A short and personal list of Innovative and inventive products in the world of fitness, not in any particular order!
#1 Concept2 Rowing machine. Developed by brothers Dick and Pete Dreissigacker, the ‘erg’ is a compact, useful way of training both for rowing and for general fitness. In the UK leveraged the celebrity endorsement of Steve Redgrave to promote and sell. Proved that a machine could exist in the gym and at home and was genuinely effective.
#2 Exercise classes. From Step classes through Zumba to Tabata the idea of group exercises has been and remains a motivating and fun way to get fit and keep fit. Loved by operators and users alike, the only issue is keeping on top of the changing names and routines.
#3 Nike FuelBand. Not the first but the first to be taken to heart by the public. A cool piece of design the FuelBand was the first piece of ‘quantified self’ equipment that many people owned.
#4 Monthly gym contracts. Transformed the way that people got fit by tying them into monthly contracts. As gyms became more popular in the 80’s the first chains such as LA Fitness realised that offering longer term contracts and incentivising memberships gave them a handy year long income.
#5 TRX training strap. Developed by a former Navy SEAL the TRX system is a strap based system designed for use in almost any location to allow body weight lifts, pulls and twists. Taken up by gyms it’s now often used as a class based functional training session.
#7 Swiss Ball. Surprisingly powerful core and balance product, basically a large, round, polymer air inflated ball. Often used as an office chair as well as a fitness aid.
#8 CardioWall. Designed and developed by Rugged Interactive in Cornwall the CardioWall is a speed, reaction, balance and stamina product. Based on a number of unique programs the CardioWall challenges the user’s physical and mental capabilities. Already used in fitness, elite sport, rehab, schools and elders facilities the CardioWall is truly inclusive.
#9 WattBike. From the UK guys who developed the Concept2 business, this bike takes data from the user and displays it in a compelling and functionally useful way. Improves cadence, power and consistency. Created with British Cycling the Wattbike is making inroads into the consumer gym market as well as elite sport.
#10 Power Plate. A true original - developed originally for the Russian Space program by Vladimir Nazarov to reduce the muscle wasting that cosmonauts experienced during extended space flights the vibrating plate was commercialised from 1999 and gained tremendous celebrity endorsements. After terrific success the easy availability of copycat systems and the lack of a viable second product caused Power Plate to go bust before being re-launched.
#11 Alter-G. Developed by Sean Whalen in 2005 the Alter-G is a treadmill which uses a sealed, flexible, inflateable lower chamber to elevate the user off the surface of the treadmill, unweighting them. Used by NASA, Elite athletes and sports teams the Alter-G is an effective rehab tool as well as improving stride and endurance.
#12 Crossfit. Almost a cult, the Crossfit phenomenon started in the US and is based on completing a number of extremely tough challenges, often mixing weights, body weight exercises and machines. Competitions take place all over the world and its proponents are hugely vocal in their support. Opponents point to frequent injuries and febrile atmospheres in Gyms (or Boxes) where its practised.