A step, a Pull and a Lift Ahead – How Bowflex and Nautilus Innovation Changed Fitness Equipment History - Part 3
This three-part series explores how Bowflex and parent Company Nautilus have applied – and continue to apply – original thinking to the advancement of fitness technology.
Part 3: If it can be imagined, it can be done.
Inspiration arrives in many forms. Nautilus inventor Arthur Jones envisioned a revolutionary resistance training machine and realized he knew the perfect mechanical part to build it around. When Dosho Tessema Shifferaw tried to take out some creative frustration on a stubbornly springy metal rod, he perceived Bowflex Power Rod® technology. User input and ideas spurred Nautilus engineers to take the Bowflex Max Trainer in thrilling new directions.
As Bowflex entered the selectorized dumbbell arena, it was first inspired by a desire to outdo what competitors had done – then by an urge to do what no one else had done before.
A Simple and "Safe" Concept.
By September of 2010, when Nautilus Inc. was granted a patent for its “Adjustable Dumbbell System,” other selectorized weights were already on the market. Each one had its own solution to the inconvenience of switching between solid free weights or disassembling and reassembling adjustable ones. However, the Nautilus Team of inventors noted their competitors’ products lacked reasonable incremental changes and their limited range of weight options meant users still had to eventually switch weights. Furthermore, existing selectorized weights often had loose or weak connections between the plates and the handle, making them noisy, self-damaging and untrustworthy.
The Nautilus engineers proposed to address these shortfalls with, “an adjustable weight dumbbell that is easy to use, securely holds the weights to the bar, and allows more weight options on a single bar.” The idea that became The Bowflex 552 SelectTech® Dumbbell featured a locking mechanism similar to the tumblers on a safe, which kept coated, precisely-weighted plates firmly-attached so they wouldn’t rattle around or rotate unexpectedly. While the dumbbell sat on its stand, plates could be either locked in place or released by the simple dialing of selector knobs on both ends of the barbell. When you lifted the dumbbell, only the plates you needed came with it. The rest stood upright in the tray, ready to perfectly interlock when you set the bar down again. It worked so well, a bigger 1090 SelectTech Dumbbell was later introduced. Both models reduced dumbbell selection to a stunningly simple set-down, dial-in, lift-up and work out process. How could the engineers improve on that? Why would they want to?
Ahead of the Pack and Out on a Limb
Image by Gerd">https://pixabay.com/users/geralt-9301/?utm_source=... Altmann from Pixabay
According to Tom Moran, Vice President of Engineering at Nautilus, competition is always coming in from the outside, and maintaining the name and position you’ve built is crucial. You don’t want to miss an opportunity to deliver a breakthrough that helps your customers reach their goals sooner – even if the idea is so advanced that even years of experience can’t tell you how it could possibly work. In this particular case, the idea was providing weightlifters with the same level of high-tech interactive progress monitoring, feedback and coaching enjoyed by Max Trainer users. Making this “never done before” vision into reality would require working with accelerators, magnetometers and gyros, none of which were in the Nautilus team’s wheelhouse. Admitting what they didn’t know and wasting no time finding someone who did demonstrates an unsung quality of true innovators – the ability to prioritize results over ego.
They reached out to a company called Simplexity, which had a proven track record of “concept to reality” success with complex product ideas like the Ossia Cota Forever Battery and the HP Envy Zero-Gravity Printer. Applying “mechatronics,” which combined all engineering skills – mechanical, electrical, computer and controls – to simplify and streamline product design, Simplexity went to work on the scrupulously detailed Nautilus wish list. A sensor architecture was developed, simulations helped nail down reliable digital measurement filters, prototype hardware tested firmware effectiveness, and final refinements assured low-cost operation.
Futuristic Technologies. Established Values.
The result was the Bowflex SelectTech 560 Dumbbells, which featured a revolutionary new system that allowed the Bowflex SelectTech® App and Bluetooth technology to accurately track weight, count reps and sets, analyze form and provide advanced, personalized video coaching to ensure the most productive strength-training workouts possible. And the diligent design and engineering professionals were far from done.
Late in 2020, Nautilus proudly announced that its trailblazing Bowflex VeloCore™ Bike had earned a CES® 2021 Innovation Award. The VeloCore is the first indoor bike to feature a proprietary, patent-pending lock-out feature that allows riders to lean as they pedal – heightening the outdoor bike feel of every workout. That thrill and its exercise benefits are enhanced by another remarkable innovation – the JRNY® digital fitness platform, which offers an intuitive, constantly updated exercise regimen. That package includes adaptive workouts, digital coaching, trainer-led videos, the energizing music of Bowflex Radio and the option to pedal exotic bike trails around the globe via the Explore the World™ app. Riders will also enjoy connectivity to popular fitness apps like Peloton® and Zwift®. They can even get take their corners with their Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video or Disney+ streaming subscriptions playing in front of them.
It’s the latest success to echo the inventive spirit of Arthur Jones, Dosho Tessema Shifferaw, and the talented teams of engineers and developers that followed them. The products might be groundbreaking, but the process remains the same – rooted in consideration of the end user’s needs, seeded by inspiration and nourished by consultation, research, and creative problem solving.
Find out what decades of vision and dedication can do for you at Flaman Fitness.
Every year, all year long, Bowflex, Nautilus, Schwinn, Stairmaster, Universal, and Octane Fitness are upping their game. You can see and TRY their latest innovations at your nearest Flaman Fitness location. Our expert staff can help you find the fitness equipment solution created with your requirements in mind. If you’re looking for workouts that build muscle, burn fat or enhance your cardio health and endurance, Flaman Fitness has a wide variety of ingenious options that take your goals, lifestyle and available time into account.