The AIO Reviewed
As a distributor of the HITGYM AIO, we get asked a lot of questions about the machine and how appropriate and suitable it is specifically for performing high intensity training. I have been working with the AIO for over two years now and I think it’s high time I shared with you a deep and thorough review. Despite our obvious affiliation with David Health Solutions, I did my best to disconnect myself from the business interest and offer my honest, unbiased opinion of the exercise equipment.
The HITGYM AIO is manufactured by David Health Solutions and is probably the most impressive piece of multi-exercise equipment currently on the market.
David Health Solutions, for those who are not aware of the company, started out back in 1981 and are now the world leader in rehabilitation concepts for musculoskeletal issues. Health care professionals in more than 30 countries use David’s concepts and have been able to help close to a million back patients with chronic and recurrent pain.
There are 25 HITuni recommended exercises that can be performed on the AIO, a single machine that is:
- 1.7m long (67″)
- 1.25m at its widest (50″)
- 1.52m tall (60″).
Of course to use the AIO a little more space is needed: 4 m² (44 ft.²) is comfortable.
Great for Personal Trainers and Physical Therapists
As a trainer working with clients I find the ideal minimum room size for the use of a single AIO to be 2.9m x 2.7m or just under 8 m² (90 ft.²). These dimensions give adequate space for the trainer and the client to move about, interact, have an extra observer in the room if required, and of course space for the machine itself and its movement arms in motion. In this space it is also possible to fit a couple of seats against the wall and a work stand for the trainer’s ipad.
This ability to bring top quality exercise to dimensions this small is great news for personal trainers and physical therapists (including osteopaths, chiropractors, massage therapists and similar). The AIO can be used in a single room as a private gym or in a therapy room as an add-on to an existing business.
In this environment, the AIO also looks the part: when clients first lay eyes on the AIO they are suitably impressed, it looks slick, modern and professional.
Why I like it for my own workouts
I love working out on the AIO primarily because of all of the quality movements and the ability to move very quickly from one exercise to the next with the minimum of fuss. Put simply, it is fantastic to have so many quality exercises in one machine and in such a small space: the AIO is like the Swiss Army knife of exercise.
Why I like it for exercising clients
A great trainer can exercise effectively on anything from cutting edge machines to the most simple of bodyweight devices (such as a doorway chin up bar). One of our primary goals at HITuni is to teach all of our trainers to exercise themselves and their clients safely and effectively no matter what equipment (or lack of) they have access to.
Even if one of our trainers already has access to the very best David, MedX or Strive exercise machines, we still encourage them to learn how to apply exercise effectively via free weights and bodyweight.
There is however a reverse correlation between the coordination requirement of an exercise and the intensity it is possible to safely achieve when applying that exercise. In other words, the less coordination skill an exercise requires the greater the intensity that can be safely reached.
This makes well-designed exercise machines the easiest/safest option for applying intense exercise… for the widest possible audience. Younger and more resilient clients may well be able to cope well with free weight and bodyweight routines. However when it comes to those clients who are more middle aged to senior, or who have physiologic issues, or who are particularly unfit it is often not ideal to have to train these individuals (at least initially) with bodyweight or free weight exercise.
Many individuals who are attracted to hiring a personal trainer or engaging in high-intensity exercise with a coach may well initially be in a place where they are unable to get a good stimulus via the more complex skills of bodyweight and free weight exercise. It is with these clients that the AIO truly excels as it enables the personal trainer to ensure that these individuals get a quality high intensity workout.
The AIO itself is certainly adaptable to a wide audience, I have had clients as short as 5’, to as tall as 6’5”, as well as clients who are obese, all of whom were able to exercise on the AIO under my guidance.
Changing Between Exercises is Easy
The change mechanisms to switch between exercises are easy and intuitive once you know what you are doing. No exercise takes longer than 10 seconds to prep when moving from one exercise to the next and some can be set in as little as five seconds.
There is of course a learning curve here, in my first week of operating the AIO it obviously took me longer to switch between exercises, as I found my way around the machine. You can master switching deftly between exercises within a week or two.
The first week of ownership is when you will be getting used to setting up the equipment for yourself, and then for clients of varying heights and sizes. Quickly you will be able to eyeball an individual and assess pretty accurately what settings they will require for each exercise and indeed what starting loads will be appropriate for varying new clients.
My clients love exercising on the AIO. The feedback that I regularly get is how smooth and solid the machine is, and how “right” the exercises feel compared to the various machines they have used at gyms they have previously been members of. They are also impressed by the speed at which I am able to set up the next exercise for them.
Design and Build Quality
The AIO is a solid heavy-duty piece of kit, built like a tank around the unique automatic transmission system. This transmission system is the engineering that enables the variety of exercises and the quick, easy changes between exercises.
Each AIO is hand built with care and attention at the David factory in Finland, Europe and each one is custom built to order.
All the axles and pulleys are equipped with the most friction free ball bearings available. This makes all the single joint movements and the cable pulley exercises exceptionally low in friction. The linear movement arms feature X shaped linear guides and are used with small-ball linear bearings. These linear guides used for the compound movements do have a small acceptable amount of static resistance due to their tight and solid construction, this friction however does not increase as the loads used grow.
The Weight Stack
The weight stack totals 120 kg and increases in 5 kg increments from 5kg up.
The weight stack is precision cut from one original solid block. The weight stack travel for each exercise on the AIO is different ranging from just under 3 inches for a wrist curl to around 24 inches for a pulldown.
This means that the effective resistance or work provided by the 120 kg stack varies from exercise to exercise.
David not only makes sure the AIO is solidly constructed and equipped with biomechanically correct exercise movements, they also focus on user comfort. To this end the seat and cushioning is ergonomically contoured and filled with firm, high-grade foam that provides comfortable support even when the loads being used are high. Adjustment of the seat height is supported by gas shock assistance for easy and convenient operation.
How Many HITuni Recommended Exercises Does the AIO Provide
There are 22 main HITuni recommended exercises that can be performed on the AIO that I want to mention here. These consist of 12 core exercises (movement arm based) and 10 cable/pulley-based exercises (David Health Solutions also recommends some alternative cable exercises to the ones I have listed, see the image below for details of these exercises). There are a handful of other beneficial exercises that are not listed here that can also be performed on the AIO, not listed as I consider them tweaks or “pimped” possibilities.
12 Core Exercises
- Leg Curl
- Leg Extension
- Low Back (Lumbar/thoracic extension)
- Leg Press
- Calf Exercise
- Chest Press
- Compound Row
- Shoulder Press
10 Cable Exercises (The AIO has both a high and a low pulley)
- Biceps Curl
- Triceps Pressdown
- Straight Arm Pulldown
- Lateral Raise
- Wrist Curl (Flexion)
- Reverse Wrist Curl (Extension)
- External Shoulder Rotation
- Internal Shoulder Rotation
- Gripping into extension
- Cable Side Bends
A Note about the cable/pulley exercises
The high and low cable pulleys get a 10/10 score for what they are, as they are virtually friction free and provide enough load for all my clients in the exercises in my list of ten above. Simply put they are excellently performing pulleys nothing more and nothing less- if you know how to position yourself/a client well for these exercises then you will get a great stimulus.
Of course pulleys do not provide all the safety, comfort and maximal reduction in coordination skill that movement-arm machine exercises do (such as the 12 core AIO exercises). Therefore there are some clients that I do not use all the pulley exercises with due to the somewhat increased skill required to get the most out of the pulley exercises. Around 80% of my clients will use some of the pulley exercises in their routines over time.
The 12 Core AIO Exercises Reviewed
Great movement, minimal to no perceivable friction, features the David cam profile for knee flexion.
I have used the leg curl successfully with clients from 5” to 6’5” and no one has ever come close to exceeding the stack.
The seat belt holds the client in position well, so they can focus exclusively on their hamstrings.
Seat bottom does not restrict hamstring contraction.
Base of the seat back extends for those with short femurs.
Both the pad that holds the upper thigh down and the movement arm pad can be independently shortened or lengthened depending on the client.
As good as a top level single station leg curl and better than many manufacturers single station offerings.
Superb movement, with minimal/no perceivable friction and features the David cam profile for knee extension.
Seat bottom extends to fully support the upper leg for those with longer limbs.
Have used the leg extension successfully with clients from 5” to 6’5” and no one has ever come remotely near to exceeding the stack.
Base of the seat back extends for those with short femurs.
The movement arm pad that contacts the shin can be shortened or lengthened depending on client’s tibia length.
As good as a top-level single station knee extension device, and better than many manufacturers single station offerings.
Low Back (Lumbar/Thoracic Extension)
This is another stand out exercise on the AIO using many of the same design principles and the same cam profile from the David Spine Concept Medical Lumbar/thoracic extension.
Very low-friction movement.
The AIO does not isolate the lumbar/thoracic musculature to quite the same extent as the David Medical device, as the AIO lacks the foot plates and knee restraints (impractical in a machine of the AIO’s nature) that complete the hip-fix mechanism of the Medical device.
This means that the gluteus maximus and biceps femoris can contribute slightly more significantly to the exercise on the AIO. This however is not a weak point in my opinion under typical personal training circumstances. Sure if you are specializing in spinal rehabilitation then the enhanced isolation is likely a benefit, but if you are a personal trainer who is primarily focused on overall strength and hypertrophy then having the synergistic muscles of the hip and hamstring play what is still a fairly small role in this exercise- make it slightly more of a compound movement and can actually be a good thing (and can make this exercise a good pre-exhaust prior to the leg press).
Also it is definitely the lumbar musculature that fatigues first, and thoroughly at that.
A superb exercise that I have been able to adjust appropriately for all my clients (5’-6’5”). You can also easily limit the range by “pinning” the stack.
As far as I am aware there is no other multiple movement machine that includes a lumbar extension exercise anywhere remotely near the quality of the movement included in the AIO. For personal trainers and physical therapists having this movement alone is a massive plus.
3 choices of movement arm depth for range of motion selection, for clients of differing heights and limb lengths.
For some obese clients you may additionally need to pin the stack. Occasionally with obese clients this exercise may need to be omitted due to limited range of motion. In this scenario other leg exercises can be performed, or you can lock the movement arm off safely with climbers daisy chains to perform a static Leg Press.
Exceptionally strong clients may exceed the stack: options then include pre-exhaust, perform a static finisher, or go to unilateral leg press performance. I myself however still only use 2/3rds of the total stack and have only had a couple of clients in 2.5 years exceed the stack with appropriate form. For the vast majority of my clients the loading is adequate.
Simply performed on the leg press by lowering foot position on the movement arm footplates. This is an adequate exercise to get the job done.
Requires the client to perform a leg press to get the movement arm into position- I have found it best as trainer to assist the client by helping push on the movement arm.
This is the exercise that has had the highest proportion of clients exceed the loading capability over the 2.5 years I have owned the AIO.
Around 15% of my clients have increased their strength where either they have to perform the calf exercise for longer than 2 minutes with the full stack or they go to doing a unilateral version of the calf exercise.
I personally do not find the unilateral version particularly comfortable on the hips as the large load pushes the hips into the seat back unevenly (due to the unilateral loading). I simply prefer with strong clients to pre-exhaust the calves with a leg curl and then immediately get the client to do the calf exercise to fatigue for however long that takes them.
Solid chest pressing movement set on a slight decline. Fits all my clients and no one is even pressing half of the stack on this one. I prefer a slightly greater increase in resistance as you move from stretched toward contracted than this movement provides, so I sometimes add a fairly light resistance band to the movement arm to attain this effect.
This a good pulling movement on the AIO and you can really focus in on the trapezius and rhomboids as you perform this movement. There is no fall off in resistance so the going definitely gets tough, but it is possible to safely muscle through it for a considerable period. As a trainer, as my clients start to fatigue on this one I will assist with some forced /assisted reps or employ a drop set or two to thoroughly fatigue the client’s musculature. No normal person is going to stack this one with a regular HITuni set.
Good well supported pushing movement through a long range of motion.
I would like the handles to be about an inch longer to allow for a slightly more forward placed grip for some clients.
Clients with exceptionally long humeri may have to tweak the path of their right elbow slightly so as to avoid contact with the outside wall of the AIO.
On loads below 20kg some static friction is noticeable.
More than enough load on the stack for this exercise.
Perhaps my favorite upper body exercise on the AIO. A long, broad stroke of a pulldown with a classic neutral grip.
It sometimes feels like the stroke of this exercise is going on forever when you are performing a rep. You can get a truly great stimulus in the lats from this one and the biceps get a good seeing to as well. The load feels impressively heavy as you control the negative.
This one just feels right.
My strongest client has only used half the stack on this exercise so no concerns there.
Great exercise you can focus in very effectively on the trapezius and thoroughly fatigue that muscle group.
Plenty of load for this exercise.
Good solid exercise.
I really like the dips on the AIO, a tough movement that fries the pecs and triceps.
It does have a downside that limits the use of the exercise to clients who are capable trainees: the client has to use their bodyweight to get the movement arm into position (or with assistance from the trainer) and at MMF the client will still be loaded and to safely exit the exercise they will have to place their bodyweight through their left leg to deload the torso (a bit like putting your feet down to end a set of body weight chins). Due to these constraints I only employ this exercise with clients I am sure are capable of these considerations. I probably use the dips exercise with 50-60% of my clients.
More than enough load available for this exercise.
Great abdominal exercise loaded through the upper chest, featuring the David Lumbar/Thoracic flexion cam profile and no perceivable friction.
Those between 5’ and 5’3’ may require extra lift on the seat (easily provided for by placing a yoga block on the seat top).
You can very effectively fatigue the rectus abdominis and the external obliques with this exercise.
As with the lumbar exercise there is not complete hip fixation due to a lack of foot plates and knee restraints. Due to this some clients (~10%) prefer that I hold their thighs down manually whilst they perform this exercise. When I am training myself I don’t sweat it- abs and obliques are fried after this either way.
Do you need that many exercises? How many do you actually use?
Another question I have been asked is do you need all the exercises that the AIO provides, do you actually use them all? The answer to these questions is that I regularly use about 20 of the 25 HITuni recommended exercises and the other exercises get used occasionally in specific individual circumstances for particular clients. Having this number and variety of exercises in one unit is a true strength of the AIO allowing for plenty of variety in routines over time, keeping clients engaged in their training.
Is the AIO a sound investment?
If we take just the 12 core exercises on the AIO, ignoring for now all the upper and lower pulley cable exercises and the additional tweaked exercises that we have come up with for the AIO here at HITuni, there is:
- Leg Press
- Calf Exercise
- Leg Curl
- Leg Extension
- Lumbar/thoracic extension
- Chest Press
- Compound Row
- Shoulder Press
To get all of these exercises covered with single station devices you would likely need a space of around 56 m2 or 600 ft2, plus all the costs of running such a big facility. This is versus the AIO which would need no more than 8 m2 or 90 ft.² to operate comfortably as a trainer.
And of course with the AIO you also get a high pulley cable and a low pulley cable for a multiple additional exercises. The ability to provide such a great number of high-quality exercises in such a small space is the AIO’s key selling point.
Think about how much you will save in space and rent when you consider the purchase investment of an AIO unit.
How much money might it be possible to make operating a single AIO machine?
As an example let’s say an individual trainer works eight hours a day and sees a client every half hour for which they charge $50. That’s $800 per day and if that trainer works five days a week then they can make $4000 per week in a room or unit that is less than 100 ft.² If that trainer works 48 weeks of the year they can make an annual turnover of $192,000 out of that 100 square-foot unit in a single year.
Based on these figures, that trainer would have paid off their investment in the AIO in under five weeks. From a business perspective the AIO makes a lot of sense: a physical business that can make such a high turnover out of such a small space.
How many top quality single station machines (e.g. David or MedX) could I get for the price of a new AIO?
With our exclusive HITuni discount applied to your new AIO purchase you could instead purchase 3-4 new single station devices or 6 refurbished ones. Let’s say you purchased 5 single station devices you would then need about 6x the amount of space than if you purchase the AIO and you would have only 5 exercises to prescribe to clients versus 22 with the AIO.
We are often asked if we provide leasing options for the AIO, this is not something that we currently provide however we are looking into leasing partners at this time and may offer leasing in 2016. You are of course welcome to look into loans or leasing options yourself, as an individual if you need to go that route to invest.
Details of the HITGYM AIO
I hope this review gave you a clearer idea of the AIO and its capabilities. You should now be able to make a more educated decision on whether the AIO is for you and what to look for in an exercise machine in general.
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