In the gym, form is everything. Perform an exercise incorrectly and you’ll hurt yourself. Do it perfectly and you’ll see the best results.
This simple idea inspired Cornell mechanical engineering students Michael Lyons and Greg Meess to create a gadget that guides you through one of the most common exercises: The bicep curl. They were motivated by the time they’ve spent in the gym and encouraged by a kinesiology class.
The Haptic Exercise Coach looks a bit like a blood pressure cuff. It uses a microcontroller and accelerometers at the forearm and bicep to track the movement of your arm. Stray the slightest bit from ideal form and the cuffs vibrate, telling you to correct your form.
“Their system tells you in real time how to modify your arm position for maximum muscle development,” says Bruce Land, who taught the course for which Lyons and Meess developed the device.
Lyons says it all comes down to torque.
“Keeping the elbow directly the shoulder and the wrist facing directly upwards allowed for the maximum amount of torque force to be applied to the bicep muscle group,” he says. “When the max force is applied to the muscle the more the muscle fibers will be torn, resulting in a better workout.”
Lyons and Meess built the haptic exercise coach in five weeks during the spring of 2010 and spent a whopping $75. They filed a provisional provisional patent application in September to protect their intellectual property while they refine the technology and figure out what to do next. Although their goal was guiding people through the perfect curl, Lyons and Meess see applications for the gadget in professional sports training and physical therapy. They also see it helping everyday athletes improve their form, avoid injury and increase efficiency.
“At some point in the future I can see people wearing such devices to the gym, but that won’t be for some time,” he says.
Video: Bruce Land/Cornell University