Ergonomics in Fitness Training
The dictionary tells us that ergonomics is the applied science of equipment design, intended to maximize productivity and comfort by reducing user fatigue and discomfort. But what does that mean for us as people who are looking to improve our health through exercise?
Briefly, users can enjoy better workouts with less discomfort and less risk of injury when ergonomics has been considered in the design of sports facilities, fitness equipment, and fitness tools.
Examples of devices created with ergonomics in mind might include kettlebells, stationary bikes, treadmills, ab rollers with ergonomic grips, equipment with an ergonomically designed seat or back support, grappling gloves, and jump ropes with ergonomic handles – to name a few. These tools are, in essence, designed to properly fit the user, rather than forcing the user to adjust him- or herself.
Ergonomics Improves Your Sports Performance
Fitness and ergonomics go hand in hand. Both require proper form to realize maximum results, and the poorer one’s form the higher the risk of injury. That’s why it’s important to take the time to adjust single-station fitness equipment to fit your body and to choose equipment that is ergonomic and/or adjustable in nature.
For example, when using a leg extension machine, be sure your knees are in proper alignment according for the machine you are using so that you can achieve full contraction of the quadriceps. Otherwise, you won’t be working the targeted muscles fully and won’t be strengthening them to the extent possible.
Also, when choosing a jump rope, be sure to choose one with an ergonomic handle for a smoother swing of the rope and a reduced risk of wrist fatigue and injury while jumping. An ergonomically designed handle will turn smooth and fast, and have a good, comfortable grip that doesn’t slip when you sweat. An adjustable cord is also best for maximizing performance, especially one that is easy to adjust “out of the box.” Jump ropes that are too long will slow you down and jump ropes that are too short will cause misses. Think of all the hits to the legs and tripping and falling you can spare yourself by using an adjustable jump rope.
Ergonomics Reduces Fatigue
Using ergonomically designed equipment can help reduce fatigue where you don’t want it, allowing you to get in a better workout and focus more on the muscles and movements you want to. Reduced muscle strain and mental strain, in the form of not having to worry about the equipment itself, will then allow you to achieve optimal results in fitness training considerably quicker. Equally important, reduced fatigue inevitably lowers the risk of injury in fitness training, meaning you can get healthier quicker.
Ergonomics Improves Safety
Proper form and technique can help you reach your fitness goals, such as increased strength and muscle tone, weight loss, or improved bone density, but poor form can quickly sideline you or take you out of the game indefinitely. According to the American Journal of Sports Medicine, between 1990 and 2007, 25,335 weight training injuries were seen in US emergency departments, correlating to an estimated 970,801 injuries nationwide. The most common diagnosis (46%) was sprain or strain, an injury that is very often caused by poor form and/or poor equipment and which can often be prevented through the proper use of ergonomic equipment. Avoiding injury will help you avoid a great deal of frustration, allow you to continue exercising without interruption, and spare you hours of physical therapy.
Ergonomics Simplifies Usage
Properly designed fitness equipment should make your workout easier by simplifying usage. It should avoid requiring you to make complicated decisions or take complicated steps to adjust or prepare it for use. Excess effort should also be minimized, allowing the user to focus on the core activity he or she is trying to participate in.
Ergonomics Is Personal
Whether you’re extremely tall, vertically challenged, or have limited flexibility due to an injury or surgery, you should still be able to work out effectively given the amount of ergonomic fitness equipment out there today. You just need to look a little harder to find high quality fitness equipment that provides you with the flexibility needed to make adjustments to areas like weight resistance and range-of-motion to meet your individual physical needs. With smaller tools as well, you should look for equipment that is adjustable. Returning to the example of the jump rope, an adjustable, ergonomic jump rope will allow you to customize your rope to your personal needs (both your body size and the exercise that you want to perform), allowing for a more enjoyable and productive workout experience.
Ergonomics Saves You Time and Money
The upfront cost of a piece of ergonomic fitness equipment may not be lower than that of a piece of regular equipment. In most cases, in fact, ergonomic equipment is actually more expensive.
But when we look at overall cost in terms of time, labor, and other input (blood, sweat, and tears), ergonomic equipment is much less expensive. It’s simple. If you reduce your risk of injury, you reduce your medical care costs. If you work out more efficiently, you save time (remember that time equals money!) and effort. Working out is all about improving fitness and staying healthy, and ergonomic equipment enables you to reach those goals at less cost to yourself.
So there you have it. Consider ergonomics when it comes to your next piece of fitness equipment, whether big or small, and you are on your way to a fitter and healthier you—with a lot less strain and considerably quicker gains.