Students invent device for the perfect bicep curl

Apr 18, 2012 By Anne Ju
Michael Lyons demonstrates the haptic exercise coach. (Robert Barker/University Photography)

To achieve buff biceps, proper form for strength-training exercises is key, and people often turn to professional trainers to correct them and prevent injury. Cornell student engineers have developed an alternative: A simple electronic device that guides the user through a proper bicep curl.

Michael Lyons '11, M.Eng. '12; and Greg Meess '09, M.Eng. '10, invented their "haptic exercise coach" for an electrical engineering class project in spring 2010. Their teacher for ECE 4760, senior lecturer Bruce Land, recognized the project's uniqueness and encouraged the students to apply for a patent.

In September 2011, Lyons and Meess filed a provisional patent application for the device through Cornell Center for Technology Enterprise and Commercialization (CCTEC). The filing status is a yearlong placeholder to protect the intellectual property, giving CCTEC time to perform the necessary marketing and that will lead to a decision on whether to file a formal patent application.

The haptic exercise coach, which looks a bit like a blood pressure cuff, has two that attach to the wrist and and track the wearer's movements. A takes data from the accelerometers. When the wearer's form goes out of line with pre-calibrated specifications, the device vibrates in two places, alerting the wearer to adjust his or her form. By keeping proper form, the chance for injury diminishes, say the inventors.

Lyons said the project fuses two of his interests: electrical engineering and working out. He envisions such a device helping people cut down on the cost and time of a personal trainer.

"With personal trainers, everything is kind of subjective," Lyons said. "With our device, you calibrate everything to kinesiology." For the project, Lyons and Meess researched the scientific principles that guide proper exercise, as well as the many ways people exercise incorrectly. For example, they discovered that people often bring the weight too high or too rapidly, failing to maximize force on the targeted muscles.

"It's basic physics combined with human anatomy," Lyons said.

The possibilities reach far across the physical exercise spectrum; while working on the project, Lyons came across literature on rates of elbow injury in baseball players. "Easing those tendons back to life is something you want to do with very slow movements," Lyons said. "Instead of someone telling you how to do it, you could have a machine tell you to go at a certain speed and angle."

The bicep cuff was a proof of concept only. Meess envisions the same idea being applied to sensors for the legs, arms and torso, too. He is excited by the device's potential in physical therapy applications.

"The potential to provide instant feedback and ensure proper form is valuable, but also the ability to collect data for detailed updates on improvements could provide a useful motivational tool, as well as giving a physical therapist a quantitative way to remotely check up on their patient's progress," Meess said.

Explore further: Desktop device to make key gun part goes on sale in US

Related Stories

CeBIT 2011: Electronic Fitness Trainer

Feb 08, 2011

Only people who get a lot of exercise and eat a healthy diet stay fit even in old age. This is easier said than done. Researchers have developed a Fitness Assistant that not only motivates but also demonstrates ...

Some exercises yield more damage than progress

Sep 30, 2011

Maybe the biggest barrier to working out is time. Barrier, challenge, excuse? So fitness trainers hate to see anyone frittering away precious workout periods or filling them with less-than-effective exercises. Actually, it ...

Recommended for you

Desktop device to make key gun part goes on sale in US

3 hours ago

The creator of the world's first 3D plastic handgun unveiled Wednesday his latest invention: a pre-programmed milling machine that enables anyone to easily make the core component of a semi-automatic rifle.

Minimally invasive surgery with hydraulic assistance

9 hours ago

Endoscopic surgery requires great manual dexterity on the part of the operating surgeon. Future endoscopic instruments equipped with a hydraulic control system will provide added support during minimally ...

Analyzing gold and steel – rapidly and precisely

11 hours ago

Optical emission spectrometers are widely used in the steel industry but the instruments currently employed are relatively large and bulky. A novel sensor makes it possible to significantly reduce their size ...

More efficient transformer materials

11 hours ago

Almost every electronic device contains a transformer. An important material used in their construction is electrical steel. Researchers have found a way to improve the performance of electrical steel and ...

Sensor network tracks down illegal bomb-making

11 hours ago

Terrorists can manufacture bombs with relative ease, few aids and easily accessible materials such as synthetic fertilizer. Not always do security forces succeed in preventing the attacks and tracking down ...

Miniature camera may reduce accidents

11 hours ago

Measuring only a few cubic millimeters, a new type of camera module might soon be integrated into future driver assistance systems to help car drivers facing critical situations. The little gadget can be ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Apr 18, 2012
I think bicep curls are probably one of the less dangerous weight-lifts. If he could get these to work for squats and deadlifts, that would be a real zinger.