What’s the Latest in Fitness Equipment?

By Mike Howard

62-db koko.jpg

The International Health Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) held their annual convention and tradeshow earlier this month in San Diego. This event is the “superbowl” of the fitness and health tradeshows. Alas, I did not attend – however I did manage to get the scoop on the latest fitness and exercise trends, gizmos and permutations. Here’s a look at what’s coming to a gym near you:

Fully loaded ellipticals

You can now change up your stride pattern. The early models didn’t transition very well but the latest versions seem to work more smoothly. True Fitness’ new CSX elliptical allows users to step off the pedals and onto fixed side panels, then move just the handles back and forth to get a better upper-body workout.

The Gsycle is another hybrid machine that looks like a stairmaster but allows for handle movement as well as lateral lower body movement. (Note: please resist the urge to pop an ecstasy tablet while watching this video)

Computer Technology

No surprise here that computer technology is becoming more and more a part of fitness equipment. Here are some examples:

  • Life Fitness’ Elevation series of cardio equipment allows users to save their workouts to a USB stick, then download that information into a special website where they can monitor the workout length, distance and intensity. You can also download iPod music and videos right into the machines.
  • Star Trac offers software with a series of pre-designed cardio and strength programs that allows users to track their progress. Gyms will sell the software-loaded USB sticks to members, who can plug them into Star Trac’s E Series cardio equipment and its new Koko strength-training machines. Check out the Koko strength machines here.
  • Smart Feet: Nike already has footwear containing a sensor that relays information to the exerciser’s iPod Nano, which can then be downloaded into a computer. Until recently it was used outdoors only. Now several fitness equipment companies have incorporated the technology into select machines so that workouts can be monitored in the gym as well.


Guru Johnny G has given his spinning bike a makeover with the “Krank cycle”. It looks like a Spin cycle but instead of pedals it has hand cranks that can be turned together or independently. Check out the demo here. (Yeah, I’m not sure about this one either!)

Resistance Training

The TRX system isn’t that new, but it appears to be exploding in popularity. It is simply a rope with handles, although it is actually more versatile than one might imagine. Here’s a video demo.

SoloStrength: This is one that I’ve had a chance to try. To be honest, it’s a glorified chin-up bar that costs hundreds of times more. Yes, it is easily adjustable and has the advantage of vertical beams to hand tubing etc. from, but at $1500 the price should scare people off. It’s also limiting for lower body and the middle shoulders. Demo

Fitness Classes

Check out Les Mills’ Body Jam. Not for the dance-challenged (such as myself). Although I’m not a fan of how the Les Mills company cookie cuts their programs and has their own certification process and licensing, I’m really diggin’ that type of class.


It will be interesting to see which of these products takes off and which ones fizzle out. Have you tried any of these new machines/gadgets/classes? Tell us what you think.


  1. Patrick Lenhoff

    It’s amazing to see how the latest technology is so present in the sports industry. Whether it’s in bodybuilding or something else, technology will help us reach our goals. Personally, I’m most excited about True Fitness’ new CSX elliptical, and I’m looking forward to trying it.

  2. emelyn

    Whether you are a fan or an athlete, the most vital and comprehensive knowledge about any type of sports can only be clearly understood through the best sports books written either by the champion athlete or a veteran coach. They are the most reliable persons because they have experienced the best and worst of the games and the ins and outs of every game. I really like this. thank you so much..

  3. Workout Equipment

    That is some nice fitness equipment. Although I did not really get the Solostrenght. Like you sayd ‘glorified chin-up bar that costs hundreds of times more’

    I think the USB stick by Life Fitness is going to be a hit. I would like to have it.

  4. SCal

    I can’t wait for the exercise equipment to become more computerized so they can be hacked!

  5. SCal

    You can do floor presses or use a power rack.

    All machines were made to make tasks easier, including lifting weights or running.

    LOL at the lat pulldown machine.

    Just work on pullups! If you can’t do a pullup get some bands for assisting in pullups and work on your negative pullup.

  6. Cynthia

    I’m 50 years old, out of shape, with assorted past and present soft tissue injuries and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my new TRX suspension trainer!

    This widget is so cool, because beginners can get some balance assist if they have a hard time with exercises like squats and lunges like I do. Yet, there’s just all kinds of ways to make the exercises REALLY tough if you are advanced.

    It’s easy to set up, very portable, and even with a problem shoulder, I’ve found that this is very possible for me to do, whereas traditional weight training was making my shoulder issues worse.

    I highly recommend purchasing the Trainer Basics DVD… though it is for personal trainers, it was very educational for me in terms of ways to modify the exercises.

    The All Body Express Workout DVD that came with my bundle is a bit too tough for me at the moment, but I follow at a slower pace and do what I can and it’s still a great workout! I was trembling all over after doing it Saturday!

    Anyway, best fitness purchase I’ve made in a while!

  7. Jan74

    The elliptical is pretty good. So is the stairmill, although nobody has stairmills anymore. Steppers suck. They are worse than a recumbent bike in terms of letting you get a good heart rate. It works your calves, if you hate calf workouts, though.

  8. Jan74

    I’m up for it as long as it is like treadmills, where you can either program in your intervals, weight, all that if you want to, or you can just hit “start” and increase the speed manually if you don’t feel like it. If there are both a geeky way and an easy way.

  9. Matt

    We’re getting that new elliptical in my gym soon. Personally, I prefer methods other than ellipticals and steppers but I’ll give this one a shot when it comes in.

  10. Heather

    I think they do step back and look at their posts. And admire them. There are trolls on this blog. They delight in being controversial or getting under someone’s skin. I’d ignore them.

    Anyone with knowledge of fitness knows there is not one measurement or one path to optimal fitness. We’re all an experiment of one and have to find what works best for us.

  11. Alchemyguy

    You are unlikely to be the majority of geeks; As a (science first, tech second) geek myself, I knew and craved the allure of quantifiable data along with cool new tech to make it all happen and know full well it is felt by my fellow geeklings. If it’s seamless and brainless, it certainly will help a portion of the population achieve goals and push harder and so on. If it’s a hassle, it won’t make it in the wild west that is the fitness industry.

  12. Jan74

    I am a geek who doesn’t want to have to learn to work machines at the gym. I do this all day; the gym is my relaxing time, and figuring out and inputting data in machines is not what I want.

    Inputting data on my heart rate monitor, sure. But not figuring out new machines at new gyms all the time.

  13. JimK

    “This is where technology can help. By keeping people involved even when they are away from the gym. Keeping their minds on their fitness and the goals they want to achieve.”

    Thanks for this. I wish more people understood that tech + home tracking + fitness = awareness. That goes double for geeks who love computers and gadgets.

  14. Jan74

    My mom has done all of those! ha

  15. Alchemyguy

    “If there’s anything worse that the self-important twats who bang on about how *their* way is the only or best way, I don’t know what it is.”

    Ho-hum. Welcome to the internet. It must be your first day here; it’s just about all anybody really does.

    Where in this discussion has anybody promoted the One True Path to fitness? I pointed out that new tech is not automatically better, and offered a contrasting vision of fitness that is cheap, reliable and proven effective at what it claims to do. So tell me, where are the self-important twats in this discussion?

  16. Spectra

    Don’t forget about those sauna places that promise that you’ll lose weight while you sit in there and sweat off the pounds while relaxing. I wonder how many people have fallen for THAT scam, lol.

  17. Jan74

    Haven’t you heard of the “passive exercise” scam? You go and the machines move you against your will.

    There is also the magnetic contraction scam, where you place electrodes on you as you nap.

  18. Joey

    Mike, I think you are pretty close on your scoop of the show. I think in future you are going to see more and more vendors bridging the gap between gym and home. Most people are pretty motivated when they get to the gym, regardless of the machines there. The problem is when they get home. They lose the energy of all of the other people. This is where technology can help. By keeping people involved even when they are away from the gym. Keeping their minds on their fitness and the goals they want to achieve.

    I think you will see more stuff like nike, ipod, and lifefitness allowing you to take your workout home and upload it to a website. The website is a 24/7 portal that can keep you in touch with fitness even when you are away from the gym.


  19. JimK

    If there’s anything worse that the self-important twats who bang on about how *their* way is the only or best way, I don’t know what it is.

    Can some of you take a step back and look at the crap you say?

  20. Fitness_Fanatic

    Yeah if a person can’t get down and give me 50 pushups, he’s not worth spit in a bucket. All this fancy shmancy equipment is for pampered yuppies.

  21. Fitness_Fanatic

    Agree about squats and deadlifts, they’re sort of integrated with each other. I don’t bench press due to not wanting to bother with having a spotter. So I do incline bench press and pushups. Flame away.

  22. Spectra

    When I sold workout equipment, we had this awesome piece of equipment that was called an X-trainer. It was like an exercise bike with handles for your arms. The cool thing about it was that you could adjust the resistance on the arms seperately from the resistance in the pedals. It was one helluva workout, but the thing cost like $9000. We only sold a couple of them…mostly to Green Bay Packer players, lol. Most people thought they were neat, but figured they could just get a regular exercise bike and then lift weights. As for me, I think some of that really high tech stuff is neat, but I just can’t afford most of it. And I get a very effective workout just by running, using my jump rope, and lifting weights. I think the point of having all sorts of bells and whistles on your workout gear is to keep you motivated and bust boredom more than anything.

  23. Jan74

    I love all Les Mills classes, except for Body Pump cause I can do my own weight training, thanks.

    But Body Jam is fun even for a rhythmically challenged person like me. Body Combat is still my favorite, though.

  24. Red

    dang it, where’s the exercise machine that does it’s thing FOR me while I nap.

  25. JimK

    I REALLY want my gym to get the whole “download your data to a usb stick” thing. I love tracking my stats, and that is just too much geekery for me not to love it. I’d really, really like a treadmill that let me take my data home.

    Also, I want to jack my iPod into a screen. 1. I will no longer have to squint at my screen, and 2. I can share “Butt Blaster 36: This Time It’s Personal” with everyone in the cardio area.

    It’s not an exercise video. Could get tricky if there are any prudes about, Still, people can learn things from any film. This one teaches the importance of cleanliness.

  26. Alchemyguy

    Compare and contrast with http://www.rosstraining.com/articles.html
    How about full body workouts with homemade sandbags, old tires and good old fashioned sprints in a field?

    New != better. People don’t actually need computerized whiz-bang gadgetry to get a smokin’ workout; they need to get up and do pullups, pushups and dips until their arms fall off, interval sprint until they want to puke and the big three: bench, squat and deadlift. Oh yeah, there has to be the will or no amount of $$ matters.

    I haven’t climbed up on a high horse for a while, so there we go. Thanks for having me, you’ve all been great!