6 Strange New Fitness Machines to Try

By Mike Howard

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IHRSA (International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association) held their annual conference this month – a monster of an affair which draws the who’s who of fitness equipment manufacturers, club owners and enthusiasts in general. Not surprisingly, computer-based fitness games and health data for the web stood out as big trends. One part irony, one part ingenuity, the health industry is using the very tools that are contributing to obesity to try and reverse the trend. For better or for worse, here’s what’s new and popular in the world of fitness. Speed board:
A parabolic, self-powered treadmill that adjusts speed according to how far forward or back you are on it.

Cybex FT-450 Functional Trainer:
For all the hype this multipurpose cable machine has received, I really don’t see what the hype is about. I guess it’s kind of neat that there’s an adjustable padded piece that unfolds from the machine but when you really think about it, this can take the “function” right out of a machine designed to be “functional”.

Think treadmill, only vertical! Yes it is a moving climbing wall. A great idea for clubs (and homes, I suppose) with vertical restrictions. Plus, you don’t have to wear a harness.

Gravity Treadmills:
This isn’t your mother’s treadmill, but maybe it should be. Using gravity differential technology, an advanced air pressure regulation system, enclosure sealing component and other technology that only NASA rocket scientists comprehend, this super-treadmill takes weight off you your body to lessen impact and improve speed.

Jacob’s Ladder:
A self-propelled, moving ladder placed at a 40 degree angle. The faster you go, the faster it goes – which sounds as scary as…well, the movie Jacob’s Ladder.

xrkade: An active gaming lifestyle that simulate real sports. Interactive games include; boxing, skateboarding, soccer, biking and dancing. Xrkade targets the younger gaming enthusiasts and has actual gyms throughout the U.S.

Other Cool Fitness Toys and Popular items

Fancy Heart Rate Monitors. Suunto has a monitor that measures EPOC (Exercise Post Oxygen Consumption) or how much you are continuing to burn after a workout.

RealRyder: The spinning bike that moves side to side. Also new, this thing where you can actually take the bikes outside and get this… ride them on real roads!

Fitness Anywhere continues to make waves with augmentations to their TRX training systems.

Will any of these have staying power?

Most of these aforementioned items are marketed towards commercial gyms. With an economic downturn, it may be challenging for these companies to sell these rather expensive items to health clubs. Time will tell. I for one want to try these things out.


  1. Lloyd Shaw

    Only one problem with your comment John..

    The machines that came out of Europe and Russia were so underpowered. They failed all engineering tests with anything over 60kg on them.

    You add that to fake specs being the norm…

    In N.Z. these are treated as toys or display models

    A real machine replicates the same muscle activity as climbing, which will change your body composition quite quickly.

  2. mysensei

    I’ve heard some great things about the RealRyder spinning bike. It has the ability to tilt side to side allowing the work outs to be more intense, rather than just the usual leg/cardio work out. Can’t wait to try!

  3. ArrowSmith

    Just doing 10 minutes of cardio will get full circulation. Nobody needs these fancy vibration equipment for that. If you want to throw away your money, go ahead.

  4. ArrowSmith

    Do you have any evidence for that?

  5. Spectra

    That Jacob’s ladder thing sounds really cool…I’d try that if my gym had one. I’d also really like those Real Ryder bikes, I think. I don’t like stationary bikes because they don’t feel “real” to me, so maybe if a stationary bike moved more, I’d like it more.

    I’m also really curious about that vibration training. I wouldn’t use it in place of my normal routine, but I’d like to add it to my routine to improve my circulation and help to stabilize my core.

  6. Jody - Fit at 51

    I agree with Trent. That treadwall sounds interesting. I do like to mix things up. As for the vibration, have been wanting to try that but have no access to it. I like what people said about it’s benefits. I would still do my weights & other cardio I do anyway.

    I have always thought that TRX training system looks cool but no access to that either & can’t afford the home version.

  7. One week direct diet

    I say the same thing it really difficult to maintain your fitness ..needs lot energy , patience and dedicated n sincerity…..and proper medication…will definetly make the impossible thing possible….for you

  8. Berto - PricePlow.com Supplement Prices

    I agree. I’ve been using the vibrating platform at my gym to warm up my legs. Somehow, after 30 seconds, this thing enables me to touch my toes so much easier than I ever have in my life.

    I also do hold a sitting squat position for 30 seconds, and am seriously breathing hard after it’s over. It helps my squats feel much more comfortable after that.

  9. Kami Gray, Author of The Denim Diet

    Interesting, but I think I’ll go take a long walk to my mat Pilates class.

  10. Cari from Ditch Diets Live Light

    Actually, the machines fascinate me less than the names they come up with for them! John, I agree with your acessment of vibration and what it doesn’t do. One thing I do think it’s good for is stimulating your lymphatic system which helps our immune system.

  11. Trent

    The treadwall sounds really fun. As for all the other ones…bah, I’ll take a 45-minute run outside on a sunny spring day over any of those techno gizmos.

  12. John Sifferman - Real World Strength Training

    I’ve been hearing a lot about vibration training lately. While these machines aren’t going to change your life, and definitely won’t help you burn fat or build muscle as is usually advertised – there are some clear physiological benefits to vibration. Relieving tension, improving bloodflow, decompressing joints, awakening the nervous system, etc.

    Although, I’d prefer low-tech, highly accessible vibration training to needing a special gym membership with a commercial grade machine. My coach, Scott Sonnon, is known for bringing vibration training to the US from Russia – and they don’t use fancy machines for something as simple as vibration. If you want the benefits of vibration training, just “shake it off.” It’s not much more complicated than that.

    To your health and success,

    John Sifferman
    Fitness Professional

    P.S. One good book about this is “Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma” by Levine.