Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Product Review: The Bender Ball

Today we are reviewing the Bender Ball™ and Bender Method ™ by Leslee Bender, distributed by Savvier, LLC. This abdominal exercise program retails for around $19.99, although I was able to find it online for around $13, and at its cheapest $6. This program was developed by Leslee Bender, a trainer certified by both the American College of Sports Medicine as well as the National Academy of Sports Medicine with 25 years of experience. Overall I found the program to be effective and the core principles to be sound, however, I was underwhelmed by a number of ways in which the product is presented. Let's dig in.
The Bender Ball and Bender Method
Inside your newly acquired Bender system you will find a deflated Bender Ball™, an instructional pamphlet, a small package containing two plugs and two inflation straws, and three instructional DVD's. I also found a small plastic ribbon not connected to anything and with no discernible use, and I suspect that this might be the real secret to getting toned, sexy abs. I'll keep you posted, but in the meantime, back to the ball!
Now, if you have no idea what a balloon is or are completely in the dark as to this new-fangled concept of "inflation", you'll appreciate that both the first DVD and the instruction pamphlet tells you how to inflate your new Bender Ball™. I realize consumer products need to cover all their bases, but in addition to issues which we'll discuss later, it seems like unnecessary padding in an already short instructional DVD. Thankfully that's all the equipment you need, so let's get to the videos. 
Instructional DVDs: Core Training, Selective Core Training, and Strong Healthy Back
As I've said, this first video instructs you on how to inflate your Bender Ball™, as well as introduce you to Leslee Bender and some of the basic principles behind her program. Probably the most important are the program's focus on extension and flexion. I originally doubted whether or not flexion was a word, and had my suspicions that it was lifted from a game of Dungeons&Dragons™, but it actually does refer to the act of reducing the angle of a joint. Fine, but we're keeping an eye on you Leslee.
Flexion: Authors Interpretation
Most of the first DVD consists of basic abdominal exercises with the added twist of utilizing the Bender Ball™, either positioned under your lower back or between your legs as a stabilizer and resistance for your inner thighs. The second DVD begins to focus on various abdominal areas individually, providing a wider range of movements to strengthen specific areas. The third DVD is presented as a lower back workout, and as a great way to help you with all your important daily activities, like carrying children and groceries. Really? That's it?
"Thanks Bender Ball!"
It also borrows some movements and exercises from the previous video. While it is true that repetition is a necessary part of any good exercise program, it causes the perceived value of the entire package to take a hit. The three DVDs are 18 minutes, 16 minutes and 30 minutes respectively. However, the overlap between the second and third cuts your effective purchased content down to around 54 minutes instead of 64 minutes. Throw in the inspirational chatter, intros, jokes and the unnecessary section on inflation and you've probably cut off another 10-15 minutes. That's only 40 minutes of quality exercise instruction spread out over three DVD's for the price of $20. There are additional instructional videos, but they are sold separately. "But. . .but what about the fabulous Bender Ball™?", you say, "That's what makes this program so special." Well, yes and no. 
The core of the product is certainly the execution of abdominal exercises in conjunction with the Bender Ball™. But let's face it, the Bender Ball is a rubber ball, you could buy one for a dollar at Walmart, and it doesn't have to be an eye-numbingly noxious shade of green.

Future fitness instructor
The real value that your money is paying for is the guided ab exercises by a trained fitness instructor. Leslee Bender's program incorporates a kind of isotonic exercise, meaning the ball acts as a supportive fulcrum which allows a constant amount of tension to remain in your abdominal muscles. Unlike sit-ups or crunches, which involve going from no resistance to full resistance in the span of a repetition(which can be difficult for beginners), the Bender system maintains consistent tension. It also encourages correct form and puts the focus of your exertions where they belong, mainly on your abs, rather than pulling on your neck or swinging your legs. As with other exercise balls, core tension is created just through the act of remaining balanced on the ball, but unlike larger exercise balls, the Bender Ball™ allows for a decent range of difficulty scaling depending on your fitness level. It also maintains the core tension benefit without the ungainly size of larger balls and the possible embarrassing fall from the larger balls as well. In addition, by providing a smaller fulcrum positioned at the lower back, you are able to increase the amount of extension further than you would with large exercise balls. In this respect, the inclusion of the Bender Ball™ and its demonstrated uses works well. The packaging states it works 408% better, which is non-sensical. Why 408%? Why not just 400%? Who is going to notice that extra 8%? How would any normal consumer be able to test this? You know what, let's just move on.
The fact that I would prefer to use the Bender Ball™ over a regular large exercise ball is what makes some of the video content so frustrating. Throughout the DVD's, I would say conservatively 50% of the time the Bender Ball™ is used, it's pretty unnecessary. This adds to that aforementioned fact that the bender ball is no modern engineering marvel, but rather an inflated piece of plastic available. . .well anywhere. All too often the Bender Ball is either resting next to the people in the video or just being held while they are exercising. As if the real program here is an elaborate subjugation agenda by a race of sentient balls. I wouldn't harp on this quite so much if the phrase "Bender Ball" wasn't so prominently advertised as the purpose of buying this product. It's a shame it isn't utilized more, as it does stand as an improvement over other equipment-based abdominal workouts. Let's review:

1. Customizable difficulty levels

2. Simple hardware, just a ball you blow up with a straw and your mouth

3. The exercises, while applying consistent resistance to abdominal muscles such that you can definitely feel it working, are almost zero-impact and low intensity. They can be done by a wide range of fitness levels. This program definitely showcases Leslee's background in pilates, slower low impact movements for strength and exercise at a lower intensity.

4. Balancing on the ball and having it provide a fulcrum and support for your back reduces many of the injury causing errors that can occur during regular ab exercises. It becomes unnecessary to pull yourself up by your neck, curve your back, or use your legs/arms for swinging momentum like so many of us do when we start to get tired.

1. The advertised Bender Ball™ is mostly unnecessary, as you could take your 2 year old niece's toy away and use that, but it comes with the DVD's, which is what you are actually paying for.

2. The total run time for all the DVD's adds about to approximately 64 minutes, with additional DVD's being sold separately. I'm not entirely sure why the DVD's are broken up into 3 separate discs, considering the longest one is no more than 30 minutes, and as we have said, actual exercise content is even less than that.

3. While being billed as a main component of the program, the Bender Ball™ spends too much time on the sidelines or in unnecessary positions.
All in all, the driving concept behind the Bender Method™ is solid, and has been developed by a professional trainer. The exercises are effective, and I believe the addition of the smaller ball is an improvement. It is just disappointing that the content seems so minimal and piece-meal across so many videos. The program could be beneficial to those on the lower end of fitness or who would like a less intense, lower impact ab program.

About Lambert & Lambert:

Lambert & Lambert is a contingency-fee based invention marketing and patent licensing firm that specializes in consumer products. Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Lambert & Lambert provides services to inventors, product developers and small companies throughout the world and currently has products selling in numerous retailers.


Tim Sherman, director of customer service
Lambert & Lambert, Inc.
Tel: 651-552-0080

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