New tricks for old muscles
The Coles target aging boomers
Neil and Chuck Cole have aging baby boomers in their sights. The Coles, who run Dexter's Bio Logic Engineering, have invented a strength training system to help everyone from frail eighty-year-olds to professional athletes increase muscle control and strength.
Neil Cole is a tall, muscular young man who knows his way around a gym-and also holds a Ph.D. in muscle physiology from the University of Michigan. Since Neil started the business in 1993, the two brothers and their father, Walt, have been designing and building devices used in research studies to measure muscle performance.
Their first commercial product is BLAST (Bio Logic Advanced Strength Training). Still a prototype, it's intended for use in gyms, physical therapy clinics, and nursing homes. Its purpose is to help older people increase muscle strength, reducing their risk of painful and potentially deadly falls.
Strong hip and thigh muscles are the best defense against falls. With age, muscle fibers atrophy and muscle mass decreases. But seniors often avoid weight training and conventional gyms because they worry they'll hurt themselves.
BLAST looks like a typical leg press, except there's no weight stack. You push with your legs against a metal plate while the machine moves the plate back and forth. A computer monitor shows how much force your muscles are exerting. As you get stronger, the machine increases the resistance.
The Coles say most people learn the machine quickly-even those who have never used a leg press. "The beauty of this machine is that it works for the frail elderly all the way up to a high-performance athlete," says Neil Cole. "The training protocol is based on your personal strength capacity. You can train at fifty pounds or up to two thousand pounds."
And if you're at the low end of that spectrum, well, that can be your secret. "Some people don't like to go to gyms because there are power-lifters putting on four-hundred-pound weights and showing off, and then I put on my little seventy-pound weight and feel intimidated," Chuck says. "On our system, nobody knows what amount of weight you are using."
[Originally published in October, 2008.]