If you have ever attended a fitness-industry trade show or watch late-night TV, you have undoubtedly noticed that there is never a shortage of new fitness products claiming to produce results. Many of these products attempt to use some type of marketing gimmick to convince users that they can achieve rapid results with little effort. However, when it’s time for a personal trainer to consider which products to use with their clients, it can be a challenge to identify the ones that actually do create results.
While numerous fitness products have been developed and launched over the past 10 years, three key products stand apart as having a significant impact on how trainers create exercise programs for their clients: the BOSU Balance Trainer, the kettlebell (originally developed in the 19th century, it emerged as a popular tool after being reintroduced in the early 2000s) and the TRX Suspension Trainer.
Do you remember the first time you saw a BOSU Balance Trainer? It didn’t look like much more than a stability ball cut in half, but over time it has developed into an essential piece of equipment for both group and individual exercise programs. What was your reaction the first time you saw a kettlebell? It may look like a cannonball with a handle, but it offers a variety of programming options for strength, power, endurance and flexibility. What did you think when you first saw the TRX Suspension Trainer? It definitely looks gimmicky, but the use of bodyweight combined with a variety of different angles and positions creates numerous options for strength training.
One piece of new equipment that is a definite game-changer for personal trainers is the ViPR. Introduced in early 2011, the ViPR has become a popular training tool among both fitness professionals and professional athletes, including members of the UT Longhorns. ViPR is an acronym for Vitality, Performance and Reconditioning—three essential components of exercise programming—and is a piece of thick rubber tubing approximately 1-meter long. It comes in two sizes: thin and thick diameter, and seven different weights: 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 16 and 20 kilograms (kg). While it may be easy to overlook due to the complexity involved in its application, the ViPR is actually one of the most versatile pieces of equipment on the market today.
The ViPR was developed by Canadian fitness expert Michol Dalcourt, who was working with hockey players when he noticed that athletes who grew up on a farm tended to be much stronger than athletes who came from a more urban environment. Dalcourt realized that the farm boys spent their summers performing manual labor with a variety of different loads, which required a number of different total-body movements. The city boys, on the other hand, spent their summers in a gym performing traditional muscle-isolation exercises. In an effort to replicate the movements that allowed farm boys to develop total-body strength, Dalcourt created the ViPR as a resistance-training tool to challenge the body in all planes of motion.
Traditional resistance-training equipment such as dumbbells and barbells are used primarily in linear motions, where the mass of the object works directly against the field of gravity. For example, the resistive force of a barbell squat comes from the force of gravity pulling the weight down toward the floor; the body has to subsequently work upward against the force of gravity to return the weight to the starting position. When using barbells or dumbbells, increasing the force output of a muscle is most commonly achieved by using heavier weights. While the ViPR does allow for traditional exercises using linear motions, what sets it apart from traditional strength-training equipment is that it permits a mass to be shifted through the field of gravity. This makes it possible to load multi-planar movement patterns in almost any direction.
The design of the ViPR takes into account the fact that muscles work together as an integrated, coordinated system, utilizing the fascia and connective tissue to help create tension and produce force. This is consistent with the recent shift in our understanding of anatomy, which recognizes that all muscles are connected through the fascial network. Following this line of thought, strength-training exercise should be considered a function of all muscles working in coordinated synergy, as opposed to each muscle working independently.
The heaviest ViPR weighs 20 kg, or approximately 44 pounds. While this may not seem like a lot of weight, when the mass is moved to different positions, it creates joint angles and lines of force that can place a significant load on the muscular system and develop total-body, integrated strength. Consider all of the movements your clients perform on a daily basis that require lifting a load and moving with it through gravity (as opposed to staying static in one spot and moving a load against gravity). Using the ViPR in your training sessions is a fun way to challenge your clients by creating new movement-based exercises that can strengthen the entire body. Use of this innovative equipment also allows you to stand out from other trainers in your area while delivering results.
Here is a sample ViPR workout for you to try:
Warm-up: Multi-directional tilting
2 sets of 12 reps in each direction using a 6 kg or 10 kg ViPR
Lateral Lunge with lateral shift
2 sets of 8-10 reps in each direction using a 10 kg ViPR
Farmer’s lift (this is a killer with heavier ViPRs)
2 sets of 6-8 reps in each direction using a 16 kg or 20 kg ViPR
Squat Pops (for power, explode the ViPR off the arms and let it bounce off floor)
3 sets of 4-6 reps using a 16 kg ViPR
Lateral shuffle to bound with lateral shift and ViPR Push Press
3 sets of 5-8 reps each leg using a 16 kg ViPR
Cool-down: Repeat multi-directional tilting, holding the ViPR at end-range for a deep static stretch
In the interest of full disclosure, I am a Master Trainer for ViPR, but I would not use or be involved in teaching it if I didn’t believe that it was an effective tool. Personally, I own 6, 10, 16 and 20 kg ViPRs and consider them indispensable components of my fitness toolbox. Trust me when I say that, in a few years, the ViPR will share space with the BOSU, TRX and kettlebell as a piece of equipment that no personal trainer can do without.