Title:
Elliptical exercise device with modified foot action
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An elliptical type exercise device having a modified foot action includes a pair of foot links, each having a foot support for receiving and retaining a user's foot. The device is configured so that a first end of each foot link travels in an arcuate path about a pivot axis, and a second end travels in a predetermined path which may be a reciprocal or non-reciprocal path. The device of the present invention includes a foot action modifier which is configured and operative to provide for motion of each foot support relative to a plane extending between the first and second end of its respective foot link. This motion modifies the foot action achieved by the device.



Inventors:
Miller, Larry D. (Rochester, MI, US)
Application Number:
10/871926
Publication Date:
12/30/2004
Filing Date:
06/18/2004
Assignee:
MILLER LARRY D.
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
482/57
International Classes:
A63B21/22; A63B23/035; A63B23/04; (IPC1-7): A63B22/06; A63B69/16
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
CROW, STEPHEN R
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
ANDERSON & CITKOWSKI, PC,GIFFORD, KRASS, GROH, SPRINKLE (280 N OLD WOODARD AVE, BIRMINGHAM, MI, 48009, US)
Claims:
1. An exercise device having a modified foot action, said exercise device comprising: a frame having a crank axle rotatably supported thereupon so that said axle is rotatable about a pivot axis defined therethrough; a first and a second foot link, each having a first and a second end, each foot link having a foot support configured to receive a user's foot; a first and a second coupling member, each associated with a respective one of said foot links for pivotally coupling said foot link to said crank axle so that a first end of said foot link travels in an arcuate path; a guide operative to engage said foot links and to direct the second end of each foot link along a path of travel as the first end of said foot link travels along said arcuate path; and a foot action modifier, which is in mechanical communication with at least one of said foot links, said foot action modifier being configured and operative to provide for motion of each foot support relative to a plane extending between the first and the second end of a respective foot link, as said first end of said respective foot link travels in said arcuate path and said second end of said respective foot link travels in said reciprocal path.

2. The exercise device of claim 1, wherein said guide directs the second end of each foot link along a reciprocating path of travel.

3. The exercise device of claim 1, wherein said guide directs the second end of each foot link along a non-reciprocating path of travel.

4. The exercise device of claim 1, wherein when said user's feet are supported by said foot supports, and when said user pushes downward and rearward on said foot supports, the toe portion of the user's foot initially lowers at a faster rate than does the heel portion.

5. The exercise device of claim 1, wherein said foot action modifier comprises a first and second resilient member, each of which engages a respective foot support and maintains said respective foot support in a cantilevered relationship with the remainder of its respective foot link so that one end of said respective foot support is a free end; whereby each resilient member allows its respective foot support to move relative to said plane.

6. The exercise device of claim 1, wherein said foot action modifier includes a first and a second pivot support, each of which pivotally retains a respective foot support in a spaced apart relationship with the remainder of its respective foot link; whereby each pivot support allows its respective foot support to move relative to said plane.

7. The exercise device of claim 6, wherein each pivot support engages its respective foot support proximate an end thereof.

8. The exercise device of claim 6, wherein each pivot support engages its respective foot support at a point between the first and the second ends thereof.

9. The exercise device of claim 6, wherein said foot action modifier includes a resilient member which is disposed so as to impose a biasing force upon at least one foot support so that an end of said foot support is in a spaced apart relationship with the remainder of its respective foot link.

10. The exercise device of claim 9, wherein said resilient member is selected from the group consisting of: springs, elastomeric bodies, pneumatic cylinders, hydraulic cylinders, and combinations thereof.

11. The exercise device of claim 1, wherein said foot action modifier comprises a first and a second body of resilient material, each of which comprises a portion of the length of a respective foot link.

12. The exercise device of claim 11, wherein each body of resilient material comprises an end portion of a respective foot link.

13. The exercise device of claim 1 wherein each foot support is pivotally supported on its respective foot link by a support member and wherein said foot action modifier includes a first and a second control link, each of which is in mechanical communication with a respective support member and said guide so that motion of a foot link relative to the guide causes its respective control link to move relative to the guide and thereby move the associated support member, whereby motion of the support members causes the foot supports to move relative to the plane.

14. The exercise device of claim 1, wherein said guide comprises at least one track.

15. The exercise device of claim 1, wherein said guide comprises a pair of swing arms.

16. The exercise device of claim 1, wherein the arcuate path of the first end of each foot link encompasses the pivot axis.

17. The exercise device of claim 1, wherein the arcuate path of the first end of each foot link does not encompass the pivot axis.

18. The exercise device of claim 1, further including a flywheel which is in mechanical communication with said crank axle so that said flywheel rotates when said crank axle rotates.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATION

[0001] This application claims priority of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/483,404 filed Jun. 27, 2003, and entitled “Elliptical Exercise Device with Modified Foot Action.”

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0002] This invention relates generally to exercise equipment. More specifically, the invention relates to elliptical exercise equipment wherein a user's foot traverses a generally ellipsoid path of travel which simulates a natural running and stepping motion. Most specifically, the invention relates to an elliptical exercise device which is configured to provide a modified foot action.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0003] Elliptical exercise devices are configured and operable to permit a user's feet to travel in an elliptical path which simulates a natural running and stepping motion which avoids jarring shocks and strains which can damage joints, tendons, ligaments and muscles. The smooth, pleasant action achieved by elliptical exercise devices is conducive to extended aerobic exercise; hence, elliptical exercise devices are in widespread use, and a number of embodiments are known in the art.

[0004] The basic concept of elliptical exercise devices was first shown in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,242,343 and 5,383,829. As described therein, an elliptical exercise device generally includes a frame which is configured to support the remainder of the device on a support surface such as a floor or the ground. The device includes a pair of foot links which are elongated members, each having a foot engaging portion. A first end of each foot link is coupled to an axle by means of a coupling member such as a crank arm. The axle is typically supported by the frame and is rotatable about a pivot axis defined therethrough. In some instances, the device may be configured so that its pivot axis moves when the device is in use. Exercise devices with a movable pivot axis are shown in U.S. patent application Ser. No. ______ , the disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference. In all of these devices, rotation of the axle causes the first ends of the foot links to travel in an arcuate path. Depending upon the geometry of the device and the configuration of the coupling members, the arcuate path may or may not encompass the pivot axis. Within the context of this disclosure, an arcuate path is understood to be a closed, curved, path of travel such as a circular path, an oval path, or a more complex closed, at least partially curved, path.

[0005] The foot links also engage a guide which operates to direct a second end of each foot link in a path of travel which can be reciprocal or non-reciprocal. In the context of this disclosure, a reciprocal path of travel is meant to define any back-and-forth path of travel which is repetitively traversed by the end of the foot link in which the forward path and the rearward path are substantially coincident. The reciprocal path of travel may be linear, curved or a complex combination of linear and curved paths. The devices depicted in the U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,242,343 and 5,383,829 patents have foot links with ends which travel in a reciprocal path. In the context of this disclosure, a non-reciprocal path of travel is meant to define a back-and-forth motion wherein the end of the foot link follows a first path on a forward stroke, and a second path on a rearward stroke, and wherein the paths are at least partially non-coincident. Some devices in which ends of the foot links travel along a non-reciprocal path are shown in pending U.S. patent Ser. No. 10/760,844, the disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference.

[0006] The combination of arcuate and reciprocal or non-reciprocal travel causes the foot engaging portion of the foot links to travel in an elliptical path. Within the context of this disclosure, an elliptical path of travel is understood to mean a true mathematical ellipse, as well as paths having other ellipsoid shapes such as oval paths, flattened ellipses, curved ellipses, ellipses with flattened or concave portions, and the like. There are a large number of embodiments of elliptical exercise devices which are configured along these general principles.

[0007] In some instances, users feel a need or desire to modify this basic foot action. Such modification may be for the purpose of strengthening particular muscles, stretching particular tendons or the like. In other instances, modification may be for the purpose of simulating running on various surfaces such as a resilient surface or a soft surface such as sand. In any instance, there is a perceived need for providing some means to further modify the foot action of an elliptical exercise device. As will be detailed hereinbelow, the present invention is directed to elliptical exercise devices which include a foot action modifying mechanism which allows the motion of a user's foot to be varied through portions of the elliptical cycle.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0008] Disclosed herein is an exercise device having a modified foot action. The exercise device includes a frame having a crank axle rotatably supported thereupon so that the axle is rotatable about a pivot axis defined therethrough. The device includes a first and a second foot link. Each foot link has a first and a second end and a foot support configured to receive a user's foot. The device further includes a first and a second coupling member each associated with a respective one of the foot links for pivotally coupling that foot link to the crank axle so that a first end of the foot link travels in an arcuate path. The device includes a guide operative to engage the foot links and direct a second end of each foot link along a path of travel as the first end of that foot link travels along the arcuate path. The path of travel of the second end may be reciprocal or non-reciprocal. In accord with the present invention the device further includes a foot action modifier disposed in mechanical communication with the links. The foot action modifier is configured and operative to provide for motion of the foot supports relative to a plane extending between the first and second ends of their respective foot links as the first end of the respective foot link travels in the arcuate path and the second end travels in the reciprocal path.

[0009] In one embodiment, the foot action modifier comprises a resilient member which engages a foot support and maintains it in a cantilevered relationship with the remainder of the foot link so that one end of the foot support is a free end. Flexing of the resilient member allows the foot support to move relative to the plane. In another embodiment, the first and second foot action modifier each includes a pivot support which pivotally retains a foot support in a spaced-apart relationship with the remainder of the respective foot link. The pivot support may have a resilient body such as a spring, elastomeric body, hydraulic cylinder, pneumatic cylinder, or the like associated therewith. In another embodiment, a portion of the length of the foot link is fabricated from a resilient material which allows it to flex when in use. In yet another embodiment, a control link is operative to move a pivotally retained foot support relative to the remainder of the foot link.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0010] FIG. 1 is a schematic depiction of one embodiment of exercise device of the present invention which includes a foot support operative to provide a modified foot action;

[0011] FIG. 2 is a schematic depiction of an embodiment of exercise device of the present invention having a pivotally retained foot support;

[0012] FIG. 3 is a schematic depiction of another embodiment of exercise device of the present invention having a pivotally retained foot support;

[0013] FIG. 4A and FIG. 4B depict an embodiment of the present invention wherein a portion of the length of a foot link is comprised of a resilient body;

[0014] FIG. 5 depicts a portion of another exercise device of the present invention having a foot action modifier which is a resilient body; and

[0015] FIG. 6 is a schematic depiction of yet another embodiment of exercise device of the present invention wherein a control link associated with a guide member operates to provide a modified foot action.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0016] The present invention is directed to an elliptical exercise device of the type which includes a frame having a crank axle rotatably supported thereupon so that the crank axle can rotate about a fixed or movable pivot axis which is defined therethrough. The device includes a first and a second foot link each having a first and second end. Each foot link has a foot support which is configured to receive a user's foot. The exercise device also includes a first and a second coupling member each associated with a respective one of the foot links for pivotally coupling the foot link to the crank axle so that the first end of each foot link will travel in an arcuate path. The device includes a guide which operates to engage the foot links and direct a second end of each foot link in a reciprocating or non-reciprocating path of travel as the first end of each travels in the arcuate path. Within the context of this disclosure, a reciprocating path of travel is a back-and-forth path of travel which is repetitively traversed by the second ends of the foot links, and in which the forward and rearward paths are substantially coincident. A non-reciprocal path is one in which the second ends of the foot links follow a first path on the forward stroke and a second path on the rearward stroke, and wherein the paths are at least in part non-coincident. The device of the present invention includes a foot action modifier which is in mechanical communication with each foot support. The modifier is configured and operative to provide for motion of the foot support relative to a plane which extends between the first and second end of the foot link, so that the foot support will move relative to the plane when the first end of the foot link travels in the arcuate path and the second end travels in the reciprocal path. This motion modifies the foot action of the elliptical device.

[0017] The present invention may be implemented in a number of embodiments, and some such embodiments are illustrated.

[0018] Referring now to FIG. 1, there is shown one embodiment of elliptical exercise device 10 structured in accord with the principles of the present invention. The device 10 includes a frame 11, which is shown in schematic form herein, it being understood that the frame may be configured to include further structural features such as handles, motor drives, resistive devices, flywheels, odometers and the like. The frame 11 supports a crank axle, shown at reference numeral 12, so that the axle can rotate about a pivot axis defined therethrough. As shown herein, the axle and pivot axis are fixed relative to the frame; however, this and other embodiments of the invention may be utilized in devices having a movable pivot axis. The device 10 also includes a pair of foot links, and for purposes of clarity, only one foot link 14 is shown herein. The foot link 14 is configured to support a user's foot 16, and in that regard includes a foot support 18.

[0019] In the illustrated embodiment, a first end of the foot link 14 is coupled to the crank axle 12 by a coupling member, which in this instance is a crank arm 20. This crank arm 20 permits the first end of the foot link 14 to travel in an arcuate path about the pivot axis of the crank axle 12. Within the context of this disclosure, an arcuate path is defined to be any closed, curved path of travel, and as such includes circular, oval or other such paths. In the specifically illustrated embodiment, the path of travel is a circular path of travel and it encompasses the crank axle 12. In other embodiments, the path of travel may be other than a circular path. Likewise, depending upon the mechanical configuration of the coupling member, the arcuate path may or may not encompass the crank axle 12. Such linkages are known in the art and may be incorporated into the present invention. Additionally, other assemblies such as flywheels, braking device speedometers, odometers and the like may be used with the present invention.

[0020] The FIG. 1 embodiment includes a track 22 which engages the foot link 14 and directs the second end thereof in a reciprocal path of travel. Other mechanical configurations may be employed to provide the guide function. For example, the foot link 14 may be pivotally suspended from the frame of the device by means of a swing arm which allows for reciprocal back-and-forth travel. In other instances, the support surface, such as the floor, upon which the device is disposed may provide the guide function. In yet other instances, the guide may comprise a roller upon which the foot link moves. The prior art includes a number of different embodiments of foot link guide, and all of such embodiments may be utilized in the practice of the present invention.

[0021] As is known in the art, the combination of the arcuate and reciprocal travel of the foot link 14 causes the associated foot 16 of the user to travel in an elliptical path. As mentioned above, in some instances, it is desirable to further modify this path, and in that regard, the present invention includes a foot action modifier, which in this specific embodiment comprises a resilient member 24 disposed so as to support the foot support 18 in a spaced apart relationship with the remainder of the foot link 14. As shown, the foot support 18 is cantilevered over the foot link 14 so that the free end thereof is disposed proximate the user's toe. The resilient member 24 may comprise a body of metal such as spring steel, or it may comprise a polymeric material. In some instances, the resilient member may be a composite such as a metal or fiber reinforced polymer.

[0022] In the operation of the FIG. 1 embodiment, downward and rearward forces applied to the foot link 14 by the user's foot 16 will cause the resilient member 24 to flex allowing the toe portion of the user's foot to move in a downward direction relative to a plane extending between the first and second end of the foot link (the foot link plane). On the forward cycle, the resilient member 24 will allow the toe portion of the user's foot to rise. This relative motion of the foot will modify the action of the device. For example, many elliptical exercise devices provide a foot action wherein, on a forward motion of the user's foot, the heel portion of the foot initially rises at a faster rate than the toe portion, while on the rearward portion of the cycle, the heel portion initially drops at a faster rate than the toe portion. Inclusion of the resilient member 24 of the FIG. 1 embodiment can vary this foot action. For example, some embodiments may be configured so that in the very earliest portion of the forward cycle, the toe rises faster than the heel, and in the initial portions of the rearward cycle, the toe falls faster than the heel. Depending upon the characteristics of the resilient member, the heel may then begin to rise faster than the toe on the forward portion and fall faster than the toe on the rearward portion. If the position of the resilient member is reversed so that the free end is proximate the user's heel, an opposite motion can be achieved. One of skill in the art will be able to adjust the characteristics of the resilient member and the geometry of the device linkage to provide a number of varying motion profiles.

[0023] Referring now to FIG. 2, there is shown yet another embodiment of the present invention. FIG. 2 depicts an elliptical exercise device 30 in which a first end of a foot link 14 is coupled by a crank arm 20 to a crank axle 12 so as to rotate in an arcuate path thereabout as in the previous embodiment. A second end of the foot link, in the FIG. 2 embodiment, is coupled to a guide member which comprises a swing arm 26 supported on the frame 28 of the device. In the FIG. 2 embodiment, a foot support 18 is pivotally retained on the foot link 14 by a pivot support 32. The device further includes a resilient body such as a spring 34 which engages the foot support 18, and urges it out of contact with the foot link 14. In other embodiments, the spring 34 may be replaced by a body of elastomeric material, a hydraulic cylinder, a pneumatic cylinder or the like. As in the FIG. 1 embodiment, the arrangement of parts shown in FIG. 2 allows the foot support 18 to move relative to the foot link plane as defined between the first and second ends thereof. This motion can modify the foot action achieved by the device. In the FIG. 2 embodiment, the amount of foot action modification can be varied by varying the force of the biasing spring 34 such as by using a screw arrangement to compress or relieve tension on the spring, by adding additional springs, or by substituting stiffer bodied springs. In other embodiments using hydraulic or pneumatic cylinders, or elastomeric bodies, such adjustment may be similarly achieved. In other variations of the FIG. 2 device, the foot support may be suspended from above by a resilient body which will be retained by an appropriate support. Also, it is to be understood that other guides such as the track of FIG. 1 may be incorporated in this embodiment.

[0024] Referring now to FIG. 3, there is shown yet another embodiment 40, of the present invention. The FIG. 3 embodiment is generally similar to the FIG. 2 embodiment except that the guide comprises a track 22, and the pivot support 32 is disposed so as to engage the foot support 18 in the approximate center thereof. This embodiment includes two biasing springs 34a and 34b. Again, the arrangement of pivot support 32 and springs 34 allows the foot support 18 to move relative to the plane of the foot link. In this embodiment, the foot 16 can move so as to find its comfort level during the cycle of the device.

[0025] Referring now to FIGS. 4A-4B, there is shown yet another embodiment 50 of the present invention. As specifically shown in FIG. 4A, a foot link 14 includes a foot support 18, and is disposed so that a first end is engaged by a crank arm 20 as in the previous embodiments. The crank arm 20 causes the first end to travel in an arcuate path. In this embodiment, the foot link 14 includes a resilient segment 38 projecting therefrom. In the illustrated embodiment, the resilient segment 38 terminates in a roller 42 which engages a track 22, although it is to be understood that the resilient segment 38 may likewise engage a swing arm by means of a pivot joint.

[0026] As is shown in FIG. 4B, the resilient member 38 flexes when downward pressure is applied to the foot support 18 by a user. This flexure causes the foot support 18 to move relative to the plane of the foot link, which plane runs from the end of the resilient body 38, which constitutes the second end of the foot link, to the first end of the foot link. The resilient body can comprise a metallic body such as a body of spring steel, a body of polymeric material, or a composite such as a fiber reinforced polymer. It will be appreciated that by adjusting the flexibility of the resilient body 38 and/or its length, the degree of modification can be varied. In certain variations of the FIGS. 4A-4B embodiment, the resilient segment may be located at another region of the foot link. For example, it may be disposed at the first end, or it may be at some intermediate portion of the length of the foot link.

[0027] Yet other embodiments of the FIGS. 4A-4B device may be implemented. For example, FIG. 5 shows a front portion of an embodiment of this version of the invention in which the resilient member is constituted by a spring 52 which extends between the foot link 14 and a track 22. A similar arrangement can be made utilizing swing arms by pivotally affixing a swing arm in the approximate location of the roller 42 in the FIG. 5 embodiment.

[0028] FIG. 6 depicts yet another embodiment 60 of the present invention. In this embodiment, a foot support 18 is retained upon a foot link 14 by a pivotal support member 56 so as to be movable relative to the plane of the foot link 14. In this embodiment, a control link 54 engages the pivotal support 56. The control link 54 also engages a swing arm 58 which functions as a guide for the second end of the foot link 14. As will be seen, the foot link 14, pivotal support 56, control link 54, and swing arm 56 provide a four-bar linkage; and as a consequence, reciprocation of the swing arm 58 will cause the control link 54 to move back and forth thereby moving the pivotal support 56 so as to move the foot support 18 relative to the plane of the foot link 14. In other embodiments of the present invention, the control link can be affixed to the frame, or some other portion of the apparatus 60, by appropriately adjusting the geometry of the linkages, so as to achieve the same modified motion. Also, one of skill in the art could adapt the FIG. 6 embodiment to versions of the device in which some other structure such as a track, rather than a swing arm, provides the guide function.

[0029] In view of the teaching presented herein, yet other embodiments of the invention may be implemented. For example, in some embodiments, a single foot action modifier may be disposed to move both foot supports. In other embodiments foot action modifiers different from those shown herein may be employed. Thus, the foregoing drawings, discussion and description are illustrative of particular embodiments of the invention, but are not meant to be limitations upon the practice thereof. The invention has primarily been described with reference to devices in which the guide directs the second ends of the foot links in a reciprocal path of travel, and in which the pivot axis is fixed relative to the frame. However, as mentioned above, the invention may also be implemented in devices having guides which direct the ends of the foot links in a non-reciprocal path and/or in devices with a movable pivot axis. As such, the principles of the present invention are independent of such specific geometries. As noted above, the prior art includes a very large number of differently configured elliptical exercise devices; however, all of such devices include the same equivalent elements of foot links, coupling members and guide. Consequently, in view of the teaching presented herein, the present invention may be implemented in all such prior art embodiments, and all such implementations are within the scope of the present invention. It is the following claims, including all equivalents, which define the scope of the invention.