THE PERFECT PUSHUP: So I’ve seen all the hoopla about these gadgets, and Amazon keeps emailing me recommendations, so I decided I’d order a set (they’re only $39.99) and try ’em out. It’s basically two rotating handles, each on a broad base, that extend your range of motion and let you rotate your arms/shoulders as you do the pushup. (Follow the link for a picture if you haven’t seen one of the ubiquitous infomercials.)

Verdict: Not bad. I did a dozen pushups in regular position, and another dozen with my feet on a yoga ball. (What’s that? One of these). Does the handle-rotation make for a better workout? Possibly. It felt like it did. The range of motion is a bit better, too, because you’re elevated off the ground, making it more like a bench press — though you don’t quite get that much range of motion. It’s easier on my wrists because they’re straight instead of bent, though I felt a bit of a pinch in my palms — probably better with workout gloves, at least if you suffer from barely-under-control computer-related RSI like I do. (I usually do pushups karate-style, on my knuckles, to spare my wrists and palms). The insert promises that if you use these you’ll “get ripped,” which is undoubtedly true — if, while you use them, you follow a proper “getting ripped” diet at the same time, something that they downplay. If you drink beer and eat pizza, you can do “perfect pushups” all day and you won’t get ripped, you’ll just get better muscles underneath the beer-and-pizza fat. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!

I used to have a full home gym, but I got rid of that stuff years ago as I found that going out to the gym motivated me more. I do keep a bike and some dumbbells and a yoga ball around for when I have to work out at home for some reason. These gadgets aren’t a bad addition, and they don’t take up much space. But, contrary to the hype, they won’t work miracles — sadly, nothing does. You have to actually work out and eat right, alas. Meanwhile, the Amazon reviews are almost uniformly positive, almost suspiciously so. If I were reviewing it, I’d give it 3 stars — not bad. If it’s all you use, and you follow their workout plans, you’ll probably make good progress for 6-8 weeks, then level off because there’s not enough variety. I wouldn’t build a whole workout around these things, but they make a nice supplement. That’s about as much as you can expect from any single exercise gadget.

UPDATE: A couple of readers say you can get these at Wal-Mart for half the price. But of course!