The whole thing lasted less than ninety seconds, after which I could barely stand. I felt like I the floor was rocking under my feet and I was going to pass out.
I had just performed a set of “hyper” squats on a prototype of a computerized, motorized multi-exercise machine designed and personally delivered by the inventor, Randy Rindfleisch.
For those not familiar with hyper reps, the method was developed at Nautilus during their early experiments with various protocols emphasizing negative work and involve both a maximum positive and maximum negative effort – each rep was like performing a forced rep followed by a forced negative. Normally such reps require several strong spotters to perform. Arthur Jones developed several prototype Nautilus machines to make heavy negative only and hyper reps possible without the assistance of spotters – the OMNI machines used during the Colorado Experiment – all but one of which were never commercially produced due to various technical problems.
If you’ve never performed hyper reps it’s hard to appreciate how brutally intense they are. After performing hyper reps even heavy negative-only training seems easy by comparison.
Machine movement is controlled by the user or by a trainer via remote. When the user’s thumb contacts the ends of the right or left handle the movement arm is raised or lowered at a constant speed by the motor as you attempt to push or pull in the appropriate direction depending on the exercise you’re performing. This speed can be adjusted, as well as the acceleration during the turnarounds.
Whether you’re incredibly strong or totally deconditioned the machine will accommodate you. Whatever your individual strength curve, whatever the difference in your positive and negative strength and however that ratio varies from the start to the end of the exercise, the machine matches you perfectly. So when you perform hyper reps on it – exerting a maximum effort during both the positive and negative – it provides the maximum resistance you can handle from start to finish, over the full range of motion, both positive and negative.
It’s like performing manually resisted exercise against a Terminator. Except it’s not really trying to kill you, it just feels like it.
Before I scare anyone off I should mention the machine does not have to be used with maximum effort – the machine measures and displays your force production so you can train at any level of effort you choose and quantify it.
I gained over 1/4 inch on my upper arms during the first month training on it alternating between two brief routines:
- Shoulder Press
- Stiff-Legged Deadlift
- Standing Calf Raise
Unfortunately, after a few months of training, testing and trying as hard as I could to break the machine (I couldn’t) I had to give it back and resume training with conventional, gravity-based equipment. While free weights, body weight and gravity-based machines are incredibly effective tools when used correctly, after you’ve trained with a good motorized machine they feel severely lacking by comparison.
So I gave Randy my notes and videos and we discussed various design issues then he went back to work on the prototypes. Occasionally he’d email video clips or we’d talk on the phone about the progress but I didn’t start thinking about the machines much until recently.
I was interested in how they were coming along so I gave Randy a call and he said to contact CEO Mark Alexander at Efficient Exercise, the other testing ground for the prototypes. When Mark showed me the videos of the production models I was amazed; Randy incorporated all of my suggestions and more, while improving the look and reducing the size of the machines.
Below is the production model of the CZT-V (Vertical Axis). It has a 20-inch touch screen computer that records and displays user data including real-time momentary, peak, and average force, inroad or total work performed, elapsed time and more for each of the following ten exercises:
- Squat (pads not shown)
- Stiff-Legged Deadlift
- Bench Press
- Bench Row
- Shoulder Press
- Seated Dip
- Bicep Curl
- Tricep Pressdown
The bench/seat flips folds up and back out of the way when not in use, and the grip angle adjusts so deadlifts, rows, and shoulder presses can be performed with either regular or parallel grips, and bench press and pulldowns can be performed with close, parallel or wide grips.
The CZT-H (Horizontal Axis) provides six different exercises: Leg Press, Calf Raise, Chest Press, Seated Row, and Linear Torso Flexion and Extension and the CZT-C (Core) provides Torso Flexion, Extension and Rotation (optional).
Altogether, this gives you nineteen different exercises (twenty seven if you count all the grip variations) in the space of only three machines, reduces the square footage requirements tremendously. In addition to multiple exercises the machines can be used to perform a variety of protocols, some of which are either extremely difficult or impossible with conventional equipment:
- Standard: positive and negative effort at a selected percentage of max effort or level of force until the desired workload or inroad has been achieved.
- Hyper: max effort positive and negative.
- Rest-Pause: hyper reps with a 5 to 10 second rest between repetitions.
- Negative Only: rest during positive, max effort during negative.
- Double Negative: max effort alternating between the negatives of paired push/pull exercises. (Emphasis on strength and hypertrophy)
- Double Positive: max effort alternating between the positives of paired push/pull exercises. (Emphasis on metabolic conditioning)
- Max Contraction: max effort isometric contraction.
If you have questions about the equipment you can contact CEO Mark Alexander at Efficient Exercise.
Update June 2014: CZT has changed it’s name to ARX Fit