Title:
Horizontal Lumbar Stretching Machine and Method
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A machine and method for horizontally stretching and exercising the human body, specifically the human frame or torso. The machine comprised a bed, table, or platform having three main sections: an upper stationary section upon which user's upper body is physically attached, an actuated lower section which receives the user's lower body, and a slack section, including an upright projection, disposed at the end of the lower section of the bed, table, or platform. A strap or similar device is connected between a pelvic harness worn by the user and the upright projection of the slack section. While lying atop the upper and lower sections of the machine, the user self-actuates movement of the lower and slack sections of the machine away from (or towards) the upper body, thereby causing the strap to pull upon (or loosen from) the user's trunk or midsection. Because the user's upper body is physically attached to the stationary upper section of the machine, the user's trunk is effectively stretched and exercised by outward movement of the strap to the extent desired by the user.



Inventors:
Boren, John P. (Katy, TX, US)
Application Number:
12/013317
Publication Date:
07/24/2008
Filing Date:
01/11/2008
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63B21/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
JALALZADEH ABYANE, SHILA
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
ANDREWS & KURTH, L.L.P. (600 TRAVIS, SUITE 4200, HOUSTON, TX, 77002, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An exercise machine (10) for stretching a human body comprising, a table (12) arranged and designed to support a user in a supine position, said table having an upper stationary section (14) which receives a user's upper body and a moveable lower section (16, 18) which receives a user's lower body, said moveable lower section arranged and designed to move longitudinally away from said upper stationary section, a mechanism for preventing longitudinal movement of said user's upper body about said upper stationary section of said table, a restraining device (32) arranged and designed to be worn about a user's midsection, an upright projection (20) disposed at an end (18) of said table adjacent to said moveable lower section, said upright projection extending above said table and having a device (38) toward a distal end thereof for connecting a strap thereto, and a strap (36) having one end connected to said device of said upright projection and another end connected to said restraining device, whereby when said moveable lower section of said table is moved longitudinally away from said upper stationary section of said table, said upright projection is moved away from said upper stationary section and said strap connected to said upright projection is drawn taut between said restraining device and said upright projection while said user is supported by said table in a supine position and said restraining device is worn about said user's midsection.

2. The machine of claim 1 wherein, said mechanism for preventing longitudinal movement of said user's upper body about said upper stationary section of said table is a jacket (30) having an attachment device arranged and designed to cooperatively fasten to said upper stationary section of said table, said attachment device comprising a hook and loop fastener.

3. The machine of claim 2 wherein, said moveable lower section is moved longitudinally away from said upper stationary section by an actuator (22) that is arranged and designed to be controlled by a user of said machine.

4. The machine of claim 3 wherein, said device of said upright projection for connecting a strap thereto is arranged and designed to permit connection of said strap at one of multiple locations along said upright projection toward said distal end.

5. The machine of claim 1 wherein, said moveable lower section is moved longitudinally away from said upper stationary section by an actuator (22).

6. The machine of claim 5 wherein, said actuator is arranged and designed to be controlled by a user of said machine.

7. The machine of claim 1 wherein, said mechanism for preventing longitudinal movement of said user's upper body about said upper stationary section of said table relies upon a user's body weight.

8. The machine of claim 1 wherein, said device of said upright projection for connecting a strap thereto is arranged and designed to permit connection of said strap at one of multiple locations along said upright projection toward said distal end.

9. The machine of claim 1 wherein, said moveable lower section is moved longitudinally away from said upper stationary section by a manually-operated wheel crank (40).

10. An exercise machine (10) for stretching a human body comprising, a table (12) arranged and designed to support a user in a supine position, said table having an upper stationary section (14) which receives a user's upper body and a moveable lower section (16, 18) which receives a user's lower body, said moveable lower section arranged and designed to move longitudinally away from said upper stationary section, a mechanism for preventing longitudinal movement of said user's upper body about said stationary section of said table, and an upright projection (21) disposed at an end (18) of said table adjacent to said moveable lower section, said upright projection having a device (43) arranged and designed to secure a user's lower extremities thereto, whereby when said moveable lower section of said table is moved longitudinally away from said upper stationary section of said table, said upright projection is moved away from said upper stationary section thereby slightly moving said user's lower extremities away from said user's upper body while said user's upper body is supported by said table in a supine position and said user's lower extremities are secured to said upright projection.

11. The machine of claim 10 wherein, said moveable lower section is moved longitudinally away from said upper stationary section by an actuator (22).

12. The machine of claim 11 wherein, said actuator is arranged and designed to be controlled by a user of said machine.

13. The machine of claim 12 wherein, said mechanism for preventing longitudinal movement of said user's upper body about said upper stationary section of said table is a jacket (30) having an attachment device arranged and designed to cooperatively fasten to said upper stationary section of said table, said attachment device comprising a hook and loop fastener.

14. The machine of claim 10 wherein, said mechanism for preventing longitudinal movement of said user's upper body about said upper stationary section of said table relies upon a user's body weight

15. The machine of claim 10 wherein, said device (43) to secure a user's lower extremities to said upright projection comprises two opposing horizontal bars (42, 44) connected to said upright projection, said two opposing horizontal bars being disposed perpendicularly about a user's legs when said user is supported by said table in a supine position.

16. The machine of claim 10 wherein, said mechanism for preventing longitudinal movement of said user's upper body about said upper stationary section of said table is a jacket (30) having an attachment device arranged and designed to cooperatively fasten to said upper stationary section of said table, said attachment device comprising a hook and loop fastener.

17. An exercise method for stretching a human body comprising the steps of: positioning a user on a table (12) arranged and designed to support said user in a supine position, said table having an upper stationary section (14) which receives a user's upper body and a moveable lower section (16, 18) which receives a user's lower body, said moveable lower section arranged and designed to move longitudinally away from said upper stationary section, employing a mechanism to prevent said user's upper body from longitudinally moving about said upper stationary section of said table, disposing a restraining device (32) about said user's midsection, attaching one end of a strap (36) having two ends to said restraining device and another end of said strap to an upright projection (20) disposed at an end (18) of said table adjacent to said moveable lower section, and extending thereabove, said upright projection having a device (38) disposed toward a distal end thereof for attaching said strap thereto, moving said upright projection away from said upper stationary section by moving said moveable lower section of said table longitudinally away from said upper stationary section of said table, and drawing taut said strap attached between said restraining device and said upright projection such that that said user's midsection is slightly moved away from said user's upper body.

18. The method of claim 17 wherein, said step of moving said upright projection away from said upper stationary section by moving said moveable lower section of said table longitudinally away from said upper stationary section is enabled by an actuator (22) controlled by said user.

19. The method of claim 18 wherein, said mechanism for preventing longitudinal movement of said user's upper body about said upper stationary section of said table is a jacket (30) having an attachment device arranged and designed to cooperatively fasten to said upper stationary section of said table, said attachment device comprising a hook and loop fastener.

20. The method of claim 17 wherein, said mechanism for preventing longitudinal movement of said user's upper body about said upper stationary section of said table is a jacket (30) having an attachment device arranged and designed to cooperatively fasten to said upper stationary section of said table, said attachment device comprising a hook and loop fastener.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application is based upon provisional application 60/880,163, filed on Jan. 12, 2007, the priority of which is claimed.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

This invention relates to a device or machine for stretching and exercising the human body. Specifically, the invention relates to a user-controlled device or machine for stretching and exercising the torso section of the user's body while lying in a horizontal supine position.

2. Description of the Prior Art

Prior art devices for stretching the human frame have included numerous medical and non-medical mechanical devices. These mechanical devices include both motorized and non-motorized movement, and employ weight stacks, plyometric resistance and/or gravity to accomplish the goal of stretching, flexing, or unloading the human frame. Purely medical devices have included over-the-door and power-controlled traction devices, among others, arranged and designed to decompress the spine. Non-medical devices have typically included gym-type stretching equipment including, but not limited to, gravity balls and Pilates machines, arranged and designed to improve flexibility and range of joint motion. However, Pilates equipment, MedX exercise equipment, and other fitness-oriented exercise and stretching units are uncomfortable, cumbersome, and/or difficult to operate. Furthermore, fitness-oriented exercise and stretching units are not necessarily directed at conditioning and unloading the user's spine and trunk section.

Among the more common types of prior art devices for stretching the human frame are “inversion” devices which operate by inverting the human body. These inversion devices suspend the user in an upside down position by the ankles or knees so that the spine and associated structures that produce vertical pressure while upright can be unloaded and stretched. The principle behind these inversion devices is that, by turning the human frame upside down, gravity acting on the human frame in the reverse direction will assist in relaxing the spine and associated structures, thereby giving the user a sense of relaxation and well being. However, a major drawback of these inversion devices and their method of operation is that the user's cardiovascular system must operate in an abnormal state thus potentially causing the user to feel ill effects from the inversion.

3. Identification of Objects of the Invention

An object of the invention is the accomplish one or more of the following:

Provide a machine which horizontally stretches the human frame by slightly pulling the user's lower body away from the user's upper body while the user is supported in a horizontal position;

Provide a machine which horizontally stretches the human frame by slightly pulling the user's midsection/pelvis away from the user's upper body while the user is supported in a horizontal position; and

Provide a machine which permits the user to precisely control the degree of horizontal stretching which occurs by controlling the degree to which the user's lower body or midsection/pelvis is pulled away from the user's upper body.

Other objects, features, and advantages of the invention will be apparent to one skilled in the art from the following specifications and drawings.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

An exercise machine and method are disclosed for horizontally stretching and exercising the human body. The machine has a bed, table, or platform upon which the user lies and becomes physically attached thereto while using and operating the machine. The table is composed of three main sections: (1) an upper stationary section upon which a user's upper body is physically attached, (2) an actuated or moveable lower section which receives the user's lower body, and (3) a slack section, including an upright projection, disposed at the end of the lower section of the table. The user's upper body is restrained to the upper stationary section of the table using a jacket vest or similar apparatus with an attachment mechanism. In addition to the jacket vest, the user also wears a harness or similar restraining device around the pelvis or midsection which is capable of restraining the human frame without slippage. The machine has a user-controlled actuator which preferably moves the lower and slack sections of the table longitudinally inward and outward. The slack section of the machine has an upright projection with several hooks, eyelets, or similar devices for receiving and attaching a strap or similar device thereto. A strap or a similar device is attached between the upright projection of the slack section and the pelvic harness worn by the user while lying atop the machine.

The user uses the exercise machine by fastening the harness or similar restraining device about her pelvis or midsection and attaching the strap between the harness and one of the hooks disposed on the slack section upright projection. The user then lies on the table in a supine position using the jacket vest or similar apparatus to physically attach the upper body to the upper stationary section of the table. The user controls the self-actuator to move the lower and slack sections of the table longitudinally outward. In this way, any slack in the strap between the user's pelvis and the upright projection is removed. The user continues to self-actuate movement of the lower and slack sections of the table away from (or towards) the upper body; thereby causing the strap to pull upon (or loosen from) the user's trunk or midsection. Because the user's upper body is physically attached to the upper stationary section of the table, the user's trunk is effectively stretched and exercised by outward movement of the strap. The user fully controls the amount and duration of horizontal stretching by regulating the amount of outward (or inward) longitudinal movement of the strap (i.e., the lower and slack sections of the table). Therefore, the machine is much easier and safer to operate and more effective in horizontally stretching and exercising the human frame than other exercise and physical strengthening devices.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The objects, advantages, and features of the invention will become more apparent by reference to the drawings which are appended hereto, and wherein by way of illustration and not limitation implementations of the invention are described, of which:

FIG. 1 illustrates a preferred implementation of the invention in which the user-actuated lower section of the machine for horizontally stretching and exercising the human frame is in the retracted position;

FIG. 2 illustrates a preferred implementation of the invention in which the user-actuated lower section of the machine for horizontally stretching and exercising the human frame is in the extended position; and

FIG. 3 illustrates an alternative implementation of the invention in which the upright projection of the slack section of the machine is replaced by two opposing horizontal cushions for securing the user's ankles and feet while using the machine.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION

As generally shown in FIG. 1, a preferred implementation of the invention is a machine 10 for horizontally stretching and exercising the human body. The machine 10 has a bed, table, or platform 12 upon which the user is positioned during operation. The table 12 is comprised of three main sections: (1) an upper stationary section 14 upon which user's upper body is physically attached, (2) an actuated or moveable lower section 16 which receives the user's lower body, and (3) a slack section 18, consisting of an upright projection 20, disposed at the end of the lower section 16 of the table 12. The table 12 is preferably disposed a comfortable distance above ground level using a frame 8, which is capable of fully supporting the table 12 and the user's entire weight. The table 12, while being supported by the frame 8, is not immovably attached thereto. As shown in FIG. 2, an actuator 22 is arranged and designed to longitudinally move the lower section 16 of the table 12, and thus the slack section 18 disposed at its end and with its upright projection 20, inward and outward relative to the upper stationary section 14.

As shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, the user lies atop and becomes physically attached to the table 12 while using and operating the machine 10. The user's upper body is preferably restrained to the upper stationary section 14 of the table 12 using a jacket vest 30 or similar apparatus with an attachment mechanism. Hook and loop fasteners, such as Velcro®, are the preferred attachment mechanism for attaching the jacket vest 30 to the table 12, however, other attachment mechanisms are equally suitable. A matrix of hook or loop fasteners is preferably disposed on the back of the jacket vest 30 while the corresponding matrix of hook or loop fasteners is disposed on the top of the upper stationary section 14 of the table 12. The matrix of hook and loop fasteners on the back of the jacket vest 30 permits the wearer to position the body in a supine horizontal position atop the table 12. The matrix of hook or loop fasteners on top of the upper section 14 of the table 12 is arranged and designed so that while the user's body is atop the table 12, the user's upper body is positioned towards the upper section 14 and the user's lower body is positioned towards the lower section 16. Alternatively, the user can forego use of the jacket vest 30 and allow her own body weight upon the upper section 14 to mitigate movement of her upper body atop the table 12.

In addition to the jacket vest 30, the user also wears a harness 32 or similar restraining device around the pelvis or midsection which is capable of restraining the human frame without slippage. The harness 32 is arranged and designed with an attachment device, such as a hook, eyelet, or grommet, disposed on its device 34 for attaching a strap 36 or similar device. The strap attachment device 34 disposed on the front of the harness 32 permits the user to operate the machine 10 while in the supine position. While in the supine position, the user may choose to operate the machine 10 with an optional knee wedge (not shown) positionally adjusted and affixed atop the lower section 16 of the table 12 to receive the user's lower body. The knee wedge (not shown) changes the angle of the user's pelvis thereby creating a more comfortable position for the user which is similar to sitting. The knee wedge (not shown) remains physically attached to the table 12 while the machine 10 is in operation. Optionally, a head rest 24 or head cushion may be positioned on the upper section 14 of the table 12 to cradle the user's head, neck, and upper shoulders in the supine position while using the machine 10.

The slack section 18 of the machine 10 has an upright projection 20, similar in shape to the tail of a scorpion, which is attached to the end of the actuated or moveable lower section 16 of the table 12. The upright projection 20 has several hooks, eyelets, or similar devices 38 disposed at select intervals thereon for receiving and attaching a strap 36 line, rope, chain, or similar device. While the machine 10 is in operation, a strap 36 line, rope, chain, or similar device is connected between the user's pelvic harness 32 and the upright projection 20 of the slack section 18. The hooks 38 disposed at varying intervals on the upright projection 20 permit the user to attach the previously described strap 36 or a similar device between the user's pelvic harness 32 and a desired height on the upright projection 20. The strap 36 physically connects the user's pelvic harness 32, and hence the user's upper body, to the moveable upright projection 20 of the slack section 18.

The machine 10 has a user-controlled actuator 22 which preferably moves the lower section 16 and the attached slack section 18 of the table 12 longitudinally inward and outward. Actuators and other powered mechanisms which move and manipulate physical objects relative to each other are well known in the art and thus will not be discussed at length herein. Likewise, control interfaces for actuators and similar mechanisms, which are operable by the user, are also well known in the art and include, but are not limited to, remote controlled device, hard wired devices, wireless devices and voice command systems. The actuator 22 in a preferred implementation of the machine 10 is user-controlled so that the user may move the lower section 16 of the table 12, and hence the slack section 18 with its attached upright projection 20, outwardly away from the upper stationary section 14, thereby causing the strap 36 attached between the user's pelvic harness 32 and the upright projection 20 to become taut. Preferably, any slack in the strap 36 extending between the user's pelvic harness 32 and the upright projection 20 is first manually removed using a wheel crank 40 to physically extend the slack section 18 of the table 12 away from the actuated lower section 16 (and the upper stationary section 14) until the strap 36 becomes taut. This reduces the distance the user must self-actuate the lower section 16 of the table 12 in order to commence stretching of the user's lumbar region.

In a preferred method, the user positions herself on the table 12, fastens the harness 32 or similar restraining device about the pelvis or midsection, and attaches the strap 36 or similar device between the hook 34 on the front of the harness 32 and one of the hooks 38 disposed on the slack section 18 upright projection 20. The height at which the strap 36 is connected to the upright projection 20 determines the pull angle between the user's pelvis harness 32 and the upright projection 20. This pull angle may be as little as zero degrees to as much as forty degrees. By varying the pull angle, the human torso may be more fully stretched and exercised in directions that are most beneficial and/or comfortable to the user. In an alternative implementation of the invention, the upright projection 20 of the slack section 18 has only one hook 38 or similar device for attaching the strap 36. Preferably, this one hook 38 or similar device is vertically movable with a second user-controlled actuator so that the user can control and adjust the height of the pull angle in conjunction with the outward movement of the lower 16 and slack 18 sections of the table 12.

After attaching the strap 36 between the harness 32 and the upright projection 20, the user then lies on the table 12 in a supine position using the jacket vest 30 or similar apparatus to physically attach the upper body to the upper section 14 of the table 12. The user's lower body is placed over and across the knee wedge (not shown) affixed to the lower section 16 of the table 12. Using a control interface provided (not shown), the user controls the actuator 22 to move the lower section 16 of the table 12, and hence the slack section 18 with its attached upright projection 20, longitudinally outward. In this way, any slack in the strap 36 between the user's pelvic harness 32 and the upright projection 20 is removed. As previously described, any slack between the user's pelvic harness 32 and the upright projection 20 is preferably first removed manually by turning a wheel crank 40 which physically extends the slack section 18 of the table 12 until the strap 36 becomes fully taut.

After any slack is removed, the user continues to self-actuate movement of the lower 16 and slack 18 sections of the table 12 away from (or towards) the upper body; thereby causing the strap 36 to pull upon (or loosen from) the user's trunk or midsection. Because the user's upper body is physically attached to the stationary upper section 14 of the table 12, the user's trunk is effectively stretched and exercised by outward movement of the strap 36 to the extent desired by the user. For example, the user may desire to slowly move the lower 16 and slack 18 sections away from the upper stationary section 14 until the stretching by the strap 36 becomes uncomfortable and then slowly return the lower 16 and slack 18 sections to a position closer to the upper stationary section 14. The user may then repeat the process by slightly increasing the tautness of the strap 36 until the user's torso becomes fully stretched and exercised. As the user's torso and frame is progressively stretched, the user becomes relaxed and experiences an increased sense of well being. The user fully controls the amount and duration of horizontal stretching by regulating the amount of outward (or inward) longitudinal movement of the strap 36 (i.e., the lower 16 and slack 18 sections of the table 12). Therefore, the machine 10 permits the user to accomplish the degree of horizontal stretching and exercise that is most comfortable. In this way, the machine 10 accommodates a wide variety of human morphologies while being much easier and safer to operate than other exercise and physical strengthening devices.

In an alternative implementation of the invention, illustrated in FIG. 3, the upright projection 21 of the slack section 18 has a device 43 comprising two opposing horizontal bars 42, 44 for securing the ankles. Preferably, the two opposing horizontal bars 42, 44 have cushions 48 disposed thereon for the comfort of the user. The two opposing horizontal bars/cushions 42, 44 are arranged and designed so that after the user has placed her ankles on top of the bottom bar/cushion 44, the top bar/cushion 42 is moved by another user-controlled actuator (not shown) downward into a position just above the user's ankles, thereby locking the user's ankles and feet therebetween. The height of the bottom horizontal bar/cushion 44 can also be adjusted in order to comfortably accommodate the user's ankles no matter the size of the user. In lieu of a pelvic harness 32 and a strap 36 between the pelvic harness 32 and the upright projection 21, the two opposing horizontal bars/cushions 42, 44 pull the user's ankles and legs outward as the lower 16 and slack 18 sections of the table 12 are actuated outward. Thus, the strap 36 and pelvic harness 32 are effectively replaced by the user's own legs and ankles. However, by employing this implementation, the user-controlled movement of the lower 16 and slack 18 sections effectively stretches and exercises the user's entire frame between the upper body and the ankles and without the need of a pelvic harness 32, strap 36, or upright projection 20.

The Abstract of the disclosure is written solely for providing the United States Patent and Trademark Office and the public at large with a means by which to determine quickly from a cursory inspection the nature and gist of the technical disclosure, and it represents one implementation of the invention and is not indicative of the nature of the invention as a whole.

While some embodiments of the invention have been illustrated in detail, the invention is not limited to the embodiments shown; modifications and adaptations of the above embodiments may occur to those skilled in the art. Such modifications and adaptations are in the spirit and scope of the invention as set forth herein: