Disq fitness device catches on in the US
SOME cutting-edge fans of cardiovascular fitness are going a bit bionic as they strap on belts, step into stirrups and grab hand loops on the Disq, a recently-arrived wearable contraption of adjustable resistance cords.
Fitness experts say the device, which was launched in Germany 18 months ago and has become popular throughout Europe and Russia, adds simultaneous and constant resistance to an aerobic workout.
Crunch, an American chain of fitness centres, uses the mobile gadget in a group fitness class called Transformer with Disq - a 45-minute, fast-moving, music-driven cardio workout - to enhance basic interval-training moves such as lunges, squats and jumping jacks.
"It's not easy to find programmes that combine strength and cardiovascular workouts in one," Donna Cyrus, senior vice-president of programming for Crunch Fitness, said of the class, which has been launched in New York, Miami and parts of California.
"It's fun and, for the amount of time you spend, you really get a full-body workout," she said.
The fitness class' name is a nod to the 1980s cartoon show turned science-fiction movie series.
"We call it Transformer because when you're in that contraption, you sort of move like a robot and feel like you're an action hero," Ms Cyrus said.
The Disq is the brainchild of Dutch speed skater Robbert Boekema, who sought a way to train outside the gym.
Boekema, speaking from his company's headquarters near Amsterdam, said the idea for the device occurred to him around the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, and was used by speed skaters in training ahead of the Sochi Olympics earlier this year.
A consumer version of his device is being launched, he said, with a price tag of US$199 (S$250), along with a personal training app providing workouts ranging from muscle building to weight loss.
"For normal people, it is probably enough to do it three times a week for half an hour," he said.
Anthony Wall, director of professional education at the American Council on Exercise, which offers a Disq trainer course to fitness professionals, said it is fun, innovative and different.
"It's a new style of training where they use resistance devices attached to the body," he said.
But the Disq may not be for everybody.
Grace Desimone, a personal trainer and group fitness instructor with the American College of Sports Medicine, thinks the Disq is unique, fun and best taken in small doses.
"It's a nice option for individuals who want to elevate their heart rate without a lot of impact," said Ms Desimone. "It's efficient and intense because of the compound exercise activity."
But she cautioned that the Disq might be inappropriate for anyone with upper-body weakness or injury, and noted it is usually safer to reach good form before adding resistance.
"You can perform many movements with added resistance, but do you need that? Do you need to run with added resistance? For the average person, the answer is no," she said. "The risk outweighs the benefit."