FIELD OF THE INVENTION
This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/668,831 filed Apr. 5, 2005, the contents of which are hereby incorporated by reference.
- BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
This invention relates generally to exercise devices, particularly including devices that simulate a natural running motion.
Elliptical exercise machines have become a very popular alternative to high impact activities such as walking or running. A typical Elliptical machine guides the user's feet through an elliptical path such that impact on the user's joints is reduced. Dual action elliptical machines include swing arms that link arm motion to the motion of the feet such that both lower and upper body can be exercised at the same time.
Inasmuch as elliptical machines are a substitute for walking or running it is important that the machine imitate as closely as possible the movements involved in these activities in order to properly work the muscles involved. Simulating the actual motion of the user's feet is also important for the user's comfort and enjoyment. Unnatural and awkward movements encourage injury and cause undue strain. Unnatural movement may also make the user feel off-balance or uncomfortable and therefore discourage use.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
Accordingly, it would be an advancement in the art to provide a simple and effective elliptical machine closely matching the motion of a user's feet during normal walking and running.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
An elliptical machine includes a foot link having one portion resting on an angled member such as a ramp secured to a frame. A wheel may mount to the foot link and rest on the ramp. An end of the foot link pivotably connects to a sliding link, the other end of which is connected to an angled guide secured to the frame. The sliding link is coupled to a crank attached to a flywheel rotatably mounted to the frame. A secondary flywheel may be coupled to the frame and be driven by the first flywheel, such as by means of a belt. A swing arm pivotably connects to the frame and has its lower end pivotably connected to swinging arm link. A handle secures to the swinging arm above the point of pivotal securement to the frame. The swinging arm link secures to the sliding link at the same point as the crank.
Preferred and alternative embodiments of the present invention are described in detail below with reference to the following drawings.
FIG. 1 is a side view of a preferred exercise apparatus in a first position; and,
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT
FIG. 2 is a side view of the apparatus of FIG. 1, in a second position.
A preferred embodiment of the exercise device of the present invention is shown in FIG. 1. The device 10 includes a frame 12 having a base 14 and optionally including a plurality of feet 16. As shown, the base 14 is substantially horizontal, though it may be angled or take a different shape. The frame 12 includes a front upright 18 and rear upright 20 secured to the base 14 via bolts, welding, or other means. The frame 12 includes an intermediate cross-member 22 and upper cross-member 24 that are secured between the front and rear uprights 18 also via bolts, welding, or other means. Each of the foregoing frame members is preferably formed from steel or other durable, rigid materials suitable for use in an exercise device.
The frame members 14-24 described above comprise half of the frame, in this case the right side half. A duplicate set of frame members is provided at the left side of the device 10. Although not visible in the side view shown in FIG. 1 additional frame members connect the right side frame members to the left side frame members. As shown and described, the frame members form a generally rectangular cubic frame. The frame 12 can be constructed in a variety of different embodiments, consistent with this invention, including, for example, curved frame members to provide a more pleasing aesthetic design. The principal objectives of the frame 12 are to provide a suitable, stable foundation for the device, and to provide sturdy locations to connect the various links that generate the exercise motion.
A support member 26 such as a ramp, rail, channel, or the like secures to the frame 12. In the illustrated embodiment the support member 26 is a ramp 28, which preferably includes at least one foot 30 for resting on a support surface. In some embodiments, the ramp 28 has an angle of from about 20 to 40 degrees above horizontal. Again, though not visible in the side view of FIG. 1, the preferred device 10 includes a second ramp 28, such that there are two ramps 28, one associated with each foot of a user. It is possible, however, consistent with this invention, to use a single ramp to support both feet of a user.
The ramp 28 is secured to the frame 12, preferably at the front upright 18. In addition, the ramp 28 preferably is adjustably secured to the frame 12 such that the angle of inclination of the ramp 28 can be adjusted by the user. As shown in FIG. 1, the ramp 28 forms an angle that is approximately 20 degrees above horizontal. In a preferred form, the ramp 28 can be adjusted to form a wide range of angles, including, for example, a horizontal position through a position approximately 45 degrees above horizontal. The inclination may be adjusted in several ways. In one embodiment, the ramp 28 is removably attached to the front upright 18 at one of several pegs 32, slots, or other attachment points. The ramp 28 is then adjusted by removing the ramp 28 and replacing it at a different attachment point. As another alternative, the ramp 28 may be electro-mechanically adjusted using hydraulics or other means.
A foot link 34 is supported by the support member 26 to cause a portion of the foot link 34 to translate or follow an arcuate path. The foot link 34 may be suspended from the support member 26 or be suppored from beneat by the support member 26. In the illustrated embodiment the foot link 34 rests atop the ramp 28 and is configured for reciprocating motion over the ramp 28. One or more wheels 36 are preferably secured to the bottom of the foot link 34 to facilitate the sliding reciprocating motion. Alternatively, sliding contact between the foot link 34 and the ramp 28 may occur. Low friction materials secured to the ramp 28 and foot link 34 may be used to facilitate sliding. In an alternative embodiment, the foot link 34 engages the support member 26 embodied as a channel or rail by means of one or more rollers conforming to the rail or fitting within the channel. In the preferred form, an intermediate section of the foot link 34 is generally parallel with the ramp 28, while near a first end 38 the foot link 34 is angled upward slightly so that it will be relatively close to horizontal in intermediate ramp inclinations. Near a second end 40 the foot link 34 is preferably angled such that it is parallel to the end 38, as shown in FIG. 1.
Near the first end 38 of the foot link 34 is preferably a platform 42 configured to support the foot of a user. The platform 42 may simply comprise a wide surface sufficient to allow a user to stand on the link 34, or may optionally include an attached foot bed with raised walls (not shown) around the perimeter to prevent the foot from slipping off the link.
Near the second end 40 of the foot link 34 is pivotally attached to a sliding link 44. The sliding link 44 has a first end 46 and a second end 48, with the sliding link 44 being pivotably attached to the foot link 34 near the first end 46. Near the second end 48 of the sliding link 44, the sliding link 44 engages a guide 50 secured to the frame 12. The guide 50 constrains the sliding link 44 near the second end 48 to translate along a path, typically a straight path. The guide 50 in the illustrated embodiment slopes downwardly. In some embodiments, the guide 50 is adjustable as to angle in order to accommodate variations in gait. Apertures 51 may also be provided such that the guide 50 may be pinned to the frame 12 at a plurality of heights. The guide 50 in the illustrated embodiment is a channel link 52 secured to the frame 12 and having a channel formed therein. The channel link 52 may include a slot 53 receiving a bolt or other fastener securing the channel link 52 to the frame 12. Multiple apertures 55 may be provided on the frame 12 to provide various points of securement of the channel link 52 to the frame 12. The apertures 51 and apertures 55 provide a channel link 52 that is adjustable as to angle. The channel link 52 may also be adjusted as to height. A wheel 54, or circular retainer, secures near the second end 48 of the sliding link 44. The wheel 54 may take the form of a boss, gear, or other configuration suitable to be retained within the channel link 52. The channel link 52 has a C-shaped cross-section such that the wheel 54 is securely retained within the channel. Because the links 44, 52 are preferably securely joined to one another, a U-shaped channel may also be suitable. When the device 10 is in use, the wheel 54 slides back and forth along the channel for a reciprocating motion. Although one preferred construction is described above and illustrated, it should be appreciated that the operation of the sliding link 44 within the channel link 52 is essentially the same as that of a reciprocating piston. Thus, in alternate embodiments, a wide variety of shapes and construction types are possible to facilitate the piston-like motion.
Two links 56, 62 are secured to the sliding link 44 at an intermediate location. A frame link 56 is pivotally attached near a first end 58 to an intermediate location of the sliding link 44. Near a second end 60, the frame link 56 is pivotably attached to the frame 12, in this case at the rear upright member 20. A swing arm link 62 is pivotably attached near a first end 64 to the sliding link 44 at the same intermediate location as the frame link 56. Thus, three links are joined together at the same location.
A swing arm 68 is provided for exercising the upper body. The swing arm 68 includes a handle 70 positioned to be gripped by a user. Near a lower end 72, the swing arm 68 is pivotably secured to the swing arm link 62 near the second end 66. The swing arm 68 also pivotally secures to the frame 12, such as the front upright 18, at a point between the handle 70 and the lower end 72.
Near the second end 66, the first swing arm link 62 is pivotably attached to the swing arm 68 near the lower end 72. In an alternate embodiment, the sliding link 44 includes a plurality of attachment points between its ends, such that the frame link 56 and swing arm link 62 can be repositioned at a plurality of locations along the sliding link 44 to alter the motion of the foot link 34.
The handle 70 may be secured to an upper portion 74 of the swing arm 68. The swing arm 68 may include a lower portion 76, separate from the upper portion 74. Either the upper portion 74, the lower portion 76, or both directly pivotably secure to the frame 12. The upper portion 74 may adjustably secures to the lower portion 76 such that the height of the handle 70 may be adjusted for users of different sizes. For example, the lower portion 76 of the swing arm 68 may be secured to the frame at a fixed position, while the upper portion 74 of the swing arm 68 includes a plurality of holes 77 to allow it to be selectively pinned to the lower portion 76 at a plurality of desired heights. Other means are also possible to provide a desired adjustability.
The frame link 56 fixedly secures to an axle 78 rotatably secured to the frame 12. The axle 78 also fixedly secures to the first flywheel 80. In this manner, the frame link 56 and axle 78 serve as a crank for spinning the first flywheel 80. The sliding link 44 therefore eccentrically engages the first flywheel 80 by connecting frame link 56 near the first end 58.
A belt 82 connects the first flywheel 80 to a second flywheel 84, which is also rotatably connected to the frame 12 at a different location, in this case at the intermediate cross-member 22. The second flywheel 84 provides additional inertia to the assembly. Optionally, one or both of the first and second flywheels 80, 84 may engage a frictional or electromagnetic resistance system 86.
One side of the device is shown in FIGS. 1 and 2 and described above. The opposite side of the device is substantially the same, except that the linkages will all be configured such that they are 180 degrees out of phase from the position in the cycle of motion shown in FIG. 1. In addition, in typical embodiments, there is not an additional set of flywheels and belts for each side of the device.
The motion of the device and its many linkages can be seen by viewing the relative position of the linkages in FIG. 2 with respect to the positions in FIG. 1. In FIG. 1, the foot link 34 is at a rearward position, with the platform 42 in a substantially horizontal position (at least, for the ramp when set at the inclination as shown). In this position, the swing arm 68 is nearly vertical.
As the user begins use of the device 10, and urges the right foot forward, the foot link 34 will slide along the ramp 28 in a direction toward the frame 12. As the foot link 34 moves in the forward direction, the second end 40 of the foot link is urged upward by the sliding link 44. The frame link 56 will rotate in a circular, clock-wise fashion, causing the sliding link 44 to slide upward within the channel link 52 and urging the second end of the foot link 34 upward, as shown in FIG. 2.
Once the frame link 56 reaches a vertical top position and begins to proceed downward in a clockwise fashion, the retainer 54 secured to the sliding link 44 will travel downward along the channel, urging the second end 40 of the foot link 34 downward as well. Accordingly, as the foot link 34 travels forward and backward in a reciprocating fashion, it is also alternating between angled upward and angled downward positions. The reciprocation and changes in inclination cause platform 42 to mimic a natural running motion of a user.
Meanwhile, through this path of motion the swing arms are also reciprocating. In the position of FIG. 1, the swing arm 68 is substantially in a rearward position. Depending on the length of the swing arm link 62, the swing arm 68 may be in a vertical position or slightly forward or backward at this point in the cycle. As shown, it is generally vertical.
As the foot link 34 travels forward, the frame link 56 initially causes the swing arm link 62 to move in a forward direction, urging the lower end 72 of the swing arm 68 in a forward direction as well. The swing arm 68 thus pivots about the pivotal connection to the frame 12 such that the swing arm 68 and handle 70 are urged backward while the foot link 34 moves forward. The handle 70 is generally at its most rearward position when the frame link 56 is at the top of the cycle, as generally shown in FIG. 2.
Once the frame link 56 reaches the top of the cycle as in FIG. 2 and begins to travel further in a clockwise direction, the swing arm 68 will begin its motion in the opposite direction, pivoting in a forward motion. Accordingly, as the foot link 34 reciprocates forward and backward, the swing arm 68 is reciprocating in a manner that is substantially 180 degrees out of phase, backward and forward.
Although not specifically shown, many of the linkages can be varied in length or adjustable by the user in order to tailor the running or walking motion to the particular stride of the user.
While the preferred embodiment of the invention has been illustrated and described, as noted above, many changes can be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. Accordingly, the scope of the invention is not limited by the disclosure of the preferred embodiment. Instead, the invention should be determined entirely by reference to the claims that follow.