Title:
Sit-up exercise bench
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An exercise bench for performing assisted sit-ups comprising two declining benches, a pulley on a shaft intermediate the two declining benches, and a tether which engages the pulley.



Inventors:
Huls, John Wade (Apple Valley, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/327542
Publication Date:
07/05/2007
Filing Date:
01/05/2006
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
482/906
International Classes:
A63B26/00; A63B71/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
GANESAN, SUNDHARA M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Leech Tishman Fuscaldo & Lampl (PASADENA, CA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An exercise apparatus for use on a support surface, comprising: (a) a first bench and a second bench, wherein each bench comprises: (i) a rigid back support having a first end, a second end, and a support surface; and (ii) a first support member for supporting the bench on the support surface, the first support member having a first end and a second end, wherein the first end of the first support member is attached to the first end of the rigid back support, the rigid back support and first support member cooperating so that the second end of the rigid back support declines with respect to the first end of the rigid back support; and (b) a base assembly positioned between the first bench and the second bench, the base assembly comprising: (i) a shaft extending away from the support surface, the shaft having a proximal end and a distal end, wherein the distal end of the shaft extends further from the support surface than the first and second benches; (ii) a base for supporting the shaft on the support surface, the base having a first lateral end and a second lateral end, wherein the proximal end of the shaft is secured to the base between the first lateral end and the second lateral end of the base; and (iii) a pulley secured to the distal end of the shaft.

2. The exercise apparatus of claim 1, wherein the second end of the rigid back support declines with respect to the first end of the rigid back support at an angle of between about 20° and about 60°.

3. The exercise apparatus of claim 2, wherein the second end of the rigid back support declines with respect to the first end of the rigid back support at an angle of at least about 30°.

4. The exercise apparatus of claim 1, further comprising a height adjustment mechanism for changing the distance between the distal end of the shaft and the support surface.

5. The exercise apparatus of claim 1, wherein the shaft is fixedly secured to the base.

6. The exercise apparatus of claim 1, further comprising a tether having a handle at each end, wherein the tether is adapted to cooperate with the pulley.

7. The exercise apparatus of claim 1, further comprising attachment points on the base between the first lateral end and the shaft, and between the shaft and the second lateral end, wherein the second end of the support member of each of the benches cooperates with one or more of the attachment points to secure the support member to the base.

8. The exercise apparatus of claim 1, wherein the rigid back support and the first support member are hingedly connected.

9. The exercise apparatus of claim 8, further comprising a safety latch for securing the first bench to the second bench when the first and second benches are oriented vertically with respect to the support surface.

10. The exercise apparatus of claim 1, further comprising a second support member having a first end and a second end, wherein the first end of the second support member is connected to the second end of the rigid back support.

11. The exercise apparatus of claim 1, further comprising support pads on the first support member.

12. The exercise apparatus of claim 1, wherein the first lateral end of the base comprises a retaining member for engaging a foot at the second end of the first support member.

13. The exercise apparatus of claim 1, further comprising a shaft holder secured to the base, the shaft holder comprising a receptacle for receiving the proximal end of the shaft, wherein the shaft is secured to the base by the shaft holder.

14. The exercise apparatus of claim 13, further comprising a converter unit to allow exercises to be performed with the apparatus by a single individual, the converter unit comprising: a hollow retaining member having a proximal end and a distal end, the hollow retaining member being adapted to fit around the shaft holder; a laterally extending shaft having a proximal end and a distal end, wherein the proximal end of the laterally extending shaft is attached to the proximal end of the hollow retaining member; and a pulley attached to the distal end of the laterally extending shaft.

15. The exercise apparatus of claim 14, further comprising a bracing support member attached to the laterally extending shaft and to the hollow retaining member

16. The exercise apparatus of claim 14, further comprising tether attachment points on the base between the shaft and the first lateral end for connecting one end of a tether to the base.

17. The exercise apparatus of claim 14, further comprising a spring tether having a handle at one end.

18. A method of performing a sit-up exercise by two individuals, comprising: (a) providing the exercise apparatus of claim 6; (b) positioning the first individual on the first bench so that the individual is in a fully reclined position, the first individual gripping the first end of the tether; (c) positioning the second individual on the second bench in an upright seated position, the second individual gripping the second end of the tether so as to provide tension to the tether; and (d) elevating the upper body of the first individual and simultaneously reclining upper body of the second individual while maintaining tension in the tether until the second individual reaches a fully reclined position on the second bench.

19. The method of claim 18, further comprising the step after step (d) of elevating the upper body of the second individual and simultaneously reclining upper body of the first individual while maintaining tension in the tether until the first individual reaches a fully reclined position on the second bench.

Description:

BACKGROUND

Common exercises performed to strengthen the abdominal muscles and muscles of the lower back include sit-ups for exercising the abdominal muscles and hyperextensions for exercising the lower back. These exercises are popular because they can be effectively performed when resisted only by the weight of an individual's own body. To alter the difficulty of these exercises, the angle of inclination of a simple inclined bench on which they are performed can be adjusted.

Strengthening abdominal muscles and muscles of the lower back can be therapeutically important, in particular to individuals suffering from back injuries. However, conventional sit-ups can be painful for some individuals with such injuries, deterring these individuals from performing these exercises and potentially impeding or delaying their recoveries.

SUMMARY

The present invention comprises, in one aspect, an exercise apparatus for use on a support surface. The apparatus advantageously comprises a shaft extending away from the support surface and a base for supporting the shaft on the support surface, where the proximal end of the shaft is secured to the base between the first lateral end and the second lateral end of the base. Attached to the distal end of the shaft is a pulley, which cooperates with a tether having a handle at each end. The pulley is preferably within a pulley housing, and also preferably is connected to a safety latch for stopping the end of a tether from advancing past the latch. Also included are two benches located on either lateral side of the shaft and pulley, each of which includes a rigid back support for supporting a user's back and a support member connected to the rigid back support for supporting the bench on the support surface. The rigid back support and support member cooperate so that the distal end of the rigid back support declines with respect to the proximal end of the rigid back support, preferably at an angle of between about 20° and about 60°, and more preferably of between about 30° and 45°.

The support member of each of the benches can comprise a foot at a distal end, which is preferably adapted to cooperate with attachment points on the base to secure the support member to the base. The support member is connected at a proximal end to the rigid back support, preferably by a hinge. When both benches are oriented vertically with respect to the support surface, such as by being rotated about the hinge connection, the present apparatus can advantageously include a safety latch for securing the first bench to the second bench in such vertical orientation. In one embodiment, each of the benches can further include a second support member attached to the end of each bench opposite the end to which the first support member is attached.

The shaft of the apparatus advantageously includes a height adjustment mechanism for changing the vertical distance of the distal end of the shaft from the support surface. The shaft can be fixedly secured to the base, or alternatively can be secured to a shaft holder attached to the base. Such a shaft holder can comprise a receptacle for receiving the proximal end of the shaft. In this embodiment, a converter unit can be further provided. The converter unit allows exercises to be performed with the apparatus by a single individual. Such a converter unit comprises a hollow retaining member adapted to fit around the shaft holder, a laterally extending shaft attached to the proximal end of the hollow retaining member, and a pulley attached to the distal end of the laterally extending shaft. A further support member attached to the laterally extending shaft and to the hollow retaining member can also be included to better brace the laterally extending member. In this embodiment, the tether is preferably a spring tether, and tether attachment points are preferably provided on the base for connecting one end of the tether to the base.

In another aspect, the present invention comprises a method of performing abdominal exercises. In this method, a first individual assists a second individual in performing a sit-up exercise with the exercise apparatus of the present invention. The first individual is positioned on the first bench in a fully reclined position and grips the first end of the tether. The second individual is positioned on the second bench in an upright seated position and grips the second end of the tether so as to provide tension to the tether. The upper body of the first individual is then elevated while maintaining tension in the tether until the second individual reaches a fully reclined position on the second bench.

DRAWINGS

These and other features, aspects and advantages of the present invention will become better understood with regard to the following description, appended claims, and accompanying figures where:

FIG. 1 is an exploded perspective view of the base assembly and tether of the present exercise apparatus.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the components of the present exercise apparatus shown in FIG. 1 assembled for use.

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the components of the present exercise apparatus shown in FIG. 2, further including benches for use in performing sit-ups.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the embodiment of the present exercise apparatus shown in FIG. 3 folded for storage.

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the embodiment of the present exercise apparatus as shown FIG. 3 illustrating the use of this apparatus.

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of the base assembly and tether in an alternative embodiment of the present exercise apparatus adapted for use by a single individual.

FIG. 7 is another perspective view of the components of the present exercise apparatus shown in FIG. 6.

FIG. 8 is a perspective view of an adapter for use in constructing the embodiment of the present exercise apparatus shown in FIGS. 6 and 7.

FIG. 9 is a perspective view of the embodiment of the present exercise apparatus shown in FIGS. 6 and 7 illustrating the use of this embodiment.

All dimensions specified in this disclosure are by way of example only and are not intended to be limiting. Further, the proportions shown in these Figures are not necessarily to scale. As will be understood by those with skill in the art with reference to this disclosure, the actual dimensions of any device or part of a device disclosed in this disclosure will be determined by their intended use.

DESCRIPTION

The present exercise apparatus is adapted to facilitate the performance of abdominal exercises, in particular sit-ups. While such exercises can be performed by an individual without the aid of exercise equipment, for some individuals unassisted sit-ups can be painful or difficult. For example, injuries to the back or neck can make performing unassisted sit-ups and other abdominal exercises painful, though such exercises may be important for the individual's recovery. For such individuals, exercises which minimize the discomfort associated with performing abdominal exercises can be beneficial.

The present exercise apparatus provides advantages to both injured and uninjured individuals in need of abdominal exercise. For example, the present exercise apparatus places the stress of performing abdominal exercises directly in front of the user, thereby focusing such exercise on the stomach muscles and reducing unnecessary lateral movement. The present exercise apparatus further aids those who may have difficulty performing other abdominal exercises, such as individuals recovering from a back injury, by providing a greater range of assistance or resistance to an individual performing a sit-up exercise, as an increased or decreased amount of assistance/resistance can be supplied during a sit-up by the individual's partner upon request.

Two-Person Exercise Bench

In one embodiment, the present exercise apparatus 10 is adapted for use by two individuals at the same time. In this embodiment, shown in FIGS. 1-5, the exercise apparatus 10 comprises a base assembly 12, two benches 100, and a tether assembly 80. The base assembly 12 comprises a shaft member 20 and a base member 40, as shown in FIG. 1. The shaft member 20 cooperates with the base member 40 so as to secure the shaft member 20 to the base member 40. The shaft member 20 extends away from the support surface 15, such as a floor, on which the present exercise apparatus 10 is supported. The shaft member 20 preferably extends away from the support surface 15 approximately perpendicular (i.e. at an angle of about 90°) to the support surface 15 and/or to the base member 40.

The shaft member 20 comprises a vertical shaft 21 having a proximal end 22 and a distal end 24. The shaft member 20 can be made of any suitably rigid material, such as steel or aluminum, though other materials are also possible. At the distal end 24 of the vertical shaft 21, a pulley assembly 30 is attached to the vertical shaft 21. The pulley assembly 30 comprises a pulley 31 which in one embodiment is attached to the distal end 24 of the vertical shaft 21 by means of a pulley housing 32. The pulley assembly 30 also preferably includes a bolt 35 or other rigid member passing through the center of the pulley 31 for attaching the pulley 31 to the pulley housing 32, as well as a latch 36 which can be attached to the bolt 35 and/or to the pulley housing 32. Each end of the latch 36 is connected to a lateral face 37 of the pulley housing 32 and/or the pulley 31 in order to prevent the ends of the tether assembly 80 from passing through the opening 38 defined by the latch 36, the pulley housing 32 and/or the pulley 31. This safeguards a user of the exercise bench in the event that his or her partner inadvertently releases or lets go of the tether assembly 80.

Although the shaft member 20 can be fixedly attached to the base member 40 at its proximal end 22, in a preferred embodiment a height adjustment mechanism is provided for changing the height, i.e. the vertical distance from the support surface 15, of the vertical shaft 21 of the shaft member 20. For example, the vertical shaft 21 can include height adjustment holes 26 for use in adjusting the height of the distal end 24 of the vertical shaft 21 above a support surface 15 on which the exercise bench is supported. The adjustment holes 26 are configured to line up and cooperate with a corresponding hole or holes 66 in a shaft holder 60 of the base member 40. Preferably, the holes 26 and 66 cooperate so as to maintain the pulley 31 between approximately 36 inches and 48 inches above the support surface 15. The shaft holder 60 is preferably hollow and is adapted to receive the vertical shaft 21 such that the proximal end 22 of the vertical shaft 21 slides into the shaft holder 60 at a distal end 64 and allows the vertical shaft 21 to move toward the proximal end 62 of the shaft holder 60. A rigid pin 65 can be inserted into the holes 26 and 66 to secure the vertical shaft 21 to the shaft holder 60 at a desired height chosen by a user of the present exercise bench. Adjusting the height of the vertical shaft 21 changes the amount of leverage the users of the exercise bench have when performing exercises with the bench. Adjusting the height of the vertical shaft 21 can therefore alter the difficulty of exercises performed on the bench.

In an alternative embodiment, the vertical shaft 21 can be adapted to fit around the shaft holder 60, in which case the vertical shaft 21 can comprise a hollow interior that would fit over a projection extending from the base 50 away from the support surface 15. The shaft member 20 can also be integrally formed with the base member 40, thereby obviating the need for the shaft holder 60. In addition, the vertical shaft 21 can also comprise a telescoping bar in order to provide greater height adjustability. In a further alternative, two shaft members 20 can be used, although such an embodiment would involve additional cost to produce and thus is not favored.

In the embodiment of FIGS. 1-5, a proximal end 62 of the shaft holder 60 is attached to a central portion 51 of the base 50 of base member 40. The proximal end 62 can be permanently joined to the base 50, such as through welding when the base 50 and shaft holder 60 are made from metal, or can alternatively be hingedly or otherwise reversibly connected to the base 50, for ease of packaging and transport. For example, the shaft holder 60 can itself fit within a receptacle (preferably one with a low lip) and can be connected to the base 50 via this receptacle, in which case the shaft holder is preferably secured to the receptacle, such as through the use of a pin inserted into a hole in the receptacle that lines up with a hole in the shaft holder 60 (as with the holes 26 in the shaft member 20 and 66 in the shaft holder 60).

In this embodiment of the exercise apparatus 10, the base assembly 12 is positioned between the two benches 100. In this context, “between” means that the central portion of the base assembly 12, including at least the shaft holder 60, the shaft member 20 and the pulley assembly 30, are positioned intermediate the proximal ends 112 of the rigid back supports 110 of each of the benches 100 (as seen, e.g., in FIG. 3). The central portion 51 of the base 50 is also preferably located between the two benches 100 in this embodiment. The benches 100 are further positioned so that the track of the pulley 31 is roughly parallel to the longitudinal axis of the rigid back supports 110, as shown in FIGS. 3-5.

The base 50 is adapted to maintain the shaft holder 60 and the shaft member 20 in an upright position and to resist forces exerted on the shaft member 20 when the exercise bench is being used to perform exercises. The base 50 shown in FIGS. 1-9 is generally rectangular, although the base 50 can also comprise a circular, triangular, or other configuration. The base 50 can also comprise a solid piece of material. However, in a preferred embodiment, the base 50 comprises side members 52 and 54 and end members 56 and 58. The side members 52 and 54 are approximately parallel and are connected at their ends to end members 56 and 58 as shown in FIGS. 1-9. The end members 56 and 58 are located at lateral ends 46 and 48, respectively, of the base member 40 and are approximately parallel, such that the side members 52 and 54, and end members 56 and 58, together form a rectangular configuration. The base 50, like the shaft member 20, is made from a suitably rigid material, such as steel or aluminum, in order to be able to retain the shaft member 20 and provide resistance against lateral forces applied to the shaft member 20 when the shaft member 20 is secured to the base 50.

The base 50 further includes one or more retaining members 70 for securing a foot 125 (i.e., the base end of a support member) of a bench 100. Such retaining members 70 are adapted to secure the bench 100 to the base 50 of the base member 40 so that when a user performs exercises with the present exercise apparatus 10 the distance between the bench 100 and the shaft member 20 and/or the base member 40 does not significantly change. The retaining member 70 can take any of a number of configurations. For example, the retaining member 70 can comprise a hole or opening into which a corresponding support or other structural member attached to a bench 100 can be inserted in order to substantially prevent lateral movement of the bench 100 with respect to the base member 40. Alternatively, the retaining member 70 can comprise a mechanical fastener for securing the bench 100, and preferably a foot 125 of the bench 100, to the base member 40. For example, a mechanical fastener can secure the foot 125 to the base member 40 through the application of pressure to the foot 125 when it is engaged with the fastener, i.e., a snap-lock.

Preferably, a plurality of retaining members 70 are provided on the base 50 of the base member 40, as shown in FIGS. 1-7 and in FIG. 9. Each of the retaining members 70 is positioned a different distance from the shaft holder 60. By providing retaining members 70 at different distances from the shaft holder 60, a user of the exercise apparatus 10 can change the amount of leverage provided by the exercise apparatus 10 when exercises are performed with it. In the embodiment of FIGS. 1-5, the retaining members 70 are located at points on opposite sides of the shaft holder 60. For each retaining member 70 on one side of the shaft holder 60 of the base member 40, there is preferably a retaining member 70 located on the opposite side of the shaft holder 60 at approximately the same distance from the shaft holder 60 (such as a distance from the base or proximal end 62 of the shaft holder 60). For example, as shown in FIG. 2, a retaining member 71 on one side of the shaft holder 60 is located opposite a second retaining member 73, and the retaining member 71 and 73 are positioned approximately the same distance “t” from the mid-point of the base 62 of the shaft holder 60.

In FIGS. 1-7 and 9, the retaining members 70 comprise slots which are sized to receive a foot 125 of the bench 100 shown in these figures. In the illustrated embodiments, the slots are bounded by the side members 52 and 54. The retaining members 70 closest to the shaft holder 60, i.e., retaining members 71 and 73, are further bounded by the central portion 51 of the base 50 and by one of the lateral supports 55 which are connected to and extend between the side members 52 and 54. The lateral supports 55, the end members 56 and 58, and the side members 52 and 54 define further slots, as shown in the figures. It will also be apparent from these figures that the feet 125 of the benches 100 can be placed in contact with the end members 56 and 58 outside the retaining members 70, such that the end members 56 and 58 prevent movement of the benches toward the shaft member 20 and shaft holder 60 during use of the present exercise apparatus 10.

The benches 100 shown in FIGS. 1-7 and 9 each comprise a foot 125, which in the illustrated embodiments comprises a bar 124 at the distal end 123 of the support member 120 which is attached at a proximal end 122 to a rigid back support 110. The bar 124 in the illustrated embodiments is adapted to fit within the retaining members 70 as discussed above. The retaining members 70 can comprise a lower surface on which the foot 125 of the bench 100 rests, though such a lower surface is not necessary, as the foot 125 can also be supported on the support surface 15 as shown in FIGS. 3-5, thereby saving manufacturing and materials costs. As shown in these Figures, the retaining member 70 is configured to receive the foot 125 in a close-fitting manner, such that the foot 125 is substantially fixed with respect to its distance from the shaft holder 60, as well as with respect to any lateral movement, i.e., movement of the foot 125 with respect to its distance from the side members 52 and 54.

Although one foot 125 is illustrated in the embodiments of FIGS. 1-9, two or more feet 125 can be used in alternative embodiments to support the rigid back support 110 on the support surface 15. Likewise, a plurality of support members 120 can be used to support the proximal end 112 of the rigid back support 110 above the support surface 15. However, for ease of manufacturing and economy of materials, a single support member 120 is preferably used. In a preferred embodiment, the proximal end 122 of the support member 120 is preferably hingedly connected to the rigid back support 110 of the bench 100. As shown in FIGS. 3 and 4, this allows the rigid back support 110 to be oriented vertically with respect to the support surface 15, thereby providing a more compact configuration for storage. FIG. 4 illustrates the present exercise apparatus 10 folded for storage such that each of the benches 100 has been rotated about a hinge 121 and placed in an upright, vertical configuration with respect to the support surface 15. The benches 100 are preferably secured to each other and/or to the base assembly 12 when they are in this position so that the distal ends 114 of the rigid back supports 110 do not inadvertently fall and potentially cause injury to an individual. In FIG. 4 a tether 150 attached to each bench 100 is illustrated to accomplish this, though safety latches or other mechanisms known to the art can also be used.

In order to accommodate users of different sizes, the support member 120 can, in one embodiment, be provided as a set of two or more telescoping bars. In this embodiment, the length of the support member 20 is adjustable by changing the length of the inner telescoping bar with respect to the outer telescoping bar of the support member 120 and then securing the telescoping bars such that their length cannot be changed without further action by a user. For example, a hole and pin system such as that illustrated with respect to the shaft member 20 and the shaft holder 60 described above can be used, or other means of securing telescoping bars known to the art can be used.

The support member 120 can further include support pads 130 for supporting the feet and/or legs of a user while the user performs exercises with the present exercise apparatus 10. In the illustrated embodiment, the support member 120 includes support pads 130 on each lateral side of the support member 120 at a distal end 123. The lower support pads 134 inhibit the upward movement of the feet of a user while performing exercises with the present exercise apparatus 10, though a user can alternatively place his or her feet on top of the lower support pads 134 as well. Upper support pads 132 are likewise provided on either lateral side of the support member 120, at a proximal end 122 of the support member 120. A user of the exercise apparatus 10 either can place the insides of his or her knees on the upper support pads 132 in order to provide comfort, or can position the user's legs between the upper support pads 132 and the support surface 15 in order to inhibit movement of the user's body toward the shaft member 20 during exercise. The support pads 130 are fixedly attached to the support member 120, and preferably comprise a resilient material such as polyurethane or other foam rubber, which can be covered with a material such as vinyl which has greater resistance to abrasion and can also provide a more comfortable surface for contact with the skin, shoes, or clothing of a user of the exercise bench.

The rigid back support 110 of the bench 100 provides a surface for supporting the back of a user of the present exercise apparatus 10. The bench 100 is preferably elongated so as to accommodate the head and torso of a user lying on the bench 100 (e.g., user A in FIG. 5) as well as a portion of the user's legs, generally at least to the knees. The bench 100 must also be wide enough to support a user while lying on the rigid back support 110 without preventing a substantial risk that the user will fall off either lateral side of the rigid back support 110 when the user lies on it. The rigid back support 110 preferably includes a back pad 116 on the upper surface of the rigid back support 110. The back pad 116 preferably includes a soft, resilient material such as polyurethane or other foam rubber to provide comfort to a user of the present exercise apparatus 10. Like the support pads 130, the back pad 116 can be covered in a material providing greater abrasion resistance than foam rubber as well as providing additional comfort to a user, such as vinyl.

At the proximal end of the rigid back support 110, the back support 110 can comprise a support surface which is in contact with and exerts force on the support member 120, for greater stability. The proximal end 112 of the rigid back support 110 further preferably includes a hinge 121 for allowing rotational movement of the rigid back support 110 with respect to the support member 120. At a distal end 114 of the rigid back support 110, the bench 100 can optionally include an additional support member 120. However, such additional support member is not necessary, and in the embodiment shown in FIGS. 3-5 no such additional support member 120 is included. Such an additional support member, can allow adjustment of the height of the distal end 114 from the support surface 15, and thereby provide additional adjustability to the present exercise apparatus 10 in order to tailor it for use by a particular individual. However, in the embodiments shown in FIGS. 3-5, the distal end 114 of the rigid back support 110 advantageously lies on the ground such that the head of a user lying on the rigid back support 110 is declined downward during a portion of a sit-up exercise performed with the present exercise apparatus 10.

In order to perform exercises using this embodiment of the present exercise bench, a tether assembly 80 is further employed. Tether assembly 80 comprises a tether 82 and handles 84 at each end of the tether 82. The tether 82 can be any suitable rope or other flexible material capable of withstanding the tension applied by two users of the exercise apparatus 10 when performing exercises and also capable of passing across the pulley 31. The tether handles 84 can be either flexible or rigid, but are preferably made from a suitably rigid material such as wood, metal, or plastic.

Use of the Two-Person Exercise Bench

The use of the two-person exercise bench described above is illustrated in FIG. 5. As shown in this figure, one person sits on each of the benches 100 and grips a handle 84 of a tether assembly 80. User A shown in FIG. 5 is in position to begin a sit-up. User A is reclined on the bench 100 such that his thigh, torso and head are supported by the rigid back support 110, and in a preferred embodiment shown in FIG. 5 user A's head is reclined downward such that the point at which his head contacts the rigid back support 110 is closer to the support surface 115 than the proximal end 112 of the rigid back support 110. The rigid back support 110 thus preferably is not parallel to the support surface 15 on which it rests but instead is declined from the proximal end 112 of the rigid back support 110 toward the distal end 114 at an angle of preferably between about 20° and about 60°, and more preferably between about 30° and 45°. In this context, the term “about” refers to 5 degrees or less.

User A is shown in FIG. 5 in the fully reclined position with his arms outstretched gripping the handle 84 and with his feet underneath the support pad 134. The length of the portion of the tether 82 between the handle gripped by user A 84 and the pulley 31 is greater than the length of the tether 82 between the pulley 31 and the handle 84 held by user B. User B is shown sitting relatively upright with his arms extended and gripping the handle 84, with his feet similarly positioned underneath a support pad 134.

To initiate a sit-up exercise, user A tightens his abdominal muscles in order to begin elevating his upper body (head and torso). User B at the same time reclines backward, maintaining tension in the tether 82, such that the weight of user B assists the sit-up being performed by user A and exerts a force in the direction of user A's sit-up movement. As user B reclines backward, the amount of leverage applied by user B increases, thereby facilitating the sit-up performed by user A. Once user A reaches an upright position, i.e., as shown in FIG. 5 for user B, user B will then be in position to begin a sit-up, and user A will recline in order to assist such sit-up. User A and user B thereby alternate sitting up and reclining motions in this fashion in order to perform sit-up exercises with the present exercise apparatus 10.

Unlike exercise devices in which a single individual makes use of tension in a spring to assist a sit-up exercise, the present apparatus provides a greater range of assistance or resistance to an individual performing exercises, since an increased or decreased amount of assistance/resistance can be supplied during a sit-up by the individual's partner upon request. Using the example described above, as user A begins a sit-up exercise, user B can provide assistance to user A by exerting greater force on the tether in the direction of user A's sit-up (i.e., by pulling on the tether), either in response to a request by user A or upon user B's observation that user A is in need of assistance. This feature of the present exercise bench 10 is of particular value to users who suffer from injuries and may therefore at times be in need of assistance in performing exercises which are important for their therapy and/or recovery.

Single Person Exercise Bench

The two-person exercise bench described above can also be adapted for use by a single individual. In this embodiment, the base member 40, shaft member 20, and bench 100 can be as described above for the two-person embodiment of the present exercise apparatus 10, with the exception that only one bench 100 is used. The single person embodiment of the present exercise apparatus 10 further differs from the two-person embodiment in that it includes a converter unit 200 as well as a bungee cord or other spring tether 88.

As shown in FIGS. 6-9, the converter unit 200, in a preferred embodiment, fits around the shaft holder 60 in order to adapt the two-person embodiment described above for use by a single individual. The converter until 200, as shown in FIG. 8, comprises a hollow retaining member 210 adapted to fit over the shaft holder 60 of the base member 40. Preferably, the hollow retaining member 210 fits over the shaft holder 60 in a close-fitting manner in order to prevent unwanted movement of the converter unit 200 with respect to the base member 40. The hollow retaining member 210 is also preferably secured to the shaft holder 60 and/or to the shaft member 20, such as through the use of a hole 214 and corresponding holes in the shaft holder 60 and/or the shaft member 20 through which a pin such as the pin 65 can be inserted.

The converter unit 200 further comprises a laterally extending shaft 220 attached to the hollow retaining member 210 of the converter unit 200. The laterally extending shaft 220 is preferably attached to the proximal end 202 of the hollow retaining member 210 and extends vertically away from the proximal end 202, i.e., such that the distal end 224 of the laterally extending shaft 220 is spaced apart from the hollow retaining member 210. Preferably, the laterally extending shaft 220 extends from a proximal end 222 to the distal end 224 at an angle of between about 15° and about 75° with respect to the support surface 15, more preferably at an angle of between about 30° and about 50°, and even more preferably at an angle of about 45° with respect to the support surface 15. At the distal end 224 of the laterally extending member 220 a pulley assembly 240 comprising a pulley 241 is attached. Preferably, a bracing support member 230 further connects the hollow retaining member 210 with the laterally extending member 220 in order to provide support to the laterally extending member 220.

The laterally extending member 220 extends away from the central portion 51 of the base 50 toward one lateral end (48 in FIGS. 6 and 7) of the base 50. The base 50 preferably includes tether retaining members 55, which are shown in FIG. 7 as attachment points 57 adapted to retain hooks 89. The tether retaining members 55 can also comprise other fasteners known to the art for securing a tether or for securing a connector attached to the tether, such as the hook 89. The tether retaining members 55 are preferably located in and/or secured to the base 50 at a plurality of locations extending away from the hollow retaining member 210 in the direction of the lateral support member 222. Tether retaining members 55 can also be located on the converter unit 200, such as the metal loops 226 located on the laterally extending member 220.

In this embodiment, the tether assembly 80 comprises one or more spring tethers 88 in place of the tether 82 used in the two-person embodiment of the present exercise apparatus 10. The spring tether 88 comprises a rope-like member which also stretches and/or provides resistance to tension exerted on the spring tether 88 when a user holds the handle 84 and reclines backward on the bench 100. The spring tether 88 connects the base member 40 and/or the converter unit 200 to a handle unit 84 on the other end. In a preferred embodiment, the spring tether 88 comprises one or more bungee cords, i.e., tethers which comprise latex rubber. Such cords stretch and elongate when tension is applied to them and also provide resistance to such tension. Bungee cords or other spring tethers 88 can be connected to the tether retaining members 55 in ways known to the art, such as by including a hook 89 at the end of such a bungee cord as shown in FIG. 6. In order to provide an appropriate amount of resistance against stretching when an individual uses this embodiment of the present exercise apparatus 10, a plurality of spring tethers 88 may be needed, in which case such spring tethers are preferably wrapped or otherwise connected together in order to allow them to pass through the pulley assembly 30 and/or the pulley assembly 240. Other means of providing resistance can also be used, such as through the use of a spring attached to a tether, though such embodiments are less preferred as they involve further mechanical elements.

In an alternative embodiment, the converter unit 200 need not be separately produced, and can instead be secured to or integrally formed with the base member 40. Lateral end 48 of the base member 40 can also comprise any desired shape, thought it is preferred that it retain an appropriate amount of material in order to have sufficient weight to counterbalance the forces exerted by a user of this embodiment of the present exercise apparatus 10. In such alternative embodiments, the hollow retaining member 210 of the converter unit 200 can replace the shaft retainer 60 and/or can replace or be integrally formed with the shaft member 20. In addition, the laterally extending member 220 can be attached to a different portion of the base 50 of the base member 40.

Use of The Single Person Exercise Bench

The use of the single person embodiment of the present exercise apparatus 10 is illustrated in FIG. 9. A user sits at the proximal end 112 of the rigid back support 110 of the bench 100 and grasps the handle 84 of the spring tether 88. The user then reclines backward until the user's back is in contact with the back pad 116 of the bench 100. The user then tightens his or her abdominal muscles in order to begin a sit-up exercise, at which point the user's head and torso moves upward and toward the shaft member 20 of the exercise apparatus 10. The spring tether 88, which resists being pulled as the user reclines on the bench 100, at this point applies a force in a direction away from the user and toward the pulley 31 of the exercise apparatus 10. The amount of force applied by the spring tether can be adjusted by attaching end 81 of the tether (the end opposite that at which the handle 84 is attached) to tether retaining members 55, which extend by different distances from the converter unit 200 and/or from the second pulley assembly 240. The amount of force applied by the spring tether 88 can also be altered by using spring tethers of different thicknesses or materials, or by using multiple spring tethers 88.

EXAMPLES

Example 1

Two-Person Exercise Bench

A two-person exercise bench was constructed as follows. A base was constructed by fashioning a ⅜ inch steel plate in a rectangular configuration which was 14½ inches long and 13 inches wide. The steel plate, comprising the central portion of the base of the exercise bench, had in its center a cut-out which was 2 inches square for receiving a shaft holder. The shaft holder was made from ⅜″ steel plate in the form of a hollow tube having a square cross-section (approximately 2 inches by 2 inches) and having a length of 16 inches. The shaft holder was inserted into the center hole of the central portion of the base and was welded in place. The shaft holder further included a ½ inch hole into which a 3 inch metal pin can be inserted.

Side members made from ⅛ inch steel and having a square cross-section (1½ inches by 1½ inches) were welded to the central portion along the 13-inch wide sides. Hollow end members 14½ inches long, also made from ⅛ inch steel and having a square cross-section (1½ inches by 1½ inches), were welded to the ends of each of the side members. Two further steel pieces identical to the end members were welded between the two side members in order to form the base member. Holes were formed in an outside face of the end member and lateral members on at least one side of the base member (as shown in FIG. 7).

A 36-inch long hollow shaft formed from ⅛ inch steel having a square cross-section (1½ inch by 1½ inch) was produced. A pulley housing including a 3 inch pulley was attached to the distal end of the shaft member. The proximal portion of the shaft included three spaced-apart holes through which the 3 inch pin described above can be inserted. The proximal portion of the shaft was then inserted into the shaft holder.

A rigid back support 12 inches wide and 47 inches long was provided for the bench, and was covered by a pad comprising foam rubber covered by vinyl. Attached to the back support at its distal end was a 14½ inch long steel pipe (⅛ inch thick) having a 2 inch diameter. Attached to either end of this pipe and extending along the length of the back support was a ½ inch steel support member having a square cross-section (2 inches by 2 inches) and length of 50½ inches. At the distal ends of these steel members, holes were included for attachment to a support member, which was likewise formed from ⅛ inch steel having 2 inch by 2 inch square cross-section and a length of approximately 22 inches. Support pads as shown in the bench of FIGS. 1-9 were attached to the support member, the support pads being formed from a 12½ inch length of steel pipe ( 11/16 inch thick) having at each end a cylindrical foam pad approximately 6 inches long and 3 inches in diameter which was fitted onto both ends of the pipe.

Example 2

Construction of a Converter Unit

A converter unit for use with the exercise bench of Example 1 was produced as follows. A 16-inch long member made from 2/16 inch thick steel and having a cross-section of 2½ inches by 2½ inches was first provided. At one end of this support member, a laterally extending member also made from 2/16 inch thick steel was welded, the laterally extending member having a square cross-section of 1 inch by 1 inch and being 13 inches in length. Extending perpendicularly from the 16 inch support member to the distal end of the lateral support member was a 2/16 inch thick steel brace approximately 7¼ inches long and having a square cross-section (1 inch by 1 inch), which was also welded in place.

As used herein, the term “comprise” and variations of the term, such as “comprising” and “comprises,” are not intended to exclude other additives, components, integers or steps. The terms “a,” “an,” and “the” and similar referents used herein are to be construed to cover both the singular and the plural unless their usage in context indicates otherwise.

Although the present invention has been discussed in considerable detail with reference to certain preferred embodiments, other embodiments are possible. The steps disclosed for the present methods are not intended to be limiting nor are they intended to indicate that each step depicted is essential to the method, but instead are exemplary steps only. Therefore, the scope of the appended claims should not be limited to the description of preferred embodiments contained in this disclosure. All references cited herein are incorporated by reference to their entirety.





 
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