Over thirty years ago in a small factory in Fresno, a pair of brothers set out to make pumping iron passé. The product that emerged had no weights, pins, or pulleys; the resistance came entirely from compressed air, or pneumatics. By 1978, the Keiser brothers were peddling the world’s first air-powered variable resistance machines.
To no surprise, the technology’s earliest adopters included Olympic and professional sports teams, along with some of the country’s leading performance training facilities. Today, Athletes’ Performance, Peak Performance, Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning, and LA Fitness are just a few of the big name facilities buying into the air-powered equipment. The U.S. Armed Forces (Navy SEALs and Special Forces included), physical therapy facilities, and nursing homes are also incorporating pneumatic resistance into their training routines — with no real competitors in sight. According to Keiser reps, sales of Keiser’s pneumatic cable pulley systems and racks have increased by 68 percent over the last three years.
The Air Advantage
So why swap traditional stacked weights for the unseen? “Pneumatic machines are the closest you’ll get to true isotonic exercise,” (or moving a fixed amount of resistance through a specific range of motion), says Andrea Hudy, strength and conditioning coach at the University of Kansas.