Club Industry 2012: Cardio products from infomercials, strength gets accessible

Cardio brings products from infomercials to the show floor; strength gets easier; stationary cycles not so stationary; and rotating staircases announces new player. Check out the SNEWS coverage of more Club Industry products.
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Club Industry, while light on equipment, wasn’t light on innovation. The SNEWS team spotted tons of cool stuff at the show while walking the floor — and cardio and strength equipment was no exception.

On the cardio side of things, SNEWS was excited to see that TreadClimber’s commercial production was taken over by Star Trac. A beta model was available for show-goers to hop on and test. Plus, Octane’s Lateral-X gathered momentum since IHRSA 2012.

On the strength side, companies are coming out with more compact and easier-to-use equipment. Plus, stationary cycles ask whether they should sway and steppers get more compact and have more safety features than ever before.

Out of the infomercials, into the show

Time and time again we’ve seen the infomercials for the TreadClimber. While Nautlius owns the rights to produce the residential unit by Bowflex, Star Trac has secured the rights to manufacture and sell the commercial unit. 

The company has listened to consumers who’ve complained about several things, notably a jolty experience due to a difficult-to-control hydraulic system. Star Trac Engineer Victor Conejo said Star Trac’s first order of business was to take out the hydraulic system, which was located on the back of the unit. Conejo said this location was putting stress on the frame leading to frame damage.

Next, Star Trac replaced the hydraulic unit with the same mechanism it uses to power its treadmills and ellipticals. This switch, Conejo said, allowed users to spend an equal amount of time on both legs of the two separate movable platforms. With the hydraulic system, he said, users tended to have to favor one leg. The company reduced the number of fasteners on the plastics of the frame in order to simplify maintenance.

Another eye-catcher is the Octane Lateral-X. We’ve mentioned it before and we’ll mention it again, because this is definitely the next big thing in cardio. It won one of the top awards at the show. Starting next year, in the first quarter, the LX800 (MSRP $6,999) will have the company’s touch consoles equipped with Netpulse (check out our story on other companies using networked technology, including Life Fitness using Netpulse, Precor using Preva and TechnoGym using Visioweb).

A sweet option for the Lateral X is the add-on of the Cross Circuit stands, for which the company has teamed up with PowerBlock. The stands include PowerBlock’s adjustable dumbbells that can adjust to several different weights all in one compact unit. Tina Nibbe of Octane said this Cross Circuit, which is also available on the company’s ellipticals, is a popular option for clubs and personal trainers.

“The Cross Circuit is taking off really fast,” Nibbe said, both in the Lateral X models and the company’s other ellipticals. The company has begun shipping the Lateral X trainers, both the regular versions and the ones with the Cross Circuit, in September. Specialty fitness retailers who don’t necessarily dabble in commercial fitness are flooring them, Nibbe said, regardless of the price tag because, “People are just looking for a different choice.”

More strength, less intimidation

Precor
told SNEWS at IHRSA last year that it started printing large, wordless instructional placards on its Discovery strength equipment to make it easier to use and less intimidating. This show, said Doug Johns, the company took it one step further in its Selectorized line.

First of all, it has incorporated the easy-to-interpret picture instructions; secondly, it has made all of the tower heights the same size (short enough for even a smaller woman to see over); and lastly, it has made the added weight an on-and-off switch versus and added pin as it is on most strength equipment on the market.

“The story here is approachable fitness,” Johns said. If users don’t really want to use the pictures, they can scan a QR code and be taken directly to instructional videos on their cell phones.

Over at Life Fitness, the company took the Synergy 360 it debuted at IHRSA 2012 and sized it down by half. Surprisingly, there are as many stations as the original unit and just as many people who are able to enjoy it. There’s simply less space in the middle. The system still combines dynamic total body exercises and TRX (which partnered with Life Fitness on the product) suspension training.

Hoist Fitness had some innovations over at its booth. SNEWS particularly enjoyed the Rotary Torso, which at first glance seems like every other old Rotary Torso out there, but upon closer inspection you see it’s not. This one, moves side-to-side in positions ranging from 40-100 degrees from the face-forward position, making it optimal for a core workout.

To sway or not to sway, that is the question

Stationary bikes were all over the Club Industry floor, but two of them were just a little bit different from the others. Those two bikes came from the Relay Fitness Group and from RealRyder.

Last year Relay Fitness Group dropped its Evo on the market, a sleek-looking stationary Evo bike that swayed like a real bike. It was unique not only in its swaying feature, but also in its Orb Gear Drive, which is a single-axis design with an enclosed three-piece crank with an aligned sungear and a flywheel with an equivalent inertia of 55 pounds.

This year Relay launched its Evo CX, which is essentially the same bike with a pivot lock to turn the sway function off because not every instructor wants that sway feature during their classes, Relay Fitness Group officials told SNEWS.

“Our team has identified a way for gym and studio instructors and their members to engage the entire body in a core workout on an indoor cycle with a comfortable, chic and, best of all, fun riding experience,” said Mark de Grasse, marketing manager of Relay Fitness Group.

Though the RealRyder wasn’t brand new, it did have a new computer console it released to add to its swaying frame, said Jackie Mendes, brand manager for RealRyder. Though there's nothing particularly different about its computer console (pretty standard, Mendes said), she wanted to emphasize the different motion the RealRyder has.

“It moves in three planes of motion,” Mendes explained. Mendes said this product is the one most like a regular road bicycle than any other product on the floor. As far as turning off the three-plane motion for cycling classes?

“We’re totally against that,” Mendes said. “Our belief is the stationary bike is dead — old school technology.”

Dead or alive, stationary bikes that didn’t sway were all over the floor.

Schwinn, showcased its A.C. Performance Plus cycle, which is designed to be more ergonomically correct and comfortable. The product has an enhanced, lighter weight handlebar design for improved grip comfort, easier adjustability and increased range. The unit features a wider step-through space and upgraded chain-tensioning hardware with easier access.

Schwinn also debuted its MPower Console V2, which provides data measurement for watts, time, calories burned, cadence, speed, distance and telemetry heart rate. Riders can capture their data on a USB memory stick or any ANT+ wireless device.

Data measurement was also a big play for Star Trac with its Spinner Ion, which we mentioned on Wednesday. This unit is the company’s entry into the watts market. It includes a strain gauge that measures the power to accurately determine watts and distance during a workout. Plus the unit recharges the computer console’s batteries, leading to less waste as clubs only have to change the battery every 4-5 years.

Life Fitness brought production units of its new group cycle, the Lifecycle GX. The piece is different because unlike other stationary cycles, it has a rear flywheel design to prevent rust from sweat. The frame’s plastic shroud are coated in zinc oxide to protect other bike components from moisture.

Stepping down footprint, stepping up safety

StairMaster has been the major player when it comes to the stepping world for many years. But since its patent on the technology expired other companies have started to play the game.

StairMaster released its StepMill 5 last March and showcased it and its brand new residential StepMill 3 at Club Industry. Both units have an electronically controlled alternator, brake and drive chain that controls the speed. They both have built-in pulse grip sensors on the handlebars.

The smaller StepMill 3 has an 8-foot ceiling height to allow it to fit better in a residential setting. The bigger StepMill 5 has step depth of 9 inches so consumers’ heels don’t hang off the back of the steps during workouts. It offers the Landmark Challenge, where users climb famous high landmarks around the world. Plus the StepMill 3 has sensors in the back that enable the machine to stop when something has crawled under it, such as a cat or small dog.

We told you several players were entering the space, now there’s another officially in the rotating staircase game

Star Trac has released its StairMill, which comes in three units, the E-SM, E-SMi and the E-SMe. These units feature the Famous Steps program, essentially the same concept as the Landmark Challenge. The three units feature different consoles, from one integrated with a television, to one with an add-on television to one with the basic console.

--Ana Trujillo

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