Exercise Equipment – The Back Stories

We’ve all used dumbbells, BOSU balls, Swiss balls and other great exercise equipment. But have you ever wondered where and how they were created? The word “dumbbell” originated from England during the Tudor era when athletes used hand-held church bells to train their upper bodies. But with the clappers taken out to mute the bells and their loud sound silenced, they were named dumb bells.

 However, the ancient Greeks introduced the first concept of dumbbells nearly 2,000 years ago with a crescent-shaped stone that had a handle, called the haltere. It was used as a lifting weight as well as in other events like the long jump. More recently, David Weck invented the BOSU ball. BOSU is an acronym for “Both Sides Up” in reference to both ways the BOSU ball can be used during training. It’s also known as a blue half-ball because it looks like a stability hall cut in half. The BOSU ball first came into play in 1999 and has been a favorite in gyms ever since. The creation of the Swiss Ball was back in the 1960s by an Italian plastics manufacturer who developed large plastic balls that could not be punctured. The Pezzi balls, as they were known then, was used by a British physiotherapist, Mary Quinton, working in Switzerland. She used it in her treatment programs of newborn and infants. Dr. Susanne Klein-Vogelbach then integrated the ball exercises at the Physical Therapy School in Switzerland as part of the neuro-development treatment programs. When physical therapists in the US started to use the techniques they saw in Switzerland, that’s when the term Swiss Ball came about. Soon it became used in athletic training after the clinical benefits were proven. “Godfather of Fitness” Jack LaLanne invented The Smith Machine in the 1950s. He engineered the sliding device in his gym. The design was improved upon and by the end of the decade, the weight training equipment was being used and sold everywhere. The machine, which is a combo of a fixed weight and a free weight, is great for weight lifting, as a spotter isn’t needed.