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The 10 Worst Workout Fads of All Time: Ranked

Life, liberty and the pursuit of laziness. These inalienable rights are etched into the fiber of modern living. It’s why we’ve created everyday conveniences like the escalator, drive-thru windows and vacuuming robot DJ.

Still, nothing proves our inherent laziness quite like workout fads. These ridiculous training regimens, workout plans, and celebrity endorsed products prove we’ll do just about anything to get in shape…as long as it’s not real exercise. Here are the most glaring examples of workout fads we wish we could forget.

10. Bowflex


Bowflex: compiling dust in garages everywhere since 1986! The Bowflex Home Gym convinced countless people to ditch the gym and enjoy the pleasures of an at-home workout. For years, it served as the de facto equipment for anyone with a home gym. Now? It’s just another relic from a time when gravity boots and spandex reigned supreme. Still, there was a time when Bowflex captivated our hearts and our televisions. Who can forget those epic late night infomercials oozing with homoeroticism?

9. Parkour

office parkour

The internet has been a breeding ground for ridiculous fads since the dawn of YouTube. For every legendary Charlie Bit My Finger or Dramatic Chipmunk video, there are thousands of fruitless attempts at gaining internet glory. While there have been plenty of absurd fads (we’re looking at you, planking), nothing has been as ridiculous as Parkour.

Parkour participants used gymnastics and martial arts skills to creatively get from point A to point B. They would jump, climb or swing their way to a solid workout and a chance at viral fame. Basically, they thought they were James Bond during the opening chase scene in Casino Royale.

James bond chase scene

Sadly, most people ended up looking more like Andy from The Office. 5cb53c84428e0062268670

Thankfully, this fad died out by the early 2010s…but not before inspiring a litany of injuries and epic fail videos.

8. The Shake Weight

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Let’s face it: some workouts are sexually suggestive. Just look at someone doing the glute bridge hip raise, downward dog, or basically any yoga pose ever. Nothing quite stacks up, however, to the Shake Weight.

This surprisingly successful product took the world by storm thanks to its promise of intense muscle toning. The only problem? You have to violently and repeatedly shake it to get the job done. The phallic and sexual nature of the Shake Weight led to countless parodies on everything from Saturday Night Live to South Park.

shake weight south park

The Shake Weight died a quick death once the world realized that this exercise looked like…well, you know. Thankfully, the hilarious parodies will live on forever. Thank you, internet.

7. The Vibrating Belt

vibrating exercise belt

For generations, fitness experts have been trying to provide a quick fix to flatten our bellies and produce six-pack abs. Many innovations have emerged victorious in defeating the beer belly once and for all. The vibrating belt is not one of those innovations.

The vibrating belt sought to answer the question “how can I do the least amount of exercise and still see results?” The idea was simple: strap a belt around your waste and let it vibrate to stimulate muscles, shake your body and lose weight. Sadly, no evidence exists that suggests you can just jiggle your fat away. Unless you’re Homer Simpson.

6. Eight Hour Arms

Rich Piana is basically what you get when you mix the cast of Jersey Shore, the Mountain from Game of Thrones and a ton of steroids. Just look at this hulking specimen of bro.

do you even lift rich piana meme

Though Piana tragically died of heart disease in 2017, his lasting legacy will forever be the absolutely insane “Eight Hour Arms” workout. The basic premise? You can add an extra half-inch to your biceps in just one day of working out. All you have to do is lift weights for eight straight hours while simultaneously chugging 16 protein shakes. Seriously.

Yes, you too can look like a superhero with nothing more than some extreme tissue damage! You may not be able to lift a glass of water the next day, but hey, that’s the price of success.

5. The Hawaii Chair

Take the work out of your workout…it’s the Hawaii Chair! The Hawaii Chair might just be the most perfectly named product. For one, it sends your body into an epic seated version of the Hula dance. It’s also the kind of workout device you can use while rocking a Tommy Bahama shirt and sipping on a pina colada.

Apparently, The Hawaii Chair promises rock hard abs without ever exercising. Their motto? If you can sit, you can get fit! Take all my money, please.

4. Face Yoga

Look: does face yoga work? Yes. Will it make you look younger? Maybe. Do I care? No. Face yoga is the brainchild of health expert Danielle Collins. Through poses like the smile soother, this revolutionary approach works 57 muscles and gives your face a youthful glow.

But, come on: face yoga is downright ridiculous. I mean, just take a look at Collins’ face pose tutorial.

It looks like a scene out of the Rise of the Planet of the Apes, right after the chimps have self-actualized and plan on overthrowing their human overlords. Hard pass.

3. Sauna Suits

sauna-suits-seinfeld Plenty of horrible fashion fads emerged in the 1980s: mullets, parachute pants, fanny packs. Perhaps the most harrowing fashion trend of the decade, however, was the sauna suit.

This wetsuit, trash bag hybrid was designed to trap heat and help you sweat through your workout. Not only did these outfits look downright ridiculous, they were also dangerous. Apparently, extreme heat and workouts don’t mix (who knew?) These suits led to dehydration, heat stroke and even death. It looks like sauna suits belong right below lawn darts in the pantheon of dangerous 80s products.

2. Celebrity Workout Videos

Celebrities sell. There’s a reason why George Clooney is plastered all over Japanese beer ads and David Hasselhoff is still the king of Germany. Never was this more apparent than during the height of the 1980s celebrity aerobics phase.

Apparently, the world’s greatest fitness coach was once a spandex-clad Jane Fonda because…the 80s.

Bonafide fitness stars like Richard Simmons and Olivia Newton-John could sell VHS tapes by the millions with nothing more than basic aerobic exercises and a killer soundtrack. Sadly, these fitness pioneers paved the way for a new generation of Instagram influencers and celebrity trainers. Hey, at least they inspired this glorious music video remix.

1. The Thighmaster

Are you ready to squeeze your way into shapely hips and thighs? Yes, those words were actually uttered in the original commercial for the Thighmaster. The Thighmaster had all the ingredients of a ludicrous home exercise product in the 1990s. A laughable infomercial? Check. A celebrity endorsement? Check. A ridiculously simple and overpriced product? You bet. It’s hard to properly describe how much the Thighmaster captivated the world. Its influence is still seen on the overly-toned legs of an entire generation. For this, we thank you Thighmaster!

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