By Sean Smith
At Exceed Sports Performance and Fitness in Westborough, MA, we train more than 150 athletes each month, and receive dozens more in monthly visits, including drop-ins by performance coaches from other facilities looking to gain insight on the ExceedSPF method. The most common questions we receive from performance coaches center around our training methodology and the types of equipment we employ to train our athletes. In answering these questions, we recommend only what we believe to be the best techniques and technologies available.
From our perspective, the kBox flywheel system by Exxentric is one of the most valuable pieces of equipment at our facility. Not only does the kBox distinguish itself through its incredible versatility, but more importantly, our athletes love using it!
Exceed’s kBox Story
In early 2017, we installed our first kBox and quickly began the task of incorporating it into our existing training programs. At first, I was skeptical about whether the kBox actually offered substantive value as a training tool, or was simply another flash-in-the-pan piece of equipment that looked great on social media but then quickly collected dust in the corner of the gym. My doubts were quickly laid to rest.I was skeptical about the kBox’s value as a training tool, but my doubts were quickly laid to rest, says @SPSmith11. Click To Tweet
The kBox represents a quantum leap in flywheel training technology, combining sturdy construction and versatile operation to allow an athlete to train almost any movement imaginable with concentric and eccentric loads. Today, Exceed has incorporated the kBox into the training programs of athletes at all levels, from the elite NFL professional to the casual weekend warrior.
Here are my top 10 reasons why your gym should buy a kBox:
Athletes have options with training, now more than ever. Results are one of the criteria that athletes use to determine where to go, so as a private sector coach with competition all around me, I pride myself on getting athletes better. Massachusetts is better known for producing hockey athletes than football players, but over the last few years Exceed has had a nice streak of producing NFL players. We know that when athletes head to play at the collegiate level, they talk to other athletes about training for the Combine after their NCAA career finishes.
We have a lot of college kids come back to us because they remember who helped them get there. The only difference is athletes need to trust that we can make them better at the pro level, not just during high school and the summers of their college career. Now, they remember the kBox and other investments we made to help them get every inch in jumping or every tenth in sprinting. If flywheel training didn’t work, we wouldn’t waste our time and money. Any piece of equipment can get athletes into the gym once or twice, but the right tool keeps them here.
Lately, we have seen local linemen from our area get signed by teams in the NFL. We know that part of that is us, since many of those Massachusetts athletes train at our facility. A growing interest of ours is adding muscle quickly because we plan to work with even more linemen, and based on our research, adding mass from flywheel training is a powerful approach that we need. The science supporting flywheel training appears to be locked in, so we are going to put more and more effort into this type of training. If flywheels help with strength, power, and speed, it is nearly a perfect tool because it helps with muscle hypertrophy as well.
Ironically, the use of flywheels is very safe, but eccentric training usually gets a bad rap because the overload is usually foolish. On average, an athlete who has a few months of solid training can jump into flywheels instantly and begin the process. The reason athletes are safe with flywheels is that the speed and rebound load are highly autoregulated by their concentric abilities. Some athletes have poor eccentric abilities, but the likelihood of an athlete having extremely poor eccentric abilities after months of conventional training is slim to none. Performing traditional exercises with the kBox or kPulley is very safe, and all you have to do is demonstrate a few reps and the athlete is ready to go.
The use of the hip belt is also great for those who are not tolerant of spinal loading. It’s not that hip squatting is a perfect solution, but it’s a much better solution compared to alternatives like partial reps. Most of the time, we like performing kBox squats with the belt versus a harness because we know that an athlete can only handle so much wear and tear.
Another value point I will mention right away is the size of the system. If you are a small gym, every inch matters. We are large compared to most private facilities, but when the space is large, so are the operational costs and the need to get athletes serviced effectively. If we have to move the kBox out of the way for another activity we can do it instantly, and if we had more systems we could stack them if needed. Some high schools don’t even have a weight room, and the ability to take the kBox system out on the field for soccer training or the court for volleyball or basketball is huge for some coaches.If we need to move the kBox out of the way for another activity, we can do it instantly, says @SPSmith11. Click To Tweet
We do appreciate the general population market, as it often consists of former athletes who need to be trained long after their career in sport finishes. Some great coaches do work with average joes from all walks of life and need to travel with their equipment. Instead of being limited to bands and dumbbells, the kBox is perhaps the best personal training tool in the business. It only needs a duffle bag for the flywheels and accessory handles and harnesses, which is a very attractive proposition for those on the move. Every generation of kBox gets lighter, and if you are hard-pressed for portability, the system’s lite version is the size of a large skateboard and weighs only about 50 pounds.
Any piece of equipment that can do more than one exercise is important to us. We have plenty of single-exercise options in our gym, as they are specialized and important for specific needs, but equipment that can do more is helpful. However, we don’t want a piece of equipment that can do dozens of exercises poorly—we need each exercise to be as good or better than the barbell equivalent. Doing exercises on flywheel platforms must be effective, not just possible. We know that by using the kBox, we can get in a dozen exercises we feel help athletes make progress, and we are sure other coaches can do even more than our selected exercises.
In addition to the sheer number of exercises, the loading of flywheels at different speeds and the types of contractions is exciting for us. We don’t spend too much time with isometric combinations or other methods such as potentiation with the device, but it’s nice to know that if we do need those techniques, the system can provide them. Additionally, the system allows for different types of harnesses and grip handles, such as bars and single arm attachments. We like the quality of the equipment provided in the kits, as cheap accessories are never good in the long run.
Flywheel training doesn’t compromise efficiency or effectiveness. We don’t rush kids in and out of workouts like we’re a fast food joint. We do know that study time and sleep matter, so we have to get a workout done in an efficient manner. Using the kBox is efficient with time constraints, and you can get a lot of work done quickly because of short rest periods. Flywheels are also efficient with swapping out athletes during sets, because using waist harnesses or sharing bars is quick.A prime benefit with flywheels is athletes produce the resistance, not placing more lead on the bar, says @SPSmith11. Click To Tweet
Switching plates doesn’t matter in group environments with heavy training because you have to rest anyway, but not having to do so makes a kBox more efficient than a squat rack. The prime benefit with flywheels is they are about athletes producing the resistance, not placing more lead on the bar. Not being reliant on plates in the weight room is not only a value financially, but not having to clean up and put back weights is a nice bonus also.
Obviously, the more stations or kBoxes you have, the more you can do. Down the road, we plan to increase the number of flywheel machines we have, mainly because they’re fast and easy to set up and put away. Not only do we care about the athletes getting home to have dinner or go to bed, but we are human as well and can’t spend all evening rearranging things in the gym.
One area I want to mention is the research behind flywheel training. The kBox is relatively new, but the technology has been around for decades, so plenty of scientific studies are available for coaches. We share a Dropbox of the latest studies internally so that we all have access to flywheel training developments when a new paper comes out.
Parents want to know more than ever why we do things at our facility, and having fresh research really does a nice job if a parent asks. It’s fine to share something that is years old as well, because nobody wants to feel like a guinea pig, but parents also want to know you are current in your training. The kBox isn’t the only system available, but the key is having a community of coaches on SimpliFaster sharing the scientific approaches to learn from.Training justification relies on evidence to show athlete success was more than just good genetics, says @SPSmith11. Click To Tweet
Justifying training means more than uniforms or shirts on the wall and bragging about athletes you work with; it’s having the evidence to say with confidence it was more than just good genetics that got them there. We know the coaching is great at our facility, but having the science to back up our approaches is important to us and should be important to you.
The kMeter lets us get feedback to the athlete every rep. We used another flywheel device in the past that was very nice, but without the quantification it was like blindly adding weights to the bar and prescribing sets and reps. It was fine for accessory work at the end of training, but it was not going to move us forward much when we wanted to take flywheels to the next level. The need to quantify loads is everything in the weight room, and the feedback drives competition within the group and with the athlete’s own performance if training on their own. Athletes who are not normally motivated are curious about what they can do, as traditional barbells seem to be great for rewarding maximal strength, but those with a good power and average strength level can also benefit greatly.
The kMeter is a great option for those looking for feedback, and it’s not just for displaying force or power. The kMeter is a live dashboard that provides audio feedback to coaches. If you have flat screens in your gym then you are in for a treat, because you can use an Apple TV to display the scores or outputs. After the session is completed, the data can be exported quickly and easily, and we now use the information for better programming.
Simple to Use
We don’t ever like to compare ourselves to other facilities, but we do have to put our foot down and point out that we do most, if not all, of the training ourselves. We do provide internships, but our business model never interferes with our training model. We realize that everyone has to make a living, but if we were planning to water down training for the sake of exploiting college kids, we wouldn’t have opened up our doors in the first place.
Instead of dumbing down training or making it cookie cutter, we individualize training as much as possible. Yet, we do know that foundational work matters and we have programs that teach the fundamentals before advanced methods. The flywheels are simple to use, so if an athlete is familiar with training, they can jump right into flywheel training if properly supervised.
We love teaching and instructing athletes to be more coordinated and skilled, but only so much verbal coaching is absorbed by student athletes who are always under fire. For us, we want the optimal amount of teaching time, and too much exchange and correction is overwhelming at any level.
Fun to Use
Flywheel training is tough work, and anyone that tries it will quickly learn that it’s harder than it looks. A good flywheel system properly loaded can go head to head with a complete set of barbells with loading, but the system is also a welcome part of our program as it is fun to use. Anything that is different than gravity is new and exciting to athletes, and this experience doesn’t wear off like other equipment. Even after months of using it, the athletes still enjoy the resistance it delivers, and we like using it ourselves.
If you train athletes in the private sector, you know that you have to juggle a lot to make it work. Being the best in the area with results isn’t good enough anymore, as plenty of talent trains everywhere these days. To be successful, results and caring coaches aren’t enough—you have to make sure the experience is a rewarding one.Any system that can make effective and demanding training fun is rare, and the kBox does this, says @SPSmith11. Click To Tweet
Flywheels are part of a program that gives athletes the right training benefits, but sports are supposed to be fun, so training for them can’t be a pain. Our training is a lot of hard work, but it’s also fun. Adding in flywheels is a mature way to add a little sweetener without going too far. Any system that can make training that is effective and demanding fun is rare, and the kBox does add some enjoyment into training during the season.
As a business owner, I have to always weigh the results of the training against the cost of getting training done in a gym. We think about heating during the winter and air conditioning during the summer, the cost of replacing equipment, and even our indoor turf wearing down. We never buy on price; we invest in the value because smart investing is felt later rather than immediately.
The kBox is affordable, but due to the machine also being versatile and effective, we know it’s a piece of equipment that others will find valuable as well. Also, the price of a kMeter is a huge value, since collecting power and eccentric readings with a force plate is much more expensive, even with PASCO or other entry-point products. As mentioned earlier, not having to spend more money on weight plates is important to us, because we need to keep our overhead reasonable, and with all of our racks in our gym, added equipment becomes a big expense.The kBox is affordable, versatile, and effective, and we know others will find it valuable as well, says @SPSmith11. Click To Tweet
I have seen a lot of homemade equipment on the internet, and I commend anyone trying to find a way to implement flywheels on a budget. But don’t think about the cost of making a device—think about the value of knowing that if anything goes wrong, a FedEx package can solve those problems. The cost of maintenance matters, and the forces through a flywheel platform will break down one that’s homemade. We were tempted to create our own system and were glad we didn’t because we would be negligent if anything were to happen to somebody using it.
Invest in kBox Training Education
Coaches can get a lot of value from just doing squats on a kBox, but actually reading coaching blogs and research from sport scientists can help you get more out the machine. We started slow and added more and more exercises, as well as the new Pulley device this year, and love our results with it. Most of our training is with barbells and dumbbells, but a growing number of our training programs incorporate the eccentric benefits of flywheels. We don’t provide many testimonials as we are boxed in by what we endorse, but the kBox is worth the investment if you want to leverage both the art and science of training.
If you are dedicated to making your athletes better, there is strong evidence that flywheel training works, so using the kBox machine will give your team or facility an advantage.