For decades, training muscles for strength and endurance using equipment has meant lifting pieces of iron or steel of some shape in some manner. Sometimes resistance was provided by rubber, air, water or some other materials, but selectorized machines usually meant heavy stacks of metal.
A new technology SNEWS® has seen, still in final development stages, could change that. Called Afterburner Fitness, all or part of the weight stack is replaced by a tank that holds water which is siphoned in and out of a holding tank with a built-in pump system to create more or less resistance. In addition, the water is siphoned at a rate that allows users to start with a higher weight but, as their muscles tire during a set, the weight becomes lighter so they maintain the appropriate intensity, are able to finish a complete set, and can do it without potentially dangerous or ineffective changes in form.
The patented system was developed by engineer and fitness enthusiast Mike Courchesne using theories of hydrodynamics and mechanical physics he is familiar with from his work.
"The idea is to reduce the load as you fatigue," Courchesne told SNEWS®. "The future of strength-training is, the weight will automatically adjust to your strength."
Courchesne said a user can accelerate his or her training, doing fewer sets, fewer times during the week because of fully using the muscles each time. A number of years ago, a preliminary prototype was tested at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, in Canada (click here to see that study) and showed that a user could cut his or her workout time up to two-thirds, depending on the goals.
The system has multiple levels:
>> A semi-automated system, which will be less expensive to produce and sell, asks users to control the release of the water with a remote control button. SNEWS® has tried the system. Guessing the weight needed isn't much different than the way most strength-trainers guess the weight they need to lift while in gyms or on home gyms. Users can also change the speed the water unloads based on how easy or how hard the set seems.
>> An automated version incorporates sensors that allow the computer to monitor the unloading and take charge of it once the user has set it up.
>> Internet interface also can allow users to interact with "virtual trainers" -- any look or type somebody wanted -- who can talk users through a workout and allow them to watch the graph and progress of their workout on a screen. This system can also use voice commands using specialized software.
>> With either system, the water tank, now limited to 180 pounds, can be supplemented by regular weight plates to increase possible loads.
For more complete technical explanations and diagrams, click here.
Courchesne said the advantages of his technology go beyond accelerated results. It also means lighter machines that cost less to manufacture, cost less to ship and are a snap to setup. Although not yet partnered with any manufacturers, he estimated the tank system could raise the cost of a home gym by about $300.
SNEWS® View: We were allowed to take a look at this new technology and found it interesting with definite potential. We haven't tested its physiological results so we, of course, can't vouch for claims of accelerated fitness, but the basic mechanics make some sense. Whether the industry can or will adopt some kind of technology like this is to be seen. Either way, we love it when somebody pushes the envelope a bit and goes outside of the norm. Perhaps, it takes somebody from outside the industry like Courchesne to have the mental freedom to do that.