Weight attachments for home gyms and club strength-training machines have for years been pretty basic – bars, handles, straps, cords, grips … all mostly similar… all mostly commodity items.
TrakFitness, which only entered the market in mid-2010, is seeking to change the look of bars and handles with a concept that is perhaps one of the most innovative designs in a very long time. Of course, innovative designs with great thought put behind them still have to work for a user and for a gym and its owner. So, we got hold of a TrakBar and two TrakHandles so that two home users could use them, and we also tested the products at a gym and at a busy private-training studio.
But first, let’s describe the product: The mission of the company is to provide ergonomically correct training equipment for more effective targeting and training of certain muscles and muscle groups or motions. The company produces the TrakHandle as well as the TrakRow bar and the TrakBar, which comes in 24-inch and 42-inch lengths (we had the shorter version). Combine TrakHandles with a TrakRow or TrakBar and you have complete, smooth movement on three axes for best mobility, less strain and better functional training.
None of our testers argued with the concept. In fact, it was awesome in its look and the way the handles smoothly and easily allowed you to move and rotate in any direction, including in curved motions as you rotated a biceps curl, performed rows or “batted a ball.” It just slid with the movement of our hands, wrists or arms, allowing us to control it rather than be controlled by the attachment.
But there are other matters that came up: One was the weight. “Wow, these are heavy,” said one user. In fact, the handle alone weighs 2 pounds compared to a meager 0.4 pounds for a basic nylon strap with plastic grip. Pros: It will last. Cons: It really adds to a workout. The 24-inch bar without the handles weighed 2.6 pounds (compared to a basic curl bar at about 1 pound). Add two handles and you’re up to 6.6 pounds! That alone is a workout for some women or beginners.
Another negative was the way the handles attached and de-attached from the bar for use separately or together. A long groove runs along the underside of the bar, making it more of a two-sided piece with an empty gap between the sides. Several holes go through both sides along the length of the bar so you can choose the width of the handles you desire (great flexibility there). But it was difficult to make the adjustments. We struggles to get the handle’s short stubby connector end to stay aligned with the holes while putting the “peg” through the bar and the handle to attach it. In fact, we usually had to take the entire bar off the machine, lay it on the ground for stability and then take the handle in or take it out. That was a time-waster during a workout that you want to do quickly. “We’re all about ease of adjustment,” said the studio’s owner.
For our home testers’ two-stack, cable home gym, it could not be used as a lat-pull bar since there is no center clip on such a set-up. It was used for various version of rows, bicep curls, tricep presses and such, but we found that in the end we gravitated to just using the TrakHandles because we could simply snap them in and out of the carabiner clips of the machine. Even at 2 pounds, we loved the smoothness of the motion.
Although our testers generally liked the smooth motion, several male users with larger hands noted how the curved part of the handle in certain pressing motions actually banged or pressed against their lower forearms, creating some discomfort.
We think an ideal way to use the handles and bars is to simulate batting a ball, swinging a golf club and throwing a javelin. Also, in a club setting with many machines, it’s possible to dedicate a certain handle to a certain machine and eliminate the complexity of changing out the bar. Another usage could be in a hospital or physical therapy clinic where bars and handles remain on machines and trainers do all of the switching.
The company does have a series of videos available on its website to help users understand how to use the gear. http://www.trakfitnesscorp.com/fitness/Trak-System-Videos/page101.html Though the videos are basic, the company says more instructional videos are coming soon.
All in all, it’s a super concept that some users will love – all or in part – especially if cost is not an option and the user has a focus on particular functional exercises.
SNEWS® Rating: 3.5 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $99, TrakHandle, each; $89, TrakBar, 24-inch; $129, TrakBar, 42-inch; $49, TrakRow