Title:
Abdominal muscle exercise apparatus
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An apparatus configured for exercising abdominal muscles of a user comprises an elongated support structure, a translatable member, a foot support assembly and a foot support lifting mechanism. The elongated support structure has a first end and a second end and the translatable member has a first end and a second end. The translatable member is slidably attached to the elongated support structure for enabling translation of the translatable member with respect to the elongated support structure. The foot support assembly is movably mounted on the elongated support structure. The foot support lifting mechanism is coupled between the first end of the translatable member and the foot support assembly whereby translation of the translatable member toward the second end of the elongated support structure results in a corresponding upward movement of a foot engaging portion of the foot support assembly.



Inventors:
Szabo, William Joseph (Sunland, CA, US)
Colonello, Dennis John (Studio City, CA, US)
Application Number:
10/890905
Publication Date:
01/19/2006
Filing Date:
07/14/2004
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
482/126, 482/121
International Classes:
A63B21/02; A63B26/00
View Patent Images:
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20090054213Abdominal Exercising DeviceFebruary, 2009Abdo
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20090197745Freestanding Selectable Free Weight AssemblyAugust, 2009Olson
20070123402Pelvic clamp for back stretchingMay, 2007Cantrell
20070037666Orthopedic exerciserFebruary, 2007Gagnon et al.



Primary Examiner:
DONNELLY, JEROME W
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
IVC Patent Agency (AUSTIN, TX, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An apparatus configured for exercising abdominal muscles of a user, comprising: an elongated support structure having a first end and a second end; a translatable member having a first end and a second end, wherein the translatable member is slidably attached to the elongated support structure adjacent the first end of the elongated support structure for enabling translation of the translatable member with respect to the elongated support structure; a lower body support assembly movably mounted on the elongated support structure adjacent the second end of the elongated support structure; and a lower body support lifting mechanism coupled between the first end of the translatable member and the lower body support assembly whereby translation of the translatable member toward the second end of the elongated support structure results in a corresponding upward movement of a lower body engaging portion of the lower body support assembly.

2. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein: the lower body support lifting mechanism includes a flexible link guide member attached to the elongated support structure and a flexible link having a first end and a second end; the flexible link guide member is positioned adjacent the first end of the elongated support structure; the first end of the translatable member is disposed between the flexible link guide member and the second end of the elongated support structure; and the flexible link has the first end thereof attached to the translatable member adjacent the first end of the translatable member, the second end thereof attached to the lower body support assembly and an intermediate portion thereof engaged with the flexible link guide member.

3. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein: the translatable member is an elongated shaft; the elongated support structure includes an elongated stanchion and a housing attached to the elongated stanchion adjacent the first end of the elongated stanchion the housing includes a shaft-receiving passage extending therethrough; and a slidable portion of the elongated shaft is slidably disposed in the shaft-receiving passage of the housing thereby enabling the slidable portion of the elongated shaft to translate with respect to the housing.

4. The apparatus of claim 3 wherein: a longitudinal axis of the slidable portion of the elongated shaft extends generally parallel with a longitudinal axis of the elongated stanchion.

5. The apparatus of claim 3 wherein: the lower body support lifting mechanism includes a flexible link guide member attached to the elongated stanchion and a flexible link having a first end and a second end; the flexible link guide member is positioned adjacent the first end of the elongated stanchion; the first end of the translatable member is disposed between the flexible link guide member and the second end of the elongated stanchion; and the flexible link has the first end thereof attached to the translatable member adjacent the first end of the translatable member, the second end thereof attached to the lower body support assembly and an intermediate portion thereof engaged with the flexible link guide member.

6. The apparatus of claim 5 wherein: the flexible link guide member is mounted on the housing; and the flexible link guide member includes at least one of a pulley, a roller and a non-rotating member having a low-friction contact surface.

7. The apparatus of claim 5 wherein the flexible link guide member serves to reverse movement direction of the second end of the flexible link relative to the first end of the flexible link thereby enabling operation of the lower body support lifting mechanism.

8. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the lower body support assembly includes a lower body support member that is movable between a plurality of lower body support member positions and that defines the lower body engaging portion of the lower body support assembly.

9. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein: the lower body support assembly includes a first end pivotally attached to the elongated support structure and a second end having a lower body support member attached thereto for defining the lower body engaging portion of the lower body support assembly.

10. The apparatus of claim 9 wherein the lower body support member is movable between a plurality of lower body support member positions.

11. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising: means for imparting resistance connected between the elongated support structure and the lower body support assembly for applying resistance to downward translation of the translatable member.

12. The apparatus of claim 11 wherein said means for imparting resistance is configured for enabling said resistance to be alterable.

13. The apparatus of claim 11 wherein said means for imparting resistance includes a resilient resistance member.

14. The apparatus of claim 13 wherein: the elongated support structure includes a resistance member mount; the lower body support assembly includes a resistance member mount; and the resilient resistance member has a first portion attached to the resistance member mount of the elongated support structure and a second portion attached to the resistance member mount of the lower body support assembly.

15. The apparatus of claim 13 wherein: the elongated support structure includes a support member attached to the second end of the elongated support structure; the support member of the elongated support structure extends generally transverse to a longitudinal axis of the translatable member; the lower body support assembly includes an elongated lower body support member extending generally parallel to the stanchion support member; and the resilient resistance member has a first portion attached to the support member of the elongated support structure and a second portion attached to the elongated lower body support member.

16. The apparatus of claim 13 wherein: the lower body support assembly is configured for having the resilient resistance member selectively attachable thereto at a plurality of resistance member attachment positions; and the resilient resistance member is configured for being selectively attachable to the lower body support assembly at each one of said resistance member attachment positions thereby enabling adjustable resistance to be applied to said downward translation of the translatable member.

17. The apparatus of claim 13 wherein at least one of the elongated support structure and the lower body support assembly is configured for having the resilient resistance member selectively attachable thereto at a plurality of respective resistance member attachment points thereby enabling adjustable resistance to be applied to said downward translation of the translatable member.

18. An apparatus configured for exercising abdominal muscles of a user, comprising: an elongated stanchion having a first end and a second end; a flexible link guide member attached to the elongated stanchion; a translatable member having a first end and a second end, wherein a slidable portion of the translatable member is slidably attached to the elongated stanchion and wherein the first end of the translatable member is disposed between the flexible link guide member and the second end of the elongated stanchion adjacent the first end of the elongated stanchion; a lower body support assembly including a first end and a second end, wherein the lower body support assembly is pivotally attached to the elongated stanchion adjacent the second end of the stanchion; and a flexible link having a first end attached to translatable member adjacent the first end of the translatable member, a second end attached to the lower body support assembly and an intermediate portion engaged with the flexible link guide member whereby translation of the shaft with respect to the shaft mount causes the lower body support to pivot relative to the elongated stanchion.

19. The apparatus of claim 18, further comprising: a housing attached to the elongated stanchion adjacent the first end of the elongated stanchion; wherein the housing includes a shaft-receiving passage extending therethrough; wherein the translatable member is an elongated shaft; and wherein the slidable portion of the elongated shaft is slidably disposed in the shaft-receiving passage of the housing thereby enabling the slidable portion of the elongated shaft to translate with respect to the housing.

20. The apparatus of claim 18 wherein: the flexible link guide member includes at least one of a pulley, a roller and a non-rotating member having a low-friction contact surface.

21. The apparatus of claim 18 wherein the flexible link guide member serves to reverse movement direction of the second end of the flexible link relative to the first end of the flexible link in response to translation of the translatable member toward the second end of the elongated stanchion.

22. The apparatus of claim 18 wherein the lower body support assembly includes a lower body support member that is movable between a plurality of lower body support member positions and that defines a lower body engaging portion of the lower body support assembly.

23. The apparatus of claim 18, wherein: the lower body support assembly includes a first end pivotally attached to the elongated stanchion and a second end having a lower body support member attached thereto for defining a lower body engaging portion of the lower body support assembly.

24. The apparatus of claim 23 wherein the lower body support member is movable between a plurality of lower body support member positions.

25. The apparatus of claim 18, further comprising: means for imparting resistance connected between the elongated stanchion and the lower body support assembly for applying resistance to downward translation of the translatable member.

26. The apparatus of claim 25 wherein said means for imparting resistance is configured for enabling said resistance to be alterable

27. The apparatus of claim 25 wherein said means for imparting resistance includes a resilient resistance member.

28. The apparatus of claim 27 wherein: the elongated stanchion includes a resistance member mount; the lower body support assembly includes a resistance member mount; and the resilient resistance member has a first portion attached to the resistance member mount of the elongated stanchion and a second portion attached to the resistance member mount of the lower body support assembly.

29. The apparatus of claim 27 wherein: the elongated stanchion includes a stanchion support member attached to the second end of the elongated stanchion; the stanchion support member extends generally transverse to the elongated stanchion; the lower body support assembly includes an elongated lower body support member extending generally parallel to the stanchion support member; and the resilient resistance member has a first portion attached to the stanchion support member and a second portion attached to the elongated lower body support member.

30. The apparatus of claim 27 wherein: the lower body support assembly is configured for having the resilient resistance member selectively attachable thereto at a plurality of resistance member attachment positions; and the resilient resistance member is configured for being selectively attachable to the lower body support assembly at each one of said resistance member attachment positions thereby enabling adjustable resistance to be applied to said downward translation of the translatable member.

31. The apparatus of claim 27 wherein at least one of the elongated stanchion and the lower body support assembly is configured for having the resilient resistance member selectively attachable thereto at a plurality of respective resistance member attachment points thereby enabling adjustable resistance to be applied to said downward translation of the translatable member.

32. An apparatus configured for exercising abdominal muscles of a user, comprising: an elongated stanchion having a first end and a second end; a U-shaped support structure having a first end and a second end, wherein the U-shaped support structure is attached at the first end thereof to the first end of the elongated stanchion; a shaft mount fixedly attached between legs of the U-shaped support structure stanchion adjacent the second end of the U-shaped support structure; a flexible link guide member attached to at least one of the shaft mount and the U-shaped support structure adjacent the second end of the U-shaped support structure; an elongated shaft having a first end and a second end, wherein a slidable portion of the elongated shaft is slidably engaged with the shaft mount and wherein the first end of the elongated shaft is disposed between the shaft mount and the second end of the elongated stanchion; a lower body support assembly slidably mounted on the elongated stanchion intermediate the first end and the second end of the elongated stanchion; and a flexible link having a first end thereof attached to the elongated shaft adjacent the first end of the elongated shaft, a second end thereof attached to the lower body support assembly and an intermediate portion thereof engaged with the flexible link guide member whereby the lower body support assembly translates along the elongated stanchion toward the first end of the elongated stanchion in response to translation of the elongated shaft relative to the shaft mount toward the second end of the elongated stanchion.

33. The apparatus of claim 32 wherein: the flexible link guide member includes at least one of a pulley, a roller and a non-rotating member having a low-friction contact surface.

34. The apparatus of claim 32 wherein the flexible link guide member serves to reverse movement direction of the second end of the flexible link relative to the first end of the flexible link in response to translation of the elongated shaft toward the second end of the elongated stanchion.

35. The apparatus of claim 32 wherein the lower body support assembly includes a lower body support member that is movable between a plurality of lower body support member positions and that defines a lower body engaging portion of the lower body support assembly.

36. The apparatus of claim 35 wherein the lower body support assembly includes a collar slidably mounted on the elongated stanchion intermediate the first end and the second end of the elongated stanchion thereby enabling translation of the lower body support assembly along the elongated stanchion.

37. The apparatus of claim 32, further comprising: means for imparting resistance connected between the elongated stanchion and the lower body support assembly for applying resistance to downward translation of the elongated shaft.

38. The apparatus of claim 37 wherein said means for imparting resistance is configured for enabling said resistance to be alterable.

39. The apparatus of claim 37 wherein said means for imparting resistance includes a resilient resistance member.

40. The apparatus of claim 39 wherein: the elongated stanchion includes a resistance member mount; the lower body support assembly includes a resistance member mount; and the resilient resistance member has a first portion attached to the resistance member mount of the elongated stanchion and a second portion attached to the resistance member mount of the lower body support assembly.

41. The apparatus of claim 39 wherein: the elongated stanchion includes a stanchion support member attached to the second end thereof; the stanchion support member extends generally transverse to the elongated stanchion; the lower body support assembly includes an elongated lower body support member extending generally parallel to the stanchion support member; and the resilient resistance member has a first portion attached to the stanchion support member and a second portion attached to the elongated lower body support member.

42. The apparatus of claim 39 wherein: the lower body support assembly is configured for having the resilient resistance member selectively attachable thereto at a plurality of resistance member attachment positions; and the resilient resistance member is configured for being selectively attachable to the lower body support assembly at each one of said resistance member attachment positions thereby enabling adjustable resistance to be applied to said downward translation of the translatable member.

43. The apparatus of claim 37 wherein at least one of the elongated stanchion and the lower body support assembly is configured for having the resilient resistance member selectively attachable thereto at a plurality of respective resistance member attachment points thereby enabling adjustable resistance to be applied to said downward translation of the translatable member.

Description:

FIELD OF THE DISCLOSURE

The disclosures made herein relate generally to exercise apparatuses and, more particularly, to apparatuses configured for exercising abdominal muscles.

BACKGROUND

A person's abdominal muscles, which are referred to generally as ‘abs’, comprise a plurality of different muscle. A person's rectus abdominus muscle is disposed centrally along the length of the front of their abdomen and attaches between the lower rib cage and the front of the pelvic girdle. A person's internal and external oblique muscles are disposed medially and laterally, respectively, between the lower rib cage and the front of the pelvic girdle. Accordingly, the rectus abdominus muscle defines an anterior muscular wall of the abdomen and oblique muscles define lateral muscular walls of the abdomen.

As is well known, preferred approaches for exercising the abdominal muscles provide a safe and effective means for training both strength and endurance of the abdominal musculature. Such preferred approaches provide for incrementally progressive resistance means that prevent the abdominal muscles from accommodating to a specific force while enabling the user to remain challenged in training his or her abdominal strength and endurance as his or her strength and endurance increases.

Conventional approaches for exercising abdominal muscles without exercise apparatuses are known. To exercise the upper portion of the rectus abdominus muscle in such a manner (i.e., without an exercise apparatus), repetitions of a supine “crunch” exercise are performed in which the trunk of the human body is raised, in a curling motion, with the hips and knees bent and the feet remaining stationary on the floor. To exercise the lower portion of the rectus abdominus muscle in such a manner, repetitions of a supine “knee-up” exercise are performed in which the feet are lifted off the floor and the knees are lifted, in an arcing motion, toward the chest wall. Simultaneous exercising of the upper and lower rectus abdominus muscle is performed in such a manner using a “compound crunch” exercise wherein the supine crunch exercise and the supine knee-up exercise are combined in a coordinated movement. The left internal oblique and right external oblique muscles are exercised simultaneously in such a manner by performing repetitions of the supine crunch exercise in combination with twisting of the torso to the right side and by twisting to the left side to simultaneously exercise the right internal oblique and left external oblique muscles.

The abdominal muscle exercises described above (i.e., without the aid of an exercise apparatus) are not without hazard and inconvenience, especially with respect to the novice exerciser. One adverse issue associated with such abdominal muscle exercises is that muscle and joint injuries that occur are mostly related to the inertial strain developed when commencing the lifting of the user's body. Such injuries can be especially problematic if the user holds his or her breath while exerting, thus risking injury to the lower back and neck regions of the spine as well as the hip flexor muscles. Another adverse issue associated with such abdominal muscle exercises is that they often inherently cause the exerciser to create an undesirable whip lashing motion of the spine to assist in the initial lifting phase of the exercise. Still another adverse issue associated with such abdominal muscle exercises is that most exercisers find these conventional exercises uncomfortable to perform. Thus, exerciser compliance has been historically poor with such exercises rarely yielding desirable results. This is especially unfortunate for back and neck pain sufferers, because these individuals are often prescribed conventional abdominal muscle exercises to assist in alleviating spinal pain through development of a stronger and more physically fit abdomen. Besides the aforementioned adverse issues associated with such abdominal muscle exercises, spine pain sufferers often have great difficulty in or are precluded from lying on the floor and then standing back up.

Various resistance-type exercise apparatuses for exercising abdominal muscles are known (i.e., conventional abdominal muscle exercise devices). Such conventional abdominal muscle exercise apparatuses are also known to have limitations that adversely affect their effectiveness, desirability and/or practicality. Many of these conventional abdominal muscle exercise apparatuses have largely failed to provide adequate comfort, convenience, safety, and time-savings while providing endurance training and/or strength training in a manner adequate and specific to a user's individual needs. Some of these conventional abdominal muscle exercise apparatuses provide an excess of resistance so as to allow only a few repetitions to be performed before fatigue sets in, thus limiting the endurance training of the abdominal muscles while increasing potential risk of injury. Others provide too small a resistance such that the abdominal muscles are not adequately stressed so as to provide adequate strength training. Furthermore, such conventional abdominal muscle exercise apparatuses frequently provide only specific exercises thus requiring more than one device to effectively exercise the entire abdominal musculature or require numerous exercise movements, which are both time-consuming and complex to perform.

Conventional abdominal muscle exercise apparatuses that constrain a person to execute what are largely linear vertical motions and/or other motions that deviate in some respects from the natural, complex curvature motions of the spine during bending, thus presenting a particularly undesirable set of adverse issues. In executing abdominal muscle exercises with such conventional exercise apparatuses, the associated body motion results in bending of the torso at least at some points within the full range of motion that occurs at the hips rather than at the lower spine and stomach, thereby predominantly stressing the hip joint flexor muscles rather than the abdominal muscles in these ranges. Such motions are in sharp contrast to the “crunch” motion, “knee-up” motion, “compound crunch” motion and/or “torso twisting” motion in which the spine is desirably flexed forward in a curling path. Thus, the abdominal muscles consequently do not receive optimum benefit from use of such conventional exercise apparatuses.

Disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,071,119; 5,069,448; 5,046,726 and 4,863,162 are examples of such conventional abdominal muscle exercise apparatuses that constrain a person to execute what are largely linear vertical motions and/or other motions that deviate in some respects from the natural, complex curvature motions of the spine during bending. The abdominal muscle exercise apparatuses disclosed in these patents address individual problems associated with performance of crunch motion exercises. However, as discussed above, there are numerous problems that exist in conjunction with the means in which such conventional abdominal muscle exercise apparatuses facilitate such crunch motion exercises and that limit the effectiveness in which strength and endurance training of abdominal muscles can be safely performed using such conventional abdominal muscle exercise apparatuses.

Therefore, an abdominal muscle exercise apparatus and associated exercise technique that overcome limitations and drawbacks associated with conventional abdominal muscle exercise apparatuses and associated exercise techniques would be useful and novel.

SUMMARY OF THE DISCLOSURE

Abdominal muscle exercise apparatuses and associated exercise techniques in accordance with embodiments of the inventive disclosures made herein overcomes inadequacies of conventional abdominal muscle exercising apparatuses and associated exercise techniques. Specifically, abdominal muscle exercise apparatuses in accordance with embodiments of the inventive disclosures made herein provide an adjustable, light-weight, compact and easy to use strength and endurance training apparatus configured for exercising the abdominal muscles in a time and motion efficient manner. Such abdominal muscle exercise apparatuses enables a user to easily assume and maintain a individual biased anatomically correct crunch motion, while minimizing the risk of injury associated with exercising abdominal muscles. Through the use of an exercise apparatus in accordance with embodiments of the inventive disclosures made herein, a user is able to perform “crunch”, “knee-up”, “compound crunch” and/or “torso twisting” exercise motions in which the spine is flexed forward in a curling path over an entire range of motion of the spine while providing both endurance repetition training and progressive resistance strength training. Furthermore, during use of an abdominal muscle exercise apparatus in accordance with embodiments of the inventive disclosures made herein, a user is able to sit comfortably, for example, in a chair and perform repetitions of abdominal muscle strengthening and endurance training exercises equivalent to conventional exercise techniques which target the abdominal rectus and oblique muscles while substantially limited physical stress to the regions of the spine, hip flexor muscles and joints.

In an embodiment of the inventive disclosures made herein, an apparatus configured for exercising abdominal muscles of a user comprises an elongated support structure, a translatable member, a lower body support assembly and a lower body support lifting mechanism. The elongated support structure has a first end and a second end and the translatable member has a first end and a second end. The translatable member is slidably attached to the elongated support structure adjacent the first end of the elongated support structure for enabling translation of the translatable member with respect to the elongated support structure. The lower body support assembly is movably mounted on the elongated support structure adjacent the second end of the elongated support structure. The lower body support lifting mechanism is coupled between the first end of the translatable member and the lower body support assembly whereby translation of the translatable member toward the second end of the elongated support structure results in a corresponding upward movement of a lower body engaging portion of the lower body support assembly. In use, the user applies their upper body weight onto the translatable member, which results in a downward translation of the translatable member and upward movement of the lower body engaging portion of the lower body support assembly. Accordingly, in response to applying their upper body weight on the translatable member for translating the translatable member downward, the user performs a crunching action as they lift their lower body weight in reacting to the corresponding upward movement of the lower body engaging portion of the lower body support assembly on which their lower body (e.g., feet) are resting.

In another embodiment of the inventive disclosures made herein, an apparatus configured for exercising abdominal muscles of a user comprises an elongated stanchion, a flexible link guide member, a translatable member, a lower body support assembly and a flexible link. The elongated stanchion has a first end and a second end and the translatable member has a first end and a second end. The flexible link guide member is attached to the elongated stanchion. A slidable portion of the translatable member is slidably attached to the elongated stanchion. The first end of the translatable member is disposed between the flexible link guide member and the second end of the elongated stanchion adjacent the first end of the elongated stanchion. The lower body support assembly includes a first end and a second end. The lower body support assembly is pivotally attached at the first end thereof to the elongated stanchion adjacent the second end of the stanchion. The flexible link has a first end attached to translatable member adjacent the first end of the translatable member, a second end attached to the lower body support assembly adjacent the second end of the lower body support assembly and an intermediate portion engaged with the flexible link guide member whereby downward translation of the shaft with respect to the shaft mount causes the lower body support to pivot relative to the elongated stanchion. In use, the user applies their upper body weight onto the translatable member, which results in a downward translation of the translatable member and upward movement of the lower body engaging portion of the lower body support assembly. Accordingly, in response to applying their upper body weight on the translatable member for translating the translatable member downward, the user performs a crunching action as they lift their lower body weight in reacting to the corresponding upward movement of the lower body engaging portion of the lower body support assembly on which their lower body (e.g., feet) are resting.

In yet another embodiment of the inventive disclosures made herein, an apparatus configured for exercising abdominal muscles of a user comprises an elongated stanchion, a U-shaped support structure, a shaft mount, a flexible link guide member, an elongated shaft, a lower body support assembly and a flexible link. The U-shaped support structure is attached at a first end thereof to a first end of the elongated stanchion. The shaft mount is fixedly attached between legs of the U-shaped support structure adjacent a second end of the U-shaped support structure. The flexible link guide member is attached to at least one of the shaft mount and the U-shaped support structure adjacent the second end of the U-shaped support structure. A slidable portion of the elongated shaft is slidably engaged with the shaft mount for enabling translation of the elongated shaft with respect to the U-shaped support structure. A first end of the elongated shaft is disposed between the shaft mount and a second end of the elongated stanchion. The lower body support assembly is slidably mounted on the elongated stanchion intermediate the first end and the second end of the elongated stanchion. The flexible link has a first end thereof attached to the elongated shaft adjacent the first end of the elongated shaft, a second end thereof attached to the lower body support assembly and an intermediate portion thereof engaged with the flexible link guide member whereby the lower body support assembly translates along the elongated stanchion toward the first end of the elongated stanchion in response to translation of the elongated shaft relative to the shaft mount toward the second end of the elongated stanchion. In use, the user applies their upper body weight onto the elongated shaft, which results in a downward translation of the elongated shaft and upward movement of the lower body support assembly. Accordingly, in response to applying their upper body weight on the elongated shaft for translating the elongated shaft downward, the user performs a crunching action as they lift their lower body weight in reacting to the corresponding upward movement of the lower body support assembly on which their lower body (e.g., feet) are resting.

Accordingly, an abdominal muscle exercise apparatus in accordance with at least one embodiment of the inventive disclosures made herein is configured for exercising the upper and lower portions of the rectus abdominus muscle. Furthermore, in accordance with at least one embodiment of the inventive disclosures made herein, such an abdominal muscle exercise apparatus is configured for exercising left and right internal and external oblique muscles which course medially and laterally respectively, to and from the lower rib cage and the front of the pelvic girdle. Still further, in accordance with at least one embodiment of the inventive disclosures made herein, such an abdominal muscle exercise apparatus is configured for enabling exercising oblique abdominal muscles by performing torso twisting crunching motion, which entail the user alternately twisting his or her torso trunk from left to right while depressing the translatable member downward and correspondingly lifting his or her legs in reaction to the lower body support assembly being displaced upwards.

It is an object of an abdominal muscle exercise apparatus in accordance with at least one embodiment of the inventive disclosures made herein to provide a device for exercising the abdominal muscles without over-stressing the structures of the lower back, neck and the hip flexor muscles and while providing a means for both endurance training and strength training of the abdominal musculature.

It is another object of an abdominal muscle exercise apparatus in accordance with at least one embodiment of the inventive disclosures made herein to permit the upper body to move forward under stress, in an arc configuration so as to enable a user to easily assume and maintain the proper crunch motion during exercise, thus distributing the flexure of the spine throughout the lumbo-sacral junction to the thoraco-lumbar junction of the spine so as to eliminate a focusing of undesirable flexure to any particular region of the lumbar spine.

It is another object of an abdominal muscle exercise apparatus in accordance with at least one embodiment of the inventive disclosures made herein to provide a means to perform the “crunch”, “knee-up”, and “compound crunch “and” torso twisting motions without the discomfort or fatigue normally associated with the conventional supine method.

It is another object of an abdominal muscle exercise apparatus in accordance with at least one embodiment of the inventive disclosures made herein to provide a single abdominal muscle exercise apparatus for performing complex “compound crunch” exercise safely and comfortably to target the upper and lower rectus abdominal muscle in a time saving manner such that when combined with the “torso twisting” exercises for the oblique abdominal muscles the crunch and knee-up exercises are not necessary and the entire abdominal musculature is exercised over a full range of motion.

It is another object of an abdominal muscle exercise apparatus in accordance with at least one embodiment of the inventive disclosures made herein to avoid stress to the muscles of the neck and the cervical discs normally associated with the conventional supine method.

It is another object of an abdominal muscle exercise apparatus in accordance with at least one embodiment of the inventive disclosures made herein to provide an abdominal muscle exercise apparatus whose inherent resistance is provided by the user's own lower body weight and which can be easily increased so as to accommodate users of different strength, and also provide a means of progressive resistance exercise for any individual users.

It is another object of an abdominal muscle exercise apparatus in accordance with at least one embodiment of the inventive disclosures made herein to provide an abdominal muscle exercise apparatus configured for imparting a resistive force provided at least partially by the user's own lower body weight so as to permit users having different endurance a means of progressive repetitive endurance exercise for any individual users.

It is another object of an abdominal muscle exercise apparatus in accordance with at least one embodiment of the inventive disclosures made herein to be light-weight and compact so as to be readily and conveniently portable.

It is another object of an abdominal muscle exercise apparatus in accordance with at least one embodiment of the inventive disclosures made herein to be relatively simple and inexpensive to manufacture, yet reliable.

It is another object of an abdominal muscle exercise apparatus in accordance with at least one embodiment of the inventive disclosures made herein to aid in coordination of “crunch”, “knee-up”, “compound crunch” and/or “torso twisting” exercise movements.

Other objects, advantages, novelty and benefits of abdominal muscle exercise apparatuses in accordance with embodiments of the inventive disclosures made herein will become evident when the following description of this invention is considered with the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is perspective view depicting an abdominal muscle exercise apparatus in accordance with a first embodiment of the inventive disclosures made herein.

FIG. 2 is an exploded view of the abdominal muscle exercise machine depicted in FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a side view of the abdominal muscle exercise machine depicted in FIG. 1.

FIG. 4 is an operational view depicting use of the abdominal muscle exercise machine depicted in FIG. 1.

FIG. 5 is perspective view depicting an abdominal muscle exercise apparatus in accordance with a second embodiment of the inventive disclosures made herein.

FIG. 6 is an operational view depicting use of the abdominal muscle exercise machine depicted in FIG. 5.

FIG. 7 is perspective view depicting an abdominal muscle exercise apparatus in accordance with a third embodiment of the inventive disclosures made herein.

FIG. 8 is a fragmented view depicting a multi-position foot support assembly of abdominal muscle exercise apparatus depicted in FIG. 7.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIGS. 1-3 depict an abdominal muscle exercise apparatus 1 in accordance with a first embodiment of the inventive disclosures made herein. Referring to FIGS. 1 and 2, the abdominal muscle exercise apparatus 1 includes a stanchion 2 (i.e., a suitably rigid) having a transverse bore 3 intermediate a head end 4 (i.e., a first end) and a foot end 5 (i.e., a second end) of the stanchion 2. The foot end 5 is attached to a stanchion support member 6, which extends generally transverse to the stanchion 2. The stanchion support member 6 includes a left free end 7 and a right free end 8 forming a horizontal leg of the stanchion 2, which provides stability to abdominal muscle exercise apparatus 1 when engaged with a support surface (e.g., a floor).

The head end 4 of the stanchion 2 is rigidly attached to a shaft mount 10 (e.g., a housing). The shaft mount 10 includes a tubular member 11 having a bore 15 extending therethrough. A bushing 14 is fitted in a top end 12 and a bottom end 13 of the bore 15. Brass and plastic are examples of materials from which the bushing 14 is made. The stanchion 2 and the shaft mount 10 jointly represent an embodiment of an elongated support structure in accordance with the inventive disclosures made herein.

An elongated shaft 16 (i.e., a translatable member) includes a slidable portion 16′ which is slidably disposed in the bore 15 of the shaft mount 10, a lower end 17 (i.e., a first end) disposed below the shaft mount 10 and a upper end 18 (i.e., a second end) that is attached to a generally transverse handle 19 above the shaft mount 10. Preferably, the elongated shaft 16 is free to rotate within the bore 15 as well as translate within the bore 15. In other embodiments (not shown), an abdominal muscle exercise apparatus in accordance with the inventive disclosures made herein may benefit from the elongated shaft 16 being precluded from rotating. The handle 19 includes a left free end 20 and a right free end 21 which may be gripped by a user for applying a force to translate the elongated shaft 16 relative to the shaft mount 10. Accordingly, the free ends 20 and 21 are preferably covered with a resilient rubber, or other suitable material, so as to provide a gripping surface and comfort to the user. The lower end 17 of the elongated shaft 16 is disposed between the shaft mount 10 and the foot end 5 of the stanchion 2.

A guide member retainer 22 for a flexible link guide member 23 includes a left flange 24 and a right flange 25 attached to the tubular member 11 of the shaft mount 10. Alternately, the pulley guide member retainer 22 is attached to the stanchion 2. The flexible link guide member 23 is attached to the guide member retainer 22. A pulley or a roller rotatably mounted on the guide member retainer 22 and a non-rotating member having a low-friction contact surface mounted on the guide member retainer 22 are examples of the flexible link guide member 23. A bolt, a pin or other type of known fastener which extends through a bore in the flexible link guide member and the guide member retainer 22 is one example of a means for attaching the flexible link guide member 23 to the guide member retainer 22.

A pivot member 27 (e.g., a long bolt) is disposed through a bore 26 extending through each leg 27 of a foot support assembly 28 and through the bore 3 of the stanchion 2. In this manner, the foot support assembly 23 is pivotally mounted on the stanchion 2. Each leg 27 of the foot support assembly 28 has a first end 30 adjacent the bore 26 and a second end 31 attached to a foot support member 32. A foot engaging portion of the foot support assembly 28 is provided by the foot support member 32. The foot engaging portion 28 is configured for having one or both of a user's feet supported thereon.

It is disclosed herein that a foot support assembly as disclosed herein is an embodiment of a lower body support assembly, the foot engaging portion of the foot support assembly is an embodiment of a lower body engaging portion of the lower body support assembly and the foot support member is an embodiment of a lower body support member. In accordance with such embodiments, lower body support member of the lower body support assembly is configured for engaging (e.g., supporting) a user's foot, ankle, and/or other portion of the leg.

Referring now to FIGS. 1-3, a flexible link 36 has a first end 38 attached to the elongated shaft 16 adjacent its lower end 17, a second end 40 attached to the foot support assembly 28 and an intermediate portion 42 journalled around (i.e., engaged with) the flexible link guide member 23. In this manner, downward translation of the elongated shaft 16 results in corresponding pivoting action of the foot support assembly 28 whereby the foot support member 32 moves upward toward the head end 4 of the stanchion 2. Accordingly, it can be seen that the flexible link guide member 23 serves to reverse movement direction of the second end 40 of the flexible link 36 relative to the first end 38 of the flexible link 36 and that a foot support lifting mechanism in accordance with an embodiment of the inventive disclosures made herein comprises the flexible link guide member 23 and flexible link 36.

A foot support lifting mechanism comprising a flexible link and flexible link guide member is a preferred embodiment of a lower body support lifting mechanism in accordance with the inventive disclosures made herein. It is disclosed herein that other embodiments of lower body support lifting mechanisms are contemplated and envisioned within the scope of the inventive disclosures made herein. In one alternate embodiment, a lower body support lifting mechanism in accordance with the inventive disclosures made herein utilizes a plurality of pivoting rigid members that are pivotally coupled, for example, between a lower body support assembly and a translating member that translates along a rigid stanchion, thereby enabling lower body lifting functionality to be accomplished. In another alternate embodiment, a lower body support lifting mechanism in accordance with the inventive disclosures made herein utilizes a plurality of rotating drive members (e.g., enmeshed gears) that are coupled, for example, between a lower body support assembly and a translating member that translates along a rigid stanchion, thereby enabling lower body lifting functionality to be accomplished.

An example of the flexible link 36 is a length of essentially inelastic (i.e., flexible, but non-elongating) rope, cable, woven webbing or the like. As depicted in FIGS. 1-3, the flexible link 36 has a fixed, predetermined length. However, in other embodiments (not shown), the length of the flexible link is adjustable.

A pair of resilient resistance members 44 (FIGS. 1 and 2) is removably attached to the stanchion 2 and the foot support assembly 28. Specifically, as depicted in FIGS. 1 and 3, a first portion 46 (e.g., a first end) of the each one of the resilient resistance members 44 is removably attached to the stanchion support member 6 and a second portion 48 (e.g., a second end) of each one of the resilient resistance members 44 is removably attached to the foot support member 32 of the foot support assembly 28. In this manner, the resilient resistance members 44 enable a resistive force to be exerted for counteracting pivoting of the foot support assembly 28 relative to the stanchion 2.

The pair of resilient resistance members 44 is an embodiment of a means for imparting resistance that is connected between an elongated support structure and a foot support assembly in accordance with the inventive disclosures made herein. Embodiments of such means may be connected between such elongated support structure and such foot support assembly in any number of conceivable configurations. It is contemplated that less than or more than a pair of the resilient resistance members 44 may be utilized for imparting such resistance. Loops of resilient material and molded resilient bands are examples of the resilient resistance members 44. Alternative embodiments of such means for imparting resistance in accordance with the inventive disclosures made herein include spring devices, hydraulic devices, flexible rod devices, a provision for attaching free weights to the foot support assembly 28 and/or the flexible link 36, or any other conceivable isotonic or isokinetic resistance device that can be suitable incorporated.

The purpose of such a means for imparting resistance means is to provide additional resistance against downward translation of the elongated shaft 16 such that, when the elongated shaft 16 is pushed down into for achieving a crunch position, force generated by the means for imparting resistance combined with the user's weight resting on foot support member 32 resists the upward pivoting of foot support assembly 28 and downward translation of the elongated shaft 16. Such means for imparting resistance may be configured for being replaceable or adjustable for enabling imparted resistance to be alterable (i.e., changeable, variable and/or adjustable). For example, the user may alter the imparted resistance by removing one or both of the resilient resistance members 44, exchanging the resilient resistance members 44 with different resilient resistance members that have a different resistance rates, or installing additional resilient resistance members in addition to the resilient resistance members 44. Furthermore, it is contemplated herein that such means for imparting resistance may be coupled between a support structure and translatable member of an exercise apparatus in accordance with the inventive disclosures made herein.

As depicted in FIG. 4, it may be seen that the user's lower body weight on the foot support member 32 of the foot support assembly 28 combined with engagement of the resilient resistance members 44 provides a resistive force to the downward displacement of elongated shaft 16. It can also be seen that, through the orientation flexible link 36 and the flexible link guide member 22, downward translation of the elongated shaft 16 from a static handle position S1 to a compressed handle position C results in pivoting of the foot support assembly 28 and corresponding upward movement of the foot support member 32 from a foot assembly static position S2 to a lifted position L. Accordingly, by the user pressing downwardly on the handle 19 in a curling crunch motion, he or she is able to easily execute a compound crunch and exercise the rectus abdominal muscle. By pressing downwardly on the handle 19 in a curling crunch motion while twisting alternately to the right or left sides, the user is able to execute torso twisting for exercising the oblique abdominal muscles.

Referring now to FIG. 5, an abdominal muscle exercise apparatus 100 in accordance with a second embodiment of the inventive disclosures made herein is depicted. The abdominal muscle exercise apparatus 100 includes a U-shaped support structure 101, a stanchion 102, a stanchion support member 106, a shaft mount 110, an elongated shaft 116, a transverse handle 119, a guide member retainer 122, a flexible link guide member (not specifically shown), a foot support assembly 128, a flexible link 136 and resilient resistance members 144. The stanchion 102 includes a head end 104 and a foot end 105. The U-shaped support structure 101 is attached at a first end 101a (i.e., its closed end) to the head end 104 of the stanchion 102. The shaft mount 110 is attached to a second end 101b of the U-shaped support structure 101 between spaced apart legs 101c of the U-shaped support structure 101.

The guide member retainer 122 is attached to the shaft mount 110. Alternately, the pulley guide member retainer 122 is attached to one or both of the spaced apart legs 101c of the U-shaped support structure 101. The flexible link guide member is attached to the guide member retainer 122. The elongated shaft 116 is slidably mounted on the shaft mount 110, thereby enabling the elongated shaft to translate with respect to the U-shaped support structure 101. The foot support assembly 128 includes a collar 128a that is slidably attached to the stanchion 102, thereby enabling the foot support assembly 128 to translate with respect to the stanchion 102.

The flexible link 136 has a first end 138 attached to the elongated shaft 116 adjacent its lower end 117, a second end 140 attached to the foot support assembly 128 and an intermediate portion 142 journalled around (i.e., engaged with) the flexible link guide member. In this manner, downward translation of the elongated shaft 116 results in corresponding pivoting action of the foot support assembly 128 whereby a foot support member 132 of the foot support assembly 128 moves upward toward the head end 104 of the stanchion 102. Accordingly, it can be seen that the flexible link guide member serves to reverse movement direction of the second end 140 of the flexible link 136 relative to the first end 138 of the flexible link 136 and that a foot support lifting mechanism in accordance with an embodiment of the inventive disclosures made herein comprises the flexible link guide member and flexible link 136.

A pair of resilient resistance members 144 is removably attached to the stanchion 102 and the foot support assembly 128. Specifically, a first portion 146 (e.g., first end) of the each one of the resilient resistance members 144 is removably attached to the stanchion support member 106 and a second portion 148 (e.g., a second end) of each one of the resilient resistance members 144 is removably attached to the foot support member 132 of the foot support assembly 128. In this manner, the resilient resistance members 144 enable a resistive force to be exerted for counteracting pivoting of the foot support assembly 128 relative to the stanchion 12.

Referring to FIG. 6, a user mounts and operates the abdominal muscle apparatus 100 in a similar manner as described in reference to FIG. 4. However, functionality of the abdominal muscle exercise apparatus 100 depicted in FIGS. 5 and 6 is different than functionality of the abdominal muscle exercise apparatus 1-4. Specifically, lifting action of the foot support member 132 from a foot assembly static position S2 to a lifted position L is accomplished by translation of the foot support assembly 128 along the stanchion 102 rather than by pivoting action in response to translating the handle 119 from a static handle position S1 to a compressed handle position C.

FIGS. 7 and 8 depict an abdominal muscle exercise apparatus 200 in accordance with a third embodiment of the inventive disclosures made herein. The abdominal muscle exercise apparatus 200 exhibits similar overall function to the abdominal muscle exercise apparatus 1 depicted in FIGS. 1-4 and has a similar overall construction. However, with respect to the abdominal muscle exercise apparatus depicted in FIGS. 1-4 and as discussed in greater detail below, the abdominal muscle exercise apparatus 200 depicted in FIGS. 7 and 8 comprises a distinctive means for imparting resistance and a distinctive foot supporting arrangement.

The abdominal muscle exercise apparatus 200 includes a stanchion 202 having a head end 204 (i.e., a first end) and a foot end 205 (i.e., a second end). The foot end 205 is attached to a stanchion support member 206, which extends generally transverse to the stanchion 202. The head end 204 of stanchion 202 is rigidly attached to a shaft mount 210. The shaft mount 210 includes a tubular member 211 having a bore 215 extending therethrough.

An elongated shaft 216 (i.e., a translatable member) includes a slidable portion 216′ which is slidably disposed in the bore 215 of the shaft mount 210, a lower end 217 (i.e., a first end) disposed below the shaft mount 210 and a upper end 218 (i.e., a second end) that is attached to a generally transverse handle 219 above the shaft mount 210. Preferably, the elongated shaft 216 is free to rotate within the bore 215 as well as translate (i.e., linear translation) within the bore 215. The lower end 217 of the elongated shaft 216 is disposed between the shaft mount 210 and the foot end 205 of the stanchion 202. A guide member retainer 222 for a flexible link guide member (not specifically shown) is attached to the tubular member 211 of the shaft mount 210. Alternatively, the guide member retainer may be attached to the stanchion 202. The flexible link guide member (e.g., a pulley, roller or non-rotating member having a low-friction contact surface) is attached to the guide member retainer 222.

A pivot member 225 (e.g., a long bolt) is disposed through a bore 226 extending through each leg 227 of a foot support assembly 228 and through a bore 229 of the stanchion 202. In this manner, the foot support assembly 228 is pivotally mounted on the stanchion 202. Each leg 227 of the foot support assembly 228 has a first end 230 adjacent the bore 226 of the stanchion 202 and a second end 231 attached to a cross member 235. A foot engaging portion of the foot support assembly 228 is provided by the foot support member 232. The foot support member 232 is pivotally mounted on the legs 227 of the foot support assembly 228 for enabling the foot support member 232 to be moved between a plurality of foot support member positions (e.g., a first position P1 and a second position P2). The ability to select between a plurality of foot support member positions is advantageous in that it allows the abdominal muscle exercise apparatus 200 and associated exercise technique to be customized and/or optimised dependent upon parameters specific to a given user.

A flexible link 236 has a first end 238 attached to the elongated shaft 216 adjacent its lower end 217, a second end 240 attached to the foot support assembly 228 and an intermediate portion 242 journalled around (i.e., engaged with) the flexible link guide member. In this manner, downward translation of the elongated shaft 216 results in corresponding pivoting action of the foot support assembly 228 whereby the foot support member 232 moves upward toward the head end 204 of the stanchion 202. Accordingly, it can be seen that the flexible link guide member serves to reverse movement direction of the second end 240 of the flexible link 236 relative to the first end 238 of the flexible link 236 and that a foot support lifting mechanism in accordance with an embodiment of the inventive disclosures made herein comprises the flexible link guide member and flexible link 236.

A pair of resilient resistance members 244 is removably attached to the stanchion 202 and the foot support assembly 228. Specifically, as depicted in FIGS. 7 and 8, the stanchion 202 includes a resistance member mount 260 and each leg 227 of the foot support assembly 228 includes a resistance member mount 262. A first portion 246 (e.g., a first end) of the each one of the resilient resistance members 244 is removably attached to the resistance member mount 260 of the stanchion 202 and a second portion 248 (e.g., a second end) of each one of the resilient resistance members 244 is removably attached to the resistance member mount 262 of the foot support apparatus 228. In this manner, the resilient resistance members 244 enable a resistive force to be exerted for counteracting pivoting of the foot support assembly 228 relative to the stanchion 202. For enabling resistance imparted by the resilient resistance members to be alterable, it is contemplated that the first portion 246 of the resilient resistance members 244 could be removably attached to the stanchion support member 206 rather than the resistance member mount 260 of the stanchion 202 or that the second portion 248 of each one of the resilient resistance members 244 could be removably attached to the cross member 235 rather than to the resistance member mount 262 of the foot support apparatus 228.

Certain structural components and/or assemblies (e.g., the elongated support structure, the foot support assembly, the translatable member and certain related components) of abdominal muscle exercise apparatuses in accordance with embodiments of the disclosures made herein may be custom manufactured articles fabricated using known fabrication techniques, proprietary fabrication techniques, commercially available materials and/or proprietary materials. Steel tubing is one choice for such structural components and/or assemblies. Such components and/or assemblies made from steel tubing may be fabricated using known operations such as cutting, drilling, turning, milling, die casting, extruding, welding and/or bending using proprietary and/or commercially available equipment. Plastic is another choice for certain structural components and/or assemblies. Such components and/or assemblies made from plastic may be fabricated using known operations such as molding, extrusion, vacuum forming, cutting, drilling, turning, milling, thermal forming, and/or ultrasonic welding using proprietary and/or commercially available equipment. Furthermore, certain components (e.g., the flexible link guide member, flexible link, resilient resistance members, bushings, etc) will be off-the-shelf items that are purchased as generic, already-manufactured articles.

In the preceding detailed description, reference has been made to the accompanying drawings that form a part hereof, and in which are shown by way of illustration specific embodiments in which the invention may be practiced. These embodiments, and certain variants thereof, have been described in sufficient detail to enable those skilled in the art to practice embodiments of the inventive disclosures made herein. It is to be understood that other suitable embodiments may be utilized and that logical, mechanical, chemical and electrical changes may be made without departing from the spirit or scope of such inventive disclosures. To avoid unnecessary detail, the description omits certain information known to those skilled in the art. The preceding detailed description is, therefore, not intended to be limited to the specific forms set forth herein, but on the contrary, it is intended to cover such alternatives, modifications, and equivalents, as can be reasonably included within the spirit and scope of the appended claims.





 
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