Geeked Out and Geared Up
modeled by Jesse O'Brien, Central Athlete
photo by Jessica Frey
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These products are sleek, savvy, and best of all, smart. New technology in the fitness space helps you train more efficiently while improving form.
Total Body Board
The growing collection of elite athletes in and around Austin is one of the many things that make our city an exciting one in which to live, train and compete. AFM checked in recently with San Marcos resident and Olympic Gold Medalist Charles Austin (high jump, 1996 Atlanta games) to see what we could learn about his training methods and his invention, the Total Body Board.
Austin holds the Olympic record, American record and the world Master’s record in the high jump, but his elite competitive career was almost over before it began when he suffered a training injury in the early 1990s. Seeking a way to train hard without having to beat up his surgically repaired knee with thousands of heavy squats, deadlifts and plyometric jumps, he discovered resistance bands.
The key feature of bands is the progressive resistance they provide—a user is forced to work through increasing resistance as the band’s length increases. The key feature of the Total Body Board is its versatility in applying this progressive resistance in multiple planes to improve all kinds of things. The TBB website description claims an athlete using it can expect to improve aerobic capacity, muscular strength and power, flexibility and balance. We found it to be a pretty creative combination of an old school slide board, a vertical jump training platform, and a multi-station resistance training hub with room for six or so athletes at a time.
AFM: What was the inspiration for the TBB?
CA: “Bands were a great tool in my rehab and training. A couple years back, I woke up one night with this great idea, so I grabbed a pencil and paper and sketched out the basics. When I woke up, there it was, and after a quick trip to Home Depot and a little time in the garage and I had the first prototype.”
AFM: What’s it good at? What would you say are the best ways to use it?
CA: “These days, I train athletes of all types, as well as regular people. Everyone wants to be fit, be strong, be lean, be fast. The TBB does so much that it really just depends on what someone’s goals are. It can do it all. All my athletes and clients use it for some or even all their training. I use it too.”
Our Favorite Exercises
• Slide Board Training: After getting used to the movement, we included two- to five-minute intervals in our metcon complexes. The brief time required to unhook bands and get the booties off was a nice time to catch a breath before grabbing the barbell or the slam ball.
• Sprint Training: As a complement to outdoor sprint intervals, the TBB applies resistance to the legs and arms for indoor sprints that reinforce good mechanics while improving power and endurance.
• Rehab (Core, Hamstrings and Hip Flexors): We tried hamstring curls, mountain climbers, drop-step lunges and standing hip ab-/adduction. Great activator and/or rehab exercises.
• Figuring out how and where to anchor the bands and then attach them (to the waist belt and the ankle/thigh/wrist cuffs) takes some time.
• Setup and breakdown of the board when transporting it from one training location to another requires budgeting at least three to four minutes before and after a workout.
• The slide board surface needs an occasional spray and wipe with Pledge or some other furniture polish to keep it slippery.
The TBB is a really creative training tool. It’s versatile, made right here in Texas, and is available in two sizes. The basic accessory kit (included) will allow you to do lots of exercises, and the TBB website provides streaming video how-to’s. Our model’s $1,100 price tag seemed pricey until we pulled out an equipment catalog—a slide board, vertical jump training platform and a collection of resistance bands and anchors would cost considerably more if purchased individually.