A Unique Tool for the Conditioning Coach, Athletic Trainer & Personal
By Dr.Mark J. Smith PhD.
For more than a decade, The X-iser® Machine has been used by professional sports teams for conditioning, injury
prevention and rehabilitation.
Because of its small size, it is not unusual for a strength and conditioning coach, particularly one who spends
most of his or her time working with top-level athletes, to take a quick look at The X-iser Machine and dismiss it
without as much as a second thought.
While many can see the unit providing benefit to a deconditioned individual, such as for use in the home, they
typically think it has no place in their weight room. While I would rather that not happen, it is certainly
understandable given that the compared reference is the inexpensive and poorly engineered mini steppers, “as seen
on TV” and found in the aisles of one’s local Supermarket.
The size of The Xiser ® Machine is where the similarity with the various mini steppers ends.
First, The X-iser® Machine is constructed of aircraft-grade aluminum that can handle well in excess of 400 lbs. (in
fact, strong enough to withstand the efforts of professional NFL linemen holding 50 lb. dumbbells!).
Second, the components in the unique hydraulic unit are of the highest engineered quality enabling a few critical
benefits. The unit is virtually silent, extremely smooth and, of great importance, provides for a variable
resistance that allows the user an unlimited pedal speed. Consequently, the unit is very effective for non-impact
Sprint Interval Training (SIT).
“Okay,” I hear you say, “but I can get my guys to sprint up the stadium stairs.” Yes, you can certainly do that,
but think about bringing the stadium stairs into your gym or studio that then allows for a series of sprints
between other activities while also providing for some very unique training benefits.
The X-iser® provides for a mode of training that few have ever experienced with any activity, let alone using a
piece of exercise equipment. This training technique simultaneously strengthens muscles, develops balance and
coordination, and improves overall conditioning, all in a closed-chain fashion without impact on the joints.
To help understand how this technique works, imagine the following:
Unique Training on the X-iser®
If you complete a half-squat standing on one leg (approximately a 45 degree range of motion), your thigh muscles
will contract as you go down and as you come up. If you then continue these half-squat repetitions without stopping
when the leg is fully extended, you will quickly feel significant fatigue and need to stop in a relatively short
period of time because there is no rest period for the muscles.
Completing this exercise on both legs over time will lead to a tremendous increase in leg and core strength as well
as balance, but would have a limited effect on cardiovascular conditioning.
But imagine being able to complete this exercise at over twice the speed on both legs at the same time! As crazy as
completing multiple one-legged squats on both legs at the same time may sound, this is exactly what the X-iser®
training does and as a consequence, can dramatically improve leg and core strength, speed and balance, while also
improving anaerobic and aerobic metabolic conditioning.
The nature of the hydraulics of the unit allows for a form that produces a "static equilibrium,” high-frequency
stepping action that challenges anyone like nothing else.
What actually happens is that the body's center of mass stays level (there is no vertical movement of the torso)
while you are stepping (equivalent to completing half one-legged squats); imagine balancing a glass of water on
your head while the legs are stepping at a high frequency (an elite athlete can produce 300 + steps in a
What makes this unique is that in order to prevent the body's center of mass from moving up and down, as we
normally see with all other stepping activities, both legs have to work equally, against each other, on both the up
and down strokes of the stepping action. Consequently, the quads are working concentrically on the down stroke and
eccentrically on the up stroke, simultaneously while in opposition.
Compared to actually sprinting on a track, the stepping form focuses purely on the ground reaction force that
propels the center of mass upward and forward (training an elite athlete’s hip flexors for a high knee lift is
therefore worked separately). So unlike sprinting on the ground, where there is a 50 percent recovery phase for
each leg with respect to ground reaction forces, this X-iser® protocol involves a "no recovery" technique that
places a tremendous challenge upon muscular strength and endurance.
Further, the rapid pedal movement leads to neuromuscular development which enhances power, speed and agility which,
in turn, translates to improved performance and injury prevention.
Additional Benefits of Using the
Proprioception, agility, coordination, and balance can be further challenged by
moving the feet farther back on the pedals and by adding other activities into the modality, such as a dumbbell
curl and press or medicine ball drills using a rebounder or a partner.
Once an individual’s form is polished on the X-iser® Machine, a 20 to 60 second sprint induces significant fatigue,
which is magnified considerably when one has the ability to add the upper body exercises such as the dumbbell curl
The ability to be able to incorporate the dumbbell curl and press while using The X-iser® Machine is particularly
useful and effective given the research showing that recruiting large amounts of muscle ignites tremendous myokine
(chemical messengers) mediated health and performance benefits.
It is also important to emphasize that because the unit responds to the force generated by the user, it is
effective for anyone – an Olympic athlete, a child or a deconditioned individual looking to lose weight.
For those that might be concerned about getting a deconditioned individual to engage in SIT, The X-iser® Machine
works particularly well because it is both self-paced and self-limiting. By self-limiting, I mean that because of
the unique challenge that the “static equilibrium” stepping form brings, deconditioned individuals typically
fatigue in their legs prior to maximizing their cardiovascular system.
Consequently, it allows for a progressive challenge to the cardiovascular system as one develops the necessary
muscular strength and endurance over time.
While the research supports that, compared to low to moderate-intensity continuous training (LMICT), SIT provides
far greater conditioning benefits to nearly all athletes, there is the recognition that there are athletes that
need to do some endurance work.
There are also individuals that like endurance work to simply get a good sweat going or for recovery from vigorous
workouts. So, while The X-iser® Machine is superb for SIT, it should also be noted that, because of the variable
resistance, it works well for nonimpact endurance workouts, while simultaneously challenging and developing the
user’s balance and proprioception.
The unit is also great to use for a warm-up to simply get one’s day going or for use prior to a sporting event.
Further, the unit can be used in a backward position for working dorsi flexion range of motion and tibialis
anterior development (any shin splints out there?) and for working side flexion of
the thoraco-lumbar junction and lumbar spine (accomplished by stepping without bending the knees).
This latter movement can also be done while flexing at the hip which then works lumbar spine rotation and further
helps stretch the hamstrings, glutes, and piriformis.
Scapular and core stabilisation are accomplished in a forward prone position and hamstrings, glutes, and core
stabilisation in a backward supine bridge position (go to Instructional
Videos to see some of these exercises). It is also possible to introduce a variety of additional
exercises due to the unit’s size, portability, and uniquely connected hydraulic system.
Once you have experienced the high-speed X-iser® Burst Training with proper form, you will quickly realize how the
X-iser® Machine makes for a fantastic addition to any gym, studio, office or home.
Now, while the unit is used for more than just high-intensity, closed-chain speed stepping, it is the ability to
engage in this activity while maintaining a load on both lower limbs that sets the unit apart from anything else
Research behind the X-iser®
Invented by the founder of
The International Society of Biomechanics in Sports, Dr. Juris Terauds, The X-iser® Machine is a unit that was
specifically designed with SIT in mind.
While collecting data as the official Head Biomechanist at the Montreal Olympics in 1976 (he was also appointed to
this position for the Moscow Olympics in 1980 as well as the first ever World Track & Field Championships in
Helsinki in 1983), Dr. Terauds and his team established that raising one’s center of mass against gravity was the
main contributor of energy consumption in running.
Armed with this data, in 1977, while at the University of Alberta, Dr. Terauds and his team of researchers set out
to design a piece of exercise equipment that could be used for Sprint Interval Training (SIT) while simultaneously
challenging and, in turn, improving balance.
His team of experts included Dr. Hans J. Gros of the University of Stuttgart in Germany, Dr. Iraklis Tsarouchas of
the University of Teseloniki in Greece, Dr. Anthony Bauer of Lakehead University in Thunderbay, Canada, as well as
Dr. Pierre Garvais of the University of Alberta in Canada.
All stair climbing machines and steppers seen today are a result of this initial work; however, as the units were
developed, they lost the critical component of being able to go at high speed for SIT.
Many units also added unnecessary handles that added cost, size and weight and also encouraged leaning and poor
Holding on to these handles with a death grip also took away the balance challenge and, therefore, the development
of proprioception (a much needed attribute for athletes and the elderly in particular).
For those that need balance support, The Xiser ® Machine can simply be placed next to a wall or other support.
By only touching the support when needed (as opposed to holding onto handles), balance will be improved. In fact,
one of the main benefits of using The X-iser® Machine is improved balance and it develops remarkably quickly in
After completing my Doctorate at Colorado State University, Dr. Terauds invited me to join the mission of
researching SIT, educating the fitness industry about SIT, and assessing The X-iser® Machine as a means for doing
It was Dr. Terauds who first emphasized to me the importance of this mode of training. He had observed through the
years of collecting sports biomechanics data that, from the athletes he had come to know, the sprinters appeared
healthier and seemed to live longer than their endurance counterparts (to read research articles on SIT, go
So in the capacity as an affiliate professor at Colorado State University, one of my first projects was to examine
the effectiveness of The Xiser ® Machine for SIT in the laboratory of Dr. Chris Melby, an expert in exercise and
metabolism with a particular interest in Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC).
After some initial pilot data collection, the research group embarked on a study to compare the oxygen consumption
resulting from three, 1-minute maximal effort sprint intervals on The X-iser® Machine, separated by 1-hour
recoveries, with 20-minutes of LMICT, also on The X-iser® Machine.
It was found that just three minutes of SIT constituted 74% of the oxygen uptake of 20 minutes of LMICT (a near
7-fold increase on a per minute basis), demonstrating the effectiveness of SIT on the unit for energy expenditure.
This was also at a time when we were not incorporating a more upright and effective stepping posture or the
inclusion of a dumbbell curl and press, the addition of which dramatically increases the intensity, muscle
recruitment, and challenge to the balance.
The initial idea of extending the recoveries to an hour between maximal sprints was so that the exercise would not
This would then allow people to work out in their usual day-to-day attire and eliminate the need to change and
shower, a time factor necessary with more traditional workouts.
Having the machine in one’s office or home along with the effective “extended recovery” SIT program would then
provide the most time-efficient, yet effective, exercise program possible.
This approach is also a very time-efficient training solution for the busy amateur athlete; indeed, thousands of
individuals have now shown this approach to be very effective.
Interestingly, extending the recoveries between maximal sprints may provide for more than just convenience; it
allows for maximal performance in subsequent bouts of intermittent exercise which may be useful for training
It has been shown that following 30 seconds of maximal isokinetic cycling, four minutes of recovery is sufficient
to almost completely restore Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) and mixed-muscle phosphocreatine (PCr) in type I muscle
fibers, but not in type II muscle fibers.
It does not take someone long to realize that a true all-out effort is not repeatable with only a 4-minute
recovery. Furthermore, this same research study demonstrated that the restoration of ATP and PCr correlated
positively with the total work production of a subsequent 30-second bout.
Consequently, the inclusion of training sessions in one’s overall program where recoveries are extended to allow
for total restoration of type II muscle fiber ATP and PCr content may improve muscle training for high-intensity
performance. A 1-hour (or more) recovery would allow for complete, or at least near complete, restoration of ATP
and PCr in type II muscle fibers. The X-iser® Machine provides a convenient way to implement such an exercise
|If you are a Conditioning Coach, Athletic Trainer, Personal Trainer
or Healthcare Professional and you would like to share the success and benefits of the X-iser
Machine with your Clients/Patients then please apply for details of our Partner Programme
About the Author
Dr. Mark J.
Smith graduated from Loughborough University of Technology, England, with a Bachelor of Science in PE &
Sports Science and then obtained his teaching certificate in PE & Mathematics. As a top-level rugby
player, he then moved to the United States and played for the Boston Rugby Club in 1987-1988 while searching
the American college system for an opportunity to commence his Master’s degree.
That search led him to Fort Collins, Colorado, where Dr. Smith completed his Masters degree
in Exercise and Sport Science at Colorado State University. He continued his studies in the Department of
Physiology, where he obtained his Doctorate. His research focused on the prevention of atherosclerosis (the buildup
of plaque in arteries that leads to cardiovascular disease), in particular, using low-dose aspirin and antioxidant
As an affiliate faculty member in the Department of Exercise and Sport Science at Colorado State University, Dr.
Smith worked extensively with Dr. Loren Cordain, the renowned author of the book, "The Paleo Diet.” As a result of
this collaboration, Dr. Smith has had significant experience in helping autoimmune patients improve their condition
through diet manipulation. This same diet has also helped individuals lose weight and athletes improve performance.
Dr. Smith has also worked extensively as a personal trainer and health consultant and has lectured extensively on
the benefits of high-intensity intermittent exercise and Paleolithic nutrition.