Business Times - 21 Mar 2009
Finding new strength
A muscle training centre with a difference has just moved into town. By Cheah Ui-Hoon
Kieser Muscle Training Centre
Singapore Land Tower, #01-02A
STRENGTH training might sound like what athletes do, but it is not just for them. In fact, call it 'muscle therapy', as building up muscle strength should be for everyone who moves, declares Werner Kieser, 69, a German who started his own strength training centre and is expanding it worldwide.
Kieser Trainer swung open its doors in Raffles Place this week, and while it might look like any other gym at first glance, being packed with gleaming exercise machines, that's where the similarity stops.
'It's not for those who want to build their bodies to look good. It's for those who want to get muscle therapy, and our typical member is someone above 40 years old, and who has not been to a gym before,' explains Mr Kieser, a former boxer.
Those who suffer from chronic back pain and neck pain, and other conditions that come with sedentary, computer-bound jobs, now have a chance to get targetted training at Kieser Training.
A key difference of Kieser Training is that the machines are all designed to strengthen the musculoskeletal system. So there are no cardio machines like the treadmill and stationary bikes there. And while there might be some machines which look like those you find in a regular gym, there are some modifications.
The machine to build up lower back muscles, for example, is not unlike the one at a generic gym - where you sit and hunch forward at first, pushing the weighted back of the seat upwards and returning to the hunched position. In Kieser's case, the machine is built to properly isolate muscles so that you work only the targetted areas.
'In this case, often people end up using their gluteal muscles to do the pushing as well, to compensate for weak deep-set back muscles,' explains Marco Haeusser, Kieser Training's manager.
Research shows that back and neck pain is often associated with a weakness of the deep back extensor muscles, explains Gabriela Kieser, 40, Mr Kieser's wife, who opened the first Medical Strengthening Therapy (MST)-focused clinic in Zurich in 1990.
Strengthening the back is one of the primary targets in a Kieser Training regime, where each 30-minute workout puts you through 10 machines. Every member gets a personalised workout programme when they join, after an assessment of their bodies' weak and strong areas.
No music is played, and there are no other distracting elements such as TVs. 'We want you to concentrate on the movements, which should be done slowly to hold the muscle tension and not rely on momentum,' Mr Haeusser says.
If Kieser is beginning to sound like a rehabilitation centre, that's because it's run like one. Each centre worldwide has a physiotherapist in the centre and even a doctor.
The machines are designed by the Kiesers and made in Germany for their centres worldwide. There are currently 150 Kieser Training centres in 10 countries, and Singapore is the first Asian location.
Mr Kieser had in fact built his own exercise machines using scrap iron, when he was first introduced to strength training in the 1950s. 'You have to understand that back then, the concept of strength training and lifting weights was very new and people didn't understand its benefits,' he explains.
He himself discovered it only after bad boxing injuries. He opened his gym in 1966, which was about the time he met his wife - when she started referring her patients to him.
The machines at Kieser Training are now fourth generation models, reckons Mr Kieser. And as for the gym set-up and protocol, 'we've now reduced it to the elemental productive factors, so that nothing distracts from the exercise', he says.
It's tailored to those who don't want to spend time in a gym, in fact, and both the Kiesers profess to dislike exercise themselves. 'But we know we have to do it, especially as we get old!'
· For preventive strength training, members pay $2,400 for a one-year membership or $4,320 for two years. Those who need to be on a medical strength training programme pay $1,600 for 12 sessions with an option to add six more sessions for $650, before they can progress to preventive strength training.