For years I've belonged to a big health club that has rows of exercise contraptions. I use them regularly, and while I do, I wonder how you could make that sort of mindless exercise more interesting.

One idea is to have some sort of RFID device on your gym ID card, and keep it with you when you work out. Each exercise machine would automatically recognize your presence and access your history. You could do a lot of interesting things with that technology, but the idea that interests me most is a graph of how many pounds you are moving per week, using any subset of the machines. The idea here is that it wouldn't matter what muscles you were working so long as you moved more weight this week than last. And you could watch your tally increase with each repetition.

My theory is that although this somewhat random approach to weight training wouldn't have targeted results, it would bias you toward working your largest muscles, which is a good thing. And it might encourage you to use lots of different machines instead of just your favorites, especially after your favorite exercises fatigue specific muscles.

My other exercise idea is to make video game controllers that weigh five pounds apiece, shaped like small dumbbells, and create games where you steer the action using two controllers, one in each hand. For example, imagine aiming a big gun in a video game, or pumping your arms to make your character run, or leaning your digital motorcycle or skier to make him turn. All the game action would require moving your hand weights. An hour of that per day would make you look ripped, at least from the waist up. And it might be more fun than pushing buttons.

I think it's great that you can listen to your iPod while exercising, but weight training is still mostly a technology of the 1800s. It's time for some updating.
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Jun 17, 2009
I agree with the first post, that single joint movements are less efficient than multi-joint movements, but no matter what type of weightlifting you're doing, it is important to have correct form. Mark Rippetoe may be right part of the time, but there are definitely some things he is not correct in. The valsalva maneuver (holding your breath while you lift weights) is not recommended for the average athlete. Also, you should keep your feet neutral (not pointed out) when performing squats.

Just something to think about if you decide that weightlifting is the best way to entertain yourself at the rec.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 17, 2009
there are accessories for the Wii-mote such as the following to do just that:


Or the Wii Active "game" comes with a resistance band that you hold each end in one hand with the remote and the stand on the middle. Then, when you raise your arms to do different mini-games or exercises it adds resistance to the movement.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 17, 2009
You need to rewatch Rocky IV. (Actually no one should have to watch Rocky IV, but I digress) All you need is basic equipment.
Jun 17, 2009
On a totally different note...this is one awesome technological breakthroughs!
-3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 17, 2009
Gyms should hire attractive young ladies whose job would be to wear skimpy outfits, walk around, smile at you, and give everyone encouraging words. You touch them once, or make an inappropriate remark, and you lose your membership: first time for 3 months, the second time for life. Other than that, their job is to look good, encourage you, and engage in mild flirting. Understand: I am in no way desperate, I'm very happy with my love life and I'm not looking for anyone new… and I'd still be at the gym almost every day! I'm a guy. I'll let the women speak for what motivates them. I'm convinced that this one idea would reap untold health benefits, improve the fitness of the population of this country, and lower healthcare costs dramatically. Realistically? It'll never happen. Just like the United States adopting as a tradition an afternoon siesta, when we're all logy from lunch and not very productive anyway. I've never heard anyone say it was a bad idea. I've never met anyone who thought that this idea had a gnat's chance in a cyclone of getting adopted, either.
Jun 17, 2009
User Name: kalistickz "I recommend "Starting Strength" by Mark Rippetoe for those interested."

Awesome, gotta love a guy that can write 25 pages on deadlift mechanics.
I also came in to say that plenty of weight training workouts incoporate to metric of total tonnage. It's not as "random" as Scott implies. If you do the good compound exercises, presses, squats, deadlifts, rows and move more weight this week than last, then you're improving. A fancy tracking system would be nice but basic multiplication and addition isn't that hard.
Jun 17, 2009
Someone already mentioned the YMCA Fitlinxx. Adding RFID would make the process more automatic. Right now you have to punch your number into each machine - but other than that it pretty much does what you describe.

I used it for about a month and lost interest. That's pretty typical of my experience with most technologies of that sort. I don't really want all that information about my workouts. (I still workout, mind you, I just don't give the machines the opportunity to comment on the experience.)

Honestly, the biggest technology motivator for me is over a half-century old. I don't have a TV at home. The only time I watch is while jogging on the treadmill. Works for me.

For video games, I think they should all be redesigned so that you have to walk on a treadmill or ride a bike to power the thing. Slow down and your character weakens. That one change would reverse the obesity trend in this country. Even I would be inclined to let my kids play more.
Jun 17, 2009
the RFID card could also be used to set up the machines automatically when you get on. you could initially program your desired settings (how high you want the seat, how far you want.... whatever it is these machines do.) just step up to the machine, wave the card, and it would auto-adjust. it also doesn't seem that difficult to have it pre-load a certain amount of weight, or resistance.
Jun 17, 2009
I think Nintendo is already well on their way there, but with those light controllers for the Wii, it is more geared towards kids. If you were to strap on a pair of ankle weights and wrist weights, you would get a great workout. Not that it isn't already.

Right now, the individual calorie counter or pound counter is only in the higher end machines that you can buy for home. Gyms would have to spend a lot of money to update their equipment to be able to accurately calculate this information, then they would have to be wired or wirelessly connected to a server that would have software installed to keep track of everyone and feed the results back to the individual machines.

Come to think of it, Casinos are already doing this with their machines and most times you just have to swipe a card, so it can't be all that hard to setup. Mind you, casinos bring in a lot more money than your average gym, so they can afford those luxuries. Maybe you could hook up a treadmill to those VLTs to power them while you play and push buttons, you stop jogging, you can't play. If we could get the playing card weighted to 5 pounds each, it would make poker and blackjack an upper body workout. Have all your stats recorded and displayed on a large TV, and the person who sweats out the most calories per hour wins. If we can find a way to turn roulette into a workout, I think we'd have a million dollar idea.
Jun 17, 2009
>Each exercise machine would automatically recognize your presence and access your history

Scott, this already exists, though it's not RFID. My local YMCA has a thing called FitLinxx. I log in and it sets up the machines for me. I can even enter stuff I did outside the gym, like walking. Then each month it sends me an e-mail where it has translated my activity into (no fooling) how many ice cream sundaes-worth of calories I have burned, and how many African elephants-worth of weight I have lifted. For that matter, when I log out of the machine at the end of a session it tells me that I have lifted a total of 10,000 pounds and such. Definitely a motivator. :)
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 17, 2009
Spekaing of video games that tire you out, I bought "Punch Out" for the Nintendo Wii on Sunday. Last night I opened it up and played it for about 90 minutes. It uses a balance board so that you have to weave and duck your opponent's punchs while delivering your own. Today my legs, especially thighs, feel alot like the morning after your first day on the ski slopes at the start of the season. They hurt! And frankly waddling around the office and having to explain that you strained yourself while playing video games last night is kind of embarassing.
Jun 17, 2009
Why aren't all gyms connecting their treadmills and machines to something that can harness the energy and spit it back into the grid. Those machines should then show how much money I'm earning with the energy I'm putting in. (I should then get 50% of that credited to me, with any money over my gym fees being directly deposited to my bank account.)
Jun 17, 2009
I'd rather have a caloric count - you'd weigh in and get the fat analysis, then as you went machine to machine the total number of calories used would be counted. Sometimes it's not the weight but the reps, and sometimes it's not the machines that make you work the most! (I'm doing boxing with a trainer and that's truly exhausting).
+6 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 17, 2009
Just get a Wii and put weighted bracelets on your wrists while playing.
Jun 17, 2009
But if you really want to get futuristic, there are the Eureka (Scifi) barbells that get their weight through a magnetic floor system, but then showing off would be more difficult.
Jun 17, 2009
Took the words right out of my mouth kalistickz. Machines have their place though. If you're injured that's usually the best way to recover, but only until you can get back to using the bar.
Jun 17, 2009
For the record, the majority of those gym machines were just a huge scam to make money. All you need is a barbell, a squat rack, and a bench. Targeting one joint at a time is foolish. When are you ever going to use ONE joint to move a heavy weight causing ridiculous amounts of stress on a joint that isn't made for said purpose? Normally you won't, you'll use your entire body (muscles and joints) and therefore should train your entire body in synch. I recommend "Starting Strength" by Mark Rippetoe for those interested.

I like the controller idea though :D
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