We only use one machine to train. That machine’s resistance is so unique that the same setting can be used for both professional athletes and a 14 year old female. It’s a flywheel, shown to the right. The cone is a couple feet high with a rope attached to the top, allowing the rope to wrap down to the bottom when the athlete pulls on it. The beauty of this resistance is inertia, meaning the speed of this cone determines the resistance exerted back on the athlete. Basically, it provides more resistance as you pull the rope, and the cone, faster. It is very unique to have a resistance not based on gravity, just ask NASA. But what if we are not in space, why even bother training with a flywheel?
The main benefit of the flywheel is inertia, which is the building of resistance due to increasing speed, like a big rock rolling downhill. This inertia becomes so great that it overloads the muscles to cause eccentric contractions, (see Sparta Point 4/13/11), which has crucial performance and healing benefits. From a performance standpoint, this eccentric strength determines your finishing movement, or concentric force production (see Sparta Point 8/4/10). As far as injury prevention, eccentric exercise is a well-accepted treatment method for tendonopathies, like jumper’s knee or tennis elbow. You’ll see this nature of exercise done by people who “work the negative” or descend with the weight slower than it is raised. But this flywheel adds an entirely new facet, due to the simultaneous provisions of speed AND resistance.
A 2011 study out of the University School of Sport and Health in Barcelona Spain examined the use of this flywheel in treating the most common form of tendonopathy in athletes, patellar tendonitis, or that tenderness right below your kneecap. The authors found reduced pain and improved muscle function, agreeing with previous research.
But the study showed 2 more important aspects of this flywheel that make it irreplaceable. The most important finding for us all is that a flywheel is EFFICIENT. The intervention only took 12 sessions for very large improvements, far less time required from other forms of eccentric exercise. The second unique aspect of the flywheel was the study’s nature of eccentric exercise, or overload. Their emphasis was placed on the last 1/3 of the movement before movement direction was reversed. This focus enhances the process known as the stretch shortening cycle (see Sparta Point 10/19/09). So rather than just slowly lowering the resistance for the entire descending phase, the athletes only exerted maximal effort at the end to stop the flywheel and reverse directions quickly.
We use the flywheel from Versapulley because we can measure both the speed of the cone and the resistance, particularly in lateral movements, as shown below in the video. This machine provides that eccentric overload for our injury rehabilitation, but more importantly with injury prevention because offseason duration is shrinking.
But if you have all the time in the world, you should probably just try every machine and hope for the best. If not, take advantage of this unique form of resistance that will make your training more efficient.