Krank it up
Unless you've avoided stepping foot in a health club in the past decade, you likely know about the popular, group indoor cycling program known as Spinning.
Across the world, it has drawn hundreds of thousands of people together to sweat on stationary flywheel bikes while following instructors' commands to the beat of high-energy music. Spinning has proven not to be just another passing trend or fad. In fact, it has become as regular a part of most clubs' offerings as cardio and weight machines, personal trainers, and aerobics and yoga classes. Now, get ready for Kranking.
Think of Spinning but with a highly evolved, hand-cranking cycle, or Krankcycle. It is the next innovation for Spinning's creator, Johnny Goldberg, widely known as "Johnny G," and is expected to be launched commercially in March 2009.
Last Wednesday, Goldberg was at Mount Pleasant's ECO Fitness Club, among the 10 "beta-test sites" in the United States and the first in the Southeast, to introduce Kranking and the Krankcycle. This week, he heads to Las Vegas to introduce it at the IDEA Health & Fitness Association's World Fitness Convention.
Goldberg, who sold Spinning five years ago, says he came up with the idea for Kranking after attending a fundraiser in San Diego for physically challenged athletes in 2002. There, Goldberg, a former ultra-distance cyclist hailing from South Africa, witnessed an athlete using a hand-cranked recumbent bike, asked to try it and was stunned by the muscle burn and cardio fatigue after just a few minutes.
The seed for Goldberg's next undertaking was planted.
Hand- or arm-cranked cycles, aka ergometers, are not new. They have been in rehabilitation clinics for decades. But the application had not made a successful jump into the modern health club, and Goldberg, after all, seems to have the magic touch.
Goldberg worked with designer Carl Gramberg of Oxnard, Calif., to create the Krankcycle. Its patented design differs from the typical rehab clinic cycle by having independent cranking arms — each arm can drive the Krankcycle, but one arm can't assist the other. The result: The Krankcycle forces the user to tap nearly all the muscles of the upper body in a balanced and coordinated fashion.
Goldberg, who recently signed a commercial deal with Matrix Fitness to manufacture, market and distribute the Krankcycle, says it will be the first upper-body-only cardio equipment for the modern gym, but that it may take a while for it to gain acceptance.
He says upper-body rotational exercise has been relatively unpracticed and unappreciated in health clubs, but he talks with a gleam in his eyes about the multitude of applications the Krankcycle will have in gyms. It can be used as part of Spinning or personal training "bootcamps," as cross-training for swimmers, runners and triathletes, and for special needs, such as those with lower limb injuries, or who are pregnant or obese.
"This piece of equipment has so many possibilities," says Goldberg. "Our tag line for it is 'We compete with nothing, yet complement everything.' "
ECO owner Dave Fox says because of the many applications, he thinks the Krankcycle will quickly find its way into clubs, especially for personal trainers and for classes that involve a fusion of disciplines (Spinning and Kranking). The general gym public's acceptance of it may come more slowly "because people aren't used to using their upper body like that."
"They won't be able to do a 40-minute class from the beginning," says Fox. "Riding a cycling (as in stationary bike) is intuitive. This is going to require more 'eyes-on' from (certified) instructors."