Hi! I'm Dane Carlson, and welcome to the Business Opportunities Weblog. I've been publishing this website, by myself, and sometimes with the help of others for over twelve years now. You'll notice two things about this site right away:
As an avid gym enthusiast, it didn’t take long for Scott to notice that weightstack machines, some of the more popular exercise devices used, did not make it easy for people who wanted to change the weight during their exercise. He saw an opportunity, and he decided to fill it by creating a machine of his own.
I recently asked Scott a few questions about his weightstack machine and the inspiration behind it.
Tell us a little about your product.
My product was first conceived of in about 1995…i had been a regular gym-goer since i was in my late teens,and had a fairly strong background in biology and exercise over those years (but following old science principles). As a serious strength trainer who worked in gyms in NY,who was looking to learn more and more about the science and technical aspects of exercise,i began to wonder why companies had not yet built a weightstack machine (most popular type of strength equipment) that enabled a user to change weight at anytime they want,during the exercise. Little did I realize,that this concept I had wondered about, was no easy task. So i got to work on figuring out a way to do it. I had been employed at an aerospace/defense company in 1995,where i spoke to some engineers and got some ideas.
When i really started to focus and play around with gear,lever and pulley systems,i slowly began to see what i wanted,with the added help of the patent company engineers i was speaking to. And it dawned on me that with the right combination of various types of gears,there were a number of ideas that could give me what i wanted. It was the world of physics and engineering that would eventually allow me to do things that went far beyond the conventional. So a torque arm,combined with the concept of angle/gear-reduction,fitted to the cam of an existing exercise machine,became the basis for most everything that would follow.
What inspired it?
The machine was inspired by my own very unsatisfying experience in the gym over the years..constantly wondering, during my own workouts what it would be like to change the weight at any time,on a weightstack machine. But the questions i was asking myself,would lead to,perhaps,one of the most daunting exercise science questions of our time (no exaggeration)… that question was “can the exercise be made MUCH more productive,by PERMITTING the exerciser to engage in a substantially higher workload level,on EVERY single repetition in a given set?”;this was the absolute “mother” of strength training science questions (again,no exaggeration). What the large and most famous fitness companies, over the years,had failed to address or acknowledge,was the scariest issue of all: “HOW HARD,is TOO hard,to recommend to their customers (the average gym member) to exert themselves,during strength training,on weightstack machines?” Again,this is absolutely one of the most politically charged science-engineering issues that exists today within the fitness industry as a result of the deeper performance and safety related questions that arise. And I decided to set out (unwittingly at the time) to both establish the means to do it (dynamic weight change during the exercise), and to get one HUGE step closer to USING the (new) capability,to answer some of those bigger questions- since no large fitness company seemed to care enough,or be willing to come up with a design like mine,to address such questions. Ironically,the big companies just continued to fund “studies” using their same old machine designs of yesteryears,while I continually said to myself: what a totally ODD way to do research.
How does it work?
The machine concept works,by taking a lever,a long metal bar of sorts,and attaching one end of that bar,to the axis of rotation of the cam,which is part of an existing weightstack machine. This torque arm,has a weight plate on it (a simple chunk of weighted mass,say 25 lbs),that is able to SLIDE along this ARM at the user’s control,to dynamically change what the user feels for resistance,at ANY TIME they choose,with a simple electric control. This scenario impacts the cam at its center of rotation and thus,changes in a big way,what the user feels DURING the exercise. Video is available for those who contact me directly. Without getting into too much messy detail,the cam is a simple device that allows for a very limited changing of resistance (called a resistance curve) while the person is exercising. But the cam is of VERY little usefulness,because of how it functions in relation to the actual amount of weight chosen with the pin selection on the weightstack. There is a good amount of (simple) science that goes into how a cam works. The most important thing to remember,is that the weight that the exerciser CHOOSES,….on the weightstack,really does not change very much over the course of a person exercising. So, on conventional machines,when a person chooses x amount of weight,the cam makes the EXACT same minor alteration in what the exerciser feels,on EACH repetition,and does little more. But when you attach my torque arm to that cam,it opens a brand new world of precise control over what the exerciser feels.
Where can it be purchased? If it is not yet for sale, when can we expect to see it hit the market?
This question,is perhaps,the most difficult and most simple,at the same time. The fitness industry,is without a doubt,a highly political and very fussy market. When i say “political” i am referring to the influence that the larger (household name) companies,and other fitness organizations have,on the basic functioning of the entire fitness market. When someone decides to open a gym or fitness center, they do so,or have been led to believe that they must do so (with an all too famous,VERY RIGID preconceived formula in place),by purchasing equipment from the big name companies,in order to market and position themselves successfully. The biggest reason for this “cookie cutter” approach,is SIMPLE: ALL the equipment companies on the market,DO…..(mostly) THE….SAME….THING. So,it basically becomes a process of choosing the equipment that looks nicer and has the most powerful brand name recognition. Because of the difficulties of that scenario,it became my decision a LONG time ago,to go the most practical route,and to build my equipment,for MY OWN gym,with local builders. So chances are,you will not be seeing my equipment in your local Golds Gym,anytime soon. Also,the staffing at most gyms,lacks any real understanding of the technical safety and performance issues of my machine line. Its worth mentioning that I approached the larger companies many years ago to see if they were interested in building my equipment;those discussions never went well.
What separates you from similar products?
What separates my product,from others? My machine concept,is the FIRST to allow changing of weight (resistance) on a weightstack machine,without EVER having to stop the exercise,or touch the pin selection on the weightstack. The benefits of this feature,go far beyond the scope of this interview.In short,the ability to exercise (strength train) at a MUCH higher workload,on EACH repetition,in a given set,is what ultimately leads to far superior training routines and MUCH less time in the gym. As a related point,the reader should know,that the days of training for 2-3 hours in the gym,4-6 days a week,from a science point of view,were bad science and are a recipe for disaster. NO ONE,who is serious about strength training and gaining muscle mass,should be in the gym,more than 3 hours a WEEK! you heard it right. If more people,exercised with higher intensity (meaning higher overall workload) and did each exercise PROPERLY (slow and controlled),and then got the HECK out of the gym to rest and eat correctly,they would see dramatically better results. All other forms of exercise (aerobics,boot camps,P90X, TRX bands,functional training, kettlebells, the list goes on) that have become very popular (and very profitable) trends, are JUNK science, very misleading, and purely a distraction from the best kind of training possible- which happens to be the hardest training possible: strength training,1-2 sets each muscle group, minimal rest between sets,for the entire workout. Contrary to popular belief (and many serious misunderstandings),there is tremendous aerobic benefit to proper strength training,done as a circuit. As they say in some very well informed circles: “FIRST get STRONG,then you will be better prepared for all other activities.”
Do you have any goals you’d like to accomplish in the new year?
My goals for 2012,are to continue to work on my several cutting edge strength training machine concepts,to travel to Brazil,where my girlfriend (she is from there) and I are looking to set up fitness business related projects and where the fitness industry is constantly expanding;and to develop manufacturing capability here in NH.
What are some lessons your business has taught you?
I have learned so many lessons from my business pursuits,it is difficult to describe them all here. I think,for one,it is CRITICAL,to KNOW your market,and KNOW your industry.Over the years,i have seen folks try to develop business ideas for industries in which they have a very limited understanding,only in an effort to capitalize on some (mostly invalid) trend or success from others. A lesson worth mentioning is that i have,over the last decade or so,witnessed the behavior of large fitness company manufacturers, who basically dominate the fitness market,and I have seen that part of their goal is to do whatever they need to stay in business; and this means that they have a tendency to “sniff out” the signs of whatever emerging trends they can find,and then take calculated steps to dump money into some basically stupid idea,which they KNOW full well is junk science or otherwise not able to measure up to product claims,but still attempt to sell it and do well,mainly because the market trusts the company’s name. And as I have seen these business behaviors occur, I have realized that there are many reasons I would not want to partner with these companies. My point is that sometimes,unless you’re a product expert,you would never suspect a very large,well known company,of selling something,it knows to be mostly without merit. And i made a decision a long time ago, after considerable experience,that really focusing strongly on my own SMALL business projects and standards,would allow me to stay devoted to my own (genuine) product development ideals,and would allow me to accomplish much more than if I had practiced (mediocre) “big company” thinking.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I would only like to add,that i am continually working on new ideas in strength training that will need additional funding. My concept,of anytime weight change,will one day,have a significant impact on the physical therapy market. I am very passionate about further developing my ideas for our military,special forces and law enforcement communities. The machine,SEEN in the inventors digest story about me,was given to me by a large fitness company based out of new york city,who i have worked with for over 10 years,and continues to help me privately. I am seeking additional capital to ramp up production for those groups i just spoke of. Also, as the economy continues to improve,the luxury hotel market (in Brazil as well) is always waiting for exclusive fitness equipment lines like mine,far beyond what other fitness companies are working on.
Do you have any advice you’d like to offer fellow entrepreneurs who are just getting started?
Perhaps, the most important question,in terms of helping others,is my advice after my 25 years of inventing and dealing directly with major players in the fitness industry. Be very careful about sharing ideas;try to get NDA’s (nondisclosure agreements),and try to get them written well; there are plenty of examples online that can be tweaked as needed. The task of balancing those legal protective maneuvers and giving out information,is, as much an art,as a science,and also has a lot do with the “culture” of the industry- meaning the specifics of personality and general business conduct.
It takes considerable practice to know what information to give out,about your new ideas,and it can be frustrating. 15 to 20 years ago,companies were more willing to discuss ideas and sign NDA’s;today?? if someone does not already have a patent,or a patent pending,most companies would prefer to not even talk,for fear of “that one inventor” who comes along who is only interested in abusing the system,and is scheming for a confrontation that could lead to a payday by way of lawsuit,or a news article that could be bad PR;this is the reality of the world we live in,unfortunately. Lastly,AVOID companies on tv or radio,seeking to help inventors with their ideas;no big lectures from me on this..just dont get involved with those places. Write a detailed description of your idea on paper,as much detail as you can, AFTER you are confident the idea works the way you are claiming or have in mind (this was always the part i HATED..haha),and simply MAIL copies to yourself,and to friends or family,with the DATE clearly indicated on the envelop.
This is the cheapest,most no-nonsense measure an inventor can take,to document ideas and gain a small level of protection. But really,today,in 2012,with a tough business climate in nearly every corner of a company’s operation,having such an envelop is thought more of as a “comfort document”,which lacks real substance or meaning,simply because the quietly understood and best measure that really means the most is investing the time and energy and finding the resources, to raise the money needed for the (very long) patent process and letting that be your ultimate voice;most everything else has become (in a newly calibrated world of limited funds and product development),a sign of inability to meet the minimal bar for a serious business discussion.
If you are interested in checking out the machine in person, you can currently find it at the Kenpo Training Center in Wilton, NH.