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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Oct 19, 2010
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Jun 19, 2009
Your idea sounds a lot like a Wii, except instead of a plastic and rubber controller it would be metal (non-conducting) and rubber. In Wii Fit when you jog in place it at least makes it look like you're moving somewhere.
Jun 19, 2009
the second idea is really brilliant... i think people are missing the point there... its really too brilliant... for everyone (the laid back excerciser who needs motivation (thats 90% of us), the gamers, the marketeers, the advertisers, the home makers)... its gold!
Jun 18, 2009
I think the amount of energy you exert would be more significant for the smart machines. It could make calculations based on the amount of weight you use along with how many times and how far you moved that weight. Once you max out the weight, which I will never do, the repititions are important. Exercising is mostly about buring off all those calories.
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Jun 18, 2009
Here in Fairfax County, Virginia, the local county-run rec centers have something similar to the computerized system you want. It uses a login code, not RFID, but machines in all county-run rec centers support it. Details are at: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/rec/fitlinxx.htm
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 18, 2009
When people game, and as they get more frustrated with losing, they tend to get more erratic with their controllers. Weights require slow controlled movements. Sounds injurific!
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 18, 2009
Don't know if someone pointed it, but that peripheral already exists:


They only get to 4 pounds and Scott probably will say "that's not quite what I had in mind" -in a better english than mine, mind you-, but I think that a peripheral for the most sold new generation console with the bigger casual gamer audience -i.e.: moms, girls, people that get headache while playing tetris- is an even better move than the one he planned.
Jun 18, 2009
Interesting ideas. My problem with them is that workouts are supposed be hard work, not a merely (or primarily) a recreational activity. If you're not busting your a**, you're wasting your time. Study after study proves that. Recall the last time you did something that taxed you physically to the point of near exhaustion (like benching 5 sets of 5 at 80 percent of your one-rep max, or sprinting up hills until you collapse). Did you really have the mental energy to monitor your year-to-date weight tallies or play video games?

Achieving anything that's difficult, like getting in shape, is hard work. Hard work, by definition, is not "fun," so we need to accept that and stop trying to make it fun. People who just plod along on a treadmill for an hour and get bored and watch Oprah may feel better about themselves, but they're not accomplishing much, if anything. End of sermon.
Jun 18, 2009
Weird, I don't find weight lifting to be boring or mundane, maybe you just aren't pushing yourself enough? If you do your body will release brain chemicals that give you quite a high. Here's a hint, if you are doing your set and you reach the number of reps.. if you can do more reps.. do more reps and increase weight next time (unless you are doing super/heavy/stripping sets and you are about to immediately do a different exercise). Basically before you take your break between sets, you should be physically not able to do more. Some exercises don't make this a great idea (say if you need a spotter).. so do what I do.. do those exercises first to work out your stability musculature, then hit machines until you can barely move, if you aren't feeling pretty good mentally by then there's something wrong with your brain chemicals. Just be sure to give at least one day off for the muscle group you work (2-3 may be required depending on your water in/out). So work out a schedule that cycles through your muscle groups. If you have time.. do a 5 day workout. monday chest, tuesday legs, wednesday back, thursday shoulders, friday arms. You can do calves and abs every day, or if you prefer do M-W-F or -T-H- for either/or. Same for cardio. Hit each muscle to the max every day, you'll start feeling pretty good.
Jun 18, 2009
I kind of like the RFID type idea, perhaps you could make it like an electronic personal trainer. You could provide it with different personalities, like shouty or cajoling or encouraging.

We actually had a machine in our gym - either a stepper or a cross trainer I think - that did what Dingbat suggested, has a console screen attached, you increased in power or speed in the game the faster you moved etc. A few people tried it but it got so little use I saw, that they got rid of it after a month or two. I never tried it even, just couldn't be bothered.

I think you either want to, and enjoy, exercise, or you don't. If you do like it, then the rest is essentially just frippery. Mind you the Wii is fun and dance machines are popular with people who otherwise don't exercise - I would like to know how the balance in the case of those could be swung more to exercise successfully.
Jun 18, 2009
My idea is to invent a machine, which will accept you in your shorts, and will do all that is necessary for your body building, as per your initial preferences.

Various modes could be:
- Weight loss
- Body Building
- 6 pack abs
- Stomach tuck-in
- etc...

As per the mode, it will flex your muscles as required, while I lay down listening to the background music.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 17, 2009
A friend who works for fitness equipment manufacturer brought this idea up several weeks ago, including the RFID. There are all kinds of intersting add-ons that we were discussing:

- Along with tracking your workouts and fitness, you could set up specific programs and routines ahead of time, say if you were training for a triathlon, and the system would be able to tell you what you should be doing that day.
- You tell the system what kinds of music/shows/movies/etc you like and it brings you up the most likely options.
- Set up your friends and family list and then it would show you who you knew that was also at the gym and where in the gym they are right now - standard social networking app.
- Tell it your e-mail address and it might bring up that to the screen - although that is probably too risky if someone else got hold of your RFID chip.

I am sure there are hundreds more
Jun 17, 2009
That basically is the Valsalva maneuver. Instead of breathing out as you push or pull which most people would tell you is the correct way, you hold your breath as you push/pull, thus hardening your core/chest/back.
Jun 17, 2009

IMHO, you can point your toes out up to 15 degrees if that's your natural foot position (I can't remember where I read it, but I know that I don't feel pain when I let my feet point out slightly vs straight forward).

As to the valsalva maneuver, I don't really know what your talking about, but I do know that all the safety guidelines for heavy weight-lifting strongly urge (require) you to take a breath before you apply force, and then release it once you've reached the top of your lift.
Jun 17, 2009
Your sneaky videogame workout is a really good idea. I can't stand jogging but have always loved playing sports like soccer — so just as "running" is boring and "chasing" is fun, you could really motivate people towards fitness using a game as the carrot.

I have been to a gym with a digital system in place, spanning all machines, but you had to log in to each new machine with your pin. It did keep track of your weight, reps, and estimated calories burned. Pretty neat until I got lazy.
Jun 17, 2009
I'd like to defend Rippetoe but he can do it better himself, www.strengthmill.com under Mark Rippetoe Q & A.
The reason people go to the gym, if not to improve competitively (for sport or w/e) is to remain active in a sedentary busy world. Lots of people have to sit at desks all day and don't have time to chop wood, and now when they do they'll do a much better job. "Strong people are harder to kill than weak people, and more useful in general." Sadly the majority are uneducated on the best way to do it and machines offer a seemingly easier route to general fitness (AND gym fitness instructors promote them because they don't know either). Shortcuts are bad when it comes to working out, especially ones that take less WORK to do.

+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 17, 2009
Oh, and working your largest muscles might exhaust the most energy, but it's a lousy way to improve athleticism, i.e. the ability to actually DO things.

You are only as strong as your weakest muscle group. Having one or two huge muscles and a bunch of teeny ones makes for a lopsided physique, surprisingly low stamina, and (I believe) much higher susceptibility to injury.
+6 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 17, 2009
Exercise activities are always going to be right out of "the 1800's" because they are all meant to simulate activities most folks had to engage in day after day before the enervations of modern society gave us sedentary complacency. There's nothing that can change that.

Exercise is boring because exercise is meaningless. The weights haven't changed one bit since you picked them up, and the world certainly isn't a better place for their being moved up and down.

Wearing out someone's body in pointless busywork is actually a rather cruel form of punishment (like digging holes just to fill them back in). When you go to the gym, that's ALL you are doing. And you're paying for the privilege.

Your video game idea SEEMS good because it seeks to simulate meaning and purpose, but it's just as pointless (and, I think, will be almost as dull when the novelty wears off). You want it to be more interesting, make it meaningful.

Ride your bike to grandma's instead of sitting on a motionless machine. Chop wood for your fireplace instead of swinging big weight stacks back and forth. Go help put a roof on your neighbor's house instead of balancing on a yoga mat. And instead of spending money on a gardener AND a gym membership, spend nothing and prune the hedge yourself. You'll feel a terrific sense of accomplishment rather than like a hamster on a wheel.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 17, 2009

Where do you get your information concerning the valsalva and foot position while squatting? I find it unlikely that you know more than Rippetoe who has been doing this for years.

I completely agree with the OP. Get away from machines, they have you perform movements on a set track that doesn't necessarily match your natural movement. Lift free weights, kettlebells and perform body weight exercises.
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 17, 2009
Speaking of video games, some players of World of Warcraft have incorporated exercising by mounting their keyboard to a stationary bike or treadmill (the more !$%*!$%* ones set it up so that their computer shuts down if they stop pedaling). Apparently it doesn't matter how fast you pedal, because hours slip by while they're engrossed in the game. And they can't help but pedal like mad during tense fights.

Sounds effective.
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