to have passed scruting with flying colours.
The makers claim the following improvements by using the powerlung
Inhale Muscle Power > 40%
Exhale Muscle Power > 150%
Tidal Volume > 25% (This is the volume of air that is inhaled and exhaled!)
Peak Exhalation > 20% (The maximum amount you can Exhale)
The makers claims have stood up in the various tests that have been carried out by the sport science world. This is a heavy endorsement because they do not write for profit therefore have maximum objectivity to their research areas.
On a personal level, I have seen a marked improvement in my breathing and resultant improvement in my cardio output. I used the machine mainly to help with playing football. I wanted to improve my fitness and whilst I am generally in good shape, my cardio has always let me down (especially with about 15 minutes to go in the game). Having used the Powerlung as prescribed, I have seen a noticeable difference in my endurance.
However more importantly I have seen its effectiveness most prevalent in one of the clients I used to train. She was asthmatic and our training would always have to be delicately constructed around her asthma. I suggested trying the power lung and the improvements were huge. Her cardio training practically doubled within a month of using the devise as her lung capacity (which I did test) increased. For me this was the best barometer for testing its success as a product.
WHO WILL IT BENEFIT
I actually like the description on the Powerlung website (powerlung.com)
Powerlung is for anyone who breathes......................
Thanks for that, could all the people who are reading this and not breathing please try the following telephone numbers (999, 911 or 118118 they'll answer any questions you have!)
The power lung can really be used by anyone 13 years and above. It has benefits to everyone, whether you are an elite sportsman, a weekend warrior or just someone who needs a bit of extra help breathing (Asthmatics, elderly). In essence it re-teaches you how to breathe correctly, thus improving all aspects of the cardiovascular system. Must point out at this point, if you are a singer, this product is incredible for helping you breath correctly from your diaphragm.
The cost vary's on the type of Powerlung you opt for. There are 4 different types you can buy
Powerlung SPORT aimed at sports people and elite athletes £60 to £80
Powerlung TRAINER aimed at moderate exercisers (people who maybe walk and cycle but don't go to the gym) £50 to £60
Powerlung BREATHE AIR aimed at exercisers, not elite but you are active £50 to £60
Powerlung AIRESTREAM aimed at the elderly £40 to £50
The cost therefore fluctuates between about £40 through to £80. Amazon stocked all of the options and from the searches I achieved, were the most cost effective. The value of these won't really go down a great deal because there is no second hand market for them (for obvious reasons!)
In conclusion, the power lung is an effective tool to aid, well really anyone that has an interest or need to improve their cardiovascular system. In terms of its effectiveness I would not hesitate to recommend this product, the only drawback for me is the price. It is quite steep and despite its effectiveness I think people may be put off before they get a chance to benefit from it.
Hope that helps,
Ok I thought I would write a review about the Reebok I Run +, mainly because I wanted to highlight the difference between this runner compared to the more expensive models out there. The last runner I reviewed was the Horizon Elite 507 which came in at a touch over £1000. This is an expensive treadmill, but it came with everything you need from a running machine. The Reebok I Run + is considerably cheaper, but as the old saying goes, "You get what you pay for", in this case, a running machine that does half a job. Let me explain.
1.75 horsepower (HP) continuous
Now the engine on this machine is actually not bad for the money you are paying for it. Clearly Reebok understand that on any runner, this is the most important bit. The key word here is "continuous motor". This basically means two things. One the motor will not short out after continual use (many peak motors will cut out as they have an inbuilt thermostat to prevent overheating), you will comfortably get two hours of continual training out of the motor (Important if you're training for marathons). Secondly continuous motors maintain an even level of speed much better than peak motors. A peak motor's speed that is said to be travelling at 10km/h could be as low as 8kph or as high as 12km/h, therefore its not giving a true account of the actual speed. This is not helpful if you are training for a timed race like a marathon. 1.75 horsepower is just about adequate (more expensive machines have a 2.5/3 HP motor), this is reflected in the top speed below.
0 - 14 km/H speed range (0 - 8.6 mph)
This is a real worry for me, 8.6mph (14km/h) is not that quick. This really alienates this piece of kit, as anybody who is slightly above average in their running would not be serviced well from this machine. In particular, the machine would be fairly useless for club/elite athletes running shorter long distance races (800m, 1500m, 3000m) because the speed would be too low. The machine is geared towards longer distances and would have enough basic speed for the average marathon trainer or someone looking to lose weight/build up basic stamina. Just to give you a clearer picture. I am a regular gym goer but definitely not a massive fan of running. In my training (20minute warm up) I would run between 12 and 14 km/h which is the top end of this machine! If I wanted to actually train specifically to improve my running, the machine does not offer enough progression through its basic speed.
Two level manual incline
To achieve the same level of resistance as running outside, a treadmills incline has to be increased by 2%. This machine covers this very basic incline, however does not offer any opportunity for a steeper incline. I do see this as a big problem. For example, for many people out there in particular those wanting to lose weight or the elderly, they may be starting their exercise regime by just walking. Generally a trainer will then increase their programme by either increasing the speed (Not really that suitable for elderly or obese clients) or by increasing the level of incline (Much better way to increase the intensity without increasing the speed). Therefore with only two levels of incline, this machine is once again very limited.
Large LCD display with back light
Quite a sexy little display and easy to navigate. The screen is clear enough and shows the basic variables of time/distance/heart rate/calories. No frills but shows the basics.
6 pre-set programme
This is the biggest clue into the design of the machine, nearly all of the programmes are geared towards weight loss as opposed to improved aerobic performance. Again the more expensive machines give you far more options to help a) keep your training interesting b) keep you improving. If you're the type of person who only really uses the manual speed settings then this machine is fine. If you like working to pre-set programmes then this machine is adequate but limited.
Wheels for portability
This really is an industry standard on treadmills now. It does help with moving the machine around, all be it this machine is incredibly light (I'll come onto that in a minute!)
Hand grip heart rate monitor
Again this is standard for most runners these days. Two metallic handles on the bar in front of you. Not the easiest to use at higher speeds and I'm also a little sceptical of how accurate they are. I prefer a separate heart rate watch and strap if your serious about heart rate training, they offer more functionality and are definitely more accurate.
40 x 125 cm walking/running surface
Now this is really small, infact, it is THE smallest running surface I've come across! Now essentially this shouldn't be a problem because on a running machine, your stride come into play that much because the running belt is moving for you (Essentially your running in the same spot the whole time). However, the length of the stride is not the issue here. it's the width that is a problem. You would only have to have a slight loss of concentration and one of your feet could hit the side of the machine, propelling you head first into the attractive dial at the front! Seriously this happens often in gyms when people start getting tired or are checking someone out on the other machines! There is not much room for error on this machine! That said, on a plus point, the machine is extremely small making it easy to store away.
Foldable for easy storage
As mentioned above, the machine is easy to store and will practically fit under your bed it is so narrow. The running deck lifts up easily and the wheels make it easy to manoeuvre.
Available in 5 colours
Not much to say about this, the white and orange design is by far the best, this is a good looking piece of kit. Definitely marketed toward the ladies I think.
Maximum user weight 100kg (220 lbs)
This could be an issue for some. 100kg is a reasonable user weight recommendation, however the machine would definitely be exposed if its being used by a heavier individual. The machine itself only weighs 60kg in a bid to be lightweight and functional. It does mean that if you are in the 100kg weight bracket, this machine in my opinion would not be sturdy enough and I would definitely suggested a more robust machine like anything built by York.
161 (L) x 80 (W) x 131 (H) cm floor
159 (L) x 80 (W) x 47 (H) cm folded
Now this is extremely small for a runner and I commend Reebok for their space saving design. However this has one major floor............the weight.
Machine weight 60kg
At 60kg, this machine is one of the lightest on the market. This is sold as a plus as its small, easy to store away etc. However in terms of its use it exposes its biggest downside. Even on mlight jogging I found that the machine was a) a touch noisy and b) It did not feel sturdy. In fact with every increase in speed, the machine became less and less sturdy. This really was disappointing (The reason I didn't purchase it!), because its not doing the most basic of jobs. It felt cheap, you had none of the assurance and confidence that a sturdier machine gives you and your left thinking the machines build quality is poor. This is a major pitfall with this machine.
The cost of this machine did not change significantly wherever I looked......but be aware there is a new model (I Run +) and an old model. Very similar but this review is on the newer model. This is reflected in the price.
Fitness-superstore.co.uk £349 Old model (I Run)
Kelkoo £349 Old model (I Run)
Amazon £449 New model (I Run +)
In conclusion, the Reebok I Run + is a cheaper alternative for those who wish to incorporate running into their home exercise regime. It is half the price of its more illustrious competitors, but you get half the build quality and functionality. This machine is ideal for beginners to average runners, however has too many limitations for the more experienced runner.
I hope this information helps,
Ha ha, now your going to love this. A huge vibrator designed to excite and stimulate..............your muscles (I know what you where thinking!). Now you may have seen some of these machines popping up in your gym, but they have now been made for home use too.
So what are they?
Ok here's the science behind the machines. The idea for the machines were first developed by Russian scientists, who, during the cold war wanted to find a way that would keep there astronauts in shape while they were in space. The problem in space is you cannot train very easily because of the "Zero gravity". Now the idea was that by standing on the vibrating plates, your muscles would automatically be stimulated (the natural response to the vibrations via the actin and myosin in your muscle fibres which creates something called a tonic/stretch reflex). It was therefore suggested that you could maintain your level of fitness and tonality, just by standing/sitting/resting your hands on the machine. In the space programme, it was also used when the astronauts returned back to earth as the vibration technique was used to increase density back into the bones of the astronauts which was lost because of the low gravity in space.
Did it work? Well yes, the Russian astronauts broke numerous records for staying in space for the longest periods, all credited to the vibration machines used to maintain there fitness levels.
The main reason the machine is so effective is because when regular resistance exercises are achieved (I.e lifting weights) your body only recruit's the number of muscle fibres it needs to complete the task. For example if you lift a 5kg weight, this may (for some of you at least) be very easy and you'll only need to use 30% of your muscle fibres to complete the lift. If you lifted 15kg you may need to recruit 80% of your muscle fibres.
Now using the vibration machine, as the body is stimulated (usually at about 30/50 Hz) and recruits almost 100% of the muscle fibres, irrespective of the weight involved. This is because of the tonic/stretch reflex that is automatically created by the vibrations occurring. It is thought therefore that if you combine the vibrations with lifting weights at the same time, your training instantly becomes more efficient AND effective because your stimulating 100% of your muscle fibres to complete the task. In particular in power sports like sprinting, it is thought the vibrations promote the use of "Fast twitch muscle fibres" These are the fibres which allow the sprinter to be explosive (we all have them in our body, but unless they are stimulated, they lay somewhat dormant). The promotion of these fast twitch fibres would mean that you would have a marked improvement in the tonality and strength in your muscles.
Other physiological benefits of vibration training is the stimulation of blood flow to the muscles which increases the body's ability to flush out the toxins that are built up via exercise (lactic acid etc). It's also thought to improve flexibility because it relaxes the muscles while they are being vibrated (a bit like a massage).
How do I use the machine?
The machine has the following functionality built into it
9 levels of speed
3 automatic programmes and 3 timed programmes
Built size is; 120 cm (h), 63cm (l), 50cm (w)
Max user weight: 16 stone/100 kilos
Now depending on the speed of the vibration, you will get different benefits from the machine. As a general rule, here is how it works.
5-6 Hz Standing/Balance Improvement
10-14 Hz Circulation, Relaxation and Recovery
18-25 Hz Muscle Strength and Power
28-30 Hz Muscle Tone. Rehabilitation of Tendon and Bone
40-50Hz Muscle and Skin Toning
In this review, I will not go into all of the exercises you can do on the machine, but generally, any exercise you can do standing, or sitting down, you can do on the machine (e.g stretches, lifting weights, abdominal work-outs) It really is quite flexible in its uses. I would perhaps recommend going onto the internet (you could try vibo.com) to get an exercise programme you could follow if you need the extra support.
Are there any downsides
Well the benefits do out weigh the negatives with this piece of kit, but there are a couple of negatives.
1) The machine does vibrate a lot! Your eyes go a bit funny at first so it takes a bit of getting used to, it will also shake the house a bit! Best to have a rubber matt underneath, it is a bit load on wooden floors etc.
2) This model only allows user up to 16stone, so if you are a bit heavier you may have to look for an alternative
How much does it cost?
Now this even surprised me. You can pick it up from anywhere between £90 second hand on eBay, to £120 brand new (numerous websites Amazon was cheap £112). It is very easy to put together and maintain. When these machines first came out about 5 years ago they were about £500!!!!
In conclusion, this piece of kit is cheap, easy to store away but most importantly really effective for anyone who is looking to tone-up and/or increase muscular strength. You'll also get a few laughs out of it when your having a party and people try it out after a few too many shandy's!
Hope that helps,
Elliptical trainers are better known as cross trainers and are now the main stay and most popular bits of kit in gyms all over the world. The main reason they are so popular is really because of their functionality.
The elliptical trainer is beneficial for a number of different reasons
1) They are an intermediate between a running machine and a bike whilst having the same levels of exertion
2) They provide both an upper body and lower body cardiovascular (heart and lungs) workout. On harder settings they have an increased toning effect
3) They provide a low impact workout, being kinder to your joints than something like running
4) If you just use your legs (take hands off) they provide an excellent work-out for the core muscles because you need to hold yourself in a state on constant tension to keep yourself balanced
5) The exercise is self powered, but the level of resistance is controlled by the onboard computer
It is thought that the elliptical trainer is one of the best pieces of equipment designed for weight loss and burning calories. The main reason for this is because you are working both the upper and lower half of the body, thus, stimulating a larger number of muscle groups. Infact, an elliptical trainer in nearly all tests carried out has been shown to be as effective as running on a treadmill, however the perceived rate of exertion is much lower (i.e you don?t feel like your working as hard but you are!).
The elliptical trainer hits nearly all of the major muscle group in the body.
Upper: Bicep, Tricep (Arms), Deltoid (Shoulders), Trapezius and lats (Back)
Middle: Abdominals and obliques
Lower: quads and hamstrings (Upper leg) Gastrocnemius (Calfs) Gluteus (Bottom)
Because of the low impact nature of the exercise, it is joint friendly and will have a toning effect rather than muscular building (so don?t worry ladies!)
York X302 Diamond Elliptical Trainer
Ok so I bought this piece of kit for home use, as I was sick of turning up to the gym and not being able to get onto the kit that I wanted! I will start by saying this is not the cheapest version of these types of machines, but I?ll justify the price too you?..hopefully. I choose York because in my opinion (and I used to sell the stuff!) along with Kettler, they make some of the best and most robust home gym equipment.
Price: £400- £800 Strangely there is a huge difference depending where you go. I actually paid £500 for mine and still feel its good value. But Ebay (as usual) seems to be the best place to get a good deal and I?ve seen this sold at £380 all be it I think it was second hand, but looked perfect.
So what do you get for your money?
Firstly its quite a good looking piece of kit. You get a real sense of it being robust and stable. This I think is important because if the things wobbling about all over the place, it doesn?t particularly fill you with confidence and also you want something as close to the one?s at the gym as possible. The Diamond definitely has the feel of an expensive piece of kit. It comes with the following features built in:
Resistance Type: Electro Magnetic Silent resistance ensures plenty of variation and scope for growth with the machine as your fitness improves. The electro magnetic resistance changes instantly and offers the smoothest and most consistent resistance available, similar to that found on commercial gym products.
Resistance Levels: 16 gives the user a full and varied choice of resistance levels for all abilities and requirements.
Pulse Sensor: Yes - the integrated hand grip pulse sensors allow you to track your heart rate reading and ensure that no matter what you know what is happening, keeping you in control. Coupled with a chest belt (not included) for precision readings, you are sure to get the perfect reading every time, displayed directly on to the console.
Heart Rate Controlled: Yes - the best way to train and make sure you get the most out of your training to achieve your goals.
Programs: 22 for total individuality and personalisation. Choose from professionally designed programmes designed to help you reach specific goals.
Stride Length: 16" (toe to toe) provides a good workout and a hard workout suitable for any person from 4' 10" up to 6' 6" easily. The larger stride also makes the product feel even smoother and perform like a gym quality cross trainer.
Max user weight: 150kg
Product Weight (Kg): 59.5kg
Warranty: The York x302 Diamond Elliptical comes with a full manufacturers onsite 3 year parts and labour guarantee covering all defects in the comfort and convenience of your own home.
Now for those of you who just read that and are thinking I?m not sure what it all means, let me break down what I think are the most important bits.
The resistance type is critical to how the machine feels when you are on it. This model uses electro magnets to control the resistance. This makes it a smooth and quite ride. You can get cheaper models but they are frankly awful to use, not smooth and feel like they will fall apart (and often do!). This alone makes it worth the extra money.
Having 16 levels of resistance is a real bonus. If your quite a competitive trainer, you want to have a piece of equipment that will continually challenge you. There is nothing more annoying (and for that matter a waste of money) to find out that you?ve reached the capacity of the machine so it really becomes redundant. This piece of kit, I guarantee, will be good for the whole of your training!!!!
All kit these days tends to come a pulse sensor, so I don?t see this as a unique feature, but the heart rate control definitely is. Basically you set the desired heart rate you wish to train at and the machine will automatically increase/decrease its resistance to ensure you maintain that level. Why is that important? Well different heart rate levels gain different results in you training. As a generalised rule, you have to be working at 70%+ of your heart rate maximum to improve cardiovascular fitness. For things like fat burning you need to be at 50/60%.
The inbuilt programmes are a real plus because they make your training interesting and focussed. For example they have a number of fat burning programmes that take you through a virtual course, increasing and decreasing the intensity at different stages. These are good fun and in essence, it's a bit like having a trainer with you pushing you along and I quite like that extra dimension.
Funnily enough the next one is for me THE most important and yet surely the most simple to get right. I have used quite a few different home elliptical trainers, and on some they feel?..well lets just say "awkward". They never seem to feel like the ones at the gym. The reason being is the stride that is generated by the machine. The diamond as stated is good for anyone up to 6ft 6inchs (that's me covered comfortably!) and the stride it creates feels comfortable. Not to forced, nice and smooth. It also doesn't hurt my hips which some machines I've used do as they almost force you into positions your body is not comfortable with. This is a huge compliment to the York |Diamond, because although it seems simple, countless company's seem to never get it right!
And so back to the price????.
It is expensive, but in my view definitely worth it. It does what you want it to do and does it well. In my opinion its worth spending the extra because too many of the other cheaper machines WILL leave you disappointed. Besides if you don't like using the equipment, you will not train and that kinda defeats the object!
9/10 and a definite 10 if it was closer to the £350 mark
Hope that all helps,
Kind regards and happy training,
Before I begin, I would just like to make it clear that I respect and hold in high regard all of the work that the various charities and in particular Amnesty International do. However, there appears to be a familiar trait occurring on every high street in Britain, something I like to call the "Clipboard Sharks".
My most recent run in with the clipboard sharks came this weekend and whilst usually the Red Cross bare the brunt of my mutterings, this time it was Amnesty International........A charity I have supported many times in the past.
Just as a quick synopsis, Amnesty International are a charity based around the protection of peoples humans rights. To quote their website,
"We stand up for humans wherever justice, freedom and truth are denied."
As a charity they're work is exceptional, dealing with human rights issues all over the globe from issues such as violence to women, through to the abolishment of the death penalty. They deal with real issues that can otherwise remain hidden by the cloak of corrupt governments the world over.
This is a fantastic charity to support as is the red cross and the many other admirable charities out there. However I find myself writing a negative review regarding the above mentioned charity why?
I'm sure some of you out there will be familiar with the story I'm about to tell you. It's Thursday Afternoon and I've nipped into town to pick up a few bits and meet my girlfriend. Problem is I've only got about 15 minutes so I've got to be quick.
So I'm walking down the high street, when I notice the "clipboard sharks" in front of me. Now at this point I don't even know who this person is representing but what I do know is I haven't got time to engage in a long winded conversation, no matter how good the cause. I just don't have the time.
So operation "Don't make eye contact" begins. The problem is, this never seems to work. Infact it seems to have the opposite effect and draws the clipboard shark towards me like a moth to a flame. Only one thing for it, operation "deviate away". I find myself joining the school of other nervous individuals who are cutting a path either side of the clipboard Nazi's in a huddled avoidance technique. It reminds me of watching planet earth and seeing the tuna fish swimming closely together to avoid being eaten by its larger more deadly predator. The clipboard shark has successfully cut a swathe through the high street, however nature has taught them a few tricks......
Namely, they can move! Infact once locked onto they're prey, they adopt some extremely arrogant manoeuvres. Now having been in sales for a good few years, I will break down they're cunning for you. Here's how it works..........
1) They stand right in front of you blocking your path. incredibly rude in my opinion but I guess it has the desired effect of slowing you down.
2) They will say Hi, introduce themselves and hold out they're hand to shake yours. Now this is clever, I natural human response when seeing an extended hand is to shake it back....if you don't your deemed as being rude. It forces you to stop and engage conversation.
3) They will start with a couple of closed questions to get you engaged e.g "have you heard of Amnesty International". This is designed to give a yes or no answer. The reason for this is it engages you into the conversation, but also ensures that the person asking the question (The charity) stay's in control of the conversation. That way they can move the conversation forward in the direction they wish, giving you no "get out"
4) They will then begin to ask leading questions, I.e "its terrible that this issue isn't being dealt with isn't it". You obviously will say "Yes" and that's the plan. Keep you saying yes so when at the end you are asked to make a contribution, you will also say "Yes". They will even mirror the way that you stand and nod for you in all the right places to give you subconscious ques to agree with what they are saying.
Now some of you may say well if it makes them more money for they're charity then fair enough, and I would totally agree. But my worry is this.........
This method is based on a "sales model" for creating leads. This is not an awareness campaign, its lead generation. Now where ever you have lead generation, you have targets to hit and wherever you have targets to hit, you create a culture of doing "what ever it takes" to get the leads". Now in this case, this is beautifully reconstructed by the "clipboard sharks". The charities have created sales people, not philanthropic individuals who speak with real passion and emotion regarding they're cause. They have all quite clearly been taught off of que cards ands scripts and apply a little bit of crude salesmanship into the deal.
Now this may well mean that in the short term, they will gain more leads and therefore more contributions. However what is the long term damage to their charities reputation? For me this could do greater harm to them than good. I watch in amusement as people literally turn 90 degree's to avoid the on rushing clipboards and as I mentioned before this is even before you know what charity it is. This is not good. Already you have a negative impression of the person approaching you and I guarantee most people will barely wait long enough to even hear what they are going to say.........................people hate being "sold too" and despite the fact a charity is taking contributions, they are using the same sales model, hence the reaction by the public!!!!!
If they do manage to catch you, then you can never seem to get away from them which actually starts to annoy me more than anything else. I've even been told I'm being rude because I wouldn't stop to talk to them. I think you'll find its my prerogative to make a responsible choice when giving to charity, NOT to be bullied into it. Infact in this first 10 seconds, the damage is already done and the charities reputation has been put into jeopardy. How very sad.
Now I really don't know why charities persist on employing this crude technique, they should leave this to the countless gym and window companies that have actually probably created this adverse public affection to clipboards in the first place. There are many more positive solutions to creating awareness and increasing contributions. Baring in mind charities get free access to nearly everywhere on the high street as well as having huge scope when running a campaign (e.g playing music, handing out leaflets etc etc) they're opportunities are only as limited as the person coming up with the ideas!
I continue to give to charities and always will. I will, even on the rare occasions I meet a nice one of the clipboard sharks, also give to them. However I would implore that charities try a different method of gaining contributions as I fear this technique could tarnish the amazing work that they do on a daily basis.
I would be interested to hear other peoples thoughts on this.
This was originally on CIAO reviewing the book titled below. I'm going to keep it as a book review despite the book not appearing on Dooyoo because anyone who finds themself in the same position as me will benefit from this book.
Autism Spectrum Disorders - Chantal Sicile-Kira
Just as an introduction, I am a special needs teacher and I specialise in teaching sport across the ages of 11 to 16. As part of my job, I deal with a number of children from different backgrounds and conditions, from physical disabilities through to behavioural problems. In particular our school has a dedicated ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) unit and I work closely with the ASD teachers to provide the best opportunities for the kids in those classes. Its therefore with a huge amount of passion that I can review the above mentioned book and perhaps give everyone a small insight into the world of Autism.
The author of the book Chantel Sicile-Kira has worked within the field of Autism for over 20 years, both as a parent and in her professional capacity. Without wanting to become to biographical, her first experiences within the field of autism was at Fairview State Hospital, California, teaching self-help and community living skills to severely developmentally disabled and autistic adolescents in preparation for their de-institutionalization. Unknown to her at the time, this experience shaped her career, in particular her son was diagnosed with autism when they were living in Paris. It was fair to say that back then (1990's) treatments/programmes for autism were hard to find, so they moved to England and enrolled on a home programme which would help analyse his behaviour.
It was these experiences that propelled Chantal towards writing and speaking to people about autism. To list all of the work she has achieved would take up the majority of the review so instead I'll direct you to her website if you would like more information (chantelsicile-Kira.com) . I would add at this point that her work is wonderful, truly philanthropic and a huge contribution to a condition that is largely misunderstood.
The strength of the book is really its simplicity. I was worried when I first thought about buying a book regarding autism, because I immediately thought it would be heavy going and I would struggle to get anything out of it. I couldn't have been more wrong.
The book itself is broken down in to easy subject areas, looking at the key questions surrounding the topic.
The causes of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs)
The different categories of ASDs
Why people with an ASD act the way they do
An analysis of the different treatments, therapies and dietary interventions currently available
Coping strategies and practical tips for families
Educational needs and programs
Adolescence and ASDs
Teaching strategies and resources for educators and other professionals
Work and college for young adults
Adults life with an ASD
Advocating for a person with an ASD
Planning for the future
The book is written with a free flowing colloquial style which makes it more like reading an advise pamphlet rather than a scientific journal. I like this because the subject area is already shrouded with enough misconception and ambiguity, let alone the writing style adding to the issue. However this does not detract from the value of the book or its insightful analysis of the topic area. It is detailed and thorough in its approach, but maintains a easy reading style throughout.
I also love the way that the book is punctuated with real life examples of living with autism. The diagnosis of autism is really still in its elementary stages compared to the diagnosis of other conditions, therefore by sharing experiences from both parents of autistic children, professionals and those living with autism, you get a well rounded, analytical and insightful appraisal. The book is not just about understanding autism, but also how to cope with it and develope planning strategies.
MY EXPERIENCES WITH AUTISM
Just as a foreword, the following is a completely honest account of how I felt when I first met the kids from the ASD unit at my school. This is not meant to offend anyone as I hope to explore the issues of my initial ignorance of the condition, to aid the understanding of others. Having now had 2 years experience, I can look back at all the errors I made, but feel it is relevant to highlight them as many people act the same way as I did through lack of understanding when they first meet someone with autism.
I joined my school 2 years ago. I was new to teaching and I was certainly new to special education. I did however have bags of enthusiasm and an open mind.....I wasn't sure what to expect. I was given some advise regarding autism, but in truth this made me more nervous rather than more confident (which I think was the intention!)
Well my first lesson with the ASD class was terrifying. I didn't know how I was supposed to act and I wasn't even sure how the kids would react to me. My first analysis was that some of the kids seemed to be more heavily affected than others. By this I mean that some of the kids appeared as totally "normal" to me (I hate this expression but please bare with me) and others showed symptoms more typical to what I was expecting (impaired speech, lower social interaction).
It was a sports class and we were playing a calm game called "botcha" (basically throwing balls into hoops on the ground). However being my first day and wanting to make a good impression, I tried to inject a bit of excitement into the game by commentating on their efforts. This was a big mistake.
Some of the kids loved it as I did my best John Motson impression, getting to fever pitch as the ball would roll into the hoop. Looking around however, I noticed one or two of the kids sitting there silently with their hands over their ears. Infact one child on the end (and closest to me) had inverted their jumper right over their head in an attempt to "block out" the noise I was creating.
This mismatch of behaviour perhaps confused me the most. Firstly, my behaviour (In this case the noise I was creating) seemed fine to some of the kids, but abhorrent to others. Also the reactions to the noise created completely different responses. I knew at this point, I was going to find out more.
As the game progressed, other behaviours started being exhibited. For instance, I could never change the order at which they took their throws. Quite literally some of the kids refused point blank to have their turn because it was "XXXX go first".
I was also noticing that some children had funny "traits" things that they would keep doing, like blowing three times before every throw or touching the bench or saying the same phrase, almost like a compulsion, they had to do it or it would end in failure. I found that a couple of the kids would mirror what I was doing or saying, for instance I would say it was "XXXXXX go next" and I would get a chorus of "XXXXX go next" from around the room.
At the end of the lesson, there were still strange events taking place. One of the children refused to get ready because they couldn't find their socks. "Don't worry I said, put your other clothes on and we'll find them in a minute". He just sat there in his gym kit for the next ten minutes until I was told that unless he puts his clothes on in the correct order, he won't get ready.
I could see I was going to need some help because unlike many conditions, Autism seemed to have no boundries or patterns........the kids all reacted differently. They each had a different stimulus to set off their autism, and they each displayed it in completely different ways.
It was at this point that I decided to read up on the subject of autism and Chantel Sicile-Kira book really has had an outstanding impact on the way that I teach. It helped answer all the questions I had regarding autism. What is it? How is it caused? Why do autistic people act like they do? How can I manage their behaviour. It also helped me challenge my intial beliefs regarding autism and gave me the understanding I needed to create the best relationships with the kids I teach.
This book is invaluable if you are new to the world of Autism. An excellent read which changed the way they I view autistic people completely.
I hope that helps,
The Sissel Exercise ball is a fantastic cheap piece of gym equipment that will support your training needs in a plethora of different ways. As gym equipment goes, its value in correlation to its effectiveness is second to none.
Exercise balls (also known as fit balls, Swiss balls, body balls etc) have been utilised in health and fitness long before their obvious potential were used in gyms. Physiotherapists had been using the balls for years to aid the recovery of a number of different injury's. In particular, they were used in the recovery of back injury's as the ergonomic shape and support allowed the physiotherapist to create focussed core stability exercises.
WHAT IS CORE STABILITY
Ok without getting too scientific, core stability really relates to the deep muscles within the trunk of the spine (in particular the muscles around the lumbar section of the spine at the middle to bottom of your back). The major role of these muscles is to keep us upright, thus it is extremely important that these muscles are strong because any weakness will create the number one health complaint in Britain, a bad back.
The other important issue regarding the core muscles is that ALL movement that occurs in the limbs (arms and legs) causes a contraction in the core muscles, this is the body's natural reaction to stabalise itself. Again if the core muscles are not strong, this can cause problems, not just to the back, but also potentially to the limbs through the unability to stabalise your movements. The core muscles therefore contract to control any dynamic movement of the body.
The Exercise ball WILL help to strengthen the core muscles, thus eliminating any problems you have or are likely to have. On a personal level, I have suffered with sciatica for 10 years and this has helped it tremendously by strengthening the muscles around my lower back.
So what are you getting for your money? Well they say the best inventions are simple, and this really is as simple as it gets. here are the details
65 cm - suitable for persons 5'6" - 5'10" (166cm - 177cm)*
Tested to a 300kg weight limit.
Includes pump, DVD and workout booklet.
Now the most important thing regarding the exercise ball is to make sure that it is the right size for you. This is achieved by following this simple guide
Take measurement from back of knee to the ground, add 3cm for depression of the ball. The next size ball after this measurement is the size you require.
Back of knee to ground (A) = 45cm
+ 3cm for depression = 48cm.
Therefore user requires 55cm fitball.
This is important and not many people realise that its important to get the right size, to ensure the balls effectiveness but also its safety. (You wouldn't buy size 6 shoes if your a size 9, this is exactly the same as picking your gym ball).
WHAT DOES THE EXERCISE BALL DO
The use of the exercise ball is really endless and I could go into way too much detail in this review. As a short synopsis, the exercise ball can be used in strength training, core stability training, flexibility, postural training, cardio training, muscular endurance training, injury recovery/physiotherapy etc etc. Pretty much every aspect of training can been incorporated. Below I've included a few useful websites so if you would like more information on the types of exercises you can achieve with the exercise ball, these are a useful point of reference
Now my one cost me £15 off of Amazon.com and was the basic package (a 65cm ball, dvd, pump). However they do range depending on the make and the added extras (£10 for the ball alone through to £30 for resistance tubes and fixed set brackets)
In conclusion, The exercise ball is cheap, easy to use but most importantly extremely effective. It can be used to train a number of different areas of your fitness, or just be used as a chair to improve posture! My contender for best piece of home gym equipment.
Hope that helps,
Now I know that music is totally subjective, but having watched this years Brit awards, it left me thinking, where has all the good music gone? It seems we are force fed a load of mainstream nothingness with middle of the road pop music dominating the headlines (apologee's to bands like Kings of Leon who are the shining light in a world of mediocre media hype).
Now if your still with me and you think Coldplay deserved nothing this year for creating yet another unispiring album, then the next couple of minutes will atleast grab your attention away from the periodic dumbing down of our ears.
Now the band I'm pitching for today hail all the way from Iceland and are called SIGUR ROS. Ironically everyone will have their music as it permiates its way though numerous tv adverts and even then you will have been thinking that that tune was amazing, but you never knew who it was. For me that encapsulates their own brilliance, letting for once, their music to grab attention, rather than the self indulgent ramblings of yet another cliched pop/rock act.
Now just before I wax lyrical about how amazing this band are, I will divert your attention to YOUTUBE. type in Sigur Ros and choose, lets see, well go for something off the new album which is a song called Hoppipolla. The only reason I choose this is it is truely beautiful and evocative and will convert you forever.
And so to ther Band in question. Well As I mentioned Sigur Ros hail from Iceland and the band name is icelandic for victory rose (this was actually the name of the lead singers new born sister). They formed back in 1997 and really stayed underground for a good many years (its only within the last 7/8 years they have achieved slightly more mainstream success. Perhaps this is because they perform all their music in their native language of Icelandic which for some people may be a stumbling block, but for me adds to the authenticity of the music as well as giving an insight to their own moralistic values to their music.
Jón Þór (Jónsi) Birgisson (guitar and vocals),
Georg Hólm (bass)
Ágúst Ævar Gunnarsson (drums) replaced by Orri Páll Dýrason in 2002
Ha ha, this is almost impossible to pidgeon hole and is perhaps the most endearing aspect of the band. Most muso's would call them either Ambient or the slightly irritating Dream pop. I personally would call it classical retro rock, a mish mash of classical influence with poppy melodies, but rockstar charisma. Not sure that really helps but when you listen to them you will understand that in many ways they are stand alone. They are certainly alternative but still have mainstream appeal. In that sense they kind of sit in the same bracket as someone like Radiohead who are idolised by some but not loved by everyone.........or as I like to call it.......my perfect band. I enjoy the way that as a fan of bands like Sigur Ros and the unbeliveable Radiohead, you get a sense of ownership of their music, safe in the knowledge that your not selling your musical soul to the glutenous pop/RnB machine. Anyway, I digress
Agaetis Byrjun was released in 1999 and is the second album that Sigur Ros released (The first was called Von but was only released in iceland, although it was rereleased in 2004 to the rest of the world). I will always remember the moment that a friend of mine popped round telling me about this amazing new band from Iceland. With the humdrum of Oasis and Blur still ringing in our ears, this album cut through with incredible resonance. I read a review on here that said each song sounded like its own opera and actually that sums up this album perfectly. Here's the play list.
1 "Intro" ? 1:36
2 "Svefn-g-englar" [Sleepwalkers] ? 10:04
3 "Starálfur" [Staring Elf] ? 6:47
4 "Flugufrelsarinn" [The Fly Saviour] ? 7:47
5 "Ný batterí" [New Batteries] ? 8:11
6 "Hjartað hamast (bamm bamm bamm)" [The Heart Pounds (Boom Boom Boom)] ? 7:11
7 "Viðrar vel til loftárása" [Good Weather for an Airstrike] ? 10:18
8 "Olsen Olsen" ? 8:03
9 "Ágætis byrjun" [A Good Beginning] ? 7:56
10 "Avalon" ? 4:00
Now the intriguing thing about this album is you will never actually know what they are talking about, which does in turn make it very difficult to review. Infact even if you were Icelandic, you may struggle to understand many of the tunes, this is because they are written in something called Vonlenska which is a gibberish language!
Strangely however, I find that this makes the music all the more interesting. You listen more to the beautiful layers and arrangements, much like when you listen to classical music. Your not sure what the songs about but somehow you seem to have an affinity with it and you can fall in love with its simplicity as it ebbs and flows around you.
The album itself is Icelandic for Good Beginning, and you get a sense of this kind of tentative dipping of the feet into the pond that is the critical music industry. The album has a melancholic introduction, followed by the stirring Svefn-g-englar, which is a dreamy sounding tune with thick organs and lethargic distortions entwined throughout.
You then move onto the truely outstanding Starálfur, with its resonant punctured piano supported with stunning string sections. My favourite part is the middle section which has a staccato string section that wouldn't be out of place on a beatles album (actually has a hint of Elanor rigby about it).
Song 4 is Flugufrelsarinn and I must admit is not one of my favourites, it sounds slightly torchered and depressing to start with although the chorus appears to offer some release. This is the one time not knowing the words appears to be a bit of a disadvantage.
Song 5 is Ny Batteri. This is one of the most confused sounding songs on the album, with the strange Jazz like Trumpets permiated by the angelic lead vocals of Jonsi. Be patient because once the distorted drums kick in, you get a sense of the drama thats trying to be created. Not for everyone this track, but I like it.
Hjartað hamast comes next. This challenges your own diversity as a listener as it starts with a jazz vibe, with a friendly sounding Hammond organ providing ther backdrop. This is soon followed up with the familiar wailing guitar. The guitar sound is actually created by playing the guitar with a bow (like a violin) This is the first time I've ever heard of this and it does create a unique sound. This song actually gets better as it goes along and to me it sounds like at the start of the song they weren't sure where they were going with it until it finally finds its feet in the middle section.
Viðrar vel til loftárása one of my favourites on the album. In this song you return to the pianos and strings, which they seem to marry up to such beautiful effect. Again not sure what the song is actually about, but to me it feels uplifting and spirited, telling a story of success against adversity....I'm not sure but its excellent nonetheless.
Olsen Olsen is another evocative song with the rolling guitar rift and lazy strings taking you through a euphoric adventure. The song seems to hook you in and your left wondering where its going to take you. This journey takes an unexpected turn when an amazing flute solo kicks in. I always find it hard to explain but the flute punctuates the dream like sound with such beautiful clarity that its like finding the missing piece of a puzzle. Again be patient because you'll be treated to a stirring piano concerto and strings towards the end of the song. Magnificent I love it!
Ágætis byrjun is the penultimate song on the album and also the albums namesake. Again is a truely stunning song, beautifully crafted and Jonsi's voice is at its delicate best. Its actually a really simple sounding song but well worth a listen.
Oh, were already at the end of the album with their final salute Avalon. A very strange mundane sounding song. But wait, its another clever trick. If you speed the song up, its actually song 3 on the album, you just never knew it. Experimental to the last moment. Fantastic!
Just realised that I now love this album even more than when I started writing (thats because I've been listening to all the tunes as I wrote about them!)
I must admit, I'm not really into disecting all the details of the album, particulary what the covers like! For me its about the music, but I guess the cover is certainly striking. It depicts what looks like an Alien angel in utero which fits in well with the title of the album A Good Beginning.....I guess we are all angels when were born.
You can't put a price on genious, but this perfect introduction to Sigur Ros will set you back £6 from Amazon. Alternatively you can go to HMV and pick it up for £12. The choice is yours but personally the money is irrelevant to waht is a fantastic album. Or if your really tight, go to Youtube, it has everyone of their tunes on there!!!!!
Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust (2008) is Sigur Ros latest album and is truely fantastic...but then I would say that! Just don't try asking for it at HMV
Anything by Radiohead
Hope that helps,