Title:
Exercise Machine for Back Rehabilitation
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An exercise machine and method of using same in which two upper-limb supports and two lower-limb supports reciprocate along two parallel tracks. The tracks may be attached by a collapsible frame. The limb supports move independently of one another. Resistance may be set for each limb support independent of one another, by means of receiving a weight in each limb support. A user can perform a crawling exercise on the machine moving upper right and lower left limbs in the same direction and moving upper left and lower right limbs in a same direction opposite from the other two limbs. A chest support may be arranged to span the tracks and support the user's upper body weight.



Inventors:
Mayo, Elvin A. (Portsmouth, NH, US)
Application Number:
11/874024
Publication Date:
04/23/2009
Filing Date:
10/17/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63B23/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
GINSBERG, OREN ISAAC
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Sunstein Kann Murphy & Timbers LLP (125 SUMMER STREET, BOSTON, MA, 02110-1618, US)
Claims:
1. An exercise machine comprising: a frame; a first track attached to said frame; a second track attached to said frame; a first upper-limb support configured to engage said first track; a first lower-limb support configured to engage said first track; a second upper-limb support configured to engage said second track; and a second lower-limb support configured to engage said second track; wherein said limb supports traverse said tracks, such that the motion of each limb support is mechanically independent of the motion of any other limb support.

2. The exercise machine of claim 1 wherein the frame is collapsible.

3. The exercise machine of claim 2 wherein the frame comprises two intersecting bars pivotable about an intersection between the two bars.

4. The exercise machine of claim 1 wherein each of the first and second upper-limb supports includes at least one wheel mounted in its respective track to permit reciprocating motion along said track, and a chamber for accepting a weight to vary the resistance of said upper-limb support.

5. The exercise machine of claim 1 further comprising a chest support spanning from the first track to the second track.

6. An exercise machine comprising: a first upper-limb support; a first lower-limb support; a second upper-limb support; a second lower-limb support; a first resistance-setting mechanism attached to said first upper-limb support for setting the resistance level of said first upper-limb support; a second resistance-setting mechanism attached to said second upper-limb support for setting the resistance level of said second upper-limb support; a third resistance-setting mechanism attached to said first lower-limb support for setting the resistance level of said first lower-limb support; a fourth resistance-setting mechanism attached to said second lower-limb support for setting the resistance level of said second lower-limb support; a first track adapted to constrain the movement of said first upper-limb support and said first lower-limb support; and a second track adapted to constrain the movement of said second upper-limb support and said second lower-limb support; wherein said resistance-setting mechanisms set their respective resistance levels independently of each other; wherein said limb supports traverse said tracks.

7. The exercise machine of claim 6 wherein the first resistance-setting mechanism comprises a chamber for accommodating a removable weight.

8. The exercise machine of claim 6 further comprising a collapsible frame attached between the first track and the second track, wherein the collapsible frame comprises two intersecting bars having at least one end movably attached to one of the first and second tracks, permitting reciprocal movement of the end along its attached track.

9. (canceled)

10. The exercise machine of claim 6 further comprising a chest support spanning from the first track to the second track.

11. An exercise machine comprising: a collapsible frame, wherein the collapsible frame comprises two intersecting bars having at least one end movably attached to one of the first and second tracks, permitting reciprocal movement of the end along its attached track, and said frame being adjustable to at least one open position for use and to a closed position for storage; a first track attached to said frame; a second track attached to said frame; a first upper-limb support configured to engage said first track; a first lower-limb support configured to engage said first track; a second upper-limb support configured to engage said second track; and a second lower-limb support configured to engage said second track; wherein said limb supports traverse said tracks.

12. (canceled)

13. The exercise machine of claim 11 wherein each of the first and second upper-limb supports includes at least one wheel mounted in its respective track to permit reciprocating motion along said track.

14. The exercise machine of claim 11 further comprising a chamber in each of the upper-limb supports and lower-limb supports for accepting a weight to vary the resistance of its support.

15. The exercise machine of claim 11 further comprising a chest support spanning from the first track to the second track.

16. An exercise machine comprising: a collapsible frame, said frame being adjustable to at least one open position for use and to a closed position for storage; a first track attached to said frame; a second track attached to said frame; a first upper-limb support, having wheels mounted in said first track to permit reciprocating motion along said track, and a chamber for accepting a weight to vary the resistance of said first upper-limb support; a first lower-limb support, having wheels mounted in said first track to permit reciprocating motion along said track, and a chamber for accepting a weight to vary the resistance of said first lower-limb support; a second upper-limb support, having wheels mounted in said second track to permit reciprocating motion along said track, and a chamber for accepting a weight to vary the resistance of said second upper-limb support; a second lower-limb support, having wheels mounted in said second track to permit reciprocating motion along said track, and a chamber for accepting a weight to vary the resistance of said second lower-limb support.

17. The exercise machine of claim 16 wherein the collapsible frame comprises two intersecting bars.

18. The exercise machine of claim 16 further comprising a chest support spanning from the first track to the second track.

19. A method of exercising comprising the steps of: providing four mechanically independent limb supports in a plurality of parallel tracks; supporting a user's limbs on said limb supports; and moving the user's limbs back and forth in the limb supports along tracks in a crawling pattern, such that the user's upper-right and lower-left limbs travel in the same direction as each other, the user's upper-left and lower-right limbs travel in the same direction as each other, and said two pairs of limbs travel in the opposite direction from each other.

20. The method of claim 19 further comprising supporting the user's chest on a chest support while the user moves limbs back and forth.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present invention relates to therapeutic exercise equipment. The exercise equipment has particular utility in connection with rehabilitating the muscles of the back.

BACKGROUND

When recovering from an injury or training to prevent future injuries, it is often desirable to perform exercises that work those parts of the body that are affected. When recovering from a back injury, however, most standard exercises cannot be performed without added pain to the patient, because they often require one to exert pressure on an already injured spinal cord. This is very problematic for older persons, whose muscular integrity is not that of a younger person. Over time muscles weaken and are not able to effectively assist the spine in the healing process. Stronger back muscles help in alleviating and managing spinal cord stress. Most therapies for back rehabilitation require the patient to place pressure in some measure on the spinal cord and this is where new machines would be very beneficial. It is therefore desirable to develop exercises that work the muscles of the back but are capable of being performed by persons suffering from back injuries.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

An embodiment of the exercise machine of the present invention comprises a pair of tracks, each track engaging a pair of limb supports, which are configured to traverse the tracks. In a preferred embodiment, the tracks are parallel and allow reciprocating motion by the limb supports. A chest support may be included to support the weight of a user's upper body while the user exercises by moving the limb supports.

According to principles of a specific embodiment of the present invention, the motion of each of the limb supports along the tracks is mechanically independent of each of the other limb supports.

Providing limb supports capable of mechanically independent motion also allows the user to perform a variety of exercises. One method of exercising using the present invention is to perform cross-pattern crawling. Numerous other methods of exercising are also possible, however, including parallel-pattern crawling and isolation exercises.

According to further principles of an embodiment of the present invention, the resistance of each limb support is adjustable independently of any other limb support. Resistance may be adjusted, in a particular embodiment, by adding a weight onto the limb support.

According to further principles of a specific embodiment of the present invention, the exercise machine is collapsible for storage. In one embodiment, the frame is two cross-support bars intersecting at a pivot connection. The ends of the support bars ride along a sliding track in the side of the track beam member that bears the track for the limb supports.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The foregoing features of the invention will be more readily understood by reference to the following detailed description, taken with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the preferred embodiment.

FIG. 2 is a side cross-sectional view of the connection between the frame and the tracks.

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of a pivot point connection of the collapsible frame.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of an upper-limb support.

FIG. 5A is a side view of the interface between the wheels of a limb support and the track.

FIG. 5B is an end view of the interface between the wheels of a limb support and the track.

FIG. 6 is a cross-section view of an upper-limb support.

FIG. 7 is a cross-section view of a lower-limb support.

FIG. 8 is a side view of a user performing a crawling exercise on the apparatus.

FIG. 9 is a side view of the user from FIG. 8 continuing the same crawling exercise on the apparatus.

FIG. 10 is a perspective view of an exercise machine of an embodiment of the invention with a chest support.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF SPECIFIC EMBODIMENTS

FIG. 1 shows an exercise machine 100 according to one embodiment of the present invention. Upper-limb supports 22 and lower-limb supports 24 engage support tracks 20. The limb supports traverse the support tracks, such that the motion of each individual limb support is mechanically independent of every other limb support. When traversing the tracks, the level of resistance for each limb support is set by a resistance setting mechanism, described below. Support tracks 20 are connected by a frame 10. The frame is collapsible, such that exercise machine 100 can be configured in an open position during use and in a closed position for storage. Indeed, the open position can be adjusted to set the tracks 20 apart from one another a distance that accommodates the user.

Collapsible frame 10 is formed by the intersection of two support bars 12 at a pivot 14. Each support bar 12 is attached to a sliding plate 15 situated in sliding track 16, which is in turn situated on a side face of one of two track beams 18. Situated on a top face of beams 18, are support tracks 20. Each support track 20 houses an upper-limb support 22 and a lower-limb support 24. Each track may be, for example, one or more elongated grooves or ridges in which or on which the sliding plate or limb supports ride.

The operation of collapsible frame 10 is now described with reference to FIGS. 2-3. FIG. 2 shows two support bars 12 fixed to pivot 14. Teeth gripping washers 32 lock support bars 12 in place when closed using knob 34. In this embodiment, knob 34 turns a bolt that can be tightened to pull the teeth gripping washers 32 closed or loosened to open the washers 32. Alternate embodiments could employ other tightening mechanisms, such as, a releasable clamp or a wingnut. When teeth gripping washers 32 are disengaged (not shown) support bars 12 can move rotationally around pivot 14. Support bars 12 can thus be repositioned in a variety of configurations and locked into place. An advantage of the configuration of the embodiment shown is that there is only a single knob, which can be turned by hand with no tools, for adjusting the positioning of the exercise machine.

FIG. 3 shows plate 15 sliding in track 16. In alternate embodiments, the track 16 may be a rail and the plate 15 replaced by a runner that wraps around the rail and thus slides along the outside of the track. The plate 15 may be any of a variety of shapes including round so that it can roll within the tracks. The ends of support bars 12 connect to the sliding plates 15. As the support bars rotate about the pivot, sliding plates 15 slide along the sliding tracks 16. When the sliding plates 15 on a track slide to far opposite ends, the entire exercise apparatus adjusts to a closed position, such that beams 18 are adjacent. The exercise apparatus is thus made compact for storage. Each sliding track 16 may be provided with stops at the far ends to prevent the sliding plates from sliding out of the track. In assembly, the stops could be attached after the sliding plates are engaged within the tracks. When sliding plates 15 slide toward each other on the sliding track 16, the beams move further apart, and the exercise apparatus adjusts to an open position, where it can be locked in place and be suitable for use. Various open positions are thus possible, meaning that the exercise apparatus may be adjusted to different widths, based on the size and desired exercise experience of the user. Note that in addition to the folding bar configuration shown here, various alternate embodiments of the collapsible frame are possible, such as an embodiment in which telescoping support bars are aligned perpendicular to the beams, or even configurations in which the interconnection between the beams is loose or detachable, such as a collection of straps, allowing for the possibility of storing the two halves of the machine in separate spaces if needed.

A collapsible exercise machine will require less room for storage and will therefore be convenient to use in a greater variety of settings. Also, a collapsed machine will be less bulky, and therefore easier to transport from one place to another. This would be useful, for example, in the case of a machine that is owned by a clinic, rented out to injured patients while they are recovering at home, and then returned to the clinic.

The structure and operation of the limb-supports are now discussed with reference to FIGS. 4-7. FIG. 4 shows the external structure of upper-limb support 22. The limb-support shown here is suitable for supporting a user's left hand. Note that alternate embodiments could be configured to accept a forearm or an elbow instead of a hand. These embodiments could also employ different interfaces between the upper-limbs and the limb supports, such as handles or flat pads instead of the molding shown here. In the embodiment shown, upper-limb support 22 consists of a limb receiving pad 42 that attaches to a wheelbase 48. In one embodiment, attachment may be achieved by hook and loop fasteners, such as Velcro®. Either of a hooked pad 44 or looped pad 46 are adhered to the limb receiving pad 42. The opposite fastener is adhered to the wheelbase 48. Note that in alternate embodiments, the hook and loop fastener pads could be replaced by other connecting mechanisms, such as zippers, latches, snaps, or magnets. Alternatively, the limb supports could be fixed to the sliding base and not removable. On the bottom of wheelbase 48 are wheel axle clamps 50. Upper-limb support 22 is mounted on wheels 52 with axles 54. The near and far sides of upper-limb support 22 have four pairs of wheel axle clamps 50 each. Each pair of wheel axle clamps 50 is connected to the axle 54 of its own individual wheel 52, but only one wheel is pictured here, so that wheel axle clamps 50 are more readily visible. Note that in alternate embodiments, different wheel configurations are possible. Wheelbase could include more or fewer rows of wheels, or more or fewer columns of wheels. Further embodiments could replace wheelbase 48 with a sliding mechanism other than wheels, such as sliding ball bearings. Alternatively, the limb supports could connect to the support tracks at flat lubricated surfaces suitable for sliding, or the tracks could consist of a series of rollers such that the limb supports could be flat-bottomed and still roll along the tracks.

FIG. 5 shows how the limb supports travel along the tracks according to one embodiment. The two rows of wheels 52 sit in support track 20, where axles 54 extend into support track 20 such that wheels 52 will not exit support track 20 through the open top. The remainder of open lateral space between wheels 52 and support track 20 is occupied by wheel axle clamps 50.

The configuration in this embodiment allows the limb supports to travel in the tracks such that the motion of each limb support is mechanically independent of the other limb supports. When the limb supports operate in a mechanically independent fashion with respect to one another, arms and legs need not move together in the same or opposite directions. Thus, a wide variety of positions and movements on the equipment is made possible. Furthermore, the user can train both larger muscles and smaller stabilizer muscles at the same time. The user can also train the user's muscles from a variety of angles. These factors can contribute to a more complete recovery and reduced probability of further injury. In this embodiment, the general operation of the exercise machine is similar to weight training with free weights, in that both types of exercises train stabilizer muscles and work muscles from several different angles. Embodiments of the invention may be used in exercises that train any one or more of a user's muscles, including but not limited to the splenis capitis, deltoid, trapezius, teres major, infraspinatus, rhomboideus major, latissimus dorsi, external oblique and gluteus maximus.

In embodiments of the present invention, the ends of the tracks may be closed, so that the limb supports are blocked from sliding off the ends of the tracks. In some embodiments, end enclosures could be implemented as cushioned end guards. Note that the support tracks need not be entirely straight or parallel, as shown. In alternate embodiments, the tracks could be angled relative to each other. The tracks also could be curved relative to the horizontal or vertical directions.

FIG. 6 shows a cross-section of upper-limb support 22. Between limb receiving pad 42 and fastener pad 44 is a chamber for accepting an interchangeable weight 60. FIG. 7 shows a cross-section of lower-limb support 24. Between limb receiving pad 42 and fastener pad 44 is a chamber for accepting an interchangeable weight 60. All four limb supports accept an individual weight 60. The weight in a limb support alters the resistance of the support to movement by the user. The resistance of each individual limb support is set independently of the resistance of any other limb support. Note that while the limb supports in the embodiment shown are configured to support a user's knees and hands, alternate embodiments could be configured to support a user's lower leg, foot, arm, or elbow instead.

In the embodiment shown, it is preferred to provide a handle or loop (not shown) for pulling weight 60 from its chamber. Weight 60 could be made of any sufficiently heavy and sturdy material. In fact, weight 60 need not be completely solid. It could, for example, be implemented as a solid casing filled with a fluid such as water, or a collection of small particles such as sand or ball bearings, which would allow for extremely fine adjustment of each individual weight.

The configuration in this embodiment allows the user to set the resistance for each limb support independently of the resistance for the other limb supports. This is especially useful because some users will have greater strength or weakness in certain parts of the body than others. It is important to be able to set weaker resistance for those muscles that cannot handle larger loads, or to set greater resistance for those muscle groups that are to be isolated as part of a rehabilitative workout.

Each limb support can be configured to accommodate one or more weights. Further embodiments are possible for setting the resistance of each limb support that do not use weights at all. In one possible embodiment, the limb supports could be mounted on a looped belt track. Various ways are known in the art to provide adjustable resistance to such belts, and any of these could be employed. Alternatively, belt loops could be installed in the limb supports themselves, and the adjustment mechanism for the resistance of each limb support would thus be located on the limb support itself. Another embodiment could employ a system of hydraulic resistance, wherein each limb support is connected to a shaft in a hydraulic resistor, also known in the art as a mechanism for providing adjustable resistance. Other embodiments could adjust resistance using a collection of interchangeable elastic bands having various strengths, or a collection of interchangeable bending rods having various resistances to bending.

FIGS. 8-9 show a user 70 in the process of exercising on exercise machine 100. User 70 is performing a crawling exercise. User 70 moves the user's limbs back and forth in the upper-limb supports 22 and lower-limb supports 24 along support tracks 20 in a crawling pattern, such that the user's upper-right limb 72 and lower-left limb 74 travel in the same direction as each other, the user's upper-left limb 76 and lower-right limb 78 travel in the same direction as each other, and the two pairs of limbs travel in the opposite direction from each other. As a result, user 70 alternates between the body positions shown in FIGS. 8-9 with each stage of movement of the user's limbs. While back muscles are exercised through moving arms and legs in this way, there are no compressive forces being applied to the spine or back as is normally associated with weightlifting. A user having trouble standing and even sitting up, can roll or crawl onto the exercise equipment to begin a workout while the back is recuperating.

Numerous other exercises may be performed using exercise machine 100 as well. Another possible exercise would be to perform reciprocating motion with all four limbs such that all four limbs are moved toward the ends of the tracks at the same time, and then all four limbs are moved away from the ends of the tracks toward the middle of the tracks. The exercise may be performed as a leg extension or lower stomach crunch, with both arms supporting the head above stabilized upper limb supports 22. In this position, the legs on the lower limb supports 24 are extended and retracted. The exercise may be performed as an arm extension or upper stomach crunch. Here, the knees rest on stabilized lower limb supports 24 with the buttocks supported directly above the knees. The user extends the arms out and retracts them back with the hands riding on the upper limb supports 22. Yet another possible exercise would entail reciprocating motion involving moving both left-side limbs in the same direction, moving both right-side limbs in the same direction, and moving both pairs of limbs in opposite directions of each other. All of these exercises also could be performed using only the upper-limbs, or using only the lower-limbs, or using any other subset of the four limbs.

A frail user may even have difficulty performing a crawling exercise on the machine. Referring to FIG. 10, a chest support 80 spans across from the first track to the second track. The chest support 80 includes a seat on which such a user can rest his or her chest while exercising and moving the limb supports with arms and legs. The chest support is substantially perpendicular to the parallel tracks. The seat may be made of any of a variety of materials such as canvas, cloth, plastic, metal, wood or composite. Harder materials may be covered by padding if desired to make the user more comfortable. The seat may be suspended above the first and second track by legs or a stand at each end. The legs or stand may be made adjustable in height to accommodate users of different sizes. The legs or stand can be made up of a series of stackable pieces, so that pieces can be added or removed to adjust the height of the chest support. The legs of a stackable piece fit into recesses on top of the piece underneath. Any variety of height adjustment mechanisms can be employed including telescoping legs with pegs and holes to hold any given adjustment or legs that screw or unscrew to adjust their lengths. The chest support may be a separate article that is placed over the tracks for use or it may interconnect with the tracks. For interconnection, the tracks may include receptacles attached thereto into which legs of the chest support may be inserted.

A user operating the exercise machine with the assistance of the chest support is relieved from the need to support the back above the machine while moving limbs back and forth on the machine. The weight of the user's upper body is supported by resting one's chest on the chest support. Meanwhile, the user moves arms and legs riding in the limb supports to exercise muscles in the back. Eventually, it may be possible for the user, after sufficient strengthening and healing, to use the machine without the chest support.

The embodiments of the invention described above are intended to be merely exemplary; numerous variations and modifications will be apparent to those skilled in the art. All such variations and modifications are intended to be within the scope of the present invention as defined in any appended claims.