When considering the origins of fitness equipment innovation, there are many wonderful examples of niche companies across the globe who deserve praise.
Immediately my mind takes me to the UK to Rugged Interactive, the company behind the ‘Cardio Wall’. In the US I think of Stages Cycling and their amazing SC3 indoor bike combined with the Stages Flight system. In my former home of Australia, I naturally think of the OOV. A product dreamed up by a health professional who found himself laid up in bed injured and thinking ‘theres got to be a better way!’
However, when it comes to trend setters, there are no bigger players than Life Fitness, Precor and Technogym (in A-Z order).
The ‘Big 3’ have grown to demand attention and over the past few decades have a massed the dollars and people power to design innovative, industry leading fitness equipment. In addition to the hardware component of fitness equipment, all three are managing to stay a top of the rapidly evolving fitness technology genre that is taking hold and reshaping our gym’s globally.
Here is my personal list of the most interesting and important fitness equipment releases of 2017 by Life Fitness, Precor and Technogym. I hope you like it.
The Brunswick Corporation had a very busy year of managing not only their core Life Fitness products, but also continuing to nurture the CYBEX brand they acquired back in 2016. Whilst we have seen a glimmer of potential in the subdued release of the GSC elliptical, I have big hopes for some solid cross-brand hybrid’s in 2018. We can only wait and dream until then.
In addition, Life Fitness also launched their new line of Integrity Cardio line allowing facilities to pick and choose their ideal configuration based on price and desired features. I really like that Life Fitness have enabled LF Connect access across the price range too.
In 2017, here are my personal favourite Life Fitness product launches:
2017 Honourable Mention
Life Fitness Discover SE3 HD Console
The joy of technology in the fitness industry is that it is guaranteed to evolve, refine and get better for both the end user and the gym operator. The Discover SE3 HD console is truly a beautiful thing to behold. I first met the Discover SE3 HD console back in April and was immediately impressed not only by it’s vivd 1080p resolution touch screen, but by the sheer size of it!
- 21 inches for the treadmill
- 16 inches for the bike version.
Most important to note is the larger size also leans favour to an improved viewing angle. Well it did for me anyway, and I am 6ft 2! So I can only imagine someone shorter than me becoming completely lost in the immersive experience offered by the SE3’s many features, including the popular Run Social interactive courses.
2017 Runner Up
VirZOOM Virtual Reality Fitness
When Life Fitness announced a partnership with VR gaming and eSports technology company VirZOOM to bring Virtual Reality (VR) Fitness into the gym, I was intrigued to say the least! This was a big move by a traditional fitness equipment manufacturer, one Life Fitness say is ‘the world’s first fully-integrated exercise bike and VR fitness platform’.
This collaboration lets you play games while you workout. Offering multiple games, one example encourages you to pedal fast to outpace competitors on horseback in the Wild West, another encourages you to blow up enemy tanks by using the bike’s resistance buttons.
This is a space I am watching closely and deserves it’s spot on the 2017 list if not for innovation, perhaps for it’s potential to convert couch sitters into bike sitters.
2017 Top Pick
Life Fitness IC8 Indoor Trainer
I remember the day I learned German cycling specialist Indoor Cycling Group – ICG were to be acquired. I was sitting with a friend downing espresso’s, complaining about the weather when he needed to take a call. I stole a moment to check emails and – there – it – was. Wow!
This was big news, huge even. It still is. But why? To me, this acquisition cemented Life Fitness as a credible player in indoor cycling, not as a distributor, but as a manufacturer and innovator within the space.
Life Fitness wasted no time in delivering the IC8. A bench mark bike under their newly acquired ICG brand. The IC8 stamped it’s arrival like a pro cyclist on a solo break away up Alp Du’ez, yelling ‘try and catch me!’
Building on the success of the IC7, the IC8’s fresh, distinctive almost sexy/sinister look is both refreshing and eye catching. New features wise, my absolute favourite is the legitimate tri-bars including elbow pads! Now at this point I cannot decide whether I am gushingly grateful or just plain annoyed that it has taken so darn long for a commercial indoor bike to come equipped this way. Regardless, it makes me love this bike on an unspeakable level. That goes double for the person who thought of this design element – you sir/ma’am are my hero!
The IC8 is also equipped with a special edition of the WattRate TFT computer displaying more than 40 data metrics. Most note worthy is the inclusion of WattRate Polar View offering real time visual feedback on pedalling efficiency.
Coach By Color is still at the helm of this bike, but it is now sharing it’s spotlight with the ability to pair the bike with 3rd party apps such as Zwift, Strava, Training Peaks and Garmin all via Bluetooth and Ant+.
There is a lot to appreciate about this bike. I will be getting my hands on it in Feb 2018. So watch out for that post!
Note: The image of the IC8 (above) was created by Life Fitness in the US and shared on their social media accounts using a quote from yours truly.
Precor had yet another huge year, rolling out more than 50 new products at IHRSA 2017 alone via the Precor and Queenax brands. They also added the distribution of HIIT styled fitness equipment from Assault featuring the AirBike Elite and manual treadmill the AirRunner. This move will no doubt sit well with gym owners seeking to combine HIIT with functional training solutions from Queenax.
The Discovery Strength range was also updated in 2017 and I personally liked the unique functionality of the Plate Loaded Squat Machine I met first hand at the Fitness Show in April.
Precor are an exciting company to observe and I love their Preva network and all it has to offer. In 2018 I would love them to wave their magic wand and somehow expand Preva’s reach to capture workout data for Queenax as an example.
Without a crystal ball, all I can do is lookback at 2017 and share my favourite Precor equipment releases. Enjoy.
2017 Honourable Mention:
Precor P62 Console
Working under the guise of scale, Precor began offering a mid-tier tech console built on the same frame work as the P82. This console is targeted at gyms on a budget, who may not have considered a cardio tech solution was within their reach.
The introduction of the P62 console then opened the doors to further possibilities, with Precor announcing their ‘Mix and Match’ concept for their 700 and 800 range of cardio equipment.
As the name suggests, this allows for either the mid-tier P62 console or the top-tier P82 console to be installed on either the 700 or 800 cardio range.
In essence gym operators are now afforded the ability to focus their dollars on equipment they feel will get the biggest impact (i.e. AMT/treadmills), while saving money on equipment and consoles that may experience less use (i.e. recumbent bikes), yet still achieving a tech solution across all cardio including fitness data retention.
To sum up, I feel that the P62’s introduction was a clever move with the roll on effect of Mix and Match offering more choice and ultimately making Precor a more attractive option for price sensitive gym operators.
2017 Runner Up
Precor Spinner Chrono Power
By now you may well have guessed that I have a soft spot for indoor bikes. I cut my teeth as a group cycling instructor on genuine Johhny G Spin bikes and became a fan-boy. So when Precor secured the Spinning brand manufacturing rights, I was excited to say the least! Knowing what we know now about the state of indoor cycle manufacturing, it was certainly a smart deal for Precor to make in 2016.
Their first line of bikes made me a bit worried though. Whilst innovative touches like the inconspicuous maintenance panel and the impressively clean and large computer won me over, I did wonder if maybe Precor had missed the mark opting not to include a bike in the range with a power meter. Alas my fears were merely my own, as Precor announced the Spinner Chrono Power, a top-tier bike with a beautifully lit computer and of course a power meter to boot!
While I am yet to jump on a CHRONO, there is no doubt in my mind that in 2018 the Spinning brand will stamp it’s authority down upon the industry with exciting power based programming that will make Johnny G proud!
2017 Top Pick
Precor Preva 7.0 including RunTV
Preva is the frame work upon which connected cardio fitness is built at Precor. Preva 7.0 represents the ongoing evolution of this fitness tech solution that continuously strives to improve user engagement, whether they be on a cardio machine with a P62, P80 (former model) or P82 console.
The point is, no matter when a ‘P’ console is purchased, updates by Precor offer the potential to revitalise the consoles look and function over the life of the device. It is for this reason I have made it my Precor top pick!
Guy Williams said it best when discussing Preva 7.0 with me earlier in the year:
Related: Exclusive RunTV demo video
It works like this: while the exerciser is pedalling, the landscape is moving too. If the video shows the course going up hill, then the resistance and incline change on the device to correspond with the visual. In essence the intensity of the workout aims to mimic what you may expect to experience in real life. Pretty cool huh.
I predict we will see a lot more ‘smart trainer’ type cardio innovation this year thanks to the likes of GPS course mapping integration.
Technogym’s 2017 was full of big announcements, exciting projects and I assume lots of late night espresso shots due to the sheer volume of significant product releases dating from forth quarter 2016. Late in 2016 Technogym released the Unity MINI, a console for their SelectionPRO range of selectorized strength equipment, furthering their dominance in strength-tech.
They also gave us the innovative CLIMB Excite in December with UNITY 3.0 console programs designed specifically for stair climbing.
In 2017, Technogym continued the momentum with many announcements including a project collaborating with IBM to bring Watson Artificial Intelligence to the Mywellness cloud platform in the form of a virtual coach.
The company also continued to deliver impressive consumer products with the MYCYCLING indoor cycling turbo trainer aimed at the lucrative road cycling market.
Technogym was also featured in Apples WWDC 2017 keynote announcement of Apple Watch integration with cardio equipment.
In the last 18 months Technogym have filled key gaps in their line up and have become a legitimate one-stop-shop for all your gym’s needs!
A few Technogym terms you should pay attention to in 2018 are; SKILL…, MULTIDRIVE and UNITY. They seem to be coming up a lot more frequently of late (just a casual prediction of mine).
Needless to say, it was a hard one to pick, but here are my favourite Technogym releases of 2017.
2017 Honourable Mention
Technogym have continued the December gift giving in 2017 with the late announcement of the SKILLRUN. While I am yet to get up close to it (sometime in Jan 18), I can already tell the SKILLRUN will make waves around the industry.
Related: Technogym Launches SKILLRUN
The SKILLRUN cleverly combines the ability to perform sled push/parachute movements via MULTIDRIVE magnetic resistance with the power of a motorised treadmill that can produce whopping speeds up to 30kph!!!
The UNITY console is once again front and centre and Technogym have continued the theme of customisation, by designing SKILLRUN specific programs for you to love… and hate 🙂
2017 Runner Up
The introduction of the SKILLMILL and the SKILLROW have been game changers and were executed with perfect timing for a fitness industry going mad over HIIT’ing! TEAMBEATS is in essence the ‘glue’ that brings all the HIIT equipment and Omnia8 functional training rig exercises together.
I think offering gym’s an overarching solution to display and track participants fitness performance in the form of TEAMBEATS is a wonderful ‘expansion of duties’ for the UNITY SELF Kiosk.
TEAMBEATS may seem innocent at first. However to me, it represents Technogym’s ever expanding reach. This of course is not a bad thing, it merely suggests that Technogym are willing to tackle most any problem a gym may want to solve.
2017 Top Pick
Technogym really put on a show for this exciting announcement, choosing IHRSA 2017 to unveil the companies first indoor rowing machine.
The SKILLROW came out of it’s corner swinging, offering two forms or resistance; Air for every day use and MULTIDRIVE magnetic resistance for power oriented sessions.
Related: Technogym SKILLROW demo
Whilst the physical machine is impressive and offers new innovation, the big impact is in the technology on offer. Technogym made sure we common folk understood this machine was special, by producing an dedicated app, as well as a phone holder above the rowers console. Ahhh…. data retention!
In addition to this, Technogym have developed a group rowing program with RACES capability aimed to engage users like no other group rowing program before it.
2017 summed up.
Simply put, the ‘Big 3’ got bigger and even more dominant in 2017. They continued to set benchmarks, inspiring us with innovation and offering us multiple ways to engage in fitness tech.
When I reflect upon my list, I am chuffed to see a bike, a treadmill and a console in the number 1 spots for 2017. It proves that these 3 companies are forging their own paths and refraining from chasing each others tails.
I can not wait to see where Life Fitness, Precor and Technogym take us in 2018. One thing is for sure. They will take gym members and owners to even higher levels of fitness engagement, but in three very different ways.
Which direction will you choose for your gym members in 2018?
Keep the discussion going by adding your comment below!