Gym equipment design

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The great outdoors

If the truth be told, most people hate going to the gym. Whether it’s the effort of going, the cost, or simply the dislike of preening gym-monkeys absorbed by their own reflections it’s far too easy to sit on the sofa, order pizza and tune in for another epsiode of Eastenders.

However, there is another way to get the British public off their backsides and it exists outside the confines of the traditional gym environment.

40 adiZone outdoor gym venues have sprung up around the UK

The Great Outdoor Gym Company is already at work around the UK, and its gyms have been sprouting up in all manner of areas to offer free, safe exercise equipment to all.

Kirklees Green Legacy Gym


Ladies on a ski machine and treadmill at Kirklees Green Legacy Gym

Designing the equipment is a tricky challenge. Not only does the obvious lack of electricity need to be tackled, but vandal proofing and safety also need to be addressed.

“The first design objectives were to meet health and safety standards for children so that everyone can use it together outdoors without supervision. Creating a friendly, safe and fun environment whilst keeping fit with the whole family,” says creative director Georgie Tarrant.

The company’s desire to make the equipment accessible to all (from grannies to grandchildren) means that all the equipment had to meet European safety standards, while the company’s own guidelines meant that it should all be accessible for people with disabilities.

Using clever resistance methods, you are never lifting more than your own body weight when using the weight machines, while electricity is bypassed by using rollers for treadmills, making sure nobody can hurt themselves.

Equipment offered includes Lat Pull Down, Tai Chi, Fitness bike and Leg press training

“We write a design brief for ourselves based on market research and gather visuals, creating mood boards,” says Georgie. “Our engineers do pencil sketches before CAD drawings are modelled.”

The design team works in SolidWorks, utilising Cosmos to help with structural testing. The 3D models assist the team in getting to the prototype stage from which more physical testing is done.

The CAD models are given another lease of life when they are rendered in 3ds Max for planning and marketing material.

The finished gyms are excellent for bringing down the barriers to normal workouts and getting everyone involved in a healthy lifestyle, giving exercising a fresh new appeal to many.

Power to the people

While flicking through celeb-tastic magazines during your weekly manicure you’ve probably wondered just how do celebrities stay so toned?

Good vibrations: with its vibrating base the PowerPlate causes up to six G of gravitational force, making exercise positions harder to hold

Away from the world of dodgy diets, ex-military personal trainers, and the odd nip and tuck, we think we’ve found out how.

With a list of celebrity and sports endorsements, the Power Plate has a fan club with more famous faces than the average movie premiere, and with good reason.

The original concept was developed in the 1970s by Soviet scientists as a means of helping prevent cosmonauts’ muscles ­and bones wasting in space.

Following a successful redesign, most importantly to the way the vibrations move up and down, and several commercial versions later, the Power Plate is a staple of many exercise regimes.

Traditional exercises such as squats and push-ups are done on the vibrating base, with the movement causing up to six ‘G’ of gravitational force, making the exercise positions harder to hold. It’s ­claimed that using the Power Plate for ten minutes is equivalent to 60 minutes of conventional exercise.

“The first design was done on the back of a beer mat,” says the incredibly enthusiastic Power Plate founder Guus van der Meer. “Although I’m not technical at all.”

The design of the latest models is a mixture of work done in-house and by design bureaux with Jelte Tempelaars, senior vice president of product development at Power Plate, oversee­ing a lot of the design.

“Right now the shape of our product has become almost iconic; people recognise our product on the shape of the device, but at the same time we want to be innovative and add things to the design,” explains Jelte.

The team works with Pro/Engineer for much of the functional aspects of the unit, although SolidWorks is also used, primarily for the aesthetics, and especially for producing animations.

“Everything stands and falls with the functionality of the unit. Things need to look good, but at the same time it needs to be very functional,” adds Jelte. “We have to find the right balance.”

A natural dimension

Luxury is a term thrown around quite casually – a few precious metals and several extra zeros on the price tag seems to work – but sometimes it’s just all-round better design.

The TechnoGym Kinesis is one such product. The Italian firm is responsible for producing ‘everyday’ gym equipment that fills our local health centres, but with the Kinesis it has created a more personal and natural way to get in shape.

The pulley system enablesthe user to perform over 200 different exercises

“Kinesis Personal is the first piece of designer gym furniture for the home and environments dedicated to people’s psychophysical wellbeing,” states TechnoGym’s Enrico Manaresi.

“It marks a return to the origins of human movement because it rediscovers fundamental motor abilities: resistance, balance, strength and flexibility.”

Using the three pairs of handgrips and a pivoting pulley system the user can perform over 200 different exercise movements in all dimensions without having to make any adjustments.

Specific muscles (chest, back, abs, glutes and quadriceps) are engaged using the standard individual movements, whereas combined movements work several muscles at the same time.

“The physiological movement trajectory is defined by our Pro/Engineer analysis of movement, which is the same software we use during the entire design process,” explains Enrico.

“We used computer aided simulation to test the product before starting the physical tests, we check that the product fulfils the functional requirement, biomechanics, ergonomics, end user dimensions.”

Interestingly TechnoGym is one of the few companies producing scale 3D rendered models of its products available for download by architects to place into new gymnasium plans.

The product is all about delivering psychophysical wellbeing through natural dimensions of fitness, a great plan for getting in shape for the summer, although with prices starting at just over £6,000, you might need a while to save up. It is luxury after all.

New equipment means that anyone can get fit anywhere, anytime

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