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Published October 04, 2010, 12:00 AM

Shake it up: Forum writer tests merits of the Shake Weight

Bingo wings. It’s the not-so-nice slang for the droopy fat deposits that plague many women’s upper arms.

Bingo wings. It’s the not-so-nice slang for the droopy fat deposits that plague many women’s upper arms.

If you have them, don’t feel too bad about it. Last year, even the mighty Madonna was photographed with baggy triceps. An accompanying news story sniped that Madge, then 50, appeared to be “losing the arms race.”

If “bingo wings” can afflict a woman who works out like a Navy SEAL and can afford the world’s best plastic surgery, what hope is there for the rest of us?

Exacerbating the problem is a world where designers seem obsessed with the bared bicep. They not only want us to go sleeveless in Seattle, but in Manhattan, Dallas and Fargo, too.

One byproduct of this armed-and-dangerous obsession: the Shake Weight.

This “As Seen on TV” exercise device has almost usurped the Snuggie in infamy. Its unintentionally suggestive commercials have inspired numerous online spoofs, a giggly endorsement from Ellen DeGeneres and even a “Saturday Night Live” skit.

This has all managed to cloud the bigger issue: Does it actually work? Could the Shake Weight be the wind beneath our bingo wings?

Well, I actually tried it.

And let’s put it this way: I won’t be converting to an all-tank-top wardrobe anytime soon.

In a nutshell, here’s my assessment:

Pros:

  • Its construction is higher-end than I had anticipated (although, at $19.99 for a 2.5-pound weight, it probably should be). I had expected it to be built like a Pocket Fisherman, which is something you give the brother-in-law you don’t really like because you know it will break immediately. It looks like a regular hand-weight, but each end features baffle-like things that are supposed to help you achieve “multi-directional resistance” and “dynamic inertia.” I’d always thought “dynamic inertia” meant you were still able to text, operate the remote and eat cheese popcorn while reclining on the couch, but it seems I was sadly mistaken.
  • It comes with a DVD of suggested exercises, so you can work out different muscle groups in your arms and shoulders.

    Unfortunately, the exercises are demonstrated by a woman who looks like she has the body-fat percentage of a praying mantis. Sorry, folks. You don’t get thinner than Kelly Ripa by simply using a Shake Weight.

  • Exercising with it did leave my arms and shoulders feeling tight. My triceps also felt sore, so it must have been doing something.

Cons:

  • It’s really boring. Mind-numbingly so. The commercials claim you can get in shape with the Shake Weight by just using it six minutes a day. The problem is that after 30 seconds of trying it, you will want to do almost anything else – from cleaning up black mold in the basement to getting your gums scraped.
  • The other exercises on the DVD suggest using it more like a regular old dumbbell. Considering that it weighs just 2½ pounds, that doesn’t seem like it would provide much toning. I might as well power-lift family-sized cans of corn.
  • It doesn’t really work. I measured my arms after a month of using the Shake Weight three times a week and noticed no appreciable difference. My arms did seem a tad more toned, although I couldn’t help but think any arm exercise – push-ups, chair-dips – would have achieved similar results. I suspect when they claim it will get you in shape “in just six minutes a day,” they neglect to tell you that means “in just six minutes every day over a two-year period.”
  • You never want to use the Shake Weight in public, as everyone will laugh at you. And if you use it at home, the cat will laugh at you.

    Still, I didn’t trust myself to be the sole judge of the Shake Weight.

    After all, I’m hardly a fitness buff, and maybe I just possess such a clinically severe case of bingo wings that nothing could correct them.

    And so I talked to an expert: Neal Swedmark, the fitness director at the south Fargo Anytime Fitness.

    He assures me that he laughs whenever he sees the commercial – which somehow made me feel vindicated.

    He adds that the gadget may not be completely worthless. “Pretty much anything that you do that gets your heart rate up and your muscles working, it’s going to work – to a certain point. There’s no easy fix,” he says. “You can’t spot-reduce.”

    Unfortunately, he says, everyone is looking for that magic panacea, when the real solution is a diligent regimen of cardiovascular exercise, strength training and good nutrition.

    Swedmark believes you can get good results by simply trying a few easy exercises at home.

    That includes push-ups (keeping hands closer together to really work out triceps) and chair dips (in which you sit on a chair and then use your arms to lower and raise the weight of your body on and off the seat of the chair).

And if all else fails?

Do what I do.

Wear sweaters.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Tammy Swift at (701) 241-5525

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