According to Hydro-Tone's marketing director, Charles Razien, 20 minutes of exercise three times a week is all the time required for the body beautiful. The workout is low-impact (in water, your body weighs only about 10% of its land weight), making it appealing to an athlete coming back from injury, and the water in the pool allows one to exercise intensely for longer periods without overheating. The Oklahoma City-based company has an advisory board that's heavy with M.D.'s and athletic coaches, and Razien says that John McEnroe called Hydro-Tone a secret weapon during his climb back up the tennis rankings. A starter set goes for $230, nose clip not included.
?Gravitron. This machine was invented a few years ago by the StairMaster gang at Randal Sports/Medical, in Seattle. Gravitron looks sinister and has a compressor that hisses. What the machine does, though, is help you cheat at pull-ups, chin-ups and military dips. "Dips and chins are two of the most beneficial exercises a person can do," says Chris Torggler, Randal's manager of international sales. "But the great majority of people, even men, can't do one. This machine makes the exercise accessible to everyone."
A person stands on a platform on the Gravitron and punches into the computer the percentage of body weight that he or she would like to lift. The platform then provides the necessary boost from below to lift the weight, while the exerciser's arms are at work above. Only a hundred or so of the machines are currently in use at corporate fitness centers and health clubs across the country. But Torggler, for one, expects sales to skyrocket this year, despite the Gravitron's $3,995 price tag. "Just look around," he said. "Three companies have already imitated the idea. It's catching on fast."
?Gravitone. No, that's not a misprint. Gravity is big this year. This is perhaps the most unusual concept. The user of the Gravitone lies supine on the machine and bench-presses his or her body weight, or a percentage of it (up to 200%), using leverage, not weights. The lifting produces a rocking motion. "It puts movement into your weight workout," says Spacebok's Doug Palmisano, who engineers the Gravitone at a Pompano Beach, Fla., plant. Built of ultralight aluminum, the Gravitone looks like a skimobile from hell, and retails for $6,500. Nine other pieces, which exercise various muscle groups, are in the works from Spacebok.
So, why is a Gravitone better than the ordinary bench press already at the Y? Said Palmisano, repeating the unofficial mantra for the Chicago exposition, "Why is a Lamborghini better than a VW? It's just high-tech versus low-tech."
Free-lance writer Lisa Twyman Bessone has never owned a stationary bicycle.