NEW YORK (Reuters) - It looks like just a perforated rubber pipe but when the ViPR is flipped, hoisted, rolled, dragged and thrown in endless variation advocates say it may be the most versatile fitness tool on the gym floor.
"You look at it and think, 'what am I going to do with this?' " said David Harris, vice president of Personal Training at Equinox chain of fitness centers, which has used the ViPR in personal training and group fitness settings since 2010.
"Then you start moving it in fundamental patterns that can progress to more complex moves," he said. "You can do a lot of things with that cylinder."
Users can stand it on end, tilt it, raise it overhead, or shift it side to side and that's just for starters. Harris said the tubular shape lets you work some muscles while stretching others simultaneously.
"The length allows you to do those two things at one time. It brings you back to what your body hasn't done."
The ViPR (Vitality, Performance, Reconditioning) comes in varying weights from four kilograms (8.8 pounds) to 20 kilograms (44 pounds), Harris said, so any exerciser, from a marathoner to a professional team player to weekend warrior, can achieve the promised full-body workout.
But what really makes it versatile, Harris said, is that it's based in movement.
"Most gym equipment functions on a fixed plane," Harris said. "Dumbbells, barbells, chest presses work on a fixed path. ViPR has versatility in movement pattern. It's used in a dynamic way and there's an element of play and game in it."
ViPR premiered in Britain in 2009, with a repertoire of 9,000 exercises. Since then some 3,000 trainers worldwide have been certified in ViPR, and more than 20,000 units have been sold in 38 countries, according to Stephen Buckley of Fitness Professionals, Ltd., the London-based global distributors.
ViPR is the brainchild of Michol Dalcourt, a Canadian with a background in exercise science, who said the idea came to him while coaching a hockey team.
"In Canada most athletes are hockey players," he said in a telephone interview from England. "I noticed that the farm kids were stronger on average than the city kids, even though they had never set foot inside a gym."
But doing their daily chores the farm kids routinely lifted load as they moved around, working not only their muscles but all their connective tissue.
Dalcourt believes that modern conveniences have so reconditioned our bodies that we've lost the ability to move properly.
"I want to create stable motion," he said. "The ViPR's purpose is movement with load. What ViPR does really well is bridge the gap between strength and movement."
Dalcourt sees his invention as an addition, not a replacement, fitness tool.
"It should sit beside a complete gym," he said.
Harris cautions that unlike many other gym exercises, working out safely and effectively with the ViPR requires some training in movement skills.
"If people come in and see it, they generally pick it up and curl it like a dumbbell. By working with a trainer they learn to move the body in many dimensions," he explained.
"It's not the tool itself," he added. "It's what you're doing with it."