Smart exercise equipment is frequently constrained by the fact that it is static and non-portable. (Not to mention prohibitively expensive.) Consider the Peloton stationary cycle for spin classes or Tonal, a wall-mounted strength training apparatus. If you’re at home and can afford a nice home gym, that’s great, but what if you want to take your workout with you wherever you go?
Meet Straffr, a German business exhibiting at this week’s TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Alley. The startup sells a smart fitness band that you can throw into your backpack and take on the road with you.
Since bringing the product to market in March of this year, the hardware business has sold “a few thousand” bands after first choosing a crowdfunding approach via Kickstarter last year. As they prepare to expand their budding fitness firm, they’ve received support from business angels and recently concluded a second seed round with an international investor.
According to CEO Stefan Weiss, Straffr’s smart resistance band links to the accompanying app via Bluetooth and begins tracking as soon as you begin stretching and flexing, offering feedback on your training session, not just on reps but also on the “quality” of exercise.
The entire band is a sensor, as it is comprised of electrically conductive expanding rubber. The substance was created by Straffr’s team, and it is protected by patents.
“Finding and developing a material that extends beyond 200 percent or 300 percent is quite difficult… Weiss tells TechCrunch that the goal is to not break or quantify anything. “The electrical resistance changes when you stretch [the Straffr fitness band], so we can tell how far you’ve stretched the band for a certain exercise.”
Anyone who has tried strength training with a (non-smart) resistance band understands how difficult it is to stay focused and interested without professional assistance. It’s difficult to tell if you’re performing the moves correctly or just aimlessly twanging a piece of rubber. So a sensing element appears to have a lot of potential in this piece of training equipment. Straffr’s smart band keeps track of your reps, power, and velocity while you pull, and the app gives you real-time feedback during the workout, including verbal signals if you’re pulling “too fast” or nudges to keep things “slow and even.”
If you like fitness numbers, it will also show you the total results of the workout. The app includes a number of workout videos that allow you to follow along with pre-recorded fitness band sessions such as high-intensity interval training, total body strength training, and short home-office activities. Weiss claims that the company is also developing a premium on-demand offering and that it has recently hired five personal trainers to provide one-on-one training sessions. That will be a Pro feature in the future. Because the startup is charging for the hardware, the basic software is free.