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Category:  Total Gym®  >  About Total Gym  >  History

Stated Goal and Purpose

In 1974, when Tom Campanaro developed the first Total Gym, the benefit of exercise was barely a blip on the public consciousness.

Thirty-three years plus later, efi Sports Medicine and Total Gym have both undergone several improvements and renovations. efi manufactures and distributes functional training and conditioning products to the rehabilitation and athletic training industry, the booming commercial fitness industry, athletic directors, sports enthusiasts and individual consumers.

Today, millions of Total Gyms have been sold worldwide via retail and professional sales and infomercials, maintaining the company's long-running leadership in the industry.

The Benefits of Total Gym

The machine that Campanaro, then a competitive body builder, developed with partners Dale McMurray and Larry Westfall, encouraged "functional exercise," a technique that recreates the movements we perform everyday with and against gravity. The machine engages all muscle groups, allowing over 200 functional exercises on calibrated levels of incline resistance—full range of motion; heavy progressive resistive and light resistive exercises; upper and lower body stretching and strengthening exercises and comprehensive aerobics. Total Gym is safe and effective, easy to use, and facilitates the five key components of exercise: cardiovascular endurance (aerobics), muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility and body composition.

Getting Started

Initially, Campanaro and his partners produced 35 prototype units and began marketing directly to consumers, demonstrating their first Total Gym at fairs and expos. They quickly found that their strongest selling point was personal experience—if they could convince skeptics to run through a demonstration on Total Gym, they would likely have a customer. Gravity training spoke for itself.

Every production run on Total Gym saw upgrades and improvements. The evolving product caught the eye of a chiropractic distribution company that began working with Total Gym in chiropractic trade shows and provided the impetus to enter other industries. Total Gym achieved astounding success by attending medical and dental trade shows with a clever appeal to the professionals' personal health and fitness needs, urging: "Everything in this event is for your patient or clinic. What about you?" In 1981 alone, the three partners attended 210 conventions across the United States.

Amid a newly booming fitness craze in the early 80s, Campanaro began soliciting specialty dealers, forging relationships with 200 stores that exclusively sold fitness equipment. Total Gym recruited and trained more than 350 people and dispatched them to conduct in-store demonstrations on the Total Gym. Through this channel and the continued presence at trade shows, Total Gym sold 36,000 machines in 1984.

1987 brought a shift in Total Gym's target market when the company discovered a significant number of sales were to physical therapists, who had realized the benefits of functional exercise and the "gravity-benefits" of the machine. Total Gym's subsequent foray into the rehabilitation community brought the company increased credibility and a strong, well-respected brand, setting the stage for its launch into a bigger market. Keeping in step with this burgeoning market, the company changed its name to a more accurate and comprehensive title: Engineering Fitness International Corporation, d.b.a. efi Sports Medicine.

Infomercial Explosion

Campanaro knew that the potential reach of infomercials combined with the medium that could offer comprehensive demonstrations would be the right marketing strategy. Among the eight companies courting efi/Total Gym, American Telecast stood out from the rest. Campanaro soon signed a licensing agreement and welcomed them to the team. Actor Chuck Norris, a Total Gym user for more than 20 years, sealed the deal when he agreed to be the company spokesperson. Broadcast to 85 countries, Total Gym's program is one of the industry's longest-running and most successful fitness infomercials, selling over a million units worldwide.

Total Gym Earns Endorsements

In a study on infomercial-based home gyms by Dr. Marc Rabinoff of Metropolitan State College of Denver and founder of Professionals Against Fitness Fraud, Total Gym came out on top and was deemed to be the most user-friendly. "It's a good home product for use by the general public," says Rabinoff. Unlike many infomercial products that are based on hype and false promises, consumers and professionals recognize Total Gym as a legitimate machine that is based on sound technology and exercise principles. The American Council on Exercise (ACE), the nonprofit watchdog organization that regularly conducts university-based studies on the effectiveness of infomercial products and their claims, cited Total Gym in its publication ACE FitnessMatters. In 1999, an editor's note states: "(Total Gym) has largely relied on the product's merits to make the sale — not outrageous claims."

Pro Athletes and Total Gym

The company's products have gone far beyond the rehabilitation and consumer markets as well: Total Gym has been used by the USA Olympic Gold Medalist Men's Volleyball team and USA Track and Field Gold Medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee for rehabilitation and strength training following a leg injury. efi Sports Medicine products are also used by hospitals, athletic trainers and sports medicine facilities throughout the country, which recognize it as the most effective tool for functional rehabilitation, strength and sports-specific training, injury prevention and overall conditioning.

The Pull of GRAVITY

In April 2003, efi Sports Medicine turned its success with functional equipment to the health club industry with the launch of the GRAVITYSystem®.

The GRAVITYSystem's four programming disciplines (GRAVITYGroup® Training, GRAVITYPilates®, GRAVITYPersonalTraining® and GRAVITYPost-Rehab®) are all part of GRAVITY4Programming® and each is conducted on the GTS® machine. Like the Total Gym, the GTS is a gravity-training device that encourages functional resistance training by using an individual's body weight as resistance, utilizing a dynamic cable, pulley system and free-motion glideboard. Able to adjust to nine different levels of resistance, the machine engages all major muscle groups and facilitates more than 250 strength training, stretching and Pilates exercises.

The unique combination of functional exercise and four-way programming continues to build significant interest among club members and bring an early return on investment to club owners. The GRAVITYSystem is already at dozens of the hottest clubs and gyms around the country including CRUNCH in Chicago and Mission Viejo, California, The Jungle Club in Vero Beach, Florida and the RDV Sportsplex in Orlando. The GRAVITYSystem recently received two prestigious awards: the One Body One World (OBOW) Award from the East Coast Alliance (ECA) and the TUV Innovation Award from FIBO in Germany.

"Our goal," says Campanaro, "is to manufacture and deliver quality products that set industry standards of excellence and value, and to help people achieve health, fitness and rehabilitation goals."

After nearly a third of a century at the forefront of innovation in athletic training, physical therapy and home fitness, efi Sports Medicine has become the leading manufacturer of functional rehabilitation and conditioning equipment. efi's ground-breaking integration of the proven benefits of gravity resistance and functional training on a single exercise apparatus facilitates shorter, more efficient workouts that produce superior results. Today, efi provides a wide array of functional equipment to more than 14,000 clinics, schools, hospitals, athletic training centers and health clubs.





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