I am deeply suspicious of exercise fads and quick-fix gimmicks – frankly, I just don’t believe that there is any way other than healthy living and sweating a lot to really get in shape, but nonetheless I am always curious when something new comes on the market that claims to make working out that bit easier, and this is how I met Joanna Kabbani.
Clearly fitter than fit due to a lifetime devoted to the cause and a brief career as a professional dancer at Pineapple Studios, Kabbani developed her new AB-MXR after a car accident left her with damage to her neck and thus unable to exercise without putting it at risk. What’s interesting however is that the she claims the product has actually made her fitter than she was before – hard to believe as she demonstrates its versatility swinging it about with more fizz than a severely agitated bottle of Lucozade: “I have two kids, and have always had a flat stomach as a trainer, but this has made a real difference to the skin as well [demonstrates with pinching of non-existent excess flesh]. It’s amazing! It’s for everyone!” … ok, so far, so good – if the inventor is a prolific user that has to be a good thing.
What is it? When I am approached with what essentially looks like Ferrari’s take on a chopping board I wonder exactly how this class is going to progress … but then that is pretty much how it came about … created using formula one engineering, but with initial prototypes created using the contents of her kitchen the AB-MXR is a weighted contraption with a medically approved curve to support the neck while doing your sit ups. With two handles (conveniently angled so you don’t chip your nails whilst working out), it can also be used for arm exercises, leg exercises and throughout her aerobic choreography to help you balance, generally work a bit harder, and importantly to ensure you use those all-important core muscles as you go.
Who’s it for? Well this is actually the rather clever thing about the AB-MXR, although lots of people make the claim, I can see how this really can be used by everyone. Partially because it does rather quickly target muscles, partially because you can choose the level of intensity that you work at (if you don’t move, it ain’t gonna work), but mostly because it actually is a very safe piece of equipment, and I was particularly pleased to find that when it came to a lengthy stretch of sit ups my neck did not suffer from the inevitable strain that I usually manage to place on it in the struggle against gravity. The fact that chiropractor Mikael Porath Petersen raves about it is also reassuring, but perhaps most tellingly, a lady in the class who has had severe back problems has become a devotee and is eager to praise both Kabbani and the chopping board.
How does it work? The idea with this is that it condenses all those big, non-transportable pieces of gym equipment into one item that can be used at home or in your hotel room on a business trip or holiday without taking up so much that you are likely to fall over and break a bone. The key is in the weighting and the curve of the design. The weights (ranging from 1-5kg but cleverly, remaining the same size) obviously give you the work out, while the curve supports your neck and can also work to correct posture. When you buy the AB-MXR (at £60 it’s actually an extremely manageable investment, especially if you are replacing your gym membership with it) it comes with a series of recommended exercise in picture format, but you can also go to the master class in Hammersmith or, rather more conveniently, follow Kabbani’s video tutorials on YouTube.
What’s the verdict? The first part of the class was consumed with raising body temperature and aerobic exercise, and this I have to say is essentially just like any other exercise class – jumping around with weights – not to undermine its effectiveness, but for me this was not a remarkable feature of the instrument, simply testament to Kabbani’s boundless energy. Where the AB-MXR comes into its own is when it comes to strength and toning, which of course is what it’s really meant for – it does support your neck and although I rather smugly got through the class without feeling particularly flustered, I ached consistently for the next four days … which does lead me to believe that Kabbani is really onto something.
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