New Fitness Equipment Explained

In a day and age where everyone is trying to make a quick buck, and the snake-oil salesmen of the world prey on the uninformed and ply their trades with bogus claims and stories, there stood a man. A man who would stand up for the little guy (or the bigger guys, too. They gotta have love), and show a path through the darkness of misinformation and lead them into the light of kick-ass awesomeness. That man’s name is Batman. I’m just gonna tell you about some new fitness stuff, what it is supposed to do, and what it can be used for.

Toy #1: Vibram 5-Fingers shoes


These shoes came into popularity about five years ago, and have recently exploded in popularity among fitness professionals and Cross Fit cult members alike. They fit like a glove (literally), and claim to give you better feedback from the surface you are in contact with, and let your foot flex to conform to the surface the way it is designed to move. The foot has 3 natural arches to it (two running length wise and and one running across the ball of the foot) that let it form and de-form to create a strong contact and elastic potential to propel the body during motion.
Now this is all well and good, but what does the research say? A group of Belgium researchers in 2000 showed that when the runner was barefoot, they would change their foot strike to anticipate impact, effectively changing their kinematics through their entire leg. The foot also had a faster rate of force attenuation, meaning it was hit harder and faster than Brett Farve in his exhibition opener. They also tended to pronate a hell of a lot more than their counterparts with shoes, leading me to believe that running barefoot probably isn’t the best thing in the world, especially if you’re concerned with overuse injuries, especially if you have flat feet.

If you’re in the Edmonton area and have a pair of these, I want to get a few test subjects together to see what the difference is between running in normal shoes and running in these, and do a comparative video analysis on it. Let me know if you’re interested.
For balancing exercises and normal day-to-day gym wear, the research available is limited. From personal experience I can say that they help you feel and adjust to the ground, while also allowing your foot to conform and bend. I was doing 180 box jumps one day, and almost missed the box, landing with only half my right foot on the right side of the box. Had I been in solid last shoes, I probably would have rolled my ankle, fallen to the ground, and been ridiculed by the old guys in way-too-short shorts. But nope, my foot flexed and gripped that sucka like a monkey holding an apple. For saving me from a ripped ankle and unlimited views up old guy shorts as they stood over me ridiculing me, I say thank you Vibram.
Toy #2: Vibration Plates

Now I know some of the purists out there may say these are a waste of money, and in many cases they are. I mean, we can get the same quality of a workout by standing or sitting on our washing machine during the spin cycle, let alone spending the $10 grand these guys want. It’s not something that will help you build muscle, or contract a muscle fiber and quicker, but that’s not why they were made. Therapeutic modalities have used high velocity high amplitude forces like ultrasound and interferential for years as a way of stimulating healing and recovery. This is just a new version of old thought processes. Some other Belgium researchers found that comparing whole-body vibration training with aerobic based training and resistance based training resulted in actually gaining body fat, and produced strength gains similar to those from resistance training. In short: no benefit for strength or body composition. Can you feel the love yet? However, some other researchers found that vibration training wasn’t beneficial in trained athletes looking to increase maximal voluntary contraction, explosive power, and overall strength of the legs when performing 2-foot stance exercises on vibration plates.

Didn’t we have crap like this back in the day that was supposed to shake the fat off you? We proved it didn’t work then, but I guess if we bring it back no one will notice, right? I am sure there is some benefits for people with nervous dysfunctions, or lymphatic abnormalities, but for gains in strength and power, the research doesn’t back it up. Let’s look at the last long car ride or plane ride you took, where it felt like your fillings were getting rattled lose. Did ya feel stronger or more powerful when you went to pick up your bags from the luggage carousel? Sure didn’t. Chalk this one up for the losers at Curves who want to do a set circuit the exact same way all the time and never change their routines. I am sure it will blow their freakin minds!!
I think this chicks got the right idea when it comes to vibration plates.

I guess the days of actually moving are passe, because now you can just stand and get the shit shaken out of you and we’ll call it a workout. We might as well just crank up the heat and do yoga for like an hour and a half and sweat our bags off.

Wait….. ha…. hang on a second……
You mean there are people out there that are dumb enough to do that?
It’s called WHAT? bick-raaam? Oh sweet baby Jeebus.

Toy #3: TRX Suspension Trainers

For those who have never seen these, they are basically an adjustable nylon strap with handles and an attachment point that can let you hook it up to any fixed point, like a door frame, pole, etc. It’s a pretty highly functional piece of equipment that uses body weight resistance and adjusted lever lengths to increase or decrease the challenge of movement (move your feet in to make it harder, move them out to make it easier). It can be packed away in a small bag for travel, or hang permanently in a gym setting. However it’s used, I can’t say enough good things about it. It has such a huge range of exercise possibilities to it, from rehabilitation all the way up to elite sport performance, every one of my clients can use it safely and effectively, and for that I give it the highest compliments possible.
Hopefully this has helped to answer some conundrums you may have had about some of the new fitness equipment flooding the market. If you want any info on other products I haven’t mentioned here, just leave me a comment.

About deansomerset

Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist, Post-Rehab Specialist, personal trainer and probably the coolest guy my mom knows, I try to impart a little knowledge with a sense of humor to keep people reading. I've always thought if it's something that can grab your attention, you're gonna remember it tomorrow!!
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