Some cutting–edge fans of cardiovascular fitness are going a bit bionic as they strap on belts, step into stirrups and grab hand loops on the DISQ, a recently-arrived wearable contraption of adjustable resistance cords.
Crunch, the national group of fitness centers, employs the mobile gadget in a group fitness class called "Transformer w/ DISQ," a 45-minute fast-moving, music-driven cardio workout, to enhance basic interval training moves such as lunges, squats and jumping jacks.
"It's not easy to find programs that combine strength and cardiovascular workouts in one," Donna Cyrus, senior vice president of programming for Crunch Fitness, said about the class, which was launched in New York, Miami and locations in California.
"It's fun and for the amount of time you spend, you really get a full body workout," she said.
The fitness class was named in a nod to the 1980s television show turned science-fiction movie series.
"We call it Transformer because when you're in that contraption you sort of move like a robot and feel like you're an action hero," Cyrus said.
The DISQ is the brainchild of Dutch speed skater Robbert Boekema, who along with his colleagues, sought a way to train outside the gym.
Boekema, speaking from his company's headquarters near Amsterdam, said the idea for the device occurred to him around the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, and was being used by speed skaters in training ahead of the Sochi Olympics earlier this year.
A consumer version of his device is being launched, he said, with a price tag of $199, along with a personal training app providing workouts for everything from muscle building to weight loss.
"For normal people, it is probably enough to do it three times a week for half an hour," he said.
Anthony J. Wall, director of professional education at the American Council on Exercise which offers a DISQ trainer course to fitness professionals said it is fun, innovative and different.
"It's a new style of training where they use resistance devices attached to the body," he said.
But the DISQ may not be for everybody.
Grace Desimone, a personal trainer and group fitness instructor with the American College of Sports Medicine, thinks the DISQ is unique, fun and best taken in small doses.
"It's a nice option for individuals who want to elevate their heart rate without a lot of impact," said Desimone. "It's efficient and intense because of the compound exercise activity."
But she cautions that the DISQ might be inappropriate for anyone with upper body weakness or injury, and notes it is usually safer to reach good form before adding resistance.
"You can perform many movements with added resistance, but do you need that? Do you need to run with added resistance? For the average person, the answer is no," she said. "The risk outweighs the benefit."