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ASU Innovation Open inspires some heavy lifting

W8X lifts fitness training to new standard

w8x portable resistance training

W8X offers portable, accessible strength resistance training.

January 24, 2018

Smart technologies have been making their way into strength and fitness circles since the introduction of wearables like Fitbit and apps like MyFitnessPal, a calorie, diet and exercise journal. 

But with startups like W8X, technology is introducing a new level of portability and accessibility to professional and aspirational athletes alike. The company, composed primarily of MIT students and graduates, is one of five finalists in the 2018 ASU Innovation Open on Feb. 2.

“We are essentially still lifting rocks like the ancient Greeks when it comes to strength training,” says W8X President Felix Huettenbach, a graduate from the Technical University of Munich, noting that company’s smart fitness equipment allows an “effective, engaging training experience” using a product profile that’s about the size of a shoebox.

For weight training, W8X uses an electric motor attached to cables to create resistance, eliminating the need for heavy, space-dominating weight stacks. An app, using algorithms inspired by robotics, works with the athlete to adapt resistance profiles in real time while tracking metrics and providing feedback. 

Lowering weights builds more muscle strength than lifting them, a process known as eccentric overloading. W8X technology enables athletes to program their workout to incorporate this kind of variable resistance, lifting 100 pounds and lowering 120 pounds, for instance, without needing assistance — or actual weights. 

According to Huettenbach, the technology is adaptable to a range of disciplines, from rowing to swimming to gymnastics. “The technology can be adapted to any sport where the athlete benefits from resistance training,” he said, noting that its portability means fitness isn’t confined to a gym.

Other members of the W8X team include Andres Calvo, an MIT graduate student; Alex Breton, an MIT mechanical engineering grad; Sonal Singh, an MIT MBS student; and Alex Lednev, an MIT Master’s in Engineering grad.  

The winning ASU Innovation Open team will take home a $100,000 prize funded by Avnet, which also provides technology and business management support to competitors. Other finalists in the competition are ASU teams HoolestAirGarage and Hygiea, and another MIT team, Bloomer HealthTech.