INNOVATION comes in large and small packages. This year, we thought we'd do something a little different. Instead of categorizing “products of the year” by category, we wanted to provide you with some of the best and brightest products and technology breakthroughs. That's why we asked Gregory Florez, CEO of FitAdvisor Health Coaching Services and First Fitness, a health coaching online training service, to give us his thoughts on some of the hottest products out there today. The feedback on these products comes not only from research but also from real world use and testing in some cases from Gregory's trainers and clients.
Remember that innovation for the sake of innovation is not particularly useful. If the product isn't designed to meet a specific user need, why bother with it? The fitness industry is littered with the carcasses of products that have been “edgy” and “thought leading” but that were never used by their intended audience — your members. Here, then, are some of the shining stars that could make a difference in your clubs and, more importantly, that your members might actually use. Some are new products while others are well-done upgrades on time-honored products that users have come to love and use.
— The Editors
As we begin to cater more to the deconditioned and out-of-shape market, it's nice to have equipment that is less intimidating than free weights, but still has the positive results of weight training. Precor's pin-selectorized strength equipment helps guide the user through exercises that target specific muscles and muscle groups. The equipment has a small footprint, low-profile frame design and includes more than 30 machines.
Icarian FTS — Personal Trainer Strength Training Workstation
This product features dual independent weight stacks with a 2 inch × 4 inch bent steel frame that offer various types of upper- and lower-body exercises for a full-body workout. The FTS comes with soft-grip handles, a swivel fixed-bar and an ankle attachment for lower body exercises. The best part about the product is that it mimicks “real-life” movements. Our trainers loved this for functional training. The pulley system is adjustable with one hand, allowing users to switch from upper to lower body exercises quickly and easily.
C966i Low-Impact Treadmill
Precor updated its C966i treadmill with new colors, trim, handrails, stop-key guard and power cord options. Also, a new display allows for software to be downloaded in the field. This is a great feature for personal trainers who want to customize workouts for those times when the client is training in an unsupervised manner.
The treadmill still has a four horsepower motor that runs cooler, more quietly and with more torque at lower speeds. The C966i offers speeds from 0.5 to 16 mph and an incline of from -3 to 15 degrees. Ground Effects® impact control and Integrated Footplant™ technology deliver a particularly responsive feel and 21 workout courses. The treadmill features a one-touch starting system and display with functions including pace, personal profile and segment time. This treadmill was a favorite of our already “technology-saturated” clients. It included comprehensive diagnostics; an efficient roller/drive; a self-lubricating bed; pulse-width modulation to reduce current demands and increase motor life; a touch heart rate system; and SmartRate®, which displays heart rate in relation to the ideal training zone. The unit is CSAFE compatible with fitness industry workout and entertainment technology for those needing extra motivation in their workouts.
EFX®546i Elliptical Fitness Crosstrainer™
Although certainly not new news, it's worth talking about this elliptical from the company that invented the category. The world's top elliptical trainer for the commercial market, the Precor EFX®546i Elliptical Fitness Crosstrainer™ offers its time-tested, smooth and natural feel. Featuring Precor's unique, patented CrossRamp®, EFX®546™ lets users vary their stride motion forward and backward, and train different muscle groups in an unmatched low-impact workout. Seven courses include a Fitness Test with a touch-sensitive display keypad that responds to the slightest touch. SmartRate® monitoring establishes user target training zones based on age and body weight, and QuickStart® immediately starts exercisers on a manual course and offers a touch heart rate system.
NAUTILUS HEALTH AND FITNESS
This is the newest line of selectorized equipment from Nautilus and features a modern look and design. Engineering enhancements make it a super smooth and cost-effective choice for both vertical markets and health clubs. The line includes molded, rubber footpads, a designated shelf for water bottles and accessories, and placards that display new graphics for machine operation guidelines. Contoured seat pads also add more comfort and easy positioning to each motion.
We were particularly impressed with the myriad choices of machines available and also the color choices, which although not important for functionality, certainly have an impact on esthetics to help separate your club or vertical market facility from the competition.
By condensing 30 separate barbells down to just two, the dumbbell has been reinvented with this system. Although not promoted as a commercial product, we felt that the SelectTech™ dumbbell system would be a perfect choice for personal training studios or corporate and other vertical facilities where space is an issue.
The SelectTech dumbbells are equipped with selectorized dials that adjust the lifting weight from 5 pounds to 52.5 pounds using a patented locking mechanism and a spring-loaded locking pin that prevents the knob from rotating. The unused weight plates stay secure in an accompanying base. The space-efficient free-weight system functions as 15 pairs of dumbbells in a single, compact unit.
Harbinger Sports has always been one of my favorite manufacturers of handheld exercise equipment and training aids. Harbinger always uses the most luxurious materials and has an eye for style when making its products. The company's newest offerings are no exception, and they are the products that particularly impressed us.
This glove has sanded neoprene on the top of the hand, fingers and palm, offering a comfortable and customized fit. The embossed neoprene palm increases durability and adds padding for rigorous outdoor sports. In addition, a Visa® Terry forefinger helps with moisture management. These gloves also feature breathable fresh fingers that improve air flow as 3/4 length fingers protect and improve grip while staying flexible. Fully adjustable wrist closure system provides a personalized and comfortable fit. These gloves can be washed to remove salt and oils, maintain suppleness and original fit, helping gloves to last longer.
With a “double glove” design for total training flexibility, this system incorporates two gloves in one. The Over Glove can be worn by itself and comes with TechGel™ molded palm pads for cushioning during lifting. This system also comes with the FlexClosure™ system for a customized and comfortable fit.
The Under Glove can also be worn with the Over Glove or alone. This glove protects hands during cardiovascular training on machines and includes anti-microbial “ventilator mesh” with lycra panels that provide a breathable fit yet prevent the growth of odor-causing bacteria.
Strength System Cable Column (GZFM6016)
In keeping with the growing move toward functional training the Free Motion folks continue to make some of the most user friendly and beautifully designed strength training products in the industry. The GZFM6016 pulley carriage adjusts from 14 inches to 84 inches to allow for a variety of exercises and accommodate users of various heights. Our trainers found that this provided an unbelievable amount of flexibility for training everyone from teens to athletes. With 96 inches of cable travel, users can perform unlimited exercises with full range of motion. Heavy-duty wheels make it easy to move and lock in place for user safety. Each Cable Column comes with two long handles, one short handle and an ankle cuff for a wide variety of exercises. For user safety, an enclosed weight stack limits access to moving parts. A swivel pulley system ensures fluid cable movement and nearly unlimited range of motion. The system is built out of 11- and 7-gauge steel with an electrostatically powder-coated, heat set finish.
LAMAR HEALTH & FITNESS
Lock ‘n Load
Kevin Lamar, formerly the CEO of Nautilus Fitness Systems, left Nautilus earlier this year to start his own company. We saw several prototypes of equipment, but one really stood out. The product is called Lock ‘n Load and uses a new external switch that actuates an internal pin. This eliminates the need for the traditional pin and lanyard systems and its many drawbacks. The user simply flips a switch to find the desired weight on a selectorized weight machine. It works as simply as an on/off light switch. The company believes that this will make switching weights simpler and safer, which could eliminate some of the liability issues associated with standard “pin” systems. This is a great benefit to the beginning lifter, elderly user and even the advanced lifter who wants to “pre-load” a variety of weights for super-sets and ladder sets. Lamar hopes to provide this system as an OEM option to most traditional manufacturers of selectorized equipment. Lock ‘n Load can be retrofitted to machines made during the last four decades.
Turbo Line Strength Machines
The Diesel Turbo Line Strength Machines replicate the natural movement of the human body through independent convergent elliptical (ICE) movement technology. The movement assures safe, effective strength training. The real news here is Diesel's breakthrough padding systems for its strength machines. Most manufacturers talk about proper biomechanics and cushioning; Diesel's Turbo line delivers at a whole new level. This product really needs to be tested to see and feel the difference. Turbo's seats and pads are designed to fit the ergonomics of your body. In addition, many of the pads are adjustable for a myriad of movement angles accommodating a variety of users. This feature keeps you securely in your seat with proper body positioning. This line also uses a yellow color-coded adjustment system that is easy to use. All adjustments can be reached from the seated position which can make exercise time much more efficient.
FITBACK™ Strength Pad System
The strength pad system is made with a high-density polyurethane foam that not only provides a high level of stability and corrective back and neck support, but also provides an optimal comfort zone. Pads are made of a vinyl that is moisture and mildew resistant, double stitched for extra durability, and the back of each pad is lined with an “anti-slip” rubber material that allows the pad to grip any other surface. Velcro straps are also attached to each pad for extra re-enforcement. The system is adjustable to all body lengths with four variations.
The Original version has a lower lumbar height and is designed for beginners, seniors, smaller individuals or those with back discomfort that need more support.
The Athlete version has a higher lumbar height and is designed for most people from the average person to the professional athlete.
The Pro is constructed the same as the Athlete version except the Pro has a very firm high-density, high-resilient foam that supports the heavier person.
The Executive is offered in all versions but is made with high-quality leather and is designed more for use in a home and/or the office.
Sport 400 Handheld Electrical Muscle Stimulation System
This innovative product has been widely used around the world by professional athletes, coaches, cyclists, and other endurance athletes for many years.The technology has only recently been approved for use in the United States. Essentially, the Sport 400 is an electrical stimulation unit that helps stimulate muscle recovery, increase muscle performance and help with post injury rehabilitation. The company makes a variety of small, portable units that can be used by personal trainers. We've tested the Compex Sport 400 with several trainers, athletes and clients and found that the technology definitely promotes quicker recovery, less muscle soreness, and in some cases, enhanced performance. We believe that the Compex can be used by properly trained club personnel to add value to their client's overall routine, and also be a vehicle to create new revenue streams in clubs.
Just when it seems that everyone had come out with a “me, too” stationary group exercise bike, Star Trac introduced a new line of aluminum-framed bikes, Spinner®NXT, that are corrosion resistant. They were shown for the first time at the Club Industry show in Chicago. Designed with eye-catching, oval-shaped tubing and rust-resistant aluminum that will avoid debilitating sweat build-up, these bikes are simply downright stunning. Additionally, the NXT model features an easy-to-remember alphanumeric handlebar and seat post adjustment with a one-of-a-kind seat slider to provide the perfect fit for riders of all sizes. Integrated into the handlebar design is a convenient dual water bottle. The NXT also comes with upgraded cranks along with dual-sided platform/SPD compatible pedals.
Woodway has been a high-end manufacturer of treadmills for many years. With the popularity of sports conditioning and human performance, the company has introduced a new product called The Force. The Force is a new and dynamic athletic speed training system that allows for virtual sprinting, resistance interval training while measuring speed, time, heart rate and work in watts. Essentially, The Force combines Woodway's legendary shock absorption with a tether and variable resistance brake to create functional specific training protocols for athletes or those who are athletically inspired. The Force is available in a manual or programmable version to provide an edge for athletes and coaches seeking to optimize speed and power in sports.
NORTHERN LIGHT TECHNOLOGIES
Natural Light Systems
Light, like food, water, and air is essential to our survival. A vast number of studies have shown that during fall and winter about 20 percent of the population is affected by fatigue, irritability, anxiety, weight gain, even social withdrawal. Long a pioneer in light box therapy, technology, sleep research and Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD) for the medical industry, Northern Lights makes a variety of portable and free-standing products that provide 10,000 lux brightness for any exerciser looking for a boost of Vitamin D and artificial sunlight during those dreary winter months. The light lamps are a great way to provide a value-added benefit for your members while they are already actively exercising on an aerobic machine in your club.
Depending upon your club's layout, there are a variety of configurations, but we were particularly impressed with their FLAMINGO floor lamp. We can see this unit being placed next to aerobic machines in your club to provide artificial sunlight for your clients.
Whether on a treadmill or reading, the FLAMINGO floor lamp stands at 46 inches tall. At 10-12 inches away, it delivers 10,000 lux and should be used for 20-30 minutes. At 18 inches, it delivers 5,000 lux of light and should be used for about an hour each day. The treatment works through the eyes but doesn't require looking directly into the light. This is a nice complement to a morning workout that requires sitting or staying in one place for 30 to 60 minutes.
Cardiovascular Machines with Integrated LCD Console
Integrated entertainment systems are becoming more affordable and integrated into many cardiovascular machine manufacturers' products. No one does it more elegantly than the folks at LifeFitness. Their intuitive touch screen technology is available on commercial LifeFitness cardiovascular machines including their treadmills, elliptical trainers and bikes. Exercisers can watch TV or facility-produced content and monitor workouts at the same time on the same screen, allowing users to choose their own entertainment. The products come with help screens, explanations of workout programs and easy-to-replace headphone jacks. Additionally, these LifeFitness products can be ordered with the option of a complete LCD Entertainment System. This means that exercisers can choose their own personal TV programming for their individual workouts.
Club Management Software
Aphelion has created software to handle every area of your club. Different software modules, including selling membership contracts, billing, scheduling and tracking workouts are designed to perform specific functions while giving you control of your business.
Aphelion provides support options. Support services are included with purchase of the software, but Aphelion also offers premium services. Aphelion can convert many of its competitor's systems into its own, and we saw this as a real plus for club owners who are not in a position to completely overhaul their entire software system. Aphelion also has the capability to create custom services for multi-club data replication and synchronization. The company has an online resource center as an up-to-date location for documentation, tips and tricks, and tech notes. There is also direct access to a technical support department through online discussion groups. Training is also included live at its Houston training facility or on site. Training involves a two-day seminar that covers various topics such as software setup, billing members and using member data for targeted marketing. Technicians also provide support services for purchased turnkey systems. Remote access support allows technicians to directly access and administer systems through direct dial up or the Internet.
The leader in heart rate technology for both personal units and OEM technology for many leading cardiovascular manufacturers, Polar has come up with several new models. Our coaches and clients particularly like the features on some of the higher end models that include “Own Zone” that helps calculate caloric expenditure and provides alarms to keep you in your chosen zone. Here are some of their new products that our trainers and clients found very appealing.
Taking comfort and function to another level, the new Polar WearLink™ is the first soft transmitter belt produced. With transmitter technology engineered into the fabric strap, the belt will fit any body shape and allow for a full range of movement. We found that our female users who previously found traditional chest straps uncomfortable loved this accessory.
The transmitter features an electrode engineered into the fabric strap, coded technology that eliminates interference from other HRM users, a changeable battery that has a life of two years and a replaceable fabric strap that the company's Web site says will last through 100 machine washings. The product is water resistant.
AXN700 HR monitor
This monitor has an added heart rate rest test to see if the user's body is acclimated to the extreme outdoor conditions. The monitor includes a titanium case, wireless ECG heart rate, a test that measures your fitness in about five minutes, a timer for interval training, a count of maximum and average heart rate of total exercise, and an exercise date along with altitude and ascent. It also features OwnCal, which counts and displays calorie expenditure, and OwnCode, which prevents cross talk from other heart rate monitors. This is not only a great unit for outdoors but also a great looking sports watch and a product that can be used in your facility.
AXN500 HR monitor
With technology to provide accurate bearings to guide you in the outdoors, this is another great product. With a compass for directional information, a fabric transmitter and all of the features of the AXN300 this is great for the outdoor enthusiast.
POWER PLATE NORTH AMERICAN
This new technology uses vibration for results. It is a new, versatile and effective training method with some research behind its methodology. The company claims that benefits can be seen with just 8-10 minutes per day, three times per week. Using the power plate is comparable to a strength training workout.
The theory is that the mechanical stimulus causes an automatic stretch reflex, which occurs 30-70 times a second depending on the frequency that is set. The result of this is that the muscles continually tense strongly. The company claims that the muscle is contracted for much longer than a normal strength training exercise with 100 percent of all motor units or muscle fibers being active. Power Plate contends that with other forms of strength training a maximum of 70-80 percent of motor units are engaged.
There is definitely a high coolness factor to this product that sets it apart and can help with member tours and retention.
This product makes flexibility training easy and encourages stretching to become a part of every member's workout routine. With TrueStretch, there is no more lying on the floor and improvising correct positions, making it great for all ages and body types.
The unit comes with an easy-to-follow exercise manual that is attached to the frame of the product.The manual is organized by muscle groups and features 96 different stretches designed to mimic real life stretches.
With this product your members can stretch the body in all three planes of motion; maintain natural upright body positions; comfortably ease into, perform, and ease out of each stretch; isolate a specific muscle for concentrated stretching; and help with compound stretching. It just might get your members to stretch regularly.
The Nike Run is one of the most practical and cool products that we have found effective in a variety of settings including the club. The Run incorporates speed, distance and an MP3 player all in one highly wearable package. Other features include the ability to program heart rate parameters and a voice that tells you when you are exercising too hard or not hard enough.
This product uses a Wireless Bluetooth speed-and-distance sensor that attaches to a user's shoe and records the time, distance and pace of a workout. Highlights of the product include an on-demand voice-audio system that provides stats, skip-free audio, a strobe light to keep users visible, a soft-touch keypad, co-molded rubber and high-impact plastic housing and an electro-plated shell for sport-tested durability. It also has a stopwatch for training programs, an FM radio with 10 presets, four EQ presets and 256MB that offer eight hours of WMA or four hours of MP3 music. The player has a one-hour rapid recharge, as well as a four-hour full-battery charge and includes headphones and a sports armband. It comes with the audio manager software Musicmatch Jukebox and Digital Media Manager.
SPRI has several new products in portable and rubberized exercise equipment that make sense for your gym.
These are an excellent conditioning tool that involves the entire body, strengthening and stretching several muscle groups at once in coordinated movements. They are used to develop strength and increase the intensity of cardio workouts. They are vinyl-covered iron bells with handles that are available in three color-coded weight ranges. There are also a range of videos that support the product. The cardiobells can be used in personal training settings for core training, as well as group settings.
This is a new system of “wearable” weights that will be introduced to the professional market in January of 2005. The product was designed in conjunction with SPRI Products and fitness expert John Abdo. Essentially, Contour-Weights are soft weights with a securing system that can be handheld or wrap around different parts of the body to assist with a multitude of exercises that are both classic and functional. The system comes with an instructional video and will also be introduced through a series of seminars throughout the country in early 2005.
There are many fine products that are new, or upgraded and worthy of mention. Unfortunately, space allowed for us to include just a few of the standouts. Here's a suggestion: review your club's client base and their needs before being dazzled by any new product no matter how alluring. Make your decisions according to your user needs rather than the wow factor of the latest, greatest product. In researching product, a good place to start is on the Web by researching the vendors who exhibited at the Club Industry fall show in Chicago. Choose wisely. Your clients' and future clients' loyalty and success will benefit from it now and in the future.