Every now and then, Santa comes early to the Bodybuilding.com editorial staff with a big ol' bag of cool health-and-fitness-related products. Not every item that comes around exactly blows our minds, but the ones that do practically demand to be shared!
If you're looking for sweet new running shoes, some brain candy, a high-tech fitness device designed to make you stronger, and the tastiest pancake (or anything) spread since Nutella, then hang on to your pecs and check out some of the latest fitness picks our editors currently love.
PUSH Strength Device
With the number of fitness devices that have flooded the market in the last few years, we totally understand your tempered excitement for another wearable tracker. But let your excitement flow freely like fine pre-workout, friends. The new PUSH device armband could be a game-changer.
Backed by extensive, real-world research and testing by pro-level athletes and coaches, PUSH is designed to be your data-driven training partner that's dedicated to helping you reach your strength-based goals. It's the first fitness device to measure velocity, force, and power, and it repackages this data into actionable recommendations for how much weight and reps you should add to your next lifts. For example, if you just crushed 8 reps on a 225-pound bench press, PUSH may recommend adding another 25 pounds and performing the same exercise within the 3-5 rep range.
Simply download the PUSH app and sync the armband to your phone via Bluetooth. You still have to manually input the exercise and load before every set, then activate the PUSH device on your arm and get to work. This is where getting into the habit of tracking in this manner could get tricky at first. On the plus side, the actual design of the armband is very slick, fairly sweat-proof, comfortable, and unobtrusive.
Since it's still a new device, the PUSH team is constantly beefing up the exercise database, which as of right now includes the basic big movements and some accessory work. If your exercise routine includes circuit training or supersets, you may find PUSH to be far less applicable. However, the CEO and founder, Rami Alhamad, is gradually pushing forward with accommodating exercise specifics, including supersets, circuits, kettlebell training, and other types of training.
Sweet Spreads Coconutters
Price: $12.99 per 15-oz. jarwww.sweetspreads.com
Sweet Spreads Coconutter is a genius invention for those of us trying to somehow pair a raging sweet tooth with a fitness goal that includes visible abs. Coconutter comes in six flavors: maple pancake, vanilla cupcake, dark chocolate mint, white chocolate, chocolate brownie, and cinnamon roll. Each flavor you try is more delicious than the last!
The base ingredients of Coconutter, no matter the flavor, are organic unflavored coconut shreds, extra-virgin coconut oil, raw pecans, all-natural vanilla extract, and organic cane sugar. Don't worry about any processed, unnatural ingredients in these spreads. All of them are gluten-free, all-natural, and have no artificial flavors or preservatives. If you have room for a little extra healthy fats in your diet, then you can grab yourself a spoon!
Because Coconutter is made from fat sources, each serving provides a rather big dose of calories. You'll get about 135-150 calories per tablespoon. The coconut oil in the spreads also makes them solid at room temperature, so the best way to enjoy them is to heat them first.
Topo Athletic Santé
Don't take the Vibram Five Finger lawsuits from earlier this year to mean that "barefoot shoes" have gone the way of the dodo and 8-Minute Abs. There are still many, many thousands of people out there who heard the case for minimalism and knew it was a perfect fit—particularly in the gym.
The new Santé (French for "health," and not to be confused with "Smooth Operator" singer Sade) by Topo Athletic marks a high point among the post-hype minimalist offerings. It's a light, flexible shoe that is still tough enough to thrive in a wide range of training environments, from weights to short-distance running or agility work.
Topo's initial models featured a split-toe design inspired by Japanese Tabi boots. No more. The Santé has a solid, wow-that's-wide toe box, as well as a Velcro instep strap to help keep the shoe from shifting or rolling laterally. The strap may fashionably outlaw the shoe for day-to-day wear, but the soft, flexible upper definitely benefits from having some anchoring in an athletic setting.
Another major difference between these and other shoes: no laces, but rather a dial-based Boa closure system, similar to what's on most alpine ski boots. This plastic disc looks odd—maybe a bit reminiscent of the old Reebok Pump—upon first encounter, but once you figure out how to work it, two significant benefits become clear: First, it provides a far more customized fit than traditional laces, and second, the quick-release makes the shoes extremely easy to slip in and out of. This came in handy when you want to clandestinely train barefoot or sock-footed.
With early leaders New Balance and Merrell dramatically dialing back their minimalist offerings, the pressure is greater than ever on upstarts like Topo and Colorado-based Altra to continue innovating. If you can handle your shoe having an accent mark in its name, then say enchanté to Topo Athletic.
Jim Stoppani's Encyclopedia of Muscle Strength 2nd Edition
Jim Stoppani needs no introduction in these parts. As the mind and body behind two of our most popular trainers, Shortcut to Size and Shortcut to Shred, he has taught countless Bodybuilding.com readers how to optimize their workouts, plates, and shaker bottles for their goals. Look past the ink and listen to the man, and it's obvious that he's an educator at heart—which comes across clearly in Human Kinetics' new edition of Stoppani's first book, "Encyclopedia of Muscle & Strength."
The first version of his Encyclopedia came back way back in 2006, and has been an indispensable reference ever since. But in the last 8 years, the roads that people take to "strong" have grown far more diverse, and as such, the new edition delves into everything from suspension systems to kettlebells, fat-loss to mass-gaining, and plenty more over the course of 100 workouts and many more exercise guides. In a straightforward, no-jive style, Stoppani breaks down the intricacies of strength and human performance, nutrition, and supplementation, and—no surprise if you read his stuff here—provides the studies to back everything up.
If you're a trainer who balances what your clients want with what you know they need, this should be a centerpiece of your training library. If you're a self-trained enthusiast or fan of Stoppani, it will deepen your understanding and execution of whatever you do in the gym. This is the stuff you need to know.