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SNEWS Qs: John Wilson of Vicore talks about the technology that sets his company apart

More and more companies are incorporating stability balls into their equipment. But Vicore was building air-filled surfaces — dubbed the Body Link System — into items used for strength training before the trend took off.

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With an eye to functional and core training, more companies are incorporating stability balls into their equipment. But before stability balls started to pop up everywhere, Vicore was building air-filled surfaces — dubbed the Body Link System — into items used for strength training.

The inspiration for Vicore products came from watching personal trainers use stability balls with their clients. After chatting with the trainers, Vicore officials found that while clients loved the benefits that came with using a ball, they worried it would roll out from under them. Combined with the knowledge that other exercisers found the surfaces on traditional inclined crunch/ab benches too hard, Vicore created a bench with an air-filled surface.

The design gives exercisers more surface area to work with than a stability ball, and also provides the soft surface they crave.

SNEWS recently chatted with Vicore Vice President John Wilson about what makes the company’s products different and the evolution he’s seen in strength equipment.

What makes Vicore products different from others on the market?
Vicore is totally unique as our products are the first to replace antiquated (as well as hard and flat) foam surfaces found on today’s strength equipment, with surfaces that are filled with air. This concept allows each surface to mold and support the human form perfectly. We do this by utilizing our proprietary technology we affectionately call “the Body Link System.” It got its name because it does exactly that — links and interfaces the equipment perfectly to your body, creating the best ergonomic environment ever developed for training on.

However, the reality is, all the ergonomic stuff is a biproduct of the original goal: We wanted to take the benefits of training on soft and unstable surfaces and fuse them with traditional-style benches and equipment that people were familiar with and felt comfortable using.

What is special about the Body Link System?
What really makes the Body Link System (BLS for short) so special is it fixes and answers so many problems associated with traditional strength equipment. It is really quite amazing. First. the material we developed is basically indestructible — it is 3/16 of an inch thick and weighs almost 28 pounds for one surface. To put this into perspective a typical physio [stability] ball weighs about 6 ounces and the wall thickness is about 1/16 of an inch. Yet, the way we have formulated our material it is extremely dynamic and is always providing feedback as you are using one of our pieces of equipment. But even with this amount of sensitivity, it will support over 5,000 pounds. We actually park SUVs on our products all the time to demonstrate how strong they are.

We also formulated our material so it has an anti-microbial agent mixed into it while it is in a liquid state, so it is far better than foam or vinyl in a public environment as no bacteria can grow on the surface. We also put several UV inhibitors in the formula as well, so the product is never derogated by sunlight.

What makes this generation of products different from others you’ve released in the past?
This generation of products is more focused on pieces that utilize your own body weight and gravity, such as a Vertical Knee Raise and a Reverse Hyper Extension bench. The cool thing we are realizing is that you gain so much in both comfort and results when you use Sort Surface Training. It really makes your workout three-dimensional. You only have to try it once to go, “Holy crap, this is cool!”

What are some challenges facing the fitness industry and how can we overcome them?
As with most other industries as well, people are being cautious about making large purchases and expanding. We just need to get the confidence back that everyone had a few years ago and the rest of the small stuff will work itself out.

What are some of the trends you’ve noticed in strength equipment within the past two years?
We haven’t noticed any huge leaps forward in the past couple of years with the exception of increased emphasis on core strengthening. However, in lieu of any advancement in technique usage (other than Vicore!) companies are really picking up their game when it comes to design and attention to detail. The equipment is getting so good both aesthetically and functionally it is just incredible to see compared to just 10 years ago.

What would you say are some of the reasons behind these trends?
There are some great companies out there, both in this industry and others, who realized a while back that excellent design is no longer a luxury but needs to be part of the entire process, just like sound accounting or any other business practices. This enlightenment has forced everyone to either answer to this or go out of business. In the long run, this is going to drive the next big advancements, which are good for everyone.

What are some common misconceptions consumers have about your products and how have you addressed them?
I think most people think they are going to be expensive. However, we’ve done a ton of educating over the last two years to demonstrate that you can have an entire section of your facility dedicated to Vicore with about five SKUs and your investment is still far less than, say, one mid-range treadmill. And the most important thing about that is, most members will never notice a new treadmill or think twice about an owner spending money on one, they just take it for granted. However, you put five new pieces of equipment such as Vicore – which represents an entirely new approach – and people start talking. In their minds their club is on the cutting edge and offering them an experience they couldn’t get anywhere else and that is really the key.

Who is the target end-user for your product? Is it more geared toward clubs or home users?
Our products are really geared towards clubs and public rec centers. Perhaps in a few years there may be some more consumer-oriented products coming out. However, right now we are focused on the commercial side.

What is your favorite part about working in the fitness industry?
How many industries are there that are about the betterment of people? Helping to lengthen and improve someone’s life, as your profession is about as good as it gets. We always try to stay focused on how lucky we are to be part of it.

–Ana Trujillo