What exactly is displayed on Curves (for Women) Smart equipment?
July 21, 2008 2:45 PM   Subscribe

This is in regard to Curves Smart equipment, which is now available at some Curves for Women fitness facilities. Does anyone know what exactly the display depicts? Although I've seen pictures of it, which shows "Cardio", "Energy", "Range", and "Reps", I'd like to know what each one is indicating. Also, prior to the installation of the Smart upgrade, the hydraulic resistance was non-adjustable. The only way to get more resistance was to speed up. It appears that the hydraulics are still configured the same. If so, then is it safe to assume that the only way to increase intensity/resistance is to do more reps in the same 30-second time frame? Any help would be greatly appreciated.
posted by Savannah to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well, being a man, I haven’t been into a Curves before but I’ll try to help.

Most gyms are trying to sell as many memberships as possible, and yet they cannot go beyond peak capacity of the floor space available. Add to this they have various weights, machines, etc. taking up this space. Also, by law, you need a certain amount of floor space per machine to reduce the possibility of accidents. If you’ve ever been in a gym that has rows and rows of Stationary Exercise Bikes for ‘Spinning Classes’ crammed together, you can probably bet they’re breaking some laws!
Anyway, so to beat this is to ‘push’ people through their workouts on a circuit. Circuit training isn’t exactly bad, it’s actually quite good for some things.
I have seen some Curves and I’m aware they usually don’t require the biggest of space for their gyms, and it looks like they have whittled down the necessities. (Impressive business actually now that I think about it.)
Okay, so these Smart machines they have looks like somebody put a little bit of time into developing. These various readouts on the machine: Cardio, Energy, Range, and Reps are just little LEDS that change color to give you feedback on what you should be doing. The trainers should tell you what they mean. I’m not sure about the first two but Range will tell you if you complete a full repetition or range of motion. The Reps will count the number of repetitions you have completed.
It looks like you have to talk with a trainer there and get some Max Strength numbers before you start the workouts. You pick what your goals are and this will decide ahead of time what percentage of that weight it will use for you. So a Max Rep on your Squat happens to be 100lbs, you would be using 50, 65, or 75lbs on the Squat machine depending on the circuit you choose.
It also looks like you carry an RFID with you from machine to machine and this will keep track of everything for you.
To specifically answer the question you asked: Yes, if you increase the amount of reps performed in the same amount of time, you will increase the intensity (not the resistance) with which you perform your workouts. It also looks like there may be some stations where it will monitor your heart rate and try to decrease the intensity for you. They are programmed to monitor whether someone is overdoing it.
Of course these aren’t smart machines and have only a couple of set pre-sets so really they’re just meant to kind of be guidelines for people who probably have vastly different bodies/abilities. Really, it is probably a way in which they are trying to keep incidents/accidents down to a minimum. This is why these machines were created in the first place.

Besides the rambling, I hope that helps!
posted by P.o.B. at 9:21 PM on July 21, 2008

Response by poster: P.o.B.:

Thanks for your reply. To clarify my question, what I was asking was: do the new Smart pieces require one to speed up to increase resistance and intensity (as performed on the original Curves equipment; also, set time always remains 30 seconds, so that can be factored out of the equation), or can one now increase the resistance with some sort of adjuster (instead of speeding up) and still perform the the same reps, only with increased resistance on each rep? Put another way: is the resistance adjustability now independent of the speed of movement? It may very well be that nobody knows, and that the equipment would have to be examined. One Curves employee said that the Smart equipment did increase resistance independent of speed, but I don't see what mechanism is employed. If a person is performing more reps in the same time frame, then their workload has increased, and so has the intensity. In the case of Curves equipment, not only would the reps increase, but also the resistance per rep, since resistance is speed-dependent (the faster you go, the more you get), so two variables are changing: speed and resistance.

Just for your information, the original equipment set-up had non-adjustable resistance. The only way to get more resistance was to move faster, since the user was trying to force hydraulic fluid through orifices in the cylinders, and it could only flow so quickly. By moving faster, one could increase resistance, while simultaneously also performing more reps in the same time frame. Anyway, I'm trying to determine whether this is still the way resistance is increased, or whether the Smart set-up now incorporates some sort of separate resistance adjuster that allows for the same rep count in the same amount of time, but with added resistance.
posted by Savannah at 10:43 PM on July 21, 2008

Response by poster: My guess is that the "Range" indicator was incorporated to prompt users to maintain their programmed range of motion. Most likely, what was happening before was that users were shortening up their range of motion to get out more reps in the 30-second time frame. If they don't have to move as far per direction, they can turn around sooner, and complete more shortened reps than full-range ones.

From what I've gleaned from the Web, it appears that the "Cardio" bar is an indicator to prompt the user to maintain a certain work rate, in order to keep their heart rate in a certain range, depending on the criteria programmed. Also, I think that the "Energy" bar displays calories burned. One woman on a Curves-related message board said that she had burned over 600 calories during a workout. Assuming the warm-up, cool-down, stretching (all viewed on some Curves websites), and transition times between stations account for a total of six minutes, then that means she burned 600 (for simplicity's sake) in 24 minutes (assuming performance of three circuits of 16 stations each). That is equivalent to a 154-lb. person running six miles in 24 minutes, which is four minutes per mile/15 mph average speed. Not only is that nearly world-class running performance, for it to be performed for six miles non-stop would definitely be a lot harder than a Curves workout, especially considering one instructor told me that subjects choose an effort level that is "comfortable" for them. My point is, I highly doubt anyone is burning that many calories, considering the fact that each of the different stations impose varying demands on the user.
posted by Savannah at 10:56 PM on July 21, 2008

Response by poster: What's funny is, IF it turns out to be that the only way to increase intensity/resistance on the Smart equipment is to move faster (like the original set-up), thereby performing more reps in the same time frame, then this conflicts with a study that Baylor University did on Curves ( www3.baylor.edu/HHPR/Curves/CurvesNational2005.pdf -- pages 11 and 13). The study tested women at 20, 25, and 30 reps in 30 seconds, and the final recommendation was to perform a maximum of 20; otherwise, form degraded. Now, if you combine an upper rep limit of 20 (which dictates a certain speed, and, hence, resistance) with a set resistance (which would never change, since the speed wouldn't), then you have no progress once a person can perform 20 reps in 30 seconds. This would be equivalent to determining that someone could lift 100 lbs. for 10 reps, then never giving them any more weight, nor allowing them to do any more reps. I think this would be very discouraging to those Curves users who've been doing the same thing for quite a while, only to find out that they haven't been getting any stronger. In order to get stronger, the demand must increase over time. Also, Curves literature says not to hit the stops at either end of the movement arms' travel. If everyone CAN hit them, then that means they all have the same range of motion, which means they will have the same resistance if they all do 20 reps in 30 seconds (assuming uniform performance of each rep). So everyone gets the same resistance even though everyone's strength is different. Finally, if a subject comes into Curves for the first time ever, is told that her ultimate goal is to perform 20 reps in 30 seconds, and she can actually do it her first time out, then if she follows Baylor's guidelines, she will never get any stronger than the first day she walked into Curves. Her body has no reason to, because she can already perform at the maximum.
posted by Savannah at 11:08 PM on July 21, 2008

Well if it is a decent piece of equipment, like the Cybex machines, the cylinders will have a release mechanism when a certain pressure is reached. The fault of these machines is the pressure needs to build up before it reaches the set poundage. I believe Cybex actually had motors that consistently pushed in the required poundage into the cylinder so when it was set it was good from the get. So the first bit of pushing or pulling on these machines may seem lighter and move a little faster. Since your weight does not increase past the set point, is why I said the resistance does not increase.

So beyond all that, you are asking more in depth questions that would take a bit of time to explain. My time is a bit limited. If you belong to a Curves I would suggest talking with a trainer. If not you could go to a forum where there are more than a enough people who will be happy to help like here or here!
posted by P.o.B. at 11:53 AM on July 22, 2008

Response by poster: P.o.B.:

Thanks for your recent reply. I haven't had the opportunity to examine Curves equipment to discern whether it has the release mechanism (like a blow-off valve) you mentioned. Maybe it doesn't need it because the pressure would never get that high, since it might be set low enough in the first place. I do know that there were no adjustment mechanisms on the original Curves equipment. Just a hydraulic cylinder attached to framework and movement arm. It provided resistance in both directions, providing for "double positive" resistance, i.e.: pull with biceps, push with biceps, continuing in an alternating fashion.

Regarding talking to an instructor, tried that and they either won't say anything or don't seem to know. As far as forums go, it seems that some people start to get upset when someone questions Curves equipment or methodology.
posted by Savannah at 11:40 PM on July 22, 2008

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