US 20050170938 A1
A belt is provided with an inflatable bladder which, when inflated, is permitted to expand toward an interior of the belt and prevented by a barrier from expanding toward an exterior of the belt. A pressure gauge indicates the pressure within the bladder, and the gauge is fixedly displaced relative to the belt and the user such that the gauge may be viewed by a user when the belt is worn without significantly moving the cervical spine substantially out of a neutral posture.
1. An exercise device, comprising:
a) a belt positionable about an abdomen of a user;
b) an inflatable bladder constrained to expand inward toward a space circumscribed by said belt when said bladder is inflated; and
c) a pressure feedback means displaced outward relative to said belt.
2. An exercise device according to
a rigid arm coupled to said belt on which said pressure feedback means is displaced outward.
3. An exercise device according to
said rigid arm is rotatable about a hinge such that said arm can assume a relatively compact configuration with said belt.
4. An exercise device according to
an inflation means for inflating said inflatable bladder, and a tubing extending between said inflation means and said bladder.
5. An exercise device according to
said tubing has a length not exceeding approximately eight inches.
6. An exercise device according to
said tubing has a length not exceeding approximately six inches.
7. An exercise device according to
said bladder is constrained by placement of a substantially stiff element at one side of said bladder.
8. An exercise device, comprising:
a) a belt positionable about an abdomen of a user;
b) an inflatable bladder constrained by a stiff element to expand inward toward a space circumscribed by said belt when said bladder is inflated; and
c) a pressure feedback means displaced outward relative to said belt at a location which can be viewed by the user when the belt is worn without moving the cervical spine out of a neutral posture.
9. An exercise device for a user, comprising:
a) a belt snugly conformable about the user;
b) an inflatable bladder coupled to said belt and adapted to expand on substantially only one side of said belt;
c) a pressure feedback means for displaying an indication of pressure within said bladder; and
d) mounting means for mounting said pressure feedback means to the user such that the user can view said pressure feedback means without holding said pressure feedback means in hands of the user.
10. An exercise device according to
said mounting means is configured to permit the user to view said pressure feedback means without substantially moving the head from a cervically neutral position.
11. An exercise device according to
said mounting means functions with the user in both standing and supine positions.
12. An exercise device according to
said mounting means mounts said pressure feedback means in a fixed relationship relative to said belt.
1. Field of the Invention
This invention relates broadly to exercise equipment. More particularly, this invention relates to a belt having an inflatable bladder and a feedback mechanism to indicate to the user when the pressure in the bladder is altered by activation of the abdominal transverse muscle region.
2. State of the Art
Pilates is an exercise method that improves muscle control, flexibility, coordination, strength and tone through physical and neurological mental conditioning. It works on deep (or core) abdominal muscles and the spine, the most important structure in the body and the source of the nervous system. It is a fitness regime that combines stretching and strengthening exercises designed to work the entire body in fluid movements.
In accord with one significant pilates exercise, the participant, while preferably in a proprioceptive environment, draws in the muscles of the transverse abdomen and holds the muscular state for a period of time. It is preferable that the spine be in a close to neutral posture during the exercise. Otherwise, such abnormality in posture can cause deviation from the intended results.
Moreover, it is often difficult for the participant to know whether the exercise is being performed properly. Particularly with pilates-type abdominal exercises, it is essential that the abdominal muscles be drawn in toward the spine, in distinction from simply ‘sucking in’ the stomach. The lack of proper feedback as to whether the exercise is being done properly is one reason it is very difficult to teach and learn several exercises which are part of the pilates method.
It is therefore an object of the invention to provide a device which assists a user in performing abdominal core muscle exercises.
It is another object of the invention to provide a device which provides feedback to a user that an exercise is being properly performed, while the user maintains desired posture, such as during a pilates exercise.
In accord with these objects, which will be discussed in detail below, a belt is provided with an inflatable bladder which, when inflated, is permitted to expand toward an interior space circumscribed by the belt and prevented by a barrier from expanding toward an exterior of the belt. The bladder is coupled by a short tube to an inflation bulb and a pressure gauge which indicates the pressure within the bladder. In accord with a preferred embodiment of the invention, the gauge is coupled to the belt and displaced relative thereto such that it may be viewed by a user (without use of the user's hands) when the belt is worn without significantly moving the cervical spine substantially out of a neutral posture. The displacement may be effected by use of bracket, a portion of which may be received in a pocket of the belt. The bracket may fold at a hinge to permit the belt and gauge to be collapsed together into a compact configuration for storage or travel.
In use, the belt is snugly worn with the inflatable bladder positioned against the abdominal muscles, in distinction from directly over the stomach. The bulb is activated to inflate the bladder, e.g. to 80 to 90 psi, such that pressure is placed against the abdomen. While maintaining a posture in which the cervical spine is in a substantially neutral posture, the transverse abdominal muscles are drawn in and held for a period of time. As feedback that the muscles of the abdomen are being activated, the user can see the gauge which is positioned at a location which can be seen without significantly moving the head from the neutral position. If the exercise is being performed properly, the gauge indicates a pressure decrease while the muscles of the abdomen are drawn in, and a return to the previous pressure once the muscles are relaxed. The pressure decrease does not occur if ‘draw in’ is performed improperly, i.e., if the stomach is ‘sucked in’, but the muscles are not properly drawn in.
In accord with various embodiments, other attachment means may be used to couple the gauge relative to the user so that the user may view the gauge during the exercise without use of the user's hands while maintaining proper physiological positioning. Furthermore, other feedback means may be used, such as sounds and/or lights that indicate to the user the pressure drop which occurs during a properly performed pilates-type abdominal exercise.
Additional objects and advantages of the invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art upon reference to the detailed description taken in conjunction with the provided figures.
Turning now to
The inner side 12 includes a first pocket 20 constructed of an elastic material, such as neoprene. An inflatable bladder 22 is provided in the pocket 20. The bladder 22 is coupled to an actuation bulb 24 by a short length of tubing 25, e.g., 6 to 8 inches, the relatively short length of which increases the responsiveness of the bulb 24 in inflating the bladder 22. The bladder 22 is also coupled to a pressure gauge 26 by tubing 28. Gauge 26 indicates the pressure within the bladder 22. Tubings 25, 28 extend through the pocket 20 preferably at a reinforced location, such as a leather or durable fabric overlay 29.
The gauge 26 is mounted on an L-shaped bracket 30 defining vertical and horizontal arms, 32, 34, respectively. Particularly, the gauge 26 is mounted at the end 37 of the horizontal arm 32 with the face 38 of the gauge directed upwards. The horizontal arm 32 may in fact be angled relative to the horizontal, but provides outward displacement of the gauge 26 relative to the belt, as discussed further below.
A stiff barrier plate 44, e.g., of plastic, metal, leather, heavy fabric, etc., can additionally be positioned in the pocket 36. One or both of the vertical arm 32 and the barrier 44 function as a stop to prevent the inflated bladder 22 from expanding into the belt 10. The barrier 44 is especially preferred if the vertical arm 32 and bladder 22 are laterally offset from each other. The barrier 44 is particularly not required if the vertical arm 32 is of substantial stiffness and dimension to constrain movement of the bladder 22 in the direction of the vertical arm, as discussed below.
Alternatively, the second pocket 36 can be provided at the inner side 12 of the belt 10, between the first pocket 20 and the belt 10. As yet another alternative, no second pocket 36 is required and the vertical arm 32 and barrier 44, if provided, may be positioned in the first pocket 20, between the bladder 22 and the belt 10.
The outer side 14 of the belt 10 is provided with a preferably elastic third pocket 42 into which the bulb 24 may be stored when not being activated to inflate the bladder 22.
In use, the belt 10 is snugly worn with the bladder 22 positioned against the abdominal wall muscles, in distinction from directly over the umbillicus. The bulb 24 is activated (pumped) to inflate the bladder 22, e.g. to 80 to 90 psi (i.e., to the expanded state shown in
While maintaining a standing posture or lying in a supine position in which the cervical spine is in a substantially neutral posture and while subject to the pressure of the bladder 22, the muscles of the abdomen are drawn in and held for a period of time, e.g., five to ten second, and then released. The exercise is repeated several times for maximum benefit.
If the exercise is being performed properly, the gauge 26 indicates a pressure decrease while the muscles of the transverse abdomen are drawn in, and a return to the previous pressure once the muscles are relaxed. The pressure decrease does not occur if ‘drawn in’ is performed improperly, i.e., if the stomach is ‘sucked in’ and the muscles are not properly drawn in. In order to provide useful feedback that the transverse abdominal muscle region is properly being activated, the user can see the face 38 of the gauge 26 which is fixedly displaced outward from the user's body at a location which can be seen without significantly moving the user's head from the cervically neutral position.
Turning now to
From the above, it is appreciated that other attachment or mounting means may be used to couple the gauge in a relatively fixed position relative to the user (without use of the user's hands) so that the user may view the face of the gauge during exercise while maintaining proper cervical positioning. By way of example and not by limitation, an articulable gooseneck may be used between the belt and the gauge. Furthermore, the gauge may be relatively fixedly coupled outwardly from the user's body at a location other than the belt. For example, the gauge may be coupled to a neck brace which places the gauge substantially closer the user's eyes. By way of another example, the gauge may be coupled to a foot or shoe attachment which places the gauge further at a distance from the body or face and/or at a relatively vertically higher location to facilitate visual inspection. In addition, the gauge may be attached to an arm band in a manner that the gauge is visible by the user when the arm is in a neutral position against the body.
Furthermore, other feedback means, in addition to or as an alternate to the pressure gauge 26, may be used which additionally provides feedback to the user that pressure has dropped in the bladder and thus the ‘draw in’ is being properly performed. For example, audible indicators or visual indicators, e.g., lights such as LEDs which are highly visible even from peripheral vision, can be used to indicate the desired pressure drop when the exercise is being properly performed.
There have been described and illustrated herein embodiments of an exercise belt for performing an abdominal exercise. While particular embodiments of the invention have been described, it is not intended that the invention be limited thereto, as it is intended that the invention be as broad in scope as the art will allow and that the specification be read likewise. It will therefore be appreciated by those skilled in the art that yet other modifications could be made to the provided invention without deviating from its spirit and scope as claimed.