Title:
Apparatus for stretching hamstrings
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A size-adjustable hamstring device of unitary construction provides for easily, effectively, and efficiently exercising (stretching) the hamstrings. The device consists of a frame of unitary and is used in a prone position avoiding back strain. The device supplies means for supporting the user's foot and means for assuring that the user's leg is maintained in a straight position. Means for holding allows for ease in grasping the device so that the user is able to pull or push the device as desired. The means for supporting a foot, maintaining the leg in a straight position, and for holding may all be padded for increased ease of use and comfort. The frame is made of any readily available, strong, lightweight material, such as plastic or aluminum and it is contemplated that the device be made using a molding process to reduce the cost of manufacturing.



Inventors:
Nichols, Steven M. (Boston, NY, US)
Application Number:
11/023877
Publication Date:
06/29/2006
Filing Date:
12/24/2004
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
482/907
International Classes:
A63B71/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
BAKER, LORI LYNN
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Patricia M. Costanzo (East Aurora, NY, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An apparatus for stretching hamstring muscles in a prone position, comprising: a means for holding; a means for supporting a foot, and a means for maintaining a straight leg, where the means for holding, the means for supporting a foot, and the means for maintaining a straight leg are functionally inter-connected forming a unitary frame assembly.

2. The apparatus, as recited in claim 1, further comprising wherein said means for holding is a handle.

3. The apparatus, as recited in claim 1, further comprising wherein said apparatus is size adjustable.

4. The apparatus, as recited in claim 1, further comprising wherein said frame is made of a metal.

5. The apparatus, as recited in claim 4, further comprising wherein said metal is made of aluminum.

6. The apparatus, as recited in claim 1, further comprising wherein said frame apparatus is made of a plastic.

7. The apparatus, as recited in claim 1, further comprising wherein said means for maintaining a straight leg is padded.

8. The apparatus, as recited in claim 1, further comprising wherein said the means for holding is padded.

9. The apparatus, as recited in claim 1, further comprising wherein said the means for supporting a foot is padded.

10. A method for stretching hamstrings in a prone position, comprising the steps of: a) providing a means for holding; b) providing a means for supporting a foot, and c) providing a means for maintaining a straight leg, where the means for holding, the means for supporting a foot, and the means for maintaining a straight leg are functionally inter-connected forming a unitary frame; d) supporting the foot in said means for supporting a foot, e) keeping the leg straight using said means for maintaining a straight leg; f) holding said means for holding, and g) lifting the foot supported in said means for supporting the foot upwards using said means for holding therein stretching the hamstrings.

11. The method, as recited in claim 10, further comprising wherein said apparatus is size adjustable.

12. The method, as recited in claim 10, further comprising wherein the frame apparatus is made of a metal.

13. The method, as recited in claim 12, further comprising wherein the metal is made of aluminum.

14. The method, as recited in claim 10, further comprising wherein the frame apparatus is made of a plastic.

15. The method, as recited in claim 10, further comprising wherein the means for holding is padded.

16. The method, as recited in claim 10, further comprising wherein the means for supporting a foot is padded.

17. The method, as recited in claim 10, further comprising wherein the means for keeping the leg straight is padded.

18. A one-piece rigid apparatus for stretching hamstrings while in a prone position.

19. The one-piece apparatus for stretching hamstrings, as recited in claim 18, further comprising: a means for holding; a means for supporting a foot, and a means for maintaining a straight leg, where the means for holding, the means for supporting a foot, and the means for maintaining a straight leg are functionally inter-connected forming a unitary frame assembly.

20. The one-piece apparatus for stretching hamstrings, as recited in claim 19, further comprising where the means for holding, the means for supporting a foot, and the means for maintaining a straight leg are padded for comfort.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

Not Applicable

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

Not Applicable

REFERENCE TO SEQUENCE LISTING, A TABLE OR A COMPUTER PROGRAM LISTING COMPACT DISK APPENDIX

Not Applicable

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to an exercise device and, more particularly, to an exercise device that provides for effective stretching of an individual's hamstrings while the individual maintains a safe, comfortable prone position to eliminate back stress, with a minimum amount of equipment and energy required.

The background information discussed below is presented to better illustrate the novelty and advantages of the present invention. This background information is not admitted prior art.

“Hamstring” is commonly refers to any of three muscles at the back of the thigh that function to flex and rotate the leg and extend the thigh, although it is not uncommon to hear the term “hamstring” used to refer to either of two groups of tendons at the back of the human knee. In either or both cases, maintaining the flexibility of this muscle and/or tendon group is important. Senior citizens seem to derive a great deal of benefit, in preserving and in some cases even increasing their mobility, when the flexibility of their hamstrings is maintained. It is well-known that as people age their muscles frequently loose there flexibility. Moreover, underutilization of any muscle group by people of any age will result in atrophy of that muscle. When muscles, especially the hamstrings, become less flexible and start to atrophy, the risk of injury to these muscles increases. An injury to the hamstring muscles and tendons can seriously impair the quality of life of an elderly individual, by limiting their mobility and, perhaps, even rendering the person immobile depending on the severity of the injury to the muscle.

Such injuries, however, are not limited to older persons. If a younger person's hamstrings are not properly conditioned by regular stretching, they are also prone to injury. This is one reason why athletes or dancers, prior to an event or performance, make it a point to take the time to perform warm-up exercises, such as stretching and bending. Without these conditioning exercises their muscles would not operate effectively and safely.

There are a number of specific stretching exercises that are useful for properly conditioning the hamstrings. One of these exercises requires a person to lean forward toward a wall and to place their hands on the wall for support while keeping one leg relatively straight and stretching the other leg out behind them. While in this position, the heel of the rearward held foot is brought as close to the ground as possible. Another stretching exercise requires the exerciser to lie prone on his or her back, raising one leg toward the ceiling and grabbing hold of the raised leg and pulling it as far as possible toward their torso. Yet still another stretching exercise is for one to sit on the floor with legs spread out and to take turns bending the torso down toward each leg and/or to the area of the floor between one's stretched legs, and to hold that position for as long as comfortable.

These methods of stretching the hamstring, however, are difficult for many people to perform as these exercises require a relatively high degree of mobility and flexibility. If one is older, or suffering from an injury that has limited this type of activity for any significant period of time, it is highly likely that he or she will lack the necessary degree of flexibility and mobility to achieve the required stretch. However, avoiding stretching exercises will only further compound the problem, for as with all muscles, the longer the hamstring remains inactive, the weaker and more foreshortened it becomes, and, thus, more prone to injury.

Attempts to alleviate these problems have been made. There are a number of means available for those who either desire to increase the flexibility of their hamstrings, or are required to do so in order to rehabilitate an injured hamstring muscle, or because of other physical reasons. These means are usually devices that, while varying in structure and operation, are all designed to provide a way for people to obtain the benefits of exercising the hamstring, while attempting to reduce the amount of physical effort required.

There are, however, a number of problems with such devices. Many of them are quite unwieldy, having a number of pulleys, elastic bands, cables, or other moving parts that must be attached to fixed surfaces before they are ready for use. In some cases, these parts, especially the pulleys, may add weight to the device, making it less useable for those who are not as strong as the average person. Moreover, required moving parts provide opportunities for the device to malfunction or to cease to work altogether, as well as likely presenting a need for frequent replacement, and increasing the overall cost of the manufacturing of the device that will inevitably be passed on to the consumer. Importantly, the devices that must be anchored to something fixed prior to use are difficult, if not impossible, for users to freely relocate the device, as desired.

An additional factor, created by the complexity of some of these devices, is the need for a prospective user of the device to obtain help in setting-up the devices, or in the use of the device. When exercising in a gym or other more public location, there is ample opportunity for a user of an exercising device to find assistance when needed. In the privacy of the home that opportunity is generally not available. Many of the hamstring stretching devices presently available require the person performing the exercise to have another person near by to provide the pressure that might be required to keep the exercise's leg from bending while the exercising person is performing a given exercise. This requirement further limits a user's ability to use such devices whenever the user wishes and may be enough of a detriment to discourage use of the device.

Yet still another problem with many of the devices presently available is the amount of strength required, on the part of a user, to get the device to function. Even in the simplest of these devices, a user is often required to exert a strong arm pull to get any benefit from the device. While this may well be within the capacity of a younger and more robust person, those who may benefit most from the device, namely the elderly or those in a weakened condition, are most likely to have considerable difficulty in exerting the required pull, unless given assistance.

In order to derive the optimum benefit from these devices the leg being exercised must be kept straight. If the knee is allowed to bend while the hamstrings are being stretched, the hamstrings are caused to relax, thus, experiencing no tension and receiving no benefit from the stretch. Few, if any of the devices presently available for working the hamstrings, provide for means to keep the knee straight, thus permitting, or even encouraging, improper use of the device, resulting in little, if any, benefit from its use.

Moreover, the devices currently available bring into play muscle groups of the lower back. In order to operate the pulleys, ropes, or other devices present in many of these devices, a user is required to bend from the lower back, which places a tremendous strain on the back. For many users, such movements create a potential for back injury, especially if the individual's muscles lack tone and strength, or if the individual previously suffered back problems. Such potential problems are often a source of anxiety about using the current devices by people who would benefit from their use the most.

A further important issue relating to the use of the presently available devices is that of cost. The more complicated the device the more costly it is likely to be. Similarly, if a device is comprised of many parts, the number of parts is usually indicative of the cost. The larger devices that are often found in health centers are often prohibitively expensive for home use.

Accordingly, it would be a significant improvement in the art to provide for a simple, lightweight, portable hamstring stretching device, with no moving parts; that does not require outside assistance to use; which keeps the leg straight preventing bending of the knee; allows the user to remain in a relaxed position, so that no stress is placed on the lower back, and provides an optimal stretch for the hamstring when used that because of its simplicity is inexpensive to manufacture and thus, is affordable to most all people.

SUMMARY

The present invention satisfies the urgent need in the art for a hamstring stretching device that eliminates the complexities of the current stretching devices. The device is of simple construction, as it comprises a unitary frame, requiring economical manufacturing methods. Moreover, the device may be made of many available and inexpensive materials, such as any suitable metal or plastic, thus making the device attractively affordable. The hamstring stretching device, according to the principals of the present invention, allows the user to use the device at their own convenience, without any of the concerns so frequently found with other hamstring stretching devices.

Because of its simple construction and because the device may be made from any strong, lightweight material, it is lightweight and easily transported. The present invention requires none of the moving parts that are so prevalent in so many of the currently available hamstring stretching devices, thus, removing the concerns of the moving parts breaking or requiring periodic replacement.

The simple one-piece frame construction of one preferred embodiment, provide for the present invention to be easily adjusted accommodating the size of the user. Instead of having to adjust cables and the tension of various elastic bands, the current invention relies only on the presence of several strategically positioned aperture formed as part of the frame of the device. The apertures provide for the hand, foot, and knee rests to be positionably adjusted on the frame, allowing for a perfect fit for any person.

In addition to the benefits of portability and adjustability, the present invention also ensures healthy and balanced exercise of the hamstrings. One of the key factors in exercising the hamstrings is keeping the leg being exercised straight, that is, not permitting the knee to bend, which factors are not emphasized by the structure of most of the hamstring stretching devices presently available. The current invention remedies this, by preventing bending of the knee, thus providing for an effective and efficient stretch of the hamstrings.

Importantly, the current invention is easy for all to use and allows the user to determine and control the amount of stress that the user desires the hamstrings to experience. While many of the conventional stretching devices targeting the hamstring require bending at the waist, while the user is either standing or sitting, causing stress to be placed on the lower back, the current invention requires the user to perform the hamstring stretching exercise in a prone position, assuring that the user's back is always supported. In fact, given the design of the device as taught herein, no assistance is required to use the device, such as having an assistant hold the exerciser's leg straight, which assistance is required while using many of the conventional devices. The invention as described herein provides for ease of use, as its operation requires only minimal pushing or pulling on the handle holding means, which is desirable for people with limited upper body strength. Other hamstring stretching devices require the user to either pull with their legs as dead weight, or hold bands while pushing with the leg.

All of these advances and advantages are made available by providing an apparatus for stretching hamstring muscles in a prone position, comprising:

a means for holding;

a means for supporting a foot, and

a means for maintaining a straight leg,

where the means for holding, the means for supporting a foot, and the means for maintaining a straight leg are functionally inter-connected forming a unitary frame.

Moreover, the apparatus may be made size adjustable, wherein the means for holding is contemplated to be a handle for grasping with one's hands and may be padded. Additionally, the means for supporting a foot and the means for maintaining a straight leg may be padded.

The unitary frame of the apparatus may be made of any suitable material, such as a metal, more specifically a light-weight aluminum, or it may be made from a suitable plastic or a fiberglass.

In addition, a method for stretching hamstring muscles while lying in a prone position is provided and comprises the steps of:

providing a means for holding;

providing a means for supporting a foot, and

providing a means for maintaining a straight leg,

where the means for holding, the means for supporting a foot, and the means for maintaining a straight leg are functionally connected to form a one-piece frame assembly for:

holding the means for holding using one's hands,

supporting a foot in the means for supporting a foot;

keeping the leg straight by preventing the knee from bending in the means for maintaining a straight leg, and

lifting the foot that is supported in the means for supporting the foot upwards by pulling the means for holding toward the user, therein effectively stretching the hamstring muscle.

Still other benefits and advantages of this invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art upon reading and understanding the following detailed specification and related drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

In order that these and other objects, features, and advantages of the present invention may be more fully comprehended, the invention will now be described, by way of example, with reference to the accompanying drawings, wherein like reference characters indicate like parts throughout the several figures, and in which:

FIG. 1 is a perspective side view of the hamstring stretching device according to the principles of the present invention.

FIG. 1a is a side view a means showing the bolt part of an attachment means.

FIG. 2 is a perspective side view showing the hamstring stretching device as shown in FIG. 1 in use.

DEFINITIONS

Holding: as used herein, is the act of grasping by one's hand and maintaining that grasping by an individual.

Metal: as used herein is any metallic material, or metallic alloy that can be bent, cast, or otherwise formed into a specific shape and retain that shape over time. These materials include but are not limited to steel, iron, aluminum, copper, and brass.

Prone: as used herein refers to reclining position where the back of the individual is in contact with the floor or other flat surface.

A LIST OF THE REFERENCE NUMBERS AND RELATED PARTS OF THE INVENTION

  • 10 A hamstring stretching apparatus according to the principles of the present invention.
  • 12 A frame of the current invention.
  • 12a-c Segments of frame assembly 12.
  • 12d Support segment that is part of frame assembly 12.
  • 13 Means for supporting the front sole of a foot.
  • 14 Means for supporting the back ankle part of a foot.
  • 15 Means for keeping a leg straight.
  • 16 Means for holding; as illustrated, the means for holding is a handle.
  • 17 Aperture part of size adjustment means, which as illustrated are apertures formed in the frame 12 for adjustment purposes.
  • 18 Bolt-like part of size adjustment means.
  • 19 Padding.

It should be understood that the drawings are not necessarily to scale. In certain instances, details which are not necessary for an understanding of the present invention or which render other details difficult to perceive may have been omitted. It should be understood, of course, that the invention is not limited to the particular embodiments illustrated herein, but is disposed to embodiments in various sizes, shapes, and forms and, thus, encompasses many embodiments as are discussed throughout the specification. Therefore, the embodiments described herein are provided with the understanding that the present disclosure is intended as illustrative and are not intended to limit the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Referring now particularly to the drawings, FIG. 1 represents a perspective side view of the hamstring stretching device 10, which is an exemplary embodiment of the invention. Device 10, as illustrated, demonstrates how the above mentioned disadvantages have been overcome.

FIG. 1 illustrates an apparatus for stretching hamstring muscles in a prone position, comprising:

a) means for holding 16;

b) means for supporting a foot 13 and 14, and

c) means for keeping a knee joint from bending 15,

wherein the means for holding, the means for supporting a foot, and the means for keeping a knee joint from bending are functionally connected to form one-piece frame 12.

More specifically, apparatus 10, as exemplified, may be made of unitary frame 12. Frame 12 may be described as being divided into four segments 12a-12d that are joined together to form one piece. Segments 12a-12c function, in part, as attachment areas for the attachment of means for holding 16, means for supporting a foot 13 and 14, and means for keeping a knee joint from bending 15. Segment 12d functions to provide support to connected segments 12a-12c. It is obvious to a person having ordinary skill in the art that the support segment 12d would be necessary only if the materials used in the manufacturing of frame 12 were such that support was required. Thus, support segment 12d may be omitted, provided the materials used in the manufacturing of the frame 12 were rigid and strong enough to prevent bending even with excessive use. It should also be noted that the numbering division of segments 12a-12d is purely for illustrative purposes only, and a person having ordinary skill in the art would realize that the entire frame may, and is contemplated to, be cast as one piece to embody the essence of this invention.

Frame 12 can be made from any functional material, such as a metal, and be formed by any known, or yet to be known method for forming such objects, such as by using a casting method, a forged method, or otherwise formed into the desired shape. In a preferred embodiment, the metal may be aluminum. However, a person having ordinary skill in the art would also realize that any metal, semi-metallic material or metal alloy that has the requisite properties may be used. Moreover, any suitable plastic, plasticized alloy, or fiberglass may be used to manufacture the apparatus. Injection type molding is one favored manufacturing method.

Attached to frame 12, as shown in FIG. 1, are three means, a means for holding 12 using one's hands, two means for supporting a foot 13 and 14, and a means for maintaining a straight leg 15. As illustrated in FIG. 1a (using means 13 to illustrate), each of means 13 to 16 are equipped with bolt-like projections 18 that are designed to be accepted by attachment apertures 17 for the attachment of means 13 to 16 to frame 12, as illustrated in the drawings. Although bolt-like attachments means are used in the invention as illustrated, any other effective and desired means of attachment may also be used.

One means part for supporting a foot 13 is functionally positioned and attached to frame segment 12a. The other means part for supporting a foot 14 may be functionally positioned on and attached to frame segment 12a or to 12b to provide for the support, and the secure holding, of the foot of the person using the apparatus. The size of the person wishing to use the apparatus determines on which segment and to which aperture the means should be attached. Means for maintaining a straight leg 15 is essentially a biasing rest that is functionally positioned on the length of segment 12b to provide biasing support for a user's knee when his or her foot is properly aligned in supports 13 and 14. The means for maintaining a straight leg biases a user's knee in the direction of the back of the user's leg providing for the leg to be maintained in a straight line by preventing the knee from bending. This is a fundamental improvement over the devices presently available, which permit the knee to bend, thus providing an ineffective stretch to the hamstrings.

Also attached to frame 12 is handle 16 which is contemplated to be held by the hand(s) of the user of the apparatus. While being held by a user, handle 16 provides assistance and support to the person using the device. Means 13-16 may be made out of any functional material, however in one preferred embodiment they would be made of plastic or aluminum. Also in a preferred embodiment, means 13-16 are supplied with padding 19 to provide for the comfort of a user. Padding may be made of any particular material desired, with a person having ordinary skill in the art realizing that the padding can be of any functional material, and applied in any utilitarian fashion, and still be within the spirit of the invention.

FIG. 2 illustrates how the apparatus is used for stretching an individual's hamstrings. As shown in FIG. 2, the user positions himself or herself in a prone position to use the apparatus. Executing the stretch while lying prone, reduces stress on the back muscles, as opposed to some of the devices of related art that require a user to bend over and thus to place stress on the user's back muscles. Apparatus 10 should be positioned so that the ball-section of a user's foot is located on means 13, as illustrated in FIG. 2. Foot support means part 14 should be located behind the upper part of the heel of the foot. Means 15, which part is to maintain the user's leg in a straight position, should be positioned on the front of the leg, just above the knee. Handle 16 is then grasped by the user. At this point, the user can do either a passive stretch, by pulling up on handle 16, which pulling causes means 13-15 to move simultaneously upward and forward, which movement applies leverage to the user's leg and stretches the hamstring. Another way to use hamstring stretching device 10 is in an isometric fashion. This is accomplished by a method that is similar to the passive stretch, except that instead of pulling on the handle 16, the user pushes on the handle for a number of seconds, and then relaxes the push for a number of seconds. This movement may be repeated as often as desired. This exercise may be made more rigorous by raising the leg upwards by some increment and repeating the push and relax routine. While these are two preferred exercises that may be used with hamstring stretching apparatus 10, the device is not limited to only those exercises, and a person having ordinary skill in the art would recognize that any type of hamstring stretching exercise may be done with the hamstring stretching device 10.

It has been shown then that hamstring stretching apparatus 10 solves the problems presented by the currently available devices. For one, the invention according to what has been taught, eliminates the need for an additional person or device to maintain a user's leg in a straight position, which is a substantial improvement over other devices. Moreover, hamstring stretching apparatus 10 is light weight and has no moving parts, which is yet another improvement over the current state of the art. Importantly, the invention provides for an apparatus that is easy to make out of easily available materials and by inexpensive methods of manufacture, making the apparatus affordable to all.

The foregoing description, for purposes of explanation, used specific and defined nomenclature to provide a thorough understanding of the invention. However, it will be apparent to one skilled in the art that the specific details presented are not required in order to practice the invention and are not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the invention to the precise forms disclosed. Those skilled in the art will recognize that many changes may be made to the features, embodiments, and methods of making the embodiments of the invention described herein without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. The invention is limited only by the claims.