Be it Jazzercise, the ThighMaster, or the Shake Weight, fitness fads come and go. What has real staying power are well-rounded workout routines that include strength training, cardio, flexibility, and balance work.
But that doesn’t mean trendy workout equipment can’t be effective. Bala, the brand behind the famous Bala Bangles makes some of the prettiest workout gear available, with modern-looking designs in chic colors. But is the Bala gear as functional as it is fashionable? I tested Bala’s (arguably lightweight) resistance training equipment to find out.
What is Bala workout gear?
The cool and stylish Bala Bangles took home gyms—and your social media feed—by storm. Since their debut on Shark Tank, these wearable wrist/ankle weights have been a popular accessory for the likes of barre workouts, and the brand now makes fitness equipment for different types of workouts such as dumbbells, yoga mats, and jump ropes.
We tested the Bala weight kit, which includes dumbbells dubbed “Bala Bars,” a circular weight named the “Power Ring,” a barbell called the “Bala Beam,” and of course, the famous wrist weights, and retails for $289. Much of the gear comes in multiple load options from 1 pound to as much as 25 pounds, so you can select the level that feels right for your experience and abilities.
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The product that launched the line, the stylish Bala Bangles come in pairs of 1 or 2 pounds, both in a variety of colors, and easily adjust with velcro straps to be worn on wrists or ankles. I found the Bangles, which start at $55, comfortable to wear throughout my roughly half-hour long workouts. I was able to clasp them tightly around either my ankles and wrists so they didn’t slide around and irritate my skin, and they never felt too tight or uncomfortable.
If you’re somewhat new to working out, the weights alone can help you get used to the feeling of more resistance than your body weight, while keeping your hands free. And if you’re not a novice, they can be used in conjunction with other weights for added resistance as you build strength—for example, for when 10-pound dumbbells feel too easy but you’re not ready to go to 15s, you can add the Balas to your wrists to increase the challenge. I wore them on my ankles during a “bodyweight” pilates class that involved plenty of various leg lifts, and on my wrists for some extra resistance while using the Bars to work my upper body. Though they only added a couple pounds of resistance, using the Bangles made my workout more challenging and, in turn, made me look forward to exercising at home more than usual.
One word of caution: As a general rule, you should avoid wearing wrist or ankle weights during cardio workouts like running as they could throw off your natural stride and increase your risk of injury.
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The Bala Bars, available for $59 if purchased on their own, are a set of 3-pound weights. Unlike traditional dumbbells, which have greater mass on either end of the handle, the Bars have a uniform thickness and each look like one large oblong pill. The shape makes these dumbbells more comfortable to grip and convenient to stash away—they easily store in an included zippered carrying case.
The soft silicone coating on all Bala’s strength gear feels softer and more comfortable than the typical raw stainless steel bar or plastic coating on other dumbbells. And, like all Bala workout accessories, the Bars come in a variety of pretty pastel colors such as blush pink, sage green, or sparkly silver. They only come in the 3-pound weight, which may not be heavy enough for some exercises or abilities, but can add some light resistance to, say, pilates workouts.
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The Power Ring
As Bala says, “the kettlebell and the dumbbell had a baby,” and the brand named that baby the Power Ring. Starting at $49, this circular silicone-coated weight is designed to be used in place of either kettlebells or dumbbells in your workouts—Bala recommends using it for exercises such as squats, kettlebell swings (or Power Ring swings, I suppose), lunges, and overhead presses.
I was pleasantly surprised at how seamless it was to integrate the Power Ring into my workouts. The 10-pound ring’s 12-inch diameter just about matched my shoulder width, making it comfortable to hold the weight in two hands like I would a pair of dumbbells, goblet-style in front of my chest, and its circular shape makes it easy to hold like a kettlebell handle. I used the ring for kettlebell swings, overhead presses (with my hands opposite each other), and lunges, and felt it was easy to integrate, despite never having used a weighted ring in my workout routine before.
However, the rings come in different sizes depending on their weight. The 5-pound ring (the smallest and lightest) has a 6-inch diameter, the 8-pounder has an 8-inch diameter, the 10-pound ring (which I used) has a 12-inch diameter, and the 15-pound has a 15-inch diameter. Thus, the 5- and 8-pound rings may be better suited for single-arm exercises, due to their smaller sizes. As with the dumbbells, the Power Ring is coated in a soft silicone, making it easy and comfortable to grasp, even while sweating.
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The Bala Beam is shaped like a curl bar—those barbells you may have seen at the gym with “W”-shaped grips—and, like the Bars, the weight is evenly distributed along its length. Starting at $109, the Beam comes in 15 and 25 pounds and can be used for exercises like squats, good mornings, deadlifts and, yes, bicep curls.
Clocking in at 3 feet long, the Beam is shorter than standard curl bars, which typically measure around 4 feet long. I didn’t find this to negatively affect my workout with the Beam, and it may make it easier to store the bar when not in use. Overall, this wavy weighted bar could be a good entry level option for those who want to start lifting weights at home.
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Is Bala’s workout gear worth it?
All of Bala’s workout gear is easy and fun to use. Though not as heavy as some fitness fanatics would like, it provides extra resistance and can be used for a variety of home workouts. All the products come in trendy colors and modern designs, and if that alone motivates you to get up and move, you can count that as a win.
On the other hand, it costs more than similar, if less-cool-looking, equipment. For example, you can get a set of 3-pound weights on Amazon for $32 that look and function very similarly to the $59 Bala Bars, for example, and a small pair of standard 3-pound dumbbells costs under $16. If you’re looking for easy-to-store strength training equipment, a full set of resistance bands can offer you a range of loads in a small package for under $25.
Like most fitness equipment, whether it’s worth it depends on your goals and what workouts you enjoy. If you love exercising at home and predominantly do body-weight workouts but are looking for some light weights to amp up your current routine, you’ll love using Bala equipment. Just keep in mind: The more you use it, the more inadequate the weight loads may become as you get stronger. A very good thing for your body, but maybe not for your wallet.
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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.