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We did some heavy lifting recently with a set of 5-pound Dynaballs from Altus Athletic after these caught our eye at the Health & Fitness Business Expo in August.
The Dynaballs are kind of like a hybrid mini-medicine ball and dumbbell—they are round, about seven inches in diameter and covered in brightly colored rubber (color coded by weight), plus they have a built-in handle that's curved (or ergonomic, as they say). A sand and concrete mix inside the ball provides weight, and the balls have a flat bottom so they stay put without rolling. They function like dumbbells but are touted by the company to be great for Pilates and yoga-style workouts, sports-specific movement and even flexibility.
Altus Athletic Dyna Ball
We found that we could comfortably perform lots of traditional dumbbell exercises with the Dynaballs, including walking lunges, chest presses, reverse flies, bent-over rows, lateral raises, front raises, triceps kickbacks and bicep curls. Some exercises felt a little awkward using these, however, including overhead presses and chest flies, due to the unusual shape of the weight and the required hand positions.
Another tricky one to perform properly was an overhead tricep extension because the bulbous shape of the balls makes it tough to hold them close together. This could be solved by using only one Dynaball, but just five pounds might not be sufficient weight to challenge some exercisers.
Some of our testers enjoyed using the balls for other exercises as well, like weighted hip bridges and ab crunches, side bends and even pushups (the balls provide a comfortable spot to place your hands and raise you off the floor a bit). Of course, if you have a bench or stability ball handy, that just expands the exercise options with the Dynaballs – actually just like it would with dumbbells.
Although the Dynaballs don't come with any recommended exercises, the Altus web site showcases 16 that can be performed with these. Although we found some effective, such as standing torso twists, seated torso rotation and a standing wood chop, some, such as the standing windmill, prone arm circles and arm swings, made us a tad apprehensive due to the risk of using momentum and the potential for injury, especially for beginners.
We thought it was odd that the site didn't show any yoga or Pilates exercises to do with the Dynaballs, yet it classifies these under its yoga/Pilates section. We tried a few yoga poses with the weights, and while they can deepen a stretch and additionally tax the body, one tester just isn't a fan of using weights with yoga at all, which is usually challenging enough on its own. On the Pilates front, we tried some ab roll-ups and found that holding just one Dynaball here was plenty taxing. As far as sports-specific movements, again the site was curiously void of ideas other than a baseball swing. We played around with one ball to do a golf swing, overhand throw, underhand toss and even were compelled to try a bowling move. We felt a bit goofy, but could see the relationship. Flexibility? Hm. No help from the website, and our testers were all a bit puzzled.
Overall, the Dynaballs are a quiet, comfortable, non-intimidating option to traditional dumbbells, affording almost all of the versatility in a pretty, curved and colorful package. We think these could be helpful for beginners or seniors who may not be comfortable throwing around iron or steel. One thing to note, however—one of our testers found that the seams on the handgrips and the balls were a bit rough and uncomfortable, and none of the 6-foot-plus guys we asked to try the balls could even wedge their hands into them.
Ultimately, we would recommend that Altus include a guide of exercises with the Dynaballs to help users get started.
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