Gyroscopic precession. We’ve all experienced it in one way or another: riding a bike, spinning a top, or just living on earth. But have you used a gyroscope for exercise? The Powerball is a funky little device that aims to do just that: use the forces created by a gyroscope to exercise your arm and hand muscles.
The premise is pretty basic, though I can’t exactly understand how it works. You have a weighted ring (aka a gyroscope) inside a hollow ball. The ball is basically just an easy way to grip they gyroscope without stopping it from spinning. You give the gyroscope a spinning start, then by a particular circular motion of your hand, increase its spin rate as much as you can or would like to. The faster the gyroscope spins, the more torque it exerts, and the harder it becomes to hold and keep spinning. It’s a positive feedback loop in terms of exercise: the more power you put in, the more power you need to put in to keep it going.
It’s peculiar to explain, but damn fun to use and quite addictive. Because the technique in attaining a maximim spin rate is somewhat tricky, I found myself spinning the thing for hours trying to get a top speed. Upscale models come complete with RPM counters, but even the mechanical whine of this basic model is enough to tell you when you’re going really fast. This addictive quality adds to the exercise benefits, and before long I found myself locking the thing away in a drawer because my arms were almost too tired to type.
It’s hard to believe something so simple could be so fun and probably beneficial. I don’t know if there have been any scientific studies into the benefits (but then again, have there been scientific studies on dumbells?!), but there are plenty of positive testimonials.
My own experience was also positive. I spend most of my waking hours at a keyboard. While I haven’t had any particular trouble, I’m always concerned about overuse injuries, especially in my motorbike-damaged left thumb. A couple of days with the powerball and my wrists seem more supple. The one side effect is that whenever I look at the Powerball I just have to spin it. One… more… time…