September 24, 2006 The Bodywall is one the most adaptable inventions we’ve ever seen. Designed as a way to assist athletes to stretch effectively, the high adhesion gloves and shoes and high-tech wall surface offer spiderman-like capabilities. So it’s a gym, a ready made game and new form of physical education and wil be undoubtedly incorporated into the training regime of every elite athlete on the planet. But its chameleon-like character solves different problems in different markets. As in the parable of the seven blind men and the elephant, each person experiences and perceives the Bodywall in a different way. The original concept was to use a combination of the wall and gravity to challenge the entire body – improving proprioception, building muscle, joint, ligament and tendon strength, maintaining flexibility, reducing injury, rehabilitating injuries and facilitating full stretching of almost every muscle in the body for the very young and the very old, and everyone in between.
To use Bodywall, you pull on high-adhesion, rapid-release 3M developed Dual Lock gloves and shoes. The special wall material and the gloves together offer enough grip for gecko-style adhesion – enough grip to hold the weight of a 200 pound powerfully-built Maori Full Back steady while he stretches. Bodywall holds you while you a very effective targeted exercise for athletes of all disciplines but has evolved into an indoor/outdoor, low-footprint exercise gym that can be set up inside the smallest hotel room or could be done at billboard size as a promotional activity.
Bodywall can fix you in position “in the moment” of any sporting action from a golf swing to lifting weights, from throwing a pass to sprinting, so you can examine what you do fully loaded up and train to do it better. People are already using it training for everything from motorcycle racing to hardcore surfing and skateboarding cutbacks and freestyle tricks and so far athletes have adapted golf clubs and tennis racquets and balls of all sorts to attach to the Bodywall to train with. “Why not train with the tools you use to play your sport”, says inventor Chris Toal. “Why should you do leg curls when you really want to build up the muscles you actually use to bicycle kick or sprint or change direction or throw a ball?”
“Machinery with pulleys and levers, inflatable bags balls and bendy poles all have their place but Bodywall turns the whole process inside out with exercise that’s perfectly tailored to you, and your sport, making you the equipment.”
Bodywall can be used either privately or very publicly, and can be manufactured for an audience of one, with the manufacturers offering a personal service, accepting four-colour, high resolution digital imaging. For an individual training for their own life goals, the Bodywall’s massive surface is an ideal place to decorate with personal messages to absorb while stretching – a great place to focus energies, emblazon a life purpose or a “go get ‘em” motivational mantra. It can function as a personal billboard for athletes and on a team scale, it offers a mobile sponsor wall that can be set up quickly at any training venue, in the change rooms or beside the pitch, court or track. In a world obsessed with sport, it’s a new high-association, visual advertising medium for sponsors.
Viewed from another angle, the Bodywall could be seen as a kids climbing gym offering a compelling, safe, indoor exercise adjunct to the sedentary lifestyle of our children. It’s fun, offers a fast way to burn abdominal fat and could be just the thing to overcome the epidemic of child obesity the world is currently facing. “Almost everything you do on Bodywall is a core exercise so you end up with hard abs just from training to do what you love”, says Toal. Discussions are underway with a global childrens toys and games company to develop a 3D game a la twister for children’s hospitals so it can be used under the focused eye of a trained physiotherapist. Bodywall can provide almost any physical challenge for handicapped and rehabilitating children in a safe game environment and plans include a vibration training version for targeted muscle building.
Healthcare is seen as one of the championing industries for the product in the future as its advantages are explored by physiotherapists, chiropractors and rehabilitation centres. Viewed from the position of a geriatric specialist, the Bodywall offers the potential to vastly extend painless mobility by decades as the world’s population ages. The safety and support of the wall make it ideal to facilitate effective stretching for the aged and the ill in retirement homes.
Then there’s the possibility of a new genre of gym classes (yet another variation on the theme of different focuses of organised group exercise in gyms such as step, boxercise, etc), use in gym classes at educational institutions on wet days, as a sporting club fundraising activity, and adaptations of everything from Tai Chi to yoga to meditation. Dancers can have their stretching bar in unlimited positions, martial arts studios and gyms can ensure their charges warm up correctly and we can really see a Spiderman climbing game and exercise routine for kids.
Chris originally had the idea for BodyWall while working as a Therapeutic Masseur and recognizing the large percentage of injuries that could have been avoided by proper stretching. Stretching is hard to do properly and can make you look silly because balancing and stretching at the same time is an exacting task. So Chris set out to design a way of stretching that was easy and effective. After developing the first prototypes, Bodywall took shape and effectiveness evaluations testing for changes in Range Of Motion (ROM) after usage at Auckland University of Technology in 2003 showed the system actually stretched tissue very effectively. A change in ROM indicates a load has been applied to muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons.
The results clearly showed they were on the right path so more investors were brought onboard and, Massey University’s Industrial Design Dept was engaged to develop ergonomic, high adhesion rapid release gloves and shoes. Patented new and amazingly strong 3M Dual Lock technology was sourced from 3M New Zealand and the current wall material was found in 2005.
With IP protection filed worldwide, lots more testing done, and Trade Mark protections completed, Bodywall was finally ready to be shown to the world and the web site went live yesterday.
Chris evangelises the product with such passion, he’s contagious. “Remember as kids spending hours hanging from play gyms or trees,” he says. “It’s natural for us. We are primates and we originally hung out in the trees. Hanging out is also really good for building strong muscles and growing straight skeletons. Okay, now imagine if you could hang from something without holding on, with something else doing all the work to give you a big stretch out. On Bodywall you stick to the wall itself with the gloves and shoes that have super high levels of adhesion, so the tension in the arm or leg muscles that’s usually required to just to hold you in place isn’t needed. Imagine how good a stretch that could be, just relax and let go of the day’s tension, or release a sore knee, shoulder, or lower back. This is a godsend for elite athletes.”
Chris says that even though the Bodywall systems development has involved some of New Zealand’s leading sports scientists, sports teams and Universities, the system will be the focus of intensive research for years to come. “There are just so many facets. I’m four years into this project and we are still in the very early days of exploring the ways in which it can be used, what works best, sustainable, long term benefits, applications for the rehabilitation of certain injuries, the long term effects on the wellbeing of children.”
As a daily reader of Gizmag, Chris found the answer to his prayers when he read about Sayed Alavi’s magical flying carpet and his resultant explorations yielded the digital printing technology that provided the commercial clincher for this amazing product. Bodywall now accepts full colour images and prints them directly onto the bodyboard so it can be used exactly as you wish.
The first prototypes of portable, lightweight, carbon fibre fold-up Bodywalls are currently being constructed for traveling athletes. “Imagine a bright bold, ultralightweight gym that becomes a billboard,” says Toal. “On a grander scale, there’s a huge range of on site and event applications, imagine a portable billboard that provides athletes with a sports-specific warm up courtside or thousands of runners doing post event hamstring and calf stretches at the London marathon, on rows of boldly printed Bodywalls.” Sponsors and advertisers are gonna love it.
Just in case you’re not sure if Bodywall will be as big as they and we think it will be, here’s a quote directly from the website of Kevin Roberts CEO Worldwide of Saatchi & Saatchi.
“What do you think are the three most influential businesses in the world today? Healthcare, entertainment, communication.”
Bodywall does all three, and it does all three really really well.