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Step Four: Get the right gear

Selecting a Step Bench

Though step classes are less popular in clubs than they used to be, step aerobics has remained a popular option for home exercise because they allow a person to get a relatively intense workout in a small amount of space.

If you are buying a step bench, choose one carefully. Although it may be tempting to buy one of those $20 or $30 steps, they are probably not your best option. Unless you question your ability to stick with an exercise program, a high quality step from either the original health club step, now made by Bollinger, and the Reebok step are your most durable and versatile options. Bollinger also has a new SuperStep on the market that is designed for weight training but can be used as a step bench without its risers. Many people start out with cheaper, shorter step benches but outgrow them very quickly. The more interesting and advanced videos take full advantage of the greater range of motion allowed by the longer steps, and it's frustrating and even somewhat dangerous to try these videos on a shorter step. Look for step benches at yard sales and stores that sell used sports equipment if cost is an issue.

The Step Company step and the Reebok step are of comparable quality, but they do have some small differences. The Step Company's full size step is longer, allowing for more freedom of movement. The length also makes it more desirable to use as a weight bench. The Reebok step is narrower, but this may make it easier for shorter people to execute straddling moves. The standard Reebok step adjusts to 10", whereas the Step Company's (including 2 risers) adjusts to 8", though you can buy extra risers for it if desired. Apartment dwellers often prefer the Reebok step because its smaller size makes it easier to store. Try out both before buying. Each costs about $80 retail and comes with a video.

Next: Choosing a Step Height

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