I love weight training, but I’m not a fan of the weight-training room. The steel equipment is cold and prehistoric-looking. As a social space, it’s off-putting to those not versed in the Language of the Meathead (see the Beefcake in his native habitat in this video for a quick laugh: “I lift things up and put them down”).
I put those reservations aside last year and, armed with a gaggle of girlfriends (it helped that we were all in the same boat on a rowing team), marched into the local gym’s weight room and started lifting. Free weights and weight machines, I tried them all until I found a circuit that worked for me. And I loved it. Within a few weeks, I started feeling toned and strong. As a woman in the weight room, I felt like I tapped into this idea that isn’t about how strong you are, but how strong you think you are.
Of course, it’s easy to feel strong when you’ve got the support. In my post-rowing life, without my teammates to watch my back (and my form), I’ve found it difficult to approach the weight room on my own.
That’s when I discovered the Ugi ball: my get-out-of-the-weight-room-free card. For anyone who has ever felt intimidated by the weight room, this portable ball is your answer. Its bright hue (the ball comes in four colours) makes this the first piece of gym equipment that can share space with your living room couch without vying for attention or looking like an eyesore. But don’t let its cuteness fool you. This tiny titan can stand up to any lateral pull-down machine or bulky dumbbell and deliver tone-worthy results.
As you may have seen, we featured this adorable twist on the medicine ball in our July issue. It’s a 15-inch beanbag hybrid, which comes in six-, eight-, 10- and 12-pound varieties.
Since then, I’ve been training with the Ugi ball at least three times a week, for thirty minutes. Sometimes, though, if I’m watching a little television after work, I might just “lift it up and put it down” because it’s too fun not too. I can see how quickly the Beefcake can develop that one-track mind.
The Ugi ball squishes like a stress ball so you can kneel, stand and perform plank on it. Creator Sara Shears, a personal trainer with 15 years of experience, says she wanted to create a single piece of equipment for a total-body strength and cardio workout. “It’s a full gym in a small weighted ball,” says the Vancouverite.
Performing a unique series of one-minute exercises on the soft, unstable surface targets hard-to-reach muscles. Shears has crafted a sequence of poses and lifts that will consistently challenge you. Her favourite pose is “Round the Ugi,” a travelling squat. I like the moves that require me to chuck the ball across the room like a shotput. It’s exhilarating to tap into this primal force.
Shears spent two years researching and developing the Ugi ball. It was important for her to create a piece of equipment that combined cardio, strength and core training, and she knew that process had to start with revolutionizing the medicine ball. According to her website, the medicine ball dates back to the days of ancient Persian wrestlers, 3,000 years ago. They trained with crudely built sandbags, cousins of the modern-day medicine ball. Shears liked the concept of the medicine ball, but found its hard surface too restrictive for performing plank and other core-stabilizing moves.
Persian wrestlers would have marveled at the Ugi ball for its unique ability to challenge entire muscle groups and keep your heart pumping at its target rate. The Ugi ball mimics the workout you get with free weights, which (unlike weight machines) require you to lift and stabilize the load. But the Ugi ball also offers freedom that you can’t find in a dumbbell. There’s a greater, safer range of motion that stretches from my calves to my core to my arms. Every muscle works together, especially my heart.
If your plank poses and squats feel lackluster, the Ugi ball may be just what you need to start lifting things up and putting them down again with as much gusto as that guy in the video