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Powerbocking: jump like a kangaroo, run like a gazelle & stride like a giant

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July 27, 2009

Powerbocking - Great poses are achieved by scissoring legs apart while mid-air. You don't ...

Powerbocking - Great poses are achieved by scissoring legs apart while mid-air. You don't want to land like this, though (Photo: pro-jump.co.uk)

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They’re enough to fulfill anyone’s dreams of bionic powers: jump six feet in the air (and over cars, if you’re in the mood), run at 25 miles an hour or more, and stride nine feet at a time. But, instead of costing Six Million Dollars, you can invest in a pair of “powerbocks” for just a couple of hundred. And not only will you be part of a sport that can help you lose weight, build strength and reduce cholesterol, but you’ll also be drawn into a craze that’s swept the world from Korea to Canada.

Mankind seems to have a compulsion to get off the ground. In the late 1890’s stilt walking gripped Europe, with Sylvain Dornon walking from Paris to Moscow on stilts in 58 days and, in 1894, a 273 mile stilt race across France. (Incidentally, the art of stilt walking was developed in Gascony, France, where shepherds used them to move efficiently around the marshy landscape!).

America went crazy for the pogo stick in the 1920’s, where even Hippodrome chorus girls in NY performed on them, and marriages vows were exchanged on them. And, in the 60’s, trampolining took off as a competitive sport, with the first world championships held in 1964.

Powerbocks are the logical endpoint for these various obsessions, a cross between stilts and a pogo stick that harnesses energy in the same way as a trampoline. Each boot consists of a foot-plate with snowboard type bindings, a calf-cuff which fastens just below the knee, a rubber foot pad which is also commonly called a hoof, and a fibreglass leaf spring. Once strapped on, the 3 foot long springs use the body’s own weight to generate power. Like a trampoline, the spring accumulates, stores and returns the amount of energy put into it.

The inventor of the Powerbock, German aerospace engineer Alexander Boeck, apparently studied the movements of kangaroos in order to develop his original prototype (patented in the US in 2004). And the Powerbock, essentially, allows humans to extend their own Achilles tendon to approximate the length and power of those in animals like roos and ostriches. As a result, exercising using the stilts reduces wear and tear on feet and knees while still giving the body a full workout.

Enthusiasts heartily endorse Powerbocking as a form of exercise, claiming you’ll burn calories five times faster than jogging, and that it employs 95% of the body’s muscles. Certainly, a test group at a university in Korea lost, on average, seven pounds after using them for five weeks. They also shed an inch off their waistlines, and saw HDL cholesterol (the good one) increase while bad cholesterol levels dropped.

But, frankly, it’s not as a novel form of exercise that Powerbocking is making its mark. It’s also an extraordinarily easy form of extreme sport to take up – it only takes about 30 minutes to master the basics – that virtually screams “look at me!”

For a start, you’ll instantly add 18 inches to your height, and finish up looking like a robotic gazelle. And then you’ll be capable of the most extraordinary feats of athleticism. Flipping backwards 20 times in 20 seconds to set a Guinness World record, for example. Or leaping over cars. Or just scaring the bejesus out of passers-by.

They’re an awful lot of fun, and they seem to add a superhuman grace to mere mortals. Its not surprising that they’ve been turning up everywhere – on talent shows, commercials for insurance and even as part of the closing ceremony at the 2008 Beijing Olympic games.

But, be warned, if you’re interested in taking up this sport, you need to know that no-one can agree what it should be called. The equipment is sometimes referred to as power stilts, jumping stilts, spring stilts, kangaroo boots and many more. And then the various brand names include Powerisers, PowerSkips, Pro-Jumps, Fly-Jumpers, Air-Trekkers and PowerStriders. But there seems to be general consensus that the sport ought to be named “Powerbocking” in honor of its inventor, Herr Boeck.

Powerbocks are available through any of the sites linked above, and start from around USD$269.

11 Comments

I have a pair of Air-trekkers and they're an absolute blast. I would suggest anyone with two legs get themselves a pair!

Jason Macek
27th July, 2009 @ 10:10 am PDT

Hi

Powerbocking appears to be an interesting device. (I've seen others of similar description.) These devices -- do you have any information on injuries used. Types of injuries, frequency, severity, that kind of stuff?

herbpiper
27th July, 2009 @ 11:04 am PDT

Not to quibble about an otherwise very nice article, but to suggest that "the art of stilt walking was developed in Gascony, France" is very incomplete! Stilt walking is pretty much world wide, and has been for centuries. Bamboo stilts have been used in China and other countries, and the use of stilts for religious pageants and ceremonies has been, and are used to this day in African, Native American, and Aboriginal societies, as well as elsewhere. For more information see the history photos and world record sections at StiltWalker.com. For a look at another style of pogo stilts from 1954, see the history photos section at StiltWalker.com. Contributions welcomed. Bill Coleman

Stretch@StiltWalker.com
27th July, 2009 @ 03:03 pm PDT

Great Article. Mainly they are lots of fun. They have for kids too.

Become a facebook fan if you want to try it out for free or learn more about using power stilts: http://www.facebook.com/pages/DC-Power-Stilts/36211289883

David Churchill
27th July, 2009 @ 04:09 pm PDT

Echoing what herbpiper said: sounds fun, but I think A LOT of people are going to hurt themselves doing this. You can already hurt yourself by tripping while walking/running normally. Imagine how much worse it will be if you trip at 20mph. I want to try it, but I'm going to wear my bike helmet.

Charles Sonnabend
27th July, 2009 @ 07:09 pm PDT

I bought a pair of Poweriser spring stilts years ago, but after my first painful fall from that extra height, never mastered the art of balancing on them. I do not know about learning in 30 minutes. I found it quite difficult. These things need some kind of extra stable footing for learning analogous to training wheels and padded armor to work for me. I would sure like to find someone that could show me how to use the pair I paid around $200 for.

Mark Zinzow
29th July, 2009 @ 02:40 pm PDT

Will this work on forest roads - gravel and dirt?

Henrik Lund-Hanssen
1st August, 2009 @ 03:20 am PDT

They work on gravel and dirt, and they are fine for jumping but you don't want to run on them if there is a loose surface. Also gravel is really hard on the standard hooves, so you may want to enhance it with material from an off-road tire.

Google "lessons power stilts", and you'll see that some sellers offers lessons on how to use them, but businesses for the most part have shied away from that.

David Churchill
10th September, 2009 @ 07:38 pm PDT

I am in the same boat as Mark Zinzow in comment above. Recently I ran across what strikes me as good advice for a facility to set up to learn with. A rope suspended lower than armpit level to hang onto, and a surface of sufficient height to put the stilts on and then stand up in them. I'm going to ratchet a 3/4" yellow rope between two trees 35 Feet apart in my yard and place a picnic table near one end for putting the stilts on. DO NOT FALL BACKWARDS was also included in the advice.

Padding up with every piece possible of inline skate crash gear is a given for learning. View youtube videos for these and also the Flybar & Vurtego pogo sticks. A very closely related device also inspired by the Kangaroo but patented by a man born in Hawaii is this item which may be way better for running in then the Boek design. I found his new video just a few days ago on youtube, He also has a web page, but it's pretty sparse compared to the web page he used to have.



http://www.bionicboot.com/

Per notes his arm movement is exagerated for the video and production is not curently planned, so it's not his day job.

Below is a 2006 video on the powered stilts covered long ago on Gizmag by successive series of students. Funding for commercial production has eluded them for decades.



Dave B13
21st October, 2013 @ 07:17 am PDT

Look like fun, until the fall, which is inevitable.

rik.warren
29th January, 2014 @ 08:32 am PST

I have two pair of Powerizers.

They can be mighty dangerous, especially if one steps on dry OR wet leaf piles with 'em. Just thought I'd warn about that.

There are small inconveniences with the spring stilts -

You can't stand perfectly still for long with them because you're standing on two small points on the ground, not feet.

They're sort of a pain to put on...but so are the industrial stilts. I have a pair of those two. Got the industrials from a pawn shop. ;)

I don't much like my Powerizers because they CLACK loudly with every step. That gets old, quick. In time, with extra parts, I can do away with that, but it's a chore.

I'm advising that regular industrial stilts for drywall work, painting, etc. are fun too.

Dan Lewis
6th February, 2014 @ 12:24 pm PST
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