Not too long ago, I got the chance to try out the Ugi fitness ball, which came out last year. Created by personal trainer and fellow Vancouverite Sara Shears, at 15 inches in diameter it’s slightly bigger than a medicine ball, and feels like a squishy beanbag. It comes in various colours and four weights ranging from six to 12 pounds.
You can sit, kneel and balance on an Ugi, making it the perfect medicine ball/stability ball hybrid for exercises such as planks (forearms balanced on the ball) or ab crunches (while lying on your back on top of it).
The Ugi At Home System includes the ball, an exercise booklet, a DVD with five total-body workouts, and other tools. A typical DVD workout involves 30 minutes of toning and cardio exercises: You might hold the ball during lunges for one minute, then shot-put it as far as you can and run to fetch it for another minute (this was my favourite because you can’t safely shot-put dumbbells). Using the ball amps up basic moves like squats or push-ups with added resistance or a wobble factor. You can also use it for basic toning moves.
So what did I find during my test drive of the eight-pound Ugi? I liked the wax-coated exterior, which helped with grip so even when I sweated, slippage wasn’t an issue. At times it felt too large; my hands are average sized for a woman, and it would have been more comfortable to hold dumbbells or a smaller weighted ball. But the Ugi worked: After a half-hour workout, I was tired and sweaty, and my shoulder, ab and leg muscles felt it the next day. A big plus: It’s well-suited for home use, as it’s easy to store in a closet or under a desk.
(Ugi At Home System, $189; Ugi ball alone, $129; app for iPhone, free; ugifit.com)