The only thing keeping Ruben Estrada from getting pulled directly through a tiny hole in the ground was his own strength and willpower.
At least that's how it felt to Estrada, a junior at Cherokee Trail High School, when he was tried out a new piece of exercise equipment called the kBox about three weeks ago. The flywheel training device immediately forced Estrada to rethink his approach to training. In lieu of the passivity of dead lifts and other free weight exercises, the kBox demanded a more dynamic approach to building strength, flexibility and endurance.
"The first time I tried it, I felt uncoordinated because I wasn't used to being pulled down like that," Estrada recalled. "It's different. It's working out your muscles more slowly; it's not weight you're working with, it's body weight and tension."
Designed and manufactured by the Swedish company Exxentric AB, the kBox draws on the inertia of heavy, steel flywheels to build power, speed and strength. The machine is a cutting-edge tool for pro athletes in a wide range of sports, and it's now available to students at Cherokee Trail High School.
"To my knowledge, we're the only high school in the country that's putting it to use with large groups of athletes across all sports," said Cherokee Trail P.E. Instructor and Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Andy Pellegrini. "We're leaving no stone unturned in terms of the training methods and the technology we bring to CT that would enable our student athletes to achieve their full potential. That's our mission."
The machine looks simple enough – the kBox consists of a small platform, a visible flywheel and a small cylinder that connects to straps and metal hooks. It's small enough to easily transport to a gym, an office or a sideline. Looks are deceiving in this case, as the flywheel tool represents the cutting edge of exercise technology. The kBox trains upper body, core and lower body; it includes an app-based, wireless feedback system that can precisely measure an athlete's output.
According to Pellegrini, all of that means a training process that simultaneously makes an athlete stronger and safer.
"We can use this as a tool at the beginning of a training period in terms of doing pre-tests with the device, and then at the end of the training period doing post-tests," Pellegrini said, adding the kBox measures statistics like eccentric force. "That kind of information can help our athletic trainers in terms of rehabilitating athletes from injury, or preventing injury at the front end," he said, adding that the machine can focus on building strength for athletic output that tends to cause the most common injuries.
Those kind of tools would be valuable for pro athletes in a wide range of sports, Pellegrini said, and that makes the kBox all more valuable for Cherokee Trail coaches, teachers and, of course, student athletes.
Such a tool doesn't come cheap, and Pellegrini's budget only allows for the single machine at the moment. Still, the single kBox is poised to make a significant impact for players across sports and across grade levels. Whether it's a freshman looking to make a difference on the school's girls soccer team or a football player like Estrada, the kBox offers a new way to prepare for athletic challenges.
"You work on more explosiveness and building more speed," Estrada said. "Using that, it helps a lot … I hope to work with it a lot."