Title:
Functional exercise training methods and devices for improving hamstring strength and conditioning
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Various aspects of the present disclosure provide functional exercise training and instructional methods and devices for hamstring strengthening and conditioning. In one exemplary embodiment, a method generally includes lying down in a supine position on a support surface and resiliently suspending a leg from supporting structure. The method also includes raising the pelvic area off the support surface by using one or more of the hamstrings, gluteals, and core muscles of the suspended leg.



Inventors:
Fitzmaurice, Brian F. (Ellisville, MO, US)
Application Number:
11/271251
Publication Date:
05/24/2007
Filing Date:
11/09/2005
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
482/148, 482/121
International Classes:
A63B21/02; A63B23/00
View Patent Images:
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20090286656Rotary exercise apparatusNovember, 2009Okamoto
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20060009330Mold changeable elliptical exercisersJanuary, 2006Lo
20070287610Pelvic TrainerDecember, 2007Novak et al.



Primary Examiner:
GANESAN, SUNDHARA M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Brian F. Fitzmaurice (Ellisville, MO, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A functional exercise training method for hamstring strengthening and conditioning, the method comprising: lying down in a supine position on a support surface; resiliently suspending a leg from supporting structure; and raising the pelvic area off the support surface by using one or more of the hamstrings, gluteals, and core muscles of the suspended leg.

2. The method of claim 1, further comprising maintaining the pelvic area raised off the support surface for an amount of time by utilizing an isometric contraction in the one or more of said hamstrings, gluteals, and core muscles of the suspended leg.

3. The method of claim 1, further comprising maintaining the non-suspended leg resting on the support surface during said raising of the pelvic area.

4. The method of claim 1, further comprising repeatedly dynamically raising and lowering the pelvic area utilizing concentric and eccentric muscle contractions at various velocities and tempos relative to the support surface by using one or more of the hamstrings, gluteals, and core muscles of the suspended leg.

5. The method of claim 1, further comprising maintaining a knee of the suspended leg at least partially flexed during said raising of the pelvic area.

6. The method of claim 1, further comprising extending the arms generally outwardly from the body and resting the arms against the support surface during said raising of the pelvic area.

7. The method of claim 1, wherein the suspended leg is resiliently suspended from the supporting structure by an adjustable stirrup, and wherein the method includes selectively adjusting the stirrup size to thereby tailor the stirrup size for the exerciser's foot size.

8. The method of claim 1, wherein the suspended leg is resiliently suspended from the supporting structure by one or more elastic bands, and wherein the method includes adjusting the elastic resistance by changing the number of elastic bands or by using more or less elastic bands.

9. The method of claim 1, further comprising adjusting a height of the supporting structure before resiliently suspending the leg from the supporting structure.

10. The method of claim 1, further comprising raising and maintaining the non-suspended leg off the support surface during said raising of the pelvic area.

11. The method of claim 10, wherein said maintaining of the non-suspended leg includes maintaining the non-suspended leg off the support surface at about a ninety degree angle relative to the support surface.

12. The method of claim 11, further comprising repeatedly dynamically raising and lowering the pelvic area utilizing concentric and eccentric muscle contractions at various velocities and tempos relative to the support surface by using one or more of the hamstrings, gluteals, and core muscles of the suspended leg while maintaining the non-suspended leg off the support surface at about a ninety degree angle relative to the support surface.

13. The method of claim 1, further comprising controllably lowering the pelvic area to the support surface by using one or more of the hamstrings, gluteals, and core muscles of the suspended leg.

14. A method for use by a trainer instructing a trainee in the performance of an exercise for hamstring strengthening and conditioning, the method comprising: instructing the trainee to lay down in a supine position on a support surface; instructing the trainee to position the trainee's foot or leg within a support resiliently suspended from supporting structure, whereby the trainee's leg is resiliently suspended by the support; and instructing the trainee to use the trainee's hamstrings, gluteals, and core muscles of the suspended leg to raise the pelvic area off the support surface.

15. The method of claim 14, further comprising instructing the trainee to maintain the pelvic area raised off the support surface for an amount of time by utilizing an isometric contraction in the trainee's hamstrings, gluteals, and core muscles of the suspended leg.

16. The method of claim 14, further comprising instructing the trainee to maintain the trainee's non-suspended leg resting on the support surface.

17. The method of claim 14, further comprising instructing the trainee to repeatedly dynamically raise and lower the pelvic area utilizing concentric and eccentric muscle contractions at various velocities and tempos relative to the support surface by using one or more of the hamstrings, gluteals, and core muscles of the suspended leg.

18. The method of claim 14, further comprising instructing the trainee to partially flex the knee of the trainee's suspended leg.

19. The method of claim 14, further comprising instructing the trainee to extend the trainee's arms generally outwardly from the body and rest the arms against the support surface.

20. The method of claim 14, wherein the support is an adjustable stirrup, and wherein the method further comprises instructing the trainee to adjust the stirrup size to thereby tailor the stirrup to the trainer's foot size.

21. The method of claim 14, wherein the support is at least partially suspended by one or more elastic bands, and wherein the method further comprises instructing the trainee to adjust the elastic resistance by changing the number of elastic bands or by using more or less elastic bands.

22. The method of claim 14, further comprising instructing the trainee to adjust the height of the supporting structure.

23. The method of claim 14, further comprising instructing the trainee to raise and maintain the trainee's non-suspended leg off the support surface.

24. The method of claim 23, wherein the method includes instructing the trainee to maintain the trainee's non-suspended leg off the support surface at about a ninety degree angle relative to the support surface.

25. The method of claim 24, further comprising instructing the trainee to repeatedly dynamically raise and lower the pelvic area utilizing concentric and eccentric muscle contractions at various velocities and tempos relative to the support surface by using one or more of the hamstrings, gluteals, and core muscles of the suspended leg while maintaining the non-suspended leg off the support surface at about a ninety degree angle relative to the support surface.

26. The method of claim 14, further comprising instructing the trainee to use the trainee's hamstrings, gluteals, and core muscles of the suspended leg to controllably lower the pelvic area to the support surface.

27. The method of claim 14, wherein said instructing includes the trainer demonstrating at least a portion of the exercise.

28. The method of claim 14, wherein said instructing includes the trainer providing the trainee with audiovisual material having said instructions for performing the exercise.

29. An audiovisual work comprising at least one of audio material and visual material explaining how to perform at least one exercise for hamstring strengthening and conditioning, the audiovisual work including: audiovisual material instructing a user to lay down in a supping position on a support surface; audiovisual material instructing the user to resiliently suspend a leg from supporting structure; and audiovisual material instructing the user to raise the pelvic area off the support surface by using the hamstrings, gluteals, and core muscles of the suspended leg.

30. The audiovisual work of claim 29, further comprising audiovisual material explaining how to resiliently suspend the leg from supporting structure.

Description:

FIELD

The present disclosure relates to functional exercise training methods and devices for hamstring strengthening and/or conditioning, which, in turn, can decrease hamstring injury potential during sports or other activities and improve athletic performance.

BACKGROUND

The statements in this background section merely provide background information related to the present disclosure and may not constitute prior art.

Hamstring injuries are widely regarded as the most common injury in sports today. Hamstring injuries commonly occur in sports that require bursts of speed or rapid acceleration, such as football, baseball, soccer, hockey, and tennis. Hamstring injuries are also prevalent in athletes that compete in endurance sports such as marathons, triathlons, cycling, and mountain biking events.

Although the mechanisms of these injuries can be quite different, the impact on the competitive athlete is just the same. It is accepted by many sports medicine specialists that hamstring injuries incurred while running usually happen during the eccentric phase of knee flexion when the hamstring is controlling the forward swing of the leg. As the leg swings forward during the running stride cycle, the hamstrings eccentrically contract to decrease the forward movement, which places a high tension load on the hamstrings. Hamstring injuries commonly result when these high tension loads are increased during maximal high-speed sprinting, or as a result of extended sub-maximal running when the hamstrings become fatigued and are unable to absorb the repeated forward force.

Research has shown that athletes with a history of hamstring injuries have been linked to hamstring eccentric peak torque deficits. This suggests that the inability of the hamstrings to produce adequate power during eccentric actions may predispose an athlete to injury. In theory, by correcting these eccentric strength deficits, athletes will decrease the potential of hamstring injury and will improve their overall performance, and also reduce a source of frustration shared by the owners of professional sports teams owners, the injured athletes, teammates, and fans of those teams having their seasons ruined because a star athlete injures a hamstring.

SUMMARY

According to various aspects, the present disclosure provides devices and functional exercise training methods for hamstring strengthening and conditioning. In one exemplary embodiment, a method generally includes lying down in a supine position on a support surface, and resiliently suspending a leg from supporting structure. The method also includes raising the pelvic area off the support surface by using one or more of the hamstrings, gluteals, and core muscles of the suspended leg.

Other aspects of the present disclosure provide methods that can be used by a trainer while instructing a trainee in the performance of an exercise for hamstring strengthening and conditioning. In one exemplary embodiment, a method generally includes instructing the trainee to lay down in a supine position on a support surface, and instructing the trainee to position the trainee's foot or leg within a support resiliently suspended from supporting structure. The method also includes instructing the trainee to use the trainee's hamstrings, gluteals, and core muscles of the suspended leg to raise the pelvic area off the support surface.

Additional aspects of the present disclosure provide audiovisual works that can include either or both audio and/or visual material explaining how to perform one or more exercises for hamstring strengthening and conditioning. In one exemplary embodiment, the audiovisual work includes audiovisual material instructing the user to lay down in a supine position on a support surface, and audiovisual material instructing the user to resiliently suspend a leg from supporting structure. The audiovisual work also includes audiovisual material instructing the user to raise the pelvic area off the support surface by using the hamstrings, gluteals, and core muscles of the suspended leg.

Further aspects and features of the present disclosure will become apparent from the detailed description provided hereinafter. In addition, any one or more aspects of the present disclosure may be implemented individually or in any combination with any one or more of the other aspects of the present disclosure. It should be understood that the detailed description and specific examples, while indicating exemplary embodiments of the present disclosure, are intended for purposes of illustration only and are not intended to limit the scope of the present disclosure.

DRAWINGS

The drawings described herein are for illustration purposes only and are not intended to limit the scope of the present disclosure in any way.

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a exercise device that can be used by a person to perform a functional exercise training method for hamstring strengthening and conditioning according to one exemplary embodiment of the present disclosure;

FIG. 2A is an illustration of a person using the exercise device shown in FIG. 1 while performing a first version of a functional exercise training method for hamstring strengthening and conditioning and illustrating the person's pelvic area on the support surface;

FIG. 2B is another illustration of the person using the exercise device shown in FIG. 2A but now illustrating the person's pelvic area after it has been raised off the support surface using the hamstrings, gluteals, and core muscles of the person's suspended leg;

FIG. 3 is a illustration of a person using the exercise device shown in FIG. 1 while performing a second version of a functional exercise training method for hamstring strengthening and conditioning and illustrating the person's pelvic area on the support surface;

FIG. 4 is another illustration of the person using the exercise device shown in FIG. 3 but now illustrating the person's pelvic area after it has been raised off the support surface using the hamstrings, gluteals, and core muscles of the person's suspended leg;

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the lower portion of the device shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 6 is a top plan view of the lower device portion shown in FIG. 5;

FIG. 7 is a bottom plan view of the lower device portion shown in FIG. 5;

FIG. 8 is a front elevation view of the lower device portion shown in FIG. 5;

FIG. 9 is a back elevation view of the lower device portion shown in FIG. 5;

FIG. 10 is a side elevation view of the lower device portion shown in FIG. 5;

FIG. 11 is a perspective view of the lower portion of the device shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 12 is a top plan view of the lower device portion shown in FIG. 11;

FIG. 13 is a bottom plan view of the lower device portion shown in FIG. 11;

FIG. 14 is a front elevation view of the lower device portion shown in FIG. 11;

FIG. 15 is a back elevation view of the lower device portion shown in FIG. 11;

FIG. 16 is a left side elevation view of the lower device portion shown in FIG. 11; and

FIG. 17 is a right side elevation view of the lower device portion shown in FIG. 11.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The following description is merely exemplary in nature and is not intended to limit the present disclosure, application, or uses

According to various aspects, the present disclosure provides exercise devices, components of such devices, and functional exercise training methods for hamstring strengthening and conditioning. In one exemplary embodiment, a method generally includes lying down in a supine position on a support surface and resiliently suspending a leg from supporting structure (e.g., as shown in FIGS. 2A and 3). The method also includes raising the pelvic area off the support surface by using one or more of the hamstrings, gluteals, and core muscles of the suspended leg (e.g., as shown in FIGS. 2B and 4). The method can also include controllably lowering the pelvic area to the support surface by using the hamstrings, gluteals, and core muscles of the suspended leg.

In one version or form of an exercise method, the user should keep or maintain the non-suspended leg resting on the support surface during the exercise, including while raising and lowering of the pelvic area. In addition, the knee of the suspended leg should preferably be maintained at least partially flexed while performing the exercise, including raising and lowering of the pelvic area. It is also generally preferred that the user extend his or her arms generally outwardly from the body and rest the arms against the support surface while performing the exercise.

In some embodiments, the method may include maintaining the pelvic area raised off the support surface for an amount of time (e.g., five seconds, ten seconds, etc.) depending on the user's current level of fitness and conditioning. To maintain the pelvic area raised off the support surface for this time interval, the user should preferably utilize an isometric contraction of the hamstrings, gluteals, and core muscles of the suspended leg.

For more advanced or harder exercise routines, the method can include repeatedly dynamically raising and lowering the pelvic area utilizing concentric and eccentric muscle contractions at various velocities and tempos relative to the support surface by using the hamstrings, gluteals, and core muscles of the suspended leg.

Some method embodiments can also include raising and maintaining the non-suspended leg off the support surface while performing the exercise. In such embodiments, the non-suspended leg is preferably maintained in a raised position off the support surface at about a ninety degree angle relative to the support surface. For more advanced and better conditioned athletes, some particularly challenging method embodiments include repeatedly dynamically raising and lowering the pelvic area utilizing concentric and eccentric muscle contractions at various velocities and tempos relative to the support surface by using the hamstrings, gluteals, and core muscles of the suspended leg while maintaining the non-suspended leg off the support surface at about a ninety degree angle relative to the support surface.

To allow a user to perform one or more of the exercises described herein, various aspects of the present disclosure relate to exercise equipment and devices. In one exemplary embodiment, a device generally includes a foot support (e.g., stirrup, straps, etc.) that can be resiliently attached to a supporting structure by using resilient elastic bands or other suitable resilient means. With such devices, the user lays in a supine position on the floor or other support surface (e.g., bench, table, bench press, generally horizontal surface, inclined surface with feet higher than head, inclined surface with feet lower than head, etc.). The user's leg is resiliently supported from the supporting structure by the device. The user then raises his/her pelvic area preferably by only using the hamstrings, gluteals, and core muscles of the leg suspended by the foot support or stirrup.

In various embodiments, the foot support may be resiliently suspended from the supporting structure by one or more elastic bands, and may also allow the elastic resistance to be adjusted by changing the number of elastic bands or by using more or less elastic bands. Or, for example, the relative spacing between the supporting structure from which the stirrup is suspended and the support surface (e.g., floor, bench, table, etc.) may be increased or decreased to effectuate a corresponding increase or decrease in the elastic resistance. For example, various embodiments include supporting the foot support or stirrup from a weight bar, which, in turn, is being supported by a squat rack. In such embodiments, the squat rack may allow the height of the weight bar to be adjusted upwards or downwards, for example, by telescoping supports and/or by positioning the weight bar in a higher or lower set of spaced-apart pegs. Accordingly, the elastic resistance and/or height of the foot stirrup in such embodiments can be relatively easily increased or decreased, for example, to tailor the device to the needs of the user.

Other aspects of the present disclosure provide methods that can be used for use by a trainer while instructing a trainee in the performance of an exercise for hamstring strengthening and conditioning. In one exemplary embodiment, a method generally includes instructing the trainee to lay down in a supine position on a support surface, and instructing the trainee to position the trainee's foot within a support resiliently suspended from supporting structure. The method also includes instructing the trainee to use the trainee's hamstrings, gluteals, and core muscles of the suspended leg to raise the pelvic area off the support surface. The method can also include instructing the trainee to controllably lower the pelvic area to the support surface by using the hamstrings, gluteals, and core muscles of the suspended leg.

The manner in which the trainer provides instructions to the trainee can vary. For example, the trainer may stand close by and give verbal instructions explaining how to perform the exercise. Or, for example, the trainer may demonstrate at least a portion of the exercise, and assist the trainee in performing at least a portion of the exercise. As yet another example, the trainer or fitness facility may also provide the trainee with audiovisual material (e.g., posters, placards, video, DVDs, etc.) that instructs and explains how to perform an exercise. Accordingly, the term “trainer” as used herein should not be limited to persons only, as that term generally refers to and includes a person, fitness center, gym, a computer, audiovisual material, etc. capable of providing instructions to a trainee.

In various embodiments, the method can also include instructing the trainee to use the trainee's hamstrings, gluteals, and core muscles of the suspended leg to raise the pelvic area off the support surface, and/or instructing the trainee to maintain the pelvic area raised off the support surface for an amount of time by utilizing an isometric contraction in the trainee's hamstrings, gluteals, and core muscles of the suspended leg.

In some embodiments, the trainer may also preferably instruct to maintain the trainee's non-suspended leg resting on the support surface. In addition, the trainer may also instruct the trainee to keep or maintain the knee of the suspended leg at least partially flexed while performing the exercise, including raising and lowering of the pelvic area. The trainer may also instruct the trainee to extend his or her arms generally outwardly from the body and rest the arms against the support surface while performing the exercise.

In some embodiments, the trainer may instruct the trainee to maintain the pelvic area raised off the support surface for an amount of time (e.g., five seconds, ten seconds, etc.) depending on the user's current level of fitness and conditioning. For example, the trainer may provide an audible signal (e.g., verbal command, blow a whistle, etc.) instructing the trainee to raise the pelvic area, keep track of the time, and then provide an audible signal instructing the trainee to lower the pelvic area. To maintain the pelvic area raised off the support surface during the time interval, the trainer should preferably instruct the trainee to utilize an isometric contraction in the hamstrings, gluteals, and core muscles of the suspended leg. For more advanced or harder exercise routines, the trainer may instruct the trainee to repeatedly dynamically raise and lower the pelvic area utilizing concentric and eccentric muscle contractions at various velocities and tempos relative to the support surface by using the hamstrings, gluteals, and core muscles of the suspended leg.

Some method embodiments can also include instructing the trainee to raise and maintain the non-suspended leg off the support surface while performing the exercise. In such embodiments, the non-suspended leg can be preferably maintained in a raised position off the support surface at about a ninety degree angle relative to the support surface. For more advanced and/or better conditioned athletes, some particularly challenging method embodiments include instructing the trainee to repeatedly dynamically raise and lower the pelvic area utilizing concentric and eccentric muscle contractions at various velocities and tempos relative to the support surface by using the hamstrings, gluteals, and core muscles of the suspended leg while maintaining the non-suspended leg off the support surface at about a ninety degree angle relative to the support surface.

In some embodiments, the trainer may also instruct and/or assist the trainee in adjusting the support or stirrup size to thereby tailor it for the trainer's foot size. The trainer can also in some embodiments instruct and/or assist the trainee in adjusting the elastic resistance by changing the number of elastic bands, by using more or less elastic bands and/or changing the relative height or spacing between the support or foot stirrup and the supporting structure from which the support or foot stirrup is resiliently suspended.

Additional aspects of the present disclosure provide audiovisual works that includes either or both audio and/or visual material explaining how to perform one or more exercises for hamstring strengthening and conditioning. In one exemplary embodiment, the audiovisual work includes audiovisual material instructing the user to lay down in a supine position on a support surface, and audiovisual material instructing the user to resiliently suspend a leg from supporting structure. The audiovisual work also includes audiovisual material instructing the user to raise the pelvic area off the support surface by using the hamstrings, gluteals, and core muscles of the suspended leg.

In various embodiments, the audiovisual work can include audiovisual material explaining how to perform any one or more of the exercises and method operations and processes described and shown herein, such as instructions on how to resiliently suspend the leg from supporting structure. In addition, the audiovisual work can take on a variety of forms, such as placards, signs, posters, books, etc. with written text and and/or graphic illustrations showing how to perform an exercise and/or use a device. Further embodiments provide audio material (e.g., compact disc (CD), an audio tape, etc.) that include verbal instructions or voice messages explaining how to perform an exercise and/or use a device, which may also be accompanied by motivational music. Still further embodiments include audiovisual material (e.g., video tapes, digital video discs (DVDs), internet website, etc.) with both audio and visual material about how to perform an exercise and/or use a device shown and described herein.

For example, one embodiment includes verbal instructions and/or demonstrations given by a presenter, such as a well-known expert, celebrity, professional athlete, movie star, etc. Typically, this can include visual demonstrations such as images of a presentation along with coordinated audio. The audio visual medium can also have a prerecorded image or sequence of images with audio.

In other embodiments, instructions can be printed, published in hard format, and/or published as electronic content available over a network, such as the Internet. In some embodiments, the instructional material can include text and images and can be formatted in a variety of formats, such as a book, a magazine, a newspaper, loose leaf pages, an Internet or Intranet web page, etc.

Accordingly, various aspects of the present disclosure can provide methods and devices for improving and/or maintaining hamstring strength and conditioning. This, in turn, can decrease hamstring injury potential during sports and other activities and improve athletic performance. Various embodiments include devices that provide highly-specialized strength exercises that can prepare the hamstring muscle-tendon junction for the high tension loads associated with running and sprinting during sports competition. When used properly and regularly, such methods and devices can improve the hamstrings ability to absorb and rapidly create force, thereby increasing power production abilities for activities such as running, sprinting, jumping, cycling, and/or swimming. In various embodiments, the device's unilateral movements can improve coordination and proprioception by increasing the synchronization of the motor units and muscle fibers in the hamstring and involved muscle groups.

Regularly and correctly using one or more of the various devices to perform one or more of the functional exercise training methods described and shown herein can allow for realization of any one or more of the following exemplary advantages and benefits:

    • can better prepare the hamstring muscle-tendon junction for high tension loads; and/or
    • can increase the hamstring connective tissue functional capabilities; and/or
    • can stimulate hamstring connective tissue growth; and/or
    • can improve speed of hamstring muscle contraction improving power output; and/or
    • can provide running specific strength improvements; and/or
    • can improve eccentric knee flexion strength that aids in leg recovery mechanics; and/or
    • can improve activation of the hamstring tendon stretch reflex; and/or
    • can increase force production and explosive power in the hamstrings; and/or
    • can prepare the hamstrings for decelerative and braking forces while participating in sports or other activities; and/or
    • can improve force production during top-end sprinting; and/or
    • can increase strength-endurance of hamstrings;
    • can decrease the risk of hamstring injuries during competition; and/or
    • can improve coordination and proprioception in the hamstring muscles; and/or
    • can increase hip extension strength and power; and/or
    • can improve the hamstrings fatigue resistance during endurance sports; and/or
    • can identify muscle imbalance and weaknesses; and/or
    • can effectively restore strength to injured hamstrings; and/or
    • can improve running and sprinting efficiency; and/or
    • can increase maximal running speed; and/or
    • can increase hamstring explosiveness; and/or
    • can correct hamstring strength deficiencies.

The above-listed advantages and benefits are provided for purpose of illustration and not for limitation, as some or all of these advantages and benefits may not be realized as the particular advantages and benefits realized can depend, for example, on the user's current physical conditioning, dedication to and proper and regular performance of the exercise regiment, among other factors. In addition, any one or more aspects of the present disclosure may be implemented individually or in any combination with any one or more of the other aspects of the present disclosure.

Referring now to FIG. 1, there is shown an exemplary embodiment of an exercise device 100 embodying one or more aspects of the present disclosure. As shown in FIG. 1, the exercise device 100 generally includes a support 104, upper and lower members 108 and 112, resiliently elastic bands 116, and attachment device 120.

The attachment device 120 can be used to attach the exercise device 100 to supporting structure 122. The elastic bands 116 are coupled to and extend generally between the upper and lower members 108, 112. Accordingly, the upper and lower members 108, 112, elastic bands 116, and the attachment device 120 cooperate in resiliently suspending the support 104 from the supporting structure 122.

The support 104 is configured (e.g., shaped, sized, positioned relative to the floor, etc.) for receiving at least a portion of the user's leg, foot, or ankle. In the particular embodiment shown in FIG. 1, the support 104 comprises at least one strap or belt-like member 123, which may be formed from webbed materials, etc. This strap 123 includes end portions 124 that are engaged within slots 128 of the lower member 112. An exemplary embodiment of the lower member 112 is shown in FIGS. 5 through 10 and is described in more detail below.

With continued reference to FIG. 1, each end portion 124 of the strap 123 can, for example, be threaded and looped back through slots 128 in the lower member 112 to relatively securely engage the end portion 124 to the lower member 112. In other embodiments, the end portions 124 may be looped through slots 128, and then the end portion 124 may be engaged upon itself, for example, by using buckles, hook and loop fasteners, buttons, snaps, magnets, other closure members, etc. In other embodiments, the strap 123 may be attached to the lower member 112 using other suitable attachment methods. In further embodiments, the strap 123 and lower member 112 may be monolithically or integrally formed as a single component such that the strap 123 does not need to be separately attached to the lower member 112.

In other exemplary embodiments, the support 104 comprises a stirrup attached to the lower member 112 by straps (polypropylene webbing, etc.). The straps extend upwardly from the stirrup and are looped around and engaged within the slots 128 of the lower housing 112. In various embodiments, the stirrup can include adjustable belts for selectively adjusting the stirrup size for the particular foot size of the user while also allowing the user to easily insert and remove the foot from the stirrup. For example, such embodiments may include buckles, hook and loop fasteners, magnets, snaps, clasps, buttons, etc. for allowing the stirrup size to be selectively adjusted and tailored for the user's foot size.

As shown in FIG. 1, the foot support 104 is resiliently suspended from the supporting structure 122 at least in part by using three resiliently elastic bands 116. Each elastic band 116 can be slid into and then engaged within a corresponding mounting opening 132, 136 of the upper and lower members 108, 112. The elastic bands 116 can be secured within the openings 132, 136 by way of elastic bands 116 having enlarged end portions 137 (e.g., knotted end portions, bulbous end portions, component attached to the end portion, etc.) which are too large to pass through the openings 132, 136. This, in turn, can allow the elastic bands 116 to be readily removed from and/or engaged within the openings 132, 136 by sliding the elastic bands 116 into or out of the openings 132, 136.

In various embodiments, having the elastic bands engaged to both the upper and lower members 108 and 112 can help stabilize the device 100 by inhibiting wobbling of the elastic bands 116 as the user is raising and lowering the pelvic area. Alternative embodiments can include elastic bands that are attached to the upper and lower members 108 and 112 using other suitable methods, including mechanical fasteners, adhesives, magnets, etc. Still further embodiments can include other suitable resiliently elastic means besides elastic bands, such as elastic straps, elastic cords, rubber straps or bands, coil springs, etc.

The exercise device 100 also includes means 120 for attaching the device 100 to supporting structure 122. In the particular illustrated embodiment of FIG. 1, the exercise device 100 includes at least one strap or belt-like member 140, which may be formed from webbed materials, etc. This strap 140 includes end portions 144 that are engaged within slots 148 of the upper member 108. An exemplary embodiment of the upper member 108 is also shown in FIGS. 11 through 17 and is described in more detail below.

With continued reference to FIG. 1, each end portion 144 of the strap 140 can, for example, be threaded and looped back through slots 148 of the upper member 108 to relatively securely engage the end portion 144 to the upper member 108. In other embodiments, the end portions 144 may be looped through slots 148, and then the end portion 144 may be engaged upon itself, for example, by using buckles, hook and loop fasteners, buttons, snaps, magnets, other closure members, etc. In other embodiments, the strap 140 may be attached to the upper member 108 using other suitable attachment methods. In further embodiments, the strap 140 and upper member 108 may be monolithically or integrally formed as a single component such that the strap 140 does not need to be separately attached to the upper member 108.

In addition to the strap 140, the attachment device 120 also includes a hook or clip 152 for removably attaching the exercise device 100 to supporting structure 122. The hook 152 may be attached to the strap 140 in various ways. In some embodiments, the strap 140 and hook 152 may be monolithically or integrally formed as a single component such that the hook 152 does not need to be separately attached to the strap 140.

In the illustrated embodiment of FIG. 1, the hook 152 comprises a snap hook configured (e.g., sized, shaped, etc.) to be removably hooked onto a weight bar 156. Alternatively, other types of devices can be used for attaching the exercise device to supporting structure besides snap hooks, such as hooks without the snapping feature, carabineers, mechanical fasteners, nut-and-bolt assemblies, threaded unions, etc. In further embodiments, the exercise device may comprise a stand-alone device having its own self-supporting framework or gantry, thereby eliminating the need for the exercise device to be attached to the weight bar or other supporting structure.

In FIG. 1, the hook 152 is shown “snap-hooked” onto a weight bar 156, which, in turn, is being supported on a rack 160 (e.g., squat rack, power lifting rack, etc.). Accordingly, this particular illustrated embodiment of the exercise device 100 can be used with many existing exercise devices, including squat racks and power lifting racks commonly found gyms today.

Because weightlifters vary in size, some racks include features for adjusting the height of the weight bar. For example, some racks include telescoping height-adjustable supports and/or pairs of spaced-apart pegs positioned at varying heights along the rack. Accordingly, for those embodiments in which the device 100 can be suspended from a weight bar 156, the height of the support 104 (and/or elastic resistance) can be relatively easily increased or decreased to tailor the device 100 to the needs of the user by adjusting the height of the weight bar 156. For example, the height of the support 104 can be increased by moving the weight bar 156 to a higher set of pegs of the squat rack, or decreased by moving the weight bar 156 to a lower set of pegs.

This height adjustment may be performed by the user or a trainer before the user begins using the exercise device 100. In addition to adjusting the height, the user or trainer may also change the elastic resistance by adding more elastic bands 116, removing elastic bands 116, and/or using more or less elastic bands to increase/decrease elastic resistance. Accordingly, various embodiments provide a device 100 that can be relatively easily tailored to the particular user.

Embodiments of the exercise devices shown and described herein can be used in various ways, some of which are shown in FIGS. 2 through 4 for purposes of illustration and not for limitation. For example, FIGS. 2A and 2B show a user lying on the floor in a supine position with one of the user's leg suspended by the device 100 while the user's other leg is resting on the floor. In FIG. 2A, the user's pelvic area is shown on the support surface. But FIG. 2B shows the user's pelvic area after it has been raised off the support surface preferably by using only the hamstrings, gluteals, and core muscles of the suspended leg. Depending on the particular application and conditioning of the user, the user may maintain the pelvic area off the floor for an amount of time preferably by utilizing an isometric contraction in the hamstrings, gluteals, and core muscles of the suspended leg. Or, for example, the user may also repeatedly dynamically raise and lower the pelvic area utilizing concentric and eccentric muscle contractions at various velocities and tempos relative to the support surface by preferably using the hamstrings, gluteals, and core muscles of the suspended leg. This dynamic pelvic movement can replicate the ballistic movement caused during athletic events to thereby help train the hamstring muscles to decrease hamstring injury potential during sports or other activities and/or improve athletic performance. During these exercise motions generally represented in FIGS. 2A and 2B, the elastic bands (or other elastic means) force the user to utilize muscles to maintain balance (akin to the relationship of someone bench pressing free weights versus machine weights), thus further improving the strengthening aspects of the exercise. Advantageously, the devices and methods can help train, condition, and/or strengthen (and/or maintain an existing level of strength and conditioning) the hamstring muscles to better withstand injury that can and often does occur, for example, when running, sprinting, accelerating, cutting sideways, stopping, even in professional athletes.

FIGS. 3 and 4 illustrate another exemplary exercise that can be performed with the exercise device 100. In this particular exercise method, however, the user's non-suspended foot is held upright (e.g., about ninety degrees from the floor or other support surface on which the user is resting). FIGS. 3 and 4 show the user lying on the floor in a supine position with one of the user's leg supported by the device 100 while the user's other leg is maintained at about ninety degrees relative to the floor. In FIG. 3, the user's pelvic area is shown on the support surface. But FIG. 4 shows the user's pelvic area after it has been raised off the support surface preferably by using only the hamstrings, gluteals, and core muscles of the suspended leg. Depending on the particular application and the user's level of conditioning, the user may then repeatedly dynamically raise and lower the pelvic area utilizing concentric and eccentric muscle contractions at various velocities and tempos relative to the support surface by preferably using the hamstrings, gluteals, and core muscles of the suspended leg. This dynamic pelvic movement can replicate the ballistic movement caused during athletic events to thereby help train the hamstring muscles to decrease hamstring injury potential during sports or other activities and/or improve athletic performance. Or, for example, the user may maintain the pelvic area off the floor for an amount of time preferably by utilizing an isometric contraction in the hamstrings, gluteals, and core muscles of the suspended leg.

During these exercise motions generally represented in FIGS. 3 and 4, the elastic bands (or other elastic means) force the user to utilize muscles to maintain balance (akin to the relationship of someone bench pressing free weights versus machine weights), thus further improving the strengthening aspects of the exercise. Advantageously, the devices and methods can help train, condition, and/or strengthen (and/or maintain an existing level of strength and conditioning) the hamstring muscles to better withstand injury that can and often does occur, for example, when running, sprinting, accelerating, cutting sideways, stopping, even in professional athletes.

FIGS. 5 through 10 illustrate an exemplary embodiment of the lower member 112. In this particular embodiment, the lower member 112 comprises a generally rectangular shape. Other suitable shapes, however, can also be used for the lower member 112, including non-rectangular shapes such as circular, ovular, hexagonal, triangular, etc.

The lower member 112 is shown in FIGS. 5 through 7 with two slots 128 for engagingly receiving end portions 124 of the strap 123. In other embodiments, however, the lower member 112 can include more or less than two slots 128 and/or slots or openings in different shapes and sizes than that shown in the figures. Further embodiments include a lower member that does not include slots 128, but which instead include other means by which the support is attached to the lower member.

With further reference to FIGS. 5 through 7, the lower member 112 is shown with three mounting openings or slots 136 for engagingly receiving the elastic bands 116. In other embodiments, however, the lower member 112 can include more or less than three openings and/or openings in different shapes and sizes than that shown in the figures. Further embodiments include a lower member that does not include mounting openings 136, but which instead include other means by which the elastic bands or other elastic means are attached to the lower member.

A wide variety of materials and manufacturing processes can be employed for forming the lower member 112. In one particular embodiment, the lower member 112 is injection molded from plastic. Alternative materials and manufacturing processes, however, can also be employed to form the lower member 112.

As shown in FIGS. 5 and 6, the lower member 112 includes stiffeners 164 (e.g., ribs, voids, recesses, etc.) disposed along the upper surface 168. The lower member 112 also includes stiffeners 172 (e.g., ribs, voids, recesses, etc.) disposed along the lower surface 176, as shown in FIG. 7. Other embodiments, however, include differently configured and arranged stiffeners than that shown in the figures, such as having stiffeners only along the upper surface or only along the lower surface but not both, and/or stiffeners along one or more of the side edges. Further embodiments include a lower member that does not include any such stiffeners.

FIGS. 11 through 17 illustrate an exemplary embodiment of the upper member 108. In this particular embodiment, the upper member 108 comprises a generally hexagonal shape. Other suitable shapes, however, can also be used for the upper member 108, such as rectangular, circular, ovular, triangular, etc.

The upper member 108 is shown in FIGS. 11 through 13 with two slots 148 for engagingly receiving end portions 144 of the strap 140. In other embodiments, however, the upper member 108 can include more or less than two slots 148 and/or slots or openings in different shapes and sizes than that shown in the figures. Further embodiments include an upper member that does not include slots 148, but which instead include other means by which the strap 140 or attachment device 120 is attached to the upper member.

With further reference to FIGS. 11 through 13, the upper member 108 is shown with three mounting openings or slots 132 for engagingly receiving the elastic bands 116. In other embodiments, however, the upper member 108 can include more or less than three openings and/or openings in different shapes and sizes than that shown in the figures. Further embodiments include an upper member that does not include mounting openings 132, but which instead include other means by which the elastic bands or other elastic means are attached to the upper member.

A wide variety of materials and manufacturing processes can be employed for forming the upper member 108. In one particular embodiment, the upper member 108 is injection molded from plastic. Alternative materials and manufacturing processes, however, can also be employed to form the upper member 108.

As shown in FIG. 11 through 13, the upper member 108 includes stiffeners 180 (e.g., ribs, voids, recesses, etc.) disposed along the upper surface 184. The upper member 108 also includes stiffeners 188 (e.g., ribs, voids, recesses, etc.) disposed along the lower surface 192, as shown in FIG. 7. Other embodiments, however, include differently configured and arranged stiffeners than that shown in the figures, such as having stiffeners only along the upper surface or only along the lower surface but not both, and/or stiffeners along one or more of the side edges. Further embodiments include an upper member that does not include any such stiffeners.

Various aspects of the present disclosure can be used in a wide range of installations and applications for hamstring training, conditioning, and/or strengthening. For example, aspects of the present disclosure can be implemented at public and private gyms, fitness centers, offices, and/or homes.

Further, the particular methods disclosed herein are exemplary in nature and are not to be considered limiting. The steps, processes, and operations described herein are not to be construed as necessarily requiring their performance in the particular order discussed or illustrated, unless specifically identified as an order or performance. It is also to be understood that additional or alternative steps may be employed. In addition, any one or more aspects of the present disclosure may be implemented individually or in any combination with any one or more of the other aspects of the present disclosure.

Certain terminology is used herein for purposes of reference only, and thus is not intended to be limiting. For example, terms such as “upper”, “lower”, “above”, and “below” refer to directions in the drawings to which reference is made. Terms such as “front”, “back”, “rear”, “bottom” and “side”, describe the orientation of portions of the component within a consistent but arbitrary frame of reference which is made clear by reference to the text and the associated drawings describing the component under discussion. Such terminology may include the words specifically mentioned above, derivatives thereof, and words of similar import. Similarly, the terms “first”, “second” and other such numerical terms referring to structures do not imply a sequence or order unless clearly indicated by the context.

When introducing elements or features of the present disclosure and exemplary embodiments, the articles “a”, “an”, “the” and “said” are intended to mean that there are one or more of such elements or features. The terms “comprising”, “including” and “having” are intended to be inclusive and mean that there may be additional elements or features other than those specifically noted.

The description of the present disclosure is merely exemplary in nature and, thus, variations that do not depart from the gist of the present disclosure are intended to be within the scope of the present disclosure. Such variations are not to be regarded as a departure from the spirit and scope of the present disclosure.