Bell Sports Fit-Stik Sculpting System

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The entire package includes a resistance band, bar, door attachment, instruction poster and workout video. In theory, the ensemble is great, but in reality, only parts of it really work well, simply and safely -- although the parts that do are sublime.

First of all, you may think, "ho-hum, another resistance band with handles for workouts." Wrong. This one goes beyond the oodles of rubber tubes and bands that are out there and adds a sleeve around the rubber for safety and additional durability. With the sleeve, if the band were to break (which they can), it snaps inside the sleeve and not in your face. Nor could you get thrown backward or to the floor if the band broke when you were leaning all your weight against it. In addition, the sleeve gives the piece better wear since the rubber itself doesn't drag across the floor, across your shoes or around chair legs.

The bar -- it's called a "Fit-Stik" in the kit -- is another good idea whose implementation needs some first-aid. The problem comes from the method of attachment -- you slide the handles into each end and cap them off with a rubber cap that slips over each end. The rubber, however, is so stiff that once you DO -- if you do -- manage to get the cap on, you won't be taking it on and off between exercises. It's too difficult and too cumbersome. The ideal situation would be to buy one system, hook it up to the bar and use it only that way. And then just buy a simple resistance band separately for the other exercises without the bar.

The door anchor? Oh bad news. It's a cheap piece of foam that came apart on us. Plus, the poster and video demonstrate it slipped into the side of a door that opens -- partly because it's too thick to slip onto the hinged side! Incredibly dangerous at best! A door can come open and if you have all your weight leaned against the band pulling on it, you could fall on your back, your butt, your face or otherwise be seriously injured. Other resistance bands relying on a door as an anchor stipulate anchoring the band only on the side of the door with the hinges so there is no possible way the door can be forced open suddenly -- unless you rip the entire door from the frame, but that just means you're too strong or the house has termites.

We thank our lucky stars that Bell hired a respected and professional group fitness instructor -- Mindy Mylrea, in this case -- to do the instructional and workout video that comes with the package. This video pulls the kit's pieces together and makes it reasonable as a workout tool, simple to understand, and keeps safety in check by using it in an organized way and NOT using it in ways that don't make sense or are unsafe. In nearly an hour of exercises for upper body, lower body and a circuit set that incorporates aerobic exercise, you'll note she never uses the door anchor. Plus, she organizes exercises into routines that smoothly move from one to the other so you don't have to play with the rubber cap in between things except popping it off at one point. Plus, she and two helpers are friendly, real and un-intimidating. Mindy gives clear instructions and the trio shows how to modify an exercise for different levels. Use the video and you'll do fine.

Now, about that posterÂ… We suggest it as a bird-cage liner. The 16 exercises are presented with no rhyme or reason, popping from upper body to lower body, to front to back of the body, with door anchor or without, with bar or without, leaving any user utterly confused and helpless. Plus, the type is small enough (and done in hard-to-read yellow on black) that it's too difficult to even try to interpret it.

Stick to the band, with or without the bar, and use the video. You'll get a great workout.

SNEWS® Rating: 3.5 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)

Suggested Retail: $25 to $40 (package with stick, resistance cord -- heavy resistance is higher priced -- door anchor, workout video, poster). Pieces also sold individually, with the cord alone costing from $19 to $24 depending on the resistance.

For more information: www.stroops.com, 1-866-525-2355

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