Patent application title: PHYSICAL EXERCISE APPARATUS
Stefano Berardo (Bologna, IT)
IPC8 Class: AA63B7100FI
Class name: Exercise devices user manipulated force resisting apparatus, component thereof, or accessory therefor user interface element
Publication date: 2012-04-19
Patent application number: 20120094813
Physical exercise apparatus, comprising a support base, a vertical
structure comprising at least one articulated joint, a support frame to
which there are coupled a member for association with a user's body, and
at least two articulated arms which are connected to said support frame
so as to be able to pivot in several directions.
10. An apparatus for physical exercise, comprising: a support base; a vertical structure; a support frame connected with the vertical structure; a member for association with a user's body, the member coupled to the support frame; and at least two articulated arms connected to the support frame in order to be pivotable in several directions, each arm comprising at least one joint.
11. The apparatus of claim 10, further comprising a load arrangement to subject each joint of the arms to a given load.
12. The apparatus of claim 11, wherein the load arrangement comprises friction members, each friction member being arranged at a fulcrum of each joint subject to the load arrangement.
13. The apparatus of claim 12, wherein each of the friction members comprises a container body in which friction surfaces provided with adjustable loading means are arranged.
14. The apparatus of claim 13, wherein the friction surfaces comprise tapered annular surfaces.
15. The apparatus of claim 13, wherein the adjustable loading means comprise calibrated elastic loading means.
16. The apparatus of claim 10, wherein each of the arms comprises at least four segments.
17. The apparatus of claim 16, wherein at least two initial segments of each arm are provided with joints pivoting in planes perpendicular to each other.
18. The apparatus of claim 17, wherein a first segment of the at least four segments pivots with respect to the support frame, a second segment of the at least four segments pivots with respect to the first segment in a plane perpendicular to a pivoting plane of a joint connecting the first segment with the support frame, and a third segment of the at least four segments pivots with respect to the second segment in a plane perpendicular to i) the pivoting plane of the joint connecting the first segment with the support frame and ii) a pivoting plane of a joint connecting the second segment with the first segment.
19. The apparatus of claim 17, further comprising a load arrangement to subject at least one of the joints to a given load.
20. The apparatus of claim 19, wherein the load arrangement comprises friction members, each friction member being arranged at a fulcrum of each joint subject to the load arrangement.
 The present invention relates to physical exercise apparatuses, and
particularly to a physical exercise apparatus which uses an opposition
 For many years now, the technology of training machines, i.e. those machines which are used both in gyms and within the home, has been developed with the aim of allowing physical exercise to be performed in substantially quite confined spaces. There are essentially two types of machines which are most commonly used for physical exercise: the so-called isotonic machines, which employ as a force opposing the muscular force applied by the user a weight which may be varied in magnitude and which must be suitably guided. Alternatively, the weight may be replaced by a fluid-dynamic jack, although the operating principle of the machine is actually the same. This type of machines has the drawback that it is extremely specific in terms of capacity to train muscular masses, precisely owing to the need of a suitable guiding arrangement for the weight which is moved. Therefore, several machines are required to train the various muscle groups.
 Another type of machines is that known as a "cardiovascular machine", namely a machine which allows an aerobic-type training to be performed; most of these machines are based on the principle of emulating the real-life situation where an aerobic effort is performed, i.e. with fixed bicycles or moving belts. There are no machines of this kind which can train the muscle groups of the upper part of the body.
 An object of the present invention is to provide a physical exercise apparatus which can potentially train all the muscle groups without using weights, and which can offer a wide range of possibilities with regard to the degrees of freedom in movement of the user. A further object of the invention is to provide an apparatus which can distribute the effort load intended for the training of the user among the main body articulations which are involved in the training itself.
 Therefore, the object of the present invention is a physical exercise apparatus, comprising a support base, a vertical structure comprising at least one articulated joint, a support frame to which there are coupled a member for association with a users body, and at least two articulated arms which are connected to said support frame so as to be able to pivot in several directions. Preferably, said arms can pivot in three directions which are orthogonal to each other. Particularly, the fulcrum of each articulated joint is provided with force loading means, and specifically said means are friction members whose load is advantageously adjustable.
 In an embodiment, each of the arms is formed by at least four segments, and particularly the first two segments of each arm are provided with articulated joints pivoting in planes perpendicular to each other. In the preferred embodiment, the first segment pivots with respect to the support frame, the second segment pivots with respect to the first segment in a plane perpendicular to the pivoting plane of the articulated joint of the first segment with the support frame, and the third segment pivots with respect to the second segment in a plane perpendicular to both the planes of the articulated joints as previously described.
 Other advantages and features will be apparent from the following detailed description of a preferred embodiment of the present invention which is provided by way of illustration, and not by way of limitation, with reference to the accompanying drawings in which:
 FIG. 1 is a side elevation view of an embodiment of the apparatus according to the present invention;
 FIG. 2 is a front elevation view of the apparatus according to FIG. 1;
 FIG. 3 is a top plan view of a detail of the apparatus shown in FIG. 1;
 FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view of a detail of the apparatus according to the present invention; and
 FIG. 5 is an exploded partial perspective view of a detail of the apparatus according to the present invention.
 FIG. 1 shows an embodiment of the apparatus according to the present invention; 1 denotes a support base from which two feet 101 extend. A vertical column 2 extends from the base 1 and has connected at its free end, by means of a block 201, two beams 102 and 202 which are arranged as an articulated parallelogram and are connected, at the ends opposite to those connected to the column 2, to a frame 3 which supports means 103 and 203 for receiving the user's trunk, and arms 4. The beam 202 is also connected to two oppositely arranged jacks 212 and 222; a rod 232 of the jack 212 is connected to the beam 202 by means of engagement of its end with one of the holes 262 formed in a projecting flange 242. The heightwise adjustment of the beams 102, 202 is performed by means of a lever 302 which at one end is pivotally mounted to the same block 201 to which the two beams are connected, while at the other end it is engaged, by means of a suitable adjusting knob 312, with a longitudinal slot 252 in the beam 202, the slot being provided along its peripheral edge with holes 272 which allow the lever to be locked in a manner known per se and therefore not described in greater detail. The frame 3 supporting both the means 103, 203 for receiving the user's trunk and the arms 4 is located at the end of the beams 102, 202 which is opposite to that connected to the column 2.
 FIG. 2 shows a front elevation view of the device of FIG. 1; like parts are indicated by like numerals. As can be noted, each of the two arms 4 comprises several segments which are pivoted to each other. A first segment 104 is pivoted to the support frame at one end 114, while the opposite end 124 is pivoted with an axis rotated through 90° with respect to the axis of the articulated joint at the end 114. Similarly, the articulated joint at the end 224 of the segment 204 of the arm 4 acts about an axis which is orthogonal to the plane defined by the axes of rotation of the two previously described articulated joints. The segment 304 is connected at the end 324 to the segment 404 with an articulated joint whose axis is parallel to that of the immediately preceding articulated joint; in the same way, the further articulated joints which connect the segment 504 and the handle 524 are oriented along the same axis. Friction means 5, which will be described and illustrated in greater detail below, are arranged at the articulated joints between the frame 3 and the segment 104, between the segment 104 and the segment 204, between the segment 204 and the segment 304, and between the segment 304 and the segment 404 of the arm 4.
 The movement of the first segment 104 of the arms 4 with respect to the frame 3 is guided by means of a jack 303 coupled to a system of articulated levers 313, 323 which in any case will be more clearly illustrated and more fully described below. The means for receiving the user's trunk comprises an upper support 103 which is intended to co-operate with the trapezius muscle/neck region, and a lower support 203 which is intended to co-operate with the mid-dorsal region. As can be noted, both the supports are shaped so as to allow for a wide freedom of movement for the user's shoulder-blades.
 FIG. 3 shows an enlarged plan-view detail of the apparatus according to the invention; like parts are indicated by like numerals. The figure shows the segment 104 of the arm 4 which is essentially L-shaped, one end 114 of which co-operates with a bracket 403 connected to the support frame 3 through the friction means 5, while the other end 124 co-operates with the end 214 of the segment 204 through the friction means 5. As can be noted, the two articulated joints thus formed have pivoting axes which are orthogonal to each other. As already briefly described, the articulated joint at the end 114 of the segment 104 is guided by the jack 303 which is pivoted at one end to the support frame 3 through the pivot pins 333, and at the other end to the system of articulated levers 313, 323, the latter of which is connected to the segment 104; instead, the articulated joint of the end 124 is guided by the jack 503 which is connected at one end to the bush 134 positioned on the segment 104, and at the opposite end to the articulated levers 513, 523.
 FIG. 4 shows an embodiment of the friction means as used in the apparatus according to the invention. The figure shows the friction means 5 which is arranged between the end 224 of the segment 204 of the arm 4 and the end 314 of the segment 304. Said means comprises a cylindrical container body 105 which is provided with a plurality of side openings 115, said body 105 receiving, symmetrically at the two ends, rings 205 each having an inner side wall 215 tapered towards the outside of said body 105. Said wall is intended to co-operate with the wall 315 of a disc 305, which wall is suitably made of a material with a high coefficient of friction and is likewise tapered, the axial bushing 325 of said disc being fitted to the shaft 405 and engaged with splines 415 of said shaft. The two inner half-cavities 335 of the discs 305 facing each other house a spring 705. The assembly described above is coupled to the seat consisting of axial holes 334 formed in the end 314 of the segment 304 by means of pins 515 which pass through the holes of a closing plate 505, the holes 344 of the end 324, and the holes 225 of the rings 205. Each closing plate 505 has an axial hole which receives, through sliding guide means, a bush 605 which is coupled to each end of the shaft 405 and which is provided with a radial flange 635 by means of which it is fixed, through suitable means 625 inserted in through-holes 645 formed in the flange 635, to the end 224 of the segment 204 of the arm 4.
 FIG. 5 shows an exploded perspective view of a part of the friction member 5, comprising at least one of the elements as shown in FIG. 4; like parts are indicated by like numerals. The figure defines more clearly the structures of the various parts of the friction member, starting with the body 105 which has, axially projecting from both its ends, teeth 125 for the engagement with slots 235 which are formed axially at the side edge of the ring 205.
 The operation of the device according to the present invention will become apparent from the following. As can be seen from the embodiment illustrated, the apparatus according to the invention is based on two principles: the first principle consists in the possibility of controlling the movement by means of a series of articulated joints which, owing to their consecutive spatial arrangement, allow the user to perform a wide range of movements. The second principle consists in imparting a load to said movements which does not result from the displacement of weights through the space, but is solely created by friction members which are located at the articulated joints of the apparatus. With reference to FIGS. 1 and 2 of the accompanying drawings, it can be noted how the user's body is positioned relative to the apparatus, with the aid of the supports 103 and 203, so as to avoid any interference between the machine and the movements of the user. The machine is always "external" to the user, remaining outside of the user's working space.
 In practice, after the heightwise adjustment of the position of the beams 102 and 202 with respect to the column 2 in order to position the supports 103 and 203 in a suitable manner with respect to his/her trunk, the user grips the handles of the segment 504 of each arm 4 and starts to perform the movements according to the dedicated training program. Indeed, the handles 524 are the only active part interfacing with the user, since the means for receiving the trunk is an interface of a passive type; at this point, the movement of the user is exclusively conditioned by the opposing resistance of the friction members which are located at the articulated joints. In the embodiment shown in FIGS. 4 and 5, the friction member is provided with a loading spring 705 which will be suitably calibrated depending on the articulated joint of the apparatus where the respective friction member 5 is located; the varying load provided by the spring will keep the discs 305 with a greater or lesser pressure against the tapered walls 215 of the rings 205. Clearly, the spring 705 may be replaced by means with a variable degree of loading so as to be able to dynamically differentiate the effort which has to be applied by the user in order to move the single articulated joint.
 This solution may greatly broaden the range of use of the apparatus, providing work-load profiles which are suited to the different exercises and even customized for the different users. Moreover, the possibility of being able to vary the load for the articulated joints of the apparatus makes the apparatus suitable not only for exercising by users who are in good health, but also for use during a therapeutic rehabilitation of the motor system both following trauma and as a result of cardiocirculatory problems.
 Basically, the apparatus according to the present invention clearly highlights the considerable advantages which it offers compared to the available solutions of the prior art. In fact, compared to the so-called isotonic machines, i.e. those machines which offer resistance to the movement by means of the force of gravity using metal plates which, when suitably guided depending on the setting, act on the desired muscle group, the present apparatus offers undoubted advantages in terms of versatility of use, allowing a wide range of muscle groups to be trained using the same machine. It is also absolutely lighter and therefore much more manageable both from the point of view of installation and with regard to maintenance. Another important aspect is that the use of the machine is not dependent upon gravity, and this helps to direct the muscular effort in a much more suitable manner. Finally, since the load herein applied has a "braking" behaviour, the machine naturally stops when the user is subject to an excessive strain without any risk of injury.
 Clearly, the advantages compared to other free-standing equipment such as weightlifting bars, dumb-bells and the like are equally evident; in fact, in this case, the movement guiding function performed by the structure of the apparatus according to the present invention is of major importance.
 Finally, compared to the so-called cardiovascular machines, the apparatus according to the present invention has the advantage that it allows, by means of a suitable selection of the load, to aerobically exercise also the upper limbs, which was hitherto not possible with the machines of the known type.
 The apparatus according to the present invention has been herein described by means of an embodiment which contemplates two articulated arms intended to co-operate with the upper limbs. However, the operating principle of the above apparatus is also well suitable for the development of embodiments which can co-operate with the whole of the user's body.
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