Title:
Foldable stretching monitor
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A testing device for monitoring the stretching ability of a user. The device has a generally box-like structure that includes a monitor to measure the user's extent of reach and thus flexibility. The device can be configured for use by two users simultaneously. The device includes a system that allows the device to be configured in a first, “in-use” position, and in a second, “collapsed” position, during non-use. When in the second position, the device is compact, occupies less volume, occupies less surface area on a floor or other support surface, and is easy to carry.



Inventors:
Larson, Thomas E. (Edina, MN, US)
Application Number:
11/016012
Publication Date:
06/22/2006
Filing Date:
12/17/2004
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
482/907
International Classes:
A63B23/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
BAKER, LORI LYNN
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MERCHANT & GOULD P.C. (MINNEAPOLIS, MN, US)
Claims:
What is claimed:

1. A stretching device comprising: a generally box-shaped structure having a front panel, a top panel, a back panel and a bottom panel; the front panel including first and second areas for receipt of a user's feet; and a plurality of hinges hingedly connecting the front panel to the top panel, the top panel to the back panel, the back panel to the bottom panel, and the bottom panel to the front panel.

2. The stretching device of claim 1 further comprising: a first side panel and a second side panel, each side panel being hingedly connected to one of the front panel, the top panel, the back panel and the bottom panel.

3. The stretching device of claim 2 wherein each side panel is hingedly connected to the top panel.

4. The stretching device of claim 1 further comprising: a platform planar with and extending from the top panel, the platform have a shape; and an aperture in the front panel having a shape configured to receiving the platform therein, the aperture positioned between the first area and the second area for receipt of a user's feet.

5. The stretching device of claim 1 further comprising: a measuring device extending on the platform and the top panel.

6. The stretching device of claim 1 comprising: a first platform planar with and extending from the top panel, the first platform have a first shape; a first aperture in the front panel having a shape configured to receiving the first platform therein, the first aperture positioned between the first area and the second area for receipt of a user's feet; a second platform planar with and extending from the top panel, the second platform have a second shape; and a second aperture in the front panel having a shape configured to receiving the second platform therein, the second aperture positioned between a third area and a fourth area for receipt of a second user's feet.

7. The stretching device of claim 6 wherein the first shape and the second shape are the same.

8. The stretching device of claim 6 further comprising: a first measuring device extending on the first platform and the top panel; and a second measuring device extending on the second platform and the top panel.

9. A stretching device comprising: a structure having a front panel, a top panel, a back panel and a bottom panel; the front panel including first and second areas for receipt of a user's feet; a plurality of hinges hingedly connecting the front panel to the top panel, the top panel to the back panel, the back panel to the bottom panel, and the bottom panel to the front panel; the structure having a first configuration occupying a first volume, and a second configuration occupying a second volume that is less than the first volume.

10. The stretching device of claim 9 further comprising: a first side panel and a second side panel, each side panel being hingedly connected to the top panel.

11. The stretching device of claim 9 further comprising: a platform planar with and extending from the top panel, the platform have a shape; and an aperture in the front panel having a shape configured to receiving the platform therein, the aperture positioned between the first area and the second area for receipt of a user's feet.

12. The stretching device of claim 9 further comprising: a first platform planar with and extending from the top panel, the first platform have a first shape; a first aperture in the front panel having a shape configured to receiving the first platform therein, the first aperture positioned between the first area and the second area for receipt of a user's feet; a second platform planar with and extending from the top panel, the second platform have a second shape; and a second aperture in the front panel having a shape configured to receiving the second platform therein, the second aperture positioned between a third area and a fourth area for receipt of a second user's feet.

13. The stretching device of claim 12 wherein the first shape and the second shape are the same.

14. A method of use comprising: (a) providing a stretching device comprising a structure having a front panel, a top panel, a back panel and a bottom panel; the front panel including first and second areas for receipt of a user's feet; and a plurality of hinges hingedly connecting the front panel to the top panel, the top panel to the back panel, the back panel to the bottom panel, and the bottom panel to the front panel; (b) configuring the stretching device in an in-use configuration to form a generally box-shaped structure and placing the stretching device on a surface; (c) seating a user on the surface with the user's feet positioned against the front panel in the first and second areas; (d) the user leaning forward and stretching at least partially across the top panel; and (e) after the user leaning forward and stretching, configuring the stretching device in a collapsed configuration to form a generally planar structure.

15. The method of claim 14 wherein the step of configuring the stretching device in a collapsed configuration comprises: (a) configuring the stretching device in a collapsed configuration by moving the plurality of hinges.

16. The method of claim 14 wherein the step of providing a stretching device comprises: (a) providing a stretching device comprising a structure having a front panel, a top panel, a back panel and a bottom panel; a plurality of hinges hingedly connecting the front panel to the top panel, the top panel to the back panel, the back panel to the bottom panel, and the bottom panel to the front panel; a first platform planar with and extending from the top panel, the first platform have a first shape; a first aperture in the front panel having a shape configured to receiving the first platform therein, the first aperture positioned between the first area and the second area for receipt of a user's feet; a second platform planar with and extending from the top panel, the second platform have a second shape; and a second aperture in the front panel having a shape configured to receiving the second platform therein, the second aperture positioned between a third area and a fourth area for receipt of a second user's feet.

17. The method of claim 17, further comprising: (a) seating a first user on the surface with the first user's feet positioned against the front panel in the first and second areas and seating a second user on the surface with the second user's feet positioned against the front panel in the third and fourth areas; and (b) the first user leaning forward and stretching at least partially across the top panel and the second user leaning forward and stretching at least partially across the top panel.

Description:

FIELD

The present disclosure relates to a testing device for testing the physical attributes of a user. More particularly, the device is configured to test the stretching ability of the user.

BACKGROUND

Flexibility is a vital component of one's physical condition and improving flexibility is a sought-after goal for many fitness programs. A persons flexibility can be a determining factor in a persons physical heath, because many injuries, sports related or not, can be avoided or lessened if the person is more flexible and the muscles are adapted to being used.

The legs and lower back are two of the most important areas of the body to stretch. The most common stretching exercise is to reach for one's toes. This stretch can be performed either standing up or sitting down. The goal of the exercise is to reach one's toes. A shortcoming of this stretch is that it is difficult to tell how far a person can reach, in relation to their toes. It is no longer acceptable merely to touch the toes; many exercise programs monitor flexibility improvement, in reaching the toes and progressing farther.

Another shortcoming of the toe-touching stretch is that the distance to ones toes can be an inaccurate measurement to be used as comparison against others. The distance between the waist, where one bends, to the toes, varies from person to person. A person with longer legs has farther to stretch to reach the toe than someone with shorter legs.

Many stretching testers and boxes have been designed to facilitate and standardize flexibility measurement. One approach was to place a scale on the outside of a box. A user places his feet inside the box and leans as far forward as possible. By noting where the user's hands are on the scale of the box a degree of flexibility can be determined.

Various other stretching devices have been designed. For example, some designs incorporate a bar with multiple ladder rung type projections extending therefrom. Flexibility is determined by noting which projections are grasped during the stretch. U.S. Pat. No. 6,659,925 to Wideman et al. discloses such a design. Other designs utilize a generally box-shaped device that includes a platform extending from the box top toward the seated user. The platform includes a scale for noting the user's flexibility.

A disadvantage with these prior stretching or flexibility devices is that they are generally large, bulky, and occupy a large volume. Due to their size, they are not easy to transport or store.

Improvements are needed.

SUMMARY OF THE DISCLOSURE

The present disclosure is directed to an exercise device for testing the physical capabilities of a user, particularly, the stretching ability of the user. The device has a structure that facilitates proper stretching form. A monitor is included to measure the user's extent of reach and thus flexibility.

The device includes a system that allows the device to be configured in a first position, such as during use, and in a second position, during non-use. When in the second position, the device is compact, occupies less volume, occupies less surface area on a floor or other support surface, and is easy to carry.

In one particular embodiment of the disclosure, a stretching device is provided. The stretching device comprises a generally box-shaped structure having a front panel, a top panel, a back panel and a bottom panel with the front panel including first and second areas for receipt of a user's feet. A plurality of hinges hingedly connects the front panel to the top panel, the top panel to the back panel, the back panel to the bottom panel, and the bottom panel to the front panel. The device may include a first side panel and a second side panel, each side panel being hingedly connected to one of the front panel, the top panel, the back panel and the bottom panel, preferably to the top panel. When the device is configured for use by two users, the device often includes a first platform planar with and extending from the top panel, the first platform have a first shape, a first aperture in the front panel having a shape configured to receiving the first platform therein, the first aperture positioned between the first area and the second area for receipt of a user's feet, a second platform planar with and extending from the top panel, the second platform have a second shape, and a second aperture in the front panel having a shape configured to receiving the second platform therein, the second aperture positioned between a third area and a fourth area for receipt of a second user's feet.

In another particular embodiment of the disclosure, another stretching device is provided. The stretching device has a structure having a front panel, a top panel, a back panel and a bottom panel with the front panel including first and second areas for receipt of a user's feet. A plurality of hinges hingedly connects the front panel to the top panel, the top panel to the back panel, the back panel to the bottom panel, and the bottom panel to the front panel. The structure has a first configuration occupying a first volume, and a second configuration occupying a second volume that is less than the first volume. The device may include a first side panel and a second side panel, each side panel being hingedly connected to one of the front panel, the top panel, the back panel and the bottom panel, preferably to the top panel.

The disclosure also provides a method of using a stretching device, that generally includes configuring the stretching device in an in-use configuration to form a generally box-shaped structure and placing the stretching device on a surface, seating a user on the surface with the user's feet positioned against the front panel in the first and second areas, having the user lean forward and stretch at least partially across the top panel, and then after the user leaning forward and stretching, configuring the stretching device in a collapsed configuration to form a generally planar structure. The stretching device can be collapsed by moving the plurality of hinges. Such a method also pertains to two users.

Additional details regarding the stretching monitor according to the present disclosure and methods of using the device are provided below.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a stretching monitor according to the present invention, in a first, in-use position.

FIG. 2 is a top view of the stretching monitor of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a front view of the stretching monitor of FIG. 1.

FIG. 4 is a left side view of the stretching monitor of FIG. 1.

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the stretching monitor, as in FIG. 1, with hinges shown and other various portions of the monitor shown in phantom.

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of the stretching monitor of FIGS. 1-5 illustrated in a second, collapsed position.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DISCLOSURE

Physical fitness is an important element in a person's health. Generally, physically healthy and fit persons have a lower tendency for muscle pulls, strains and sprains. Healthier and injury-free persons generally are happier than those who are not physically fit.

Referring to the figures, wherein like numerals throughout the figures represent like elements, there is schematically illustrated an exercise device 10. Exercise device 10 is a stretching monitor, configured for testing the distance a user can reach.

FIGS. 1 though 5 illustrate device 10 in a first, “in-use” configuration and FIG. 6 illustrates device 10 in a second, “collapsed” or “storage” configuration. The benefits and aspects of device 10 in respect to both the “in-use” and “collapsed” configurations are described below.

First Configuration for Stretching Monitor

Referring particularly to FIGS. 1 through 4, device 10 has a body formed by various pieces; in the particular embodiment illustrated, device 10 has a top panel 12, a front panel 14, left side panel 16, a right side panel 18, back panel 20, and bottom panel 22. In this “in-use” configuration, these six panels 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22 together form a hollow, generally rectangular box. In this in-use configuration, device 10 is configured to be positioned on a floor or other supporting surface on its bottom panel 22. The area occupied by device 10, when in the configuration illustrated in FIGS. 1 through 4, is generally the area of bottom panel 22. The volume occupied by device 10, when in the configuration illustrated in FIGS. 1 through 4, is generally the volume defined by panels 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22.

The overall shape and size of device 10 is such to allow two users to use device 10 simultaneously, as will be described below. It is understood that many of the elements discussed below are also suitable for a device designed to be used by one user at a time. Such a device is also within the scope of this disclosure.

As stated above, device 10 is a generally rectangular, six-sided box. Extending from the box is a top platform 24. Platform 24, preferably, is integral with and an extension of top panel 12, although platform 24 could be a separate piece removable from top panel 12. Platform 24 is an appendage extending from the overall volume of the box, and is generally perpendicular to front panel 14. In the particular device 10 illustrated, two trapezoidal platforms 24a, 24b are present, both extending from top panel 12. Platforms 24a, 24b could have other shapes, such as rectangular. Platform 24a is intended for use by a first user and platform 24b is intended for use by a second user. It is understood that a device for use by only one user would have a single platform 24. Platform 24a, 24b can include indicia thereon, as is further described below, to provide a quantitative measurement guide.

As best seen in FIG. 1, front panel 14 includes apertures 14a and 14b defined therein, which correspond to platforms 24a, 24b, respectively. Apertures 14a, 14b are shaped and sized to allow platforms 24a, 24b to pass within apertures 14a, 14b, as will be described below.

The various panels are movably attached to each other by a plurality of hinges 30 (FIG. 1). Hinges 30 provide pivotal movement between panels 12, 14 16, 18, 20, 22 to allow device 10 to be moved from the in-use configuration to the collapsed configuration. Referring to FIG. 5, one preferred arrangement of hinges 30 for device 10 is illustrated. As seen in FIG. 5, a first set of hinges 31a, 31b, 31c, 31 d hingedly connects top panel 12 to back panel 20; a second set of hinges 34a, 34b, 34c, 34d hingedly connects top panel 12 to front panel 14; a third set of hinges 35a, 35b, 35c, 35d hingedly connects bottom 22 to back panel 20; and a fourth set of hinges 36a, 36b, 36c, 36d hingedly connects bottom 22 to front panel 14. A single hinge 32 connects top panel 12 to side panel 16 and a single hinge 33 connects top panel 12 to side panel 18. When in the in-use configuration, all hinges 30 are in a 90 degree position, meaning, that the two legs of the hinge, and the panels attached to them, are generally at 90 degrees.

The number of hinges at the panel joints is based on the length of the panels; panels having a longer length, such as top panel 12, front panel 14, back panel 20 and bottom panel 22, have more hinges than shorter panels, such as side panels 16, 18, to better support the structure.

Use of the Stretching Monitor

In use, a user sits on the surface on which device 10 is positioned, such as the floor. Device 10 should be in the in-use configuration. The user positions his or her feet against front panel 14, so that his or her body is generally straddling platform 24. That is, the user's left leg and foot would be to the left of platform 24, the user's right let and foot would be to the right of platform 24, and platform 24 would extend toward and be generally centered on the user's chest. The user's legs should be generally flat and extended along the floor, with the feet against front panel 14. Device 10 may include indicia on front panel 14 to indicate the approximate area where the feet should be positioned.

When device 10 is configured for use by two users simultaneously, the first user would be so positioned about platform 24a and the second user would be so positioned about platform 24b.

To measure the flexibility of the user, the user reaches forward with his hands and arms onto platform 24 and top panel 12. The intent is to have the user stretch as far as possible across top panel 12 toward back panel 20.

As mentioned above, platform 24 and optionally top panel 12 may include indicia thereon, to provide a quantitative measurement of the distance stretched. Referring to FIG. 1, extending across each platform 24a, 24b is a quantitative measuring device 42a, 42b, respectively. The distance reached by the user can be recorded.

Second Configuration for Stretching Monitor

As stated above, device 10 is movable to a second, “collapsed” configuration, illustrated in FIG. 6. Such a collapsed configuration greatly decreases the volume occupied by device 10. This volume is at least half, preferably at least one third, and more preferably at least one fourth of the volume when in the in-use configuration. Additionally, device 10 can easily be moved or stored when in the collapsed configuration.

To collapse or fold device 10 from the in-use configuration to the collapsed configuration, side panels 16, 18 are folded inward at hinges 32, 33, respectively. Top panel 12 is moved toward back panel 20 so that hinges 34a, 34b, 34c, 34d open to be generally straight, having generally 180 degrees therebetween, and hinges 36a, 36b, 36c, 36d close have generally 0 degrees therebetween. Similarly, hinges 35a, 35b, 35c, 35d open to be generally straight with 180 degrees therebetween and hinges 31a, 31b, 31 c, 31d close to have generally 0 degrees therebetween. The resulting structure has top panel 12 generally aligned with front panel 14 and bottom panel 22 generally aligned with back panel 20. Platforms 24a, 24b are seated within apertures 14a, 14b of front panel 14. There is preferably no overlap of platforms 24a, 24b and front panel 14; rather, platforms 24a, 24b fit flush within apertures 14a, 14b of front panel 14.

It is noted that the location of hinges between top panel 12 and front panel 14 does not align with the hinges between back panel 20 and bottom panel 22; rather, their position is displaced from one another. Additionally, it is noted that side panels 16, 18 are folded inside and between top panel 12/front panel 14 and back panel 20/bottom panel 22.

In the collapsed configuration, device 10 is less bulky, occupies less volume, and is easier to move and store than device 10 when in the “in-use” configuration. Device 10 is generally planar when in this configuration. To facilitate carrying device 10, a handle 26 or other feature may be present. In the embodiment illustrated, handle 26 is positioned on top panel 12; a suitable alternative is to have a handle extending around a corner, such as from top panel 12 to back panel 20. Features, such as straps, may be used to retain device 10 in the collapsed configuration during transport or storage.

To return device 10 to the in-use configuration from the collapsed configuration, top panel 12 is lifted away from bottom panel 22, so that hinges 34a, 34b, 34c, 34d move to be generally 90 degrees and hinges 36a, 36b, 36c, 36d open to generally 90 degrees therebetween. Similarly, hinges 35a, 35b, 35c, 35d move to generally 90 degrees and hinges 31a, 31b, 31c, 31d open to generally 90 degrees. Side panels 16, 18 are folded outward at hinges 32, 33, respectively. A mechanism, such as an aperture, may be included to facilitate pulling side panels 16, 18 out. The resulting structure is generally a box, such as illustrated in FIG. 1.

Design of Stretching Monitor

Panels 12, 14 16, 18, 20, 22 may be made from any material suitable to retain the shape of device 10 when in the in-use configuration. The material should be sufficiently rigid for device 10 to maintain its shape without sagging or collapsing yet be sufficiently light so that device 10 can be easily moved by a person. Examples of suitable materials include metal (such as aluminum or steel), plastic (such as polyethylene, polyurethane or polypropylene) fiberglass, wood, and composite materials (such as ceramics, wood/polymer blends, cloth/polymer blends, etc.).

Hinges 30, similar to panels 12, 14 16, 18, 20, 22, may be made from any material suitable to retain the shape of device 10 when in either configuration. Hinges 30 should be sufficiently durable to withstand repeated use.

The surface of device 10 may be painted, decaled, or otherwise embellished.

EXEMPLARY EMBODIMENT

In one particular and preferred embodiment, device 10, in a first, in-use configuration (such as illustrated in FIG. 1), has an overall volume of about 6480 in3. Specifically, device 10 has a width, from left panel 16 to right panel 18, of about 48 inches, a depth, from front panel 14 to back panel 20 of about 15 inches, and a height, from top panel 12 to bottom panel 22 of about 9 inches.

Top panel 12 has a rectangular portion with dimensions of about 48 inches by 15 inches, with two platforms 24a, 24b extending about 9 inches out from the rectangular portion. Each of side panels 16, 18 has dimensions of 15 inches by 9 inches. Bottom 22 has rectangular dimensions of 48 inches by 15 inches. Back panel 20 has rectangular dimensions of 48 inches by 9 inches. Front panel 14 has an overall dimension of 48 inches by 9 inches, with trapezoidal areas void of material; these areas correspond to the shape and size of platform 24a, 24b.

Device 10, in a second, collapsed configuration (such as illustrated in FIG. 6), has an overall height of about 24 inches, a width of about 48 inches, and a thickness of about 1 inch. The height is the sum of the depth (15 inches) and the height (9 inches). The thickness is generally the sum of the thickness of the three overlapping panels, of top panel 12/front panel 14, of back panel 20/bottom panel 22 and of side panel 16, 18. The volume occupied by device 10 in this collapsed configuration is about 1152 in3, which is about one fifth of the volume when in the in-use configuration.

The inventive flexibility and stretching testing and monitoring device has been described with reference to various specific and preferred embodiments and techniques. However, it should be understood that many variations and modifications can be made from the specific disclosure above. Other variations are within the spirit and scope of this disclosure.