BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
1. The Field of Invention
This invention relates to the field of Fitness and wellness of the body, and in particular to the scientific development of a correct apparatus and methods for performing abdominal exercises such as SIT-UP and LEGS-UP exercises free of injuries and with maximum results. In practice, the invention produces new and more complete forms of exercises that extend beyond muscle development and combine the health, integrity, alignment and performance of spine. Abdominal exercises are commonly performed by most athletes and fitness lovers to obtain strong and shapely abdominal muscles, but an analytical study conducted by the inventor reveals their negative side, as far as the methods commonly adopted, which are unscientific because they produce negative stress along the spine and projects the inevitable prospects of long term spinal injuries such as slipped or herniated intervertebral disks, thorn cartilages, and even lordosis and scogliosis. Statistics concerning sports and fitness injuries support this prediction. This invention particularly represents the solution to this problem. It aims at correcting this deficiency of a balanced stress during these exercises by offering an apparatus and methods that allow the body to perform them safely and in optimal dynamic condition, as to achieve equalized abdominal muscles' strengthening and development, at the same time, relieve negative spinal stress. This relief is physiologically referred to as decompressing of the spinal disks, which contributes to better health and better performance. The apparatus, we may say, is an equalizer of applied force for the lower back and abdomen, for, as it will explained in the text of the invention, it engages the right muscles of the lower region in the right order when bending the torso during the sit-up exercise and decompresses the stress in the spine, both prior and after the movement, i.e., during the torso's initial and ending position in each repetition of the exercise. Technically, by helping decompress the spine, the apparatus helps restore proper intervertebral space and allows the disks to refurbish with lymph and reacquire their proper thickness and function as the spine shock absorbers. In addition, the apparatus helps develop spinal alignment, which is the proper positioning of each vertebra of the spine within the natural place thus maintain its proper curvature. Most importantly, the apparatus helps enhance spinal flexibility, which is the ability of the spine to move through a full range of motions. “A flexible spine is a healthy spine” is this inventor's motto.
2. The Related Prior Art in U.S. Patent
Hatfeld U.S. Pat. No. 4,372,553
Stefani U.S. Pat. No. 3,674,017
Jensen U.S. Pat. No. 2,152,431
Henschel; et al. U.S. Pat. No. 6,467,841;
Oman U.S. Pat. No. 4,474,370;
Pearl U.S. Pat. No. 4,6,21,809;
Lemire U.S. Pat. No. 4,953,0571
Walter U.S. Pat. No. 5,042,800;
Moore et al. U.S. Pat. No. 5,110,122;
Felice U.S. Pat. No. 5,368,537;
Sessini U.S. Pat. No. 5,567,011;
Brentham U.S. Pat. No. 5,713,840;
Sparks U.S. Pat. No. 5,567,010;
Walker U.S. Pat. No. 6,532,962;
U.S. Pat. No. 4,372,553 to Frederick Hatfeld, discloses a weight lifting device and a method that though different, it exemplifies all that is wrong with commonly done SIT-UP exercises. In a common SIT-UP exercise done freely or with the help of a bench, the user passes from a horizontal to a partial or total bending of the torso—clearly a movement initiated from the neck muscles and that passes tremendous negative stress along the cervical region of the spine. In Hatfeld's device the user is sitting on the bench and has strapped on his shoulder a belt passing through a pulley and connected to some barbell weights, Since the movement of the torso is more or less the same of a SIT-UP exercise, it is obvious that in this case, in addition to the weight of the head, the user adds the weights of the Barbells, which doubles or triples the negative stress on the spine. While very little work is done by the abdominal muscles, most of the work is done by the neck and pectoral muscle while the damage is certainly greater at the two spinal extremities, namely, at the cervical and ends at the lumbar vertebral region.
U.S. Pat. No. 3,674,017 to Hugo Stefani, discloses an apparatus used to passively exercise a person's abdominal muscles. This device consists of a chair whose back reclines into a flat bed or vice versa, thus producing a movement of 90 degrees of bending and extension of the torso of the user. During this movement, the user applies controlled force by the use of weights or with the application of an electric motor. It is obvious that without preserving and protecting the spine, or without a lumbar support any, the exercise, it says in the description, ends up causing negative stress and altering the spine's natural curvature. In fact, the stress exercised by the abdominal and lumber muscles unfortunately acts negatively in modifying substantially the lordosis area or the natural curvature of the spine, thus shifting vertebral position and possibly causing slipped disks.
U.S. Pat. No. 2,152,431 to Sigvard H. Jensen, discloses a device that exercises the lower and upper body resting on two folding planes that allow the bending motion from a wide to a sharp angle, almost to a V. The exercise consists in performing extended repetitions, but here again missing is any concerns for applying the muscles' correct dynamics, which are traction and contraction, spinal posture, preservation and enhancement of the natural spinal posture.
U.S. Pat. No. 6,467,841 to Henschel. et. al., discloses a multilayered lumbar support for a bench press exerciser. Although this device approximates the visual idea of the invention, the scopes and concerns are far from the invention in question. The lumbar support is designed to reduce the indirect weight that from the shoulder may be transferred to the lower back while lifting weights. It may accommodate users with a multiplicity of lumbar lordosis but support needs or correct problems that are far apart from those exhibited in ordinary SIT-UP exercises. The device does not address, nor does it fulfills the purpose set out by the present invention, which is one to provide the ideal position for a pelvic movement, arcual stretch of the spine, total decompression of the stress acquired during the SIT-UP movement and neutralization of the lumbar muscle, and concentration of the work in the abdomen. In synthesis, the application of the device is strictly a lumbar support and is not intended to exercise the lumbar muscles, perform spinal traction, achieve intervertebral decompression, spinal alignment and flexibility, which is the field of the present invention.
U.S. Pat. No. 4,474,370 to Oman, also discloses a weight lifter bench with cervical and lumbar support, the latter being adjustable in a sliding manner in relation to the former. This device again, though similar in some respect to the invention because of the use of adjustable lumbar cushion along the horizontal plane, like the preceding one, is intended to support lumbar muscles during weight lifting exercises, like the many kinds of lumbar cushions in existence, dealing with an entirely different stress, and in substance, not designed to provide ideal dynamic conditions for SIT-UP exercises in accordance with the needs cited above.
U.S. Pat. No. 4,621,809 to William Pearl, discloses a contour bench press that accommodates the body of the weight lifter during the exercise. Providing a mold-like receptacle for the body to allow the same to be firm in place during the stress moment of the weight lifting is rather restrictive. There is no questions as to the shifting of the body and the lateral stress being eliminated. However, this total body stabilization device is not necessary because most of the weight gravitates on the shoulders when the weight lifter is in a supine position, Lateral support is needed only during the initiation of the lifting exercise and only around the lumbar section. This is why the Pearl's bench is somehow restrictive and difficult since a certain amount of shoulder movement is helpful in weight lifting and would not compromise the lifter's commonly weak abdominal muscles. However, one would eventually have to have one device custom molded to one's specific body in order to use this device. The problem is better resolved by the lateral, adjustable supports provided by the padded flanges of the so-called “flexor” adopted in the invention in question and whose detailed description is offered in the apparatus' description.
U.S. Pat. No. 4,953,857 to Bett. J. Lemire, discloses two orthopedic lumbar and cervical supports to be used alternatively on weight lifters benches. Although, these removable supports would seem to help any exercises done in a prone position, they would not be suitable and would not serve the purpose of correcting the defective way SIT-UP exercises are being performed nowadays. In addition, the cervical support of this invention does not totally relieve the pressure exercised by the weight being lifter in the prone position.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,042,800 to Brian A. Walter discloses a therapeutic apparatus providing spinal tensioning means and anatomical support to the spine. Although spinal tensioning can be achieved with this device, such action does not meet the specifications of an ideal dynamic of the SIT-UP exercises and spinal interaction enunciated in the description of the invention in question.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,110,122 to Moore et. al. discloses a multi-exercise apparatus, a seat with a back rest and leg placement means for performing a multiplicity of exercises. Although, this device may be used as an ordinary SIT-UP bench it too does not meet the requirement to fulfill the problematic treated by the invention in question.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,368,537 to Louis Felice discloses an exercise apparatus accommodating the body, like a chair without legs, the user is supposedly in a sitting position holding onto a series of hand grips located on each side of the device. The user is supposed to do SIT-UP or LEGS-UP exercises by holding on to these handle grips and have his own weight stabilize the chair. This device only accomplishes the ordinary and obsolete type of exercises the present invention has overcome.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,567,011 to Lorenza Sessini discloses an anatomical lumbar support to be mounted on chairs and that can be motorized to overcome its manual adjustments. There is a slight similarity offered by this device, and that is, it has an adjustable movement sliding on metal rods, to be mounted on the seat back of any chair, which is not related to the invention because it does not offer the “flexor” a benefits enunciated below and the support is not intended to be used in SIT-UP exercises.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,713,840 to Jerry D. Brentham discloses a therapeutic corrective wearable device suspended from the shoulders of the user. The user applies pressure against it whenever he rests against a chair back, and by doing so, he is supposed to reacquire proper spinal posture. The device has no relation to the invention in question, except that, although different, it too is supposed to help maintain spinal posture and curvature but with dubious results. In fact, Brentham's device relies on the willingness of the user to push the spine, which is in a vertical position, against a chair back in order to correct some anomalies, while the invention in question relies on the willingness to conduct the exercise and place the body's weight in an horizontal position, over the “flexor” in order to arch the spine.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,567,010 to Michael Sparks discloses a mechanical adjustable lumbar support. The lumbar support contains an apparatus controlled by screws and levers from the external side by means of rotary wheel that expands the thickness and thus enhancing or diminishing the device's radius, and consequently, the amount of spinal support to the user. The slight similarity with the present invention is that the “flexor” too is adjustable from the external side area, but what are adjustable in the “flexor” are the two padded flanges, while its radius remains stationary. In fact the radius of the “flexor” is superior to any possible spinal curvature, precisely because it would not otherwise offer a gradual and progressive exercise and produce enhanced greater spinal curvature and flexibility. The difference between Spark's invention and the invention in question is again a vertical, rather than horizontal pressure exercised upon the spine by the user of the device. And as to the similarity of commands, the external wheel of the flexor, again, only controls the width of the two padded flanges in order to accommodate and stabilize various body sizes of possible users and not the radius of the “flexor”.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
U.S. Pat. No. 6,532,962 to Brock M. Walker, discloses a spinal support system of truly ingenious qualities, but it is a device to be employed vertically in seating systems although it provides anatomical support to the spine and to the lower a sacral-pelvis area. Although, this invention relates only to seating systems, like the invention in question, it addresses the equal concern for the correct resting position of the sacral-pelvic area. This is noticeable because both during seating and the SIT-UP exercise the sacrum should rest in the correct positions in order to avoid negative stress upon it and upon the lower spine. The difference therefore rests on the sacrum being regarded in the first instance in a resting position and being regarded in a dynamic condition in the second instance.
As of today, no one has been able to develop an apparatus that helps perform balanced and effective SIT-UP and LEGS-UP exercises, which are the sole that can develop safe, strong, sculptured abdominal muscles. With or without the help of ordinary devices and methods, SIT-UP exercises will cause tremendous negative stress along the spine and long term injuries, especially when performed for long extended periods of time in incorrect way and a non progressive manner. Negative stress along the spine and especially in the lower back is produced by allowing a set of muscle work against another and thereby shifting the gravity forces of the spinal column and forcing it to unnatural movements. The negative stress derived by ordinary SIT-UP exercises, among the many long terms injuries, produces repetitive abnormal, compression of the intervertebral discs, which may cause serious injuries such as slipped or herniated disks, thorn cartilage, pinched nerves, arthritis, and even scoliosis and lordosis at a point when the vertebra enter in contact bone-to-bone with each other. Technically explained, in ordinary SIT-UP exercises, the initial force necessary for lifting the head and the torso is initiated in the lower back by the contraction of the neck and the other muscles along the spine and not by the entire set of abdominal muscles. In fact, the lift of the head and of the torso, as explained here in greater details, is not obtained by the abdominal muscles, but the sequential contraction of the weak back's spinal muscles from the neck down extending to the longissimus and to the lumbar muscles the obliques. In ordinary SIT-UP exercises, the abdominal muscles are the last set of muscles to be activated. The abdominal muscles are the strongest muscles of the lower back to begin with, because of their structure, the large work they perform comparing with the lumbar muscles. As a result, a bad SIT-UP exercise results in a bad sequence of muscle engagement. During the exercise, done in this incorrect way, the neck is the part that suffers the most. The initial contraction of the neck muscles works against the cervical area of the spine that is supporting the entire weight of the head and for being the weakest area of the spine. The effort of the contraction of the neck's muscles and progressively of the back spine tend to bend the latter unevenly and produce progressive uneven stretching of tendons, cartilage, and ligaments producing the very noticeable unnatural curvature of the spine, as well as unequal compression of the vertebral disks. Thus during the initial pull, the negative stress of the exercise is absorbed mostly by the back side of the Fascia cartilage and tendons that keep the spine together, from the cervical area and distributed along the spine down to the lumbar region.
In explaining the advantages of the invention, we must anticipate that abdominal exercises, such as SIT-UP and LEG UP exercises can be very beneficial when performed correctly and uniformly because may help develop a strong back, First of all the movement should have proper articulation from the pivoting points of the body, while the spine should maintain its posture. Thus first of all, a correct SIT-UP exercise requires proper positioning of the body, consequently engage first and primarily the abdominal muscles by allowing them to do the first pull of the head and torso while isolating the lumbar muscles and safeguarding the integrity of the spine.
Ideally understood and put into practice by the invention, the new methods of performing SIT-UP exercise consists in properly positioning the body and bending and raising the legs from a linear position (LEGS-UP) to at least 90 degrees angle, thus isolating them and allowing the movement of the torso to hinge in the Femour-Pelvis joint. This allows all abdominal muscles to be placed under traction, so that the initial pull is done by the same muscles by basic contraction of same. In other words, since the abdominal muscles are the only set of muscle of the lower torso under traction at that moment, they are the first to respond to the command to bend the torso and by contraction do the first and most strenuous part of the exercise, which is the lifting of the head.
The graphic of FIG. 3, clearly shows that during ordinary SIT-UP exercises the first 15 degrees of the movement, which is produced by the contraction of the scalenus and platysma muscles, produce the initial stress, namely, 100% lifting of the head. During this fraction of time the spine bears 85% of the stress produced by the weight of the head, because the Rectus Abdominus does not begin to work until after the second half of the movement, (namely, after the torso has reached 45 degree angle). Therefore, from zero to 45 degrees the spine is under tremendous stress, and it is most apparent in observing the spine of exercisers in action. To be considered is that the head is at that initial moment much heavier due to gravity acceleration, which can be determined by multiplying its mass by 9.8 m/s. Now we can understand why the spine arches in such an abnormal way during ordinary SIT-UP exercises. These exercises are definitively dangerous in the long run. Moreover, the drastic and sudden initial effort of lifting the head can compare to a car whiplash, with the same complications that this condition may comport to the cervical vertebral region.
This is simple to understand, since there is not a straight anatomical connection between the Rectus Abdominis and the Scalenus because there was at one time no such apparent need in all four legged animals, humans included. Let us remember that humans were at one time four legged animals.
The initial contraction of the neck is produced by the scalenus, the platysma and other minor muscles distributed along the spine. Than it is transferred onto the pectoralis major and minor which ultimately engage the rectus abdominis, since the latter does not extend beyond the rib cage. This transfer of force, during the many repetitions of the exercise, puts continuous stress on the spine, and avoiding it, is precisely what this invention has been able to accomplish.
The head is the heaviest part of the body and the spine is not a rigid wooden stick that can be raised from one end, and not even a golf club that can be swung from one end. Some wrap their arms around the neck or hold additional Barbell weights on their chest in SIT-UP exercises, which makes the stress even more critical for the spine. The invention consists in the design of an apparatus that
- a) Primarily positions the body correctly as to safely initiate the exercise with no danger of lateral stress and vertebral displacement;
- b) Creates a fulcrum below the femour-pelvic area where to initiate the SIT-UP movement;
- c) Tightens and stretches the abdominal muscle to produce a direct connection between all the muscles of the torso, and, like a pulley, establishes a direct force line between the abdomen and the head;
- d) As a result, the apparatus places into traction and thus tightens all the muscles of the torso for a quicker and simultaneous contraction—as to pull up the torso and the head as one piece and relieve the spine of any negative stress;
- e) The apparatus allows the user to exercise the flexibility of the spine by simultaneously decompressing the spinal disks, enhancing the health of the intervertebral disks, elasticity of cartilage and ligaments, as well as producing vertebral alignment and restoring proper curvature of the spine; and ultimately
- f) Neutralizes and protects the weak abdominal muscle allowing the movement to be initiated and completed 100% by the abdominal muscles.
All these functions are performed specifically with the help of a simple and adjustable device the inventor calls: “flexor”. Its functions are precisely to flex the spine to a gradually increasing radius; to provide the correct fulcrum for the sacrum and the pelvis; to allow the abdominal rectus abdominis, the obliques and the entire superficial fascia muscles of the back to tie together with the chest's pectoris minor and major and with the neck's scalenus and platysma muscles as to simultaneously produce a unified mass that lifts the head and the torso as one piece.
The “flexor” acting as a fulcrum below the sacrum, and the Femour-Pelvic area and being the hinging point, produces a movement of the torso that is transformed into an Archimede's lever, which is much easier on the spine, since it is not only a balanced and equalized stress, but highly beneficial for it strengthens all the muscles of the lower torso.
This newly invented device, the “flexor,” may resemble prima facie an ordinary lumbar support, but its new and versatile application, and, in particular, positioning with respect to the rest of the apparatus, establishes the premises for optimal dynamic conditions to perform ideal SIT-UP and LEGS-UP exercises that are safe and offer the greatest results. The physiological, (fitness) results are quite substantial also because the “flexor,” by isolating the entire lower lumbar muscles, transfers the entire force onto the abdominal muscles, which by being in traction, are promted to do the initial and the ultimate work. The lumbar muscles are often the weakest of the body and can be strained easily, but in this way they get their adequate share of exercise both in the bending and in the return of the body.
Isolating and protecting the lumbar muscles region especially during the first part of the exercise (the lifting of the head) should be a public concern, since over 100 Million Americans are suffering from lower back problems and many of these injuries arise from sports and fitness activities. This is chiefly because most body movements, even in the day-to-day life, do not respect muscle dynamics of traction and contraction and are not coordinated in ways to produce equalized stress, or proper stress distribution. At this point the famous Dr. Alexander Tecnique should be quoted as specific reference to spinal stress management.
During ordinary SIT-UP exercises performed on benches, on balloons, or on the floor, the work done by some lumbar muscles may concur in the measure of 60 to 70% of the work with an initial pull which may reach even 80%, and that is why they can be easily strained. Even the Obliques, whose function is primarily to turn or twist the body, can be strained.
There are no effective apparatus or programs in place to individually and safely strengthen the lumbar muscles. For this reason, body builders in particular are notorious to have weak lumba muscles. Generally, as I said earlier, this can be understood by the human's physiological and anthropological evolution from four legged animal to homus erectus. Nature only produces slow changes and over millions of years. The lumbar muscles in a four legged animal do not do much work except for maintaining the spine rigid and in good posture. The thoraculumbar fascia and the erectus spinae, the romboid, the serratus, etc. perform precisely this function. However, the erectus spinae and the thoraculumbar fascia are the two major muscle sets of elongated shape in the torso. The “flexor” neutralizes them by bending them to the opposite direction thus thus subjecting them to an impossible opposing traction. However, this bending and stretching is highly pleasurable, just as it is often practiced in yoga exercises. The so-called arching of the back corresponds precisely to extend said muscles, to tightening them, and thus prompting the erectus abdominis and the obliques abdominis, to instantaneous contraction andengagement of the pectoris, the scalenus, etc.
It is obvious that the idea of this apparatus arose from an accurate analysis of muscle dynamics of traction and contraction, which is material of the present invention, as shown in FIG. 5. With the use of the “flexor” the lumbar muscles can be completely neutralized by the body's own weight, whence the full concentration of force and quicker contraction of the abdominal muscles.
The user lies supine over the “flexor” and his own body weight extends the abdominal muscle to a neutral position and exercises the curvature of the spine. In addition, the “flexor” allows the movement to be initiated from the Femour-Pelvis, which provides a natural pivoting point for the entire movement of the torso. This tells us that from the beginning to the end the SIT-UP exercise relies 100% on the abdominal muscles together bound to the head by the chest and neck muscles. The ultimate positive fact is that when all the front muscles of the torso are in contraction simultaneously, it is like pulling the head with a rope, whence the device's unique effective and safe results.
The reverse LEGS UP exercise can also be performed in the same way and with the same effectiveness, though the legs are much lighter than the head. But by using the same device, even this second exercises is extended to maximum performance and safety. The exercise LEGS-UP is performed by positioning the body on the opposite direction of the bench, and activating the linguinal muscles as well, thus obtaining greater intensity and more satisfactory anatomical results than when done with ordinary benches or on the floor.
The “Flexor” is made of a semi rigid material and molded in a round shape. Its radius is fixed above ordinary spinal arching in order to offer progressive spinal arching exercise. Its width is adjustable by means of two extendible padded flanges controlled by an internal mechanism that allows to accommodate any size body waist. The device can be adjusted to the length of the user's body by sliding on two guides made of stainless steel or plastic, and secured by a screw pin located on one sides of the device.
These adjustments allow exercising the spine simultaneously in both the SIT-UP and Legs-UP exercises. The spinal exercises consist in the user by bending the torso from an extended spine arching position and returning to the same starting position in each repetition of the exercise. The initial and ending position of the exercise is simply lying on the “flexor” with legs elevated and allowing the user's natural weight to gradually bring about progressive spinal curvature, disks decompression and greater overall flexibility.
Bending or extending the lumbar muscles to a point of neutralization and stretching of the spine has a soothing effect on the entire body. Under these optimal conditions the exerciser is able to bring the entire torso to a 90 degree angle or more, which is the aim of the exercise, without stress to the spine. The Flexor's desirable actions of adequate stretching and neutralizing the lumbar muscles and gradual arching and stretching of the spine, represent the most important features of the invention.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING
The next feature is the apparatus' capability of adjusting the curved, upper leg area attached to the flat bed. The user places his feet in between the padded horizontal members that anchor them during the exercise in accordance with the desired exercise intensity. These horizontal padded members, along with the capacity of the flat bed to be set on various degree angles, offer multiple gravity resistance for the exercises. The upper hinged part of the apparatus comprising the flat bed, the “flexor” and the foot anchors, all in one piece, can adjust, from a horizontal position up to a 50 degree angle. This feature is regulated by two telescopic bent pipes bearing the same radius that slide one inside the other. A spring pin secures the multiple positions of the entire hinged part.
FIG. 1 shows a perspective view of the Invention.
FIG. 2 shows a detail of the device referred to as “flexor”.
FIG. 3 shows the adjustable mechanism of the device referred to as “flexor”.
FIG. 4 shows a diagram of gravity forces exercised on the spine during ordinary SIT-UP exercises.
FIG. 5 shows application of the “flexor”, the correct initial resting position of the body, the arching of the spine, the traction of abdominal muscles, an d the resting position of the spine prior the exercise.
FIG. 6 shows the SIT-UP apparatus and the user completing the exercise movement and the re-obtained correct spinal posture.
FIG. 7 shows the apparatus and the user executing the correct LEGS-UP and spinal exercises.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT
FIG. 8 shows the application of the “flexor” on ordinary fitness machines.
The preferred embodiment of the invention is basically a two-part bench that offers special features for performing both SIT-UP and LEGS-UP exercises correctly. FIG. 1 shows an apparatus comprising a metal frame built as two embodiments: the lower embodiment 1, resting on the floor and an upper movable section 2 attached to and hinging on the lower section by means of bearings 3. The upper embodiment 2 comprises a padded flat bed 4 that accommodates the user in a supine position; Two male railing tubing, 5, made of chromed or stainless steel, running on either side of the flat bed, allow the horizontal adjustment of a mechanism the inventor calls “flexor” 7 with respect to the length of the flat bed 4, used to accommodate users of different body size and height and reverse the exercise from SIT-UP to LEGS-UP. Three pairs of horizontal cylindrical padded members 6 are there to accommodate the feet of the user and offer additional choices for changes in body angle and resistance during the exercise. The “flexor” 7 slides on the railing tubing 5 and can be locked in place 7 by means of a pin or screw knob to the desired distance from the anchors padded cylinders 6. The “flexor” 7 is constructed out of a semi rigid material or medium density foam and lined with a layer of fabric, vinyl, leather or other upholstery material. Two movable, padded flanges, one on either side of it, 8′ and 8,″ are also covered with upholstery material and mounted on a steel frame 9. The padded flanges, thanks to the internal mechanism of the “flexors” extend and contracts simultaneously on the turning of the knob. The frame is welded on two short female members tubing 10 (only one visible) which run on male tubing 5′ and 5″ for the needed adjustment of the “flexor” 7 to accommodate the right body length of the user. A knob pin 11, secures the “flexor” to railing tubings 5. Ultimately the two sections of the apparatus, are made to hinge on two bearings 3, at one end, and on the other end, are made to open to an adjustable resistance angle. The two supporting members made of tubing are telescopic and convex. A female section 12 and a male section 13, slide one inside the other to offer multiple angles of resistance and stability for the entire apparatus. The adjustment is then secured by a spring pin 14 that locks automatically in the desired position.
- DESCRIPTION OF THE METHOD
The inner structure of the “flexor” 7, comprises a three part steel frame 9, 15′ and 15″ which are part of the mechanism that confers lateral width adjustments to the two padded flanges 8′ and 8″. The adjustment of the padded flanges 8 allows the same to adhere to the waist and protect the user from the occurrence of side spinal stress and consequent injuries. Each of the padded flanges 8′ and 8″ comprises a frame 15 and a pair of male telescopic moving members 16 that slide inside the stationary female members 17 attached to the main frame of the “flexor” 7. A manual knob 16 is attached to a drive shaft 19 that activates two spiral screws, 20′ and 20″ of opposite thread. This mechanism allows the two padded flanges to move in and out simultaneously and to confer the desired width adjustments to the padded flanges 8′ and 8″ of flexor 7.
In order to determine the utility of the invention, one should make a simple comparison between the ordinary methods presently employed to perform SIT-UP exercises and the new scientific, anatomical method proposed by the employment of the preferred embodiment of the invention. FIG. 4 is a horizontal diagram showing four segments of the movement of an ordinary SIT-UP exercise. The weight of the head attributable to negative spinal stress during the initial 15 degrees of the radial movement is borne exclusively by the contraction of the neck muscles and progressively by the scalenus, platysma, homohyoid minor and major muscles, along with the muscles of the lower back and the lumbar muscles. During this initial 15 degrees the spine, especially the cervical area, bears approximately 85% and the additional gravity acceleration of the head's weight, with proportionate negative stress. At this time all the muscles of the back including the weak lumbar muscles produce the first pull. During the next 30 degrees of the movement, (up to 45 degrees), the diagram shows that the user gradually reduces the negative stress on the spine, because now be engages the fascia, the pectoralis minor and major, the intercoastal, the lateral anterior serratus and other minor subcutaneous muscles of the chest and finally the abdominal muscles. As more muscles are engaged, the spine is gradually relieved of the weight and of the consequent negative gravity stress. At the mark of 45 degrees the weight borne by the spine has decreased to 25% and becomes normal on the 90 degrees mark, that is, when the spine is in a vertical position. The Traversus abdominis, the rectus abdominis, the rectus sheath, the transversus abdominus and the oblique abdominis muscles are activated only after the 45 degree mark onwards and up and above the 90 degree mark while all the back muscles are still under contraction. The work from the 45 degree mark onward is also shared by the contraction of minor lumbar muscles ouch as the iliac crest, the tensor fasciae, the gluteus medium, and other linguinal muscles. After the 90 degree mark, the work is transferred almost entirely to the thigh muscles, namely, the sartorious, the pectineus, the longus, and the magnus.
The novel ideas of the invention are:
- a) Primarily to produce an apparatus that provides the ideal conditions to position the body correctly as to safely initiate the exercise with no danger of spinal negative stress and lateral vertebral and disc displacement;
- b) To produce an apparatus that provides an ideal fulcrum of movement below the sacrum femour pelvic area where to initiate a natural SIT-UP movement;
- c) To produce an apparatus that tightens and put under traction in a direct connection the abdominal, chest and neck muscles, and establish a direct force line between the abdomen and the head by which the latter is fully pulled by the contraction of the former;
- d) To produce an apparatus that by placing into traction all the front muscles for a quicker and simultaneous contraction and pulling the torso as one piece, relieves the spine of any negative stress;
- e) Lastly, produce an apparatus that offers the ideal conditions for exercising the spine and the abdominal muscles simultaneously by decompressing the spinal disks, enhancing the health of the intervertebral disks, elasticity of cartilage and ligaments for a more flexible spine, as well as maintain vertebral alignment and proper curvature of the spine; and ultimately
- f) To produce an apparatus that neutralizes and protects the weak abdominal muscle so that the exercise is initiated and completed 100% by the abdominal muscles.
FIG. 5 clearly show a correct anatomical position of the body; the body of the user appears lying supine over the “flexor”; his lumbar muscles are neutralized because are stretched beyond their working point; his abdominal muscles along with the rest of the chest and frontal neck muscles are extended and in traction; the spine is decompressed because the vertebra are opened to the maximum degree and relaxed. Under this condition, the movement can begin safely and effectively, since the “flexor” has provided also a fulcrum below the sacrum with respect to the femour-pelvis joint to naturally articulate. In this position, the entire set of front muscles, from the abdominal to the neck muscles are bond into one line of force and ready to be activated simultaneously by the next impulse.
The “flexor” resting in the right position, i.e., at the fulcrum of the torso, prompts the same and forces the movement to be initiated precisely at that point and thus reversing the order of muscle engagement of ordinary SIT-UP exercises. Dynamically speaking, the torso, by having all the frontal muscles under traction and ready for simultaneous contraction produces a straight line of force similar to Archimede's lever as if there were a cord pulling the head in a straight line form zero to a ninety degree angle.
FIG. 6 shows the spine having returned to its natural and correct position when the body has reached approximately 90 degree angle. Beyond this point, the exercise loses its effect to the abdomen. The body keeps moving forward but the abdominal muscles devolve the task of contraction to the upper thigh muscles. In substance, FIGS. 5 and 6 show how the spine can be fully articulated, and at the same time, be protected against negative stress toward greater flexibility, strength, and intervertebral disks health.
FIG. 7 shows the reversed movement, which is just as effective, as LEGS-UP exercise. In this exercise the spine remains semi-stationary, but it is being exercised as well when the legs reach the 90 degree angle. The thigh muscles initiate the movement and pass it subsequently to the abdominal muscles which do the final pull of the legs. Here again the lumbar muscles are being totally annihilated so that the entire work is concentrated on the thigh and on the abdominal muscles.
FIG. 8 shows a vertical application of the “flexor” complete with vertical and horizontal adjustment in ordinary fitness machines. Here too, the “flexor” mechanism performs a dual function of lumbar muscle protection and spinal exerciser since the movement forces the spine to traction, arching position. Common fitness equipment lacks these features. The first concern thus is to stabilize the spine in order to avoid side shifting of the vertebra by the muscles' force of upper body exercises. Negative stress, whether on a horizontal or vertical body position, may cause long term spine injuries. The second concern is to exercise both the flexibility and the arching of the spine, which also prevents injuries. With this application the “flexor” mechanism can actually can be supplemented with a belt that ties around the waist and keeps the body of the machine's user safe in position.