IHRSA 2013: Strength equipment safer, more versatile

Smaller, more versatile cages, equipment with progressive resistance and products that combine multiple movements were hot in the strength category at IHRSA this year
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As usual, IHRSA was full of muscles and bodies to be coveted. But there’s no need for envy. That six-pack seems attainable given the new products featured at this year's show

Of note were machines that combine multiple movements in one product and equipment that provides progressive resistance versus static resistance (i.e., the pulley remains stationary while the user works out). Smaller cages that can be constructed in multiple ways also were popular.

Plus, weight benches are getting smarter to make lifting safer for clients and customers.

Hoist Fitness' Dual Series products combine two exercises in one and offer a smaller footprint for facilities that can’t accommodate multiple machines, for example personal training studios and hotel gyms.

The Change of Direction machine from Bilt by Agassi and Reyes made its IHRSA debut following a soft launch last March in Los Angeles. David Taylor, the national sales director for the company founded by tennis star Andre Agassi and longtime trainer Gil Reyes, said this is the finished product — last year’s model was just a prototype.

The COD machine was by far the most popular item in his booth, Taylor said, because it combined weight resistance with lateral movements like side and shuffle steps.

Progressive resistance
FreeMotion Fitness released its nine-piece Live Access line of products, including the F707 Hamstring, F702 Low Pull, F706 Quad and F704 High Pull. The key word in this series, said Jeremy Strom, director of education for FreeMotion Fitness, is progressive resistance — meaning, pulleys that follower the users’ path of motion instead of remaining in one spot. 

“We took away the seats and now the movement is user-defined,” Strom said.

The lack of seats gives users increased versatility, especially with the High Pull and Low Pull machines, which are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act for wheelchair accessibility and allow users to incorporate a stability ball.

While Cybex isn't offering progressive resistance, its updated Bravo Pro functional trainer is also ADA accessible, said Lisa Juris, vice president of marketing. Providing opportunities for people with disabilities to work out is important to Cybex, she added.

"We want more people to get fit and come up with solutions for our customers," to do so, Juris said.

Caged fitness
CrossFit and functional fitness have blown up in the past year. Last year, Life Fitness’ booth was abuzz with people watching in awe as super-fit models did a fast-paced, multifaceted workout on its massive Synergy360.

But some gyms don’t want something that big, or simply can’t accommodate it, said Lauren Kamm, digital media and public relations manager for Life Fitness.

The company’s new Synergy360XM and Synergy360T are smaller units that can accommodate multiple users and offer the same workouts to improve balance, endurance, coordination, speed, agility, flexibility, power and strength. The smaller footprints have the same integrated storage systems as the original.

Hoist Fitness and Paramount are also getting into the cage game.

Billy Kim, chief operating officer for Hoist Fitness, said the company’s new Motion Cage satisfies a desire a lot of clubs and facilities have these days.

“A lot of clubs want functional trainers, because not everybody can afford one-on-one personal training. So many facilities are offering group training,” using functional trainers, Kim said. The Motion Cage is easily customizable and can be built to whatever size the facility needs.

“People are looking fro a return to basics as far as training goes,” said Jim McIntyre, vice president of sales and marketing for Paramount, which just released its own versatile cage, the XFT100,99, which can be constructed in several different ways.

Nautilus released a new training system that has versatile construction options for smaller spaces, said Regina West. The product is in its infancy and doesn’t yet have a name.

A lot of cages are being marketed as functional fitness versus just CrossFit, whose hard-core reputation intimidates some customers. Marketing it as functional fitness makes the products accessible to everybody, industry experts said.

Smart safety
Bilt by Agassi and Reyes’ Olympic Bench has an upright weight delivery system that automatically retracts after the user has securely grabbed onto the weight so they don’t have to worry about hitting the bar as they start their workout.

Matrix fitness has a similar product, but with a retracting mechanism that has a different patented movement than the Bilt by Agassi and Reyes product, said Mark Zabel, Matrix’s vice president of global marketing and product development.

The product from Matrix uses pivoting uprights that place the bar directly over the user. The company calls them Breaker Benches because using them eliminates the need to ask for somebody to help users break the bar. This allows exercisers to get into start position with less stress on their joints.

--Ana Trujillo

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