To the uninitiated, it’s an overpriced pipe. To personal trainer Kennedy Lodato, the ViPR – a virtually indestructible weighted rubber tube – is “one of the most incredible tools ever created.” Available in seven different weights, from four-to-20 kilograms, it’s designed to be hoisted, swung and flipped for a full-body workout. With regular use, Mr. Lodato promises I’ll get stronger, svelter and develop a better sense of body awareness – all for one easy payment of $176.95 (twistconditioning.com; price increases by weight).
Mr. Lodato first became enamoured with the ViPR upon its Canadian launch last August. “Within five minutes, I knew this was going to be the next big thing,” he says when I call to arrange a session. “It’s the most fun you’ll have working out.”
Fun is a strong word, but I will say the ViPR makes for a killer workout. During our hour-long session, Mr. Lodato leads me through a series of 12 exercises with an 8-kilogram ViPR. We use it in a series of squats and lunges, flip it like a tire, swing it like a shovel and thrust it upward like a kettlebell. Within minutes, I’m sweating buckets, as is Mr. Lodato, who is using a 10-kilogram pipe. (It bears mention that he is roughly 100 times as fit as me.)
Unlike lifting weights while sitting, laying down or standing up – in other words, the vast majority of strength-training exercises – Mr. Lodato’s routine has me moving in all directions.
“I wanted to develop a tool that married strength training with movement training,” explains Michol Dalcourt, the Alberta-born, San Diego-based exercise physiologist who created the ViPR. (He’s a huge proponent of functional fitness, which aims to improve the way you perform real-life activities in a way that, say, doing a bench press doesn’t.)
He came up with the concept after realizing that his pro hockey player clients who came from farms had better strength and stability skills than those who grew up in cities. “They never had time to go to the gym, but they were hoisting bales of hay and picking up rocks all day,” Mr. Dalcourt says.
After having some of his clients flip rolled-up carpets as part of their training, the idea for the ViPR started to take shape, and he commissioned a company that manufactured rubber sleeves for Alberta’s oil pipelines to create the first prototype. Today, the ViPR is sold in 32 countries, and production was recently quadrupled to keep up with demand.
Back at the gym, I’m duly impressed with its versatility: For every one of the 12 moves Mr. Lodato takes me through, he shows me at least three other variations of increasing intensity – the idea being that you can use the same weight for a long time without hitting a plateau. One problem: I honestly can’t see myself remembering what to do with it at home. (And unlike most other fitness gadgets, it doesn’t come with an instructional DVD.)
Mr. Lodato recommends working one-on-one with a ViPR-certified trainer before rolling it out on my own – and concedes that buying one and learning how to properly use it is an investment, though no more so than the cost of a gym membership. As for the enjoyment factor? I’m still not feeling it. (What I am feeling, however, are my bicep and inner thigh muscles.) Not to worry, says Mr. Lodato, who plans on launching a ViPR group class this spring: “That’s when it’s really going to get fun.”
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