ARX – What a $40,000 Weightlifting Machine Looks Like

For gym owners, the best members are the ones who don’t show up. And plenty don’t. In a world that’s swimming in big data, there are many interesting insights to be had about people’s gym habits. For example, analysts at Foursquare have identified “Fall Off the Wagon Day,” the day when an uptick in weekly visits to fast food restaurants meets a drop in weekly visits to the gym. It usually happens in the first or second week of February, when people finally give up on their New Year’s resolutions.

There are many reasons people decide on New Year’s Day that being healthy is the way forward. Perhaps the most primal reason is that you’ll have a better selection of mating material. People are attracted to other people who appear healthy – in other words, people who keep themselves fit. It’s called survival of the fittest for a reason. The problem is, getting fit takes a lot of time and money.

More Results, Less Time

Most advertisements you see for exercise equipment focus on two key value propositions – not having to go to a gym and achieving results without having to make a major time commitment. One example is Tonal, a $3,000 weightlifting machine that comes with a $50-per-month membership fee. The company that builds the platform has raised nearly half a billion dollars in the face of the success others like Peloton have had with home exercise machines. Here’s an excerpt from our piece that’s particularly relevant.

Ex-cons don’t come out of prison jacked because they spent 10 years using great gym equipment. Bodybuilders will tell you that abs are made in the kitchen, but it’s hardly the nutritious food they serve you in the pen that’s helping felons gain more muscle. It’s all about the time commitment. 

Credit: Nanalyze

People with nothing but time on their hands seem to have an easier time getting ripped than those with family and work commitments. We all understand why. One appeal of having home exercise equipment is that it presumably takes you less time to work out. The downside is purchasing expensive equipment that – in most cases – will eventually end up gathering dust. Therefore, we need to reduce the time it takes to work out and remove all impediments preventing people from doing so, especially the initial cost. The ideal form of exercise is the one that gives you the most benefit for the least amount of time spent. That happens to be high-intensity training or HIT.

High-Intensity Training

An entire book could be written about just how beneficial high-intensity training (HIT) is, particularly as you age. One champion of HIT as the optimal way to stay in shape is Doctor Doug McGuff, the bestselling author of Body by Science. Based on our readers’ demographics, we know many of you are currently dealing with aging parents, and you know how the quality of life deteriorates as you age. From age 65, you’ll lose 30% of your strength over the next 12 years, a condition referred to as sarcopenia. The below diagram shows how regular physical exercise helps a 70-year-old maintain the same amount of muscle mass and bone density as a 40-year-old.

diagram showing how regular physical exercise helps a 70-year-old maintain the same amount of muscle mass and bone density as a 40-year-old. Credit: Doctor Doug McGuff
Notice how the bone dramatically decreases as well, making it far easy to break a bone – Credit: Doctor Doug McGuff

The good news is that even if you let yourself go for most of your life, you can still reverse the muscle and bone density degradation, and far more quickly than you might think. The below image shows us the mid-thigh region of a male subject, 92 years of age, after just 12 weeks of resistance training.

image shows us the mid-thigh region of a male subject, 92 years of age, after just 12 weeks of resistance training. Credit: Dr. Doug McGuff
Credit: Dr. Doug McGuff

Everyone wants to talk about longevity or “the cure for aging” as if it’s the Holy Grail of life sciences when in fact it’s something you can master in at most 30 minutes a week.

Using HIT is the most efficient way to maintain muscle mass. Traditionally, you’d approach HIT in the same manner that man has done for decades – buy a gym membership, then don’t use it, but still feel good about yourself because you’re “doing something.” The most ambitious gym members who achieve results might go 3X a week, consistently, and spend several hours each time. The truth is, you can accomplish everything you need to with just 12 minutes a week by using technology combined with the ultimate method of high-intensity training – training until muscle failure. It’s the value proposition from a startup called ARX that’s built some of the most sophisticated exercise equipment known to man.

About ARX

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Founded in 2011, Austin, Texas startup ARX has raised an undisclosed amount of funding to build the best exercise machine money can buy which uses technology to hack the human body. (We’re told all their angel investors were users of ARX’s equipment who loved it so much they wanted to help the company grow.) After many years of research, and countless repetitions, the result is two machines – the Alpha and the Omni – that provide a completely digital workout experience.

Where technology meets technique – Credit: ARX

Every bit of force that you exert while working out can be measured, recorded, and analyzed over time. Imagine your workout as one big data set that’s unique to you. Combining elements of gamification, ARX machines provide resistance forces that are impossible to achieve using normal exercise machines. As a result, you can accomplish with ARX in one 12-minute session what would otherwise take three 45-minute sessions at the gym.

you can accomplish with ARX in one 12-minute session what would otherwise take three 45-minute sessions at the gym. Credit: ARX
Credit: ARX

We’ve all seen late-night infomercials touting “get abs in 7 minutes by eating hamburgers” value propositions, so some skepticism is certainly merited. We spoke with the ARX team about why the idea of a 12-minute workout is even possible, and it all comes down to technology and technique.

The ARX Value Proposition

There are several value propositions on offer here worth considering.

  • ARX the company
  • ARX as a business model
  • ARX for the end user

ARX The Company

ARX the company makes money selling their machines along with a monthly subscription to their software which automates all the exercises and includes access to all performance data, ability to access customers’ exercise routines anywhere, and video content for how-to guides on all things from setup to how to do a specific exercise. It also includes software updates on all new releases and improvements, typically one per month, and live support.

Of course, they only have a successful business if their machines can be used to generate revenue by those who purchase them. Aside from people like Tony Robbins (an avid ARX user), few of us can afford a $40,000 piece of gym equipment. However, if the value proposition holds true, this is the future gym of smart cities. And it doesn’t even have to be located in a gym.

For lots of employers, subsidizing gym memberships is one way to have healthier employees who perform better on the job while incurring less health insurance costs. How hard is it to convert one of your conference rooms into a small gym – you only need 150 square feet – and then divide up the working day into 15-minute slots that employees can book in a shared calendar? Introduce the machine over a brown bag lunch and you’re off to the races. It’s use cases like these where entrepreneurs might be able to create their own business around the world’s most sophisticated weightlifting machine.

ARX as a Business Model

People of both genders largely don’t enjoy going to the gym. For ladies, it’s having to figure out what to wear, the unwanted male attention, or being self-conscious for reasons that brought them to the gym in the first place. For men, it’s equally as intimidating – asking for a spot, working your way into someone else’s set, or watching the lad next to you do speed reps with the same amount of weight you just tried to max. Aside from some of the lads you might see roaming the Castro District on a Saturday night, the gym isn’t a place anyone wants to set foot in if they can help it. That’s another appeal of ARX – privacy.

If you’re a gym owner, ARX is a bolt-on product offering that can service a large number of members in a short period of time using a 150 square-foot footprint. Carving an 8-hour day into 32 slots of 15 minutes gives you 224 slots per week. Fill 80% of those slots at $10 a pop and that’s an income of $7,160 a month or $85,920 a year. But this can only be realized if the most important stakeholder receives considerable value – the end user.

ARX for the End User

The whole thing falls flat on its face if ARX doesn’t show results. Watching Dr. McGuff use ARX for the first time, and you can tell he’s genuinely surprised by the machine based on the number of f-bombs he drops. The secret sauce is that no weights are involved. The machine uses customized resistance to maximize your workout. Let’s use the bench press as an example of why this works so well.

Throw a couple 45s on an Olympic bar and give it a few reps (if you even can, you big pansy). On the way down, you’re always able to support the bar a lot easier than on the way up because of gravity. Still, there’s a linear amount of weight throughout the entire rep. If you’re going to rep until failure, you’ll need a spotter. The way you spot someone is to place two fingers of each hand under the bar and start to encourage them. Most times, a good spotter will help you finish the rep without having lifted any weight. That’s the psychology of weightlifting. Realizing your potential is as much about psychology as it is about strength. That’s why the ARX’s digital tablet provides output with elements of gamification that direct and encourage the client throughout the entire 12-minute session.

the ARX's digital tablet provides output with elements of gamification that direct and encourage the client throughout the entire 12-minute session. Feeling the burn - Credit: ARX
Feeling the burn – Credit: ARX

If you’re doing an exercise until you can do no more, this is called “training until muscular failure.” Your exercise intensity must cross a certain threshold before your body will respond. By training to muscular failure, we send an alarm to your body that more muscle and an improved metabolism are needed. It’s impossible to exert the type of force ARX can on the body using traditional weights. They’re doing what many refer to today as “biohacking,” tricking the human body to achieve things it wouldn’t be able to do otherwise. And with 360 machines deployed across the United States, plenty of people seem to be finding that it works. ARX expects to have a list of all their locations published by early next year.

Conclusion

If you take away anything from this piece, it should be that high-intensity training will improve your quality of life as you age. Sure, our dividend growth investing strategy may provide you a higher income every year, but are you really going to enjoy that increased wealth if you’re bedridden with a broken hip? One thing you’ll have more of as you age is time. Use it, and start to live a healthier life. If you’re the sort of person who doesn’t care to set foot in a gym, then an ARX machine just might be what the doctor ordered. No need to own it, just head to a gym.

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