Chris Freeman is a partner with BASE, the company that makes the RPT (Reactive Power Trainer) which is designed to strengthen your core muscles and trains your brain to react faster, resulting in more control and balance from the neck to the ankles. Regardless of age or competitive level, the RPT enhances strength, balance, and core. Athletes from pee wee leagues to professional level, weekend warriors, runners, cyclists, gymnasts, people who do CrossFit, martial arts, and more will take a leap to the next level with the RPT.
Business people can benefit by using the RPT as it provides a quick, effective break from long hours sitting behind a desk.
For seniors 55+ and beyond who begin to lose balance, coordination and strength, the RPT is a great tool to help recapture that youthful walk and ability to stave off debilitating age-related injuries from tripping, slipping or falling.
Chris has been involved in sales in the construction industry for 30 years, and just recently became part of a start-up company BASE (Balance and Strength Equipment) whose goal is to improve the quality of life for anyone who is willing to take advantage of the unique training device they offer.
Phil Faris: Chris, you came from a construction industry background to become a fitness industry entrepreneur. That’s an interesting journey. Can you tell us how you got from there to here?
Chris Freeman: Yes, it is an interesting story. I’ve sold tools in the construction industry for 30 years, and I’ve demonstrated more tools than I could count. About a year ago, I was demonstrating a tool to a group of electricians and Bob Burton, who is the inventor of the Reactive Power Trainer, was in that group of electricians. Bob liked how I demonstrated the tool, how related to all the guys, and he saw I was in pretty good shape for a 60-year-old, so after the demonstration, he asked if I wanted to see his new exercise device. I told him I would. We went out and looked at it, and I was impressed. I wasn’t sure what it was or what it did, but Bob got on it and balanced. He did a full squat in balance. He did some push-ups, and I thought, “Oh, it looks pretty easy.” So, I got on it, and it was anything but easy. I couldn’t maintain balance as hard as I tried. But in the first 30 to 45 seconds, I could feel all the muscles in my legs feeling the strain. I’ve been in the gym before, I’ve worked out on the BOSU ball, but this thing was a lot faster than a BOSU.
Bob was looking for a group of the right mix of investors, and he had gotten some nice offers from people, but nothing seemed right to him. I guess Bob just saw something in me that seemed right to him, so we talked about it, we discussed it, and I took the device to a friend of mine who’s a professional trainer. He knows the science of fitness, strength, and conditioning, and my friend liked it a lot. In fact, he bought one for himself.” Then he said, “I’m probably going to buy some of these for my clients and one for my mom and dad,” because he saw the benefit of the balance and the strength side of it.
Now, less than a year later, we’ve got a strong partnership of guys with different strengths; I think it’s a good business model, and I’m hoping this will allow us to bring a great piece of equipment to as many people as possible.
Phil Faris: That’s a great story, Chris. Thanks. It’s kind of serendipitous of how you all came together. Your product is called the Reactive Power Trainer or RPT, and since our listeners can’t see the product, can you describe it and explain how it works?
Chris Freeman: The Reactive Power Trainer is a 38-inch long, eight-inch-wide, first-class lever. I guess the easiest way to describe it is just to say it looks like a small, heavy-duty see-saw with handles. Bob designed it in Nashville, Tennessee. It’s made just outside of Nashville. One of the partners has a precision metal business, and he makes this product. It’s a strength, balance and coordination trainer. When we ship the product to you, it comes with a heavy-duty mat so you can use it at home, the office or the gym. It comes with two different sets of springs, and these springs allow you to attach to both sides so that we can give you four different levels of difficulty. You can go as fast or slow as you like. The platform itself has a non-slip grip. It allows you to work out and maintain a maximum grip with your feet. And it also comes with two handles. These handles give you the ability to do push-ups. You can do push-ups with a neutral grip or an internally rotated grip or an externally rotated grip, just to make it more versatile to use. It allows you to focus on different muscles in your shoulder.
The way the RPT works is simple. You’re using your body weight and your center of mass to try and balance on this first-class lever. Since it only takes about three ounces to move the platform, it’s much faster than say, a BOSU ball or one of the balance boards. Your brain senses this instability, and it tries to recruit your muscles, but it does this at reflexive speed to maintain balance. So, you don’t even have to think about it. You try to maintain balance, and it’s this reflexive response that really stimulates all the muscles in your core as well as your legs as you try to attempt that balance. At the same time, you’re flexing your ankles, knees, hips; you’re engaging all those joints to work in coordination with the muscles. This rapid contraction and co-contraction of the muscles build strength. While the brain is forming and re-informing neuro pathways to those muscles, so you can try to balance. So, you’re building strength in the muscles, flexibility in the joints, and training your central nervous system to form and reinforce those pathways that tell you how to balance as quickly as possible.
Phil Faris: It seems like a simple device, but it provides a very challenging workout, for professional athletes as well as fitness enthusiasts. It’s also a great and valuable tool for Baby Boomers. When did you realize the value it would provide Baby Boomers?
Chris Freeman: You’re right. In the very beginning, Bob Burton, the inventor, developed this device to help his son rehab an injured shoulder from a high school football injury. At the same time, he realized it was an excellent device to use in his workouts to build strength. He’s been a weight lifter his whole life, and he’s always been into working out. Bob became even more interested as he researched the newest science on areas like how muscles are developed and atrophy; how the muscles and joints interact; how much the brain controls muscles and sends signals to allow us to move. He used it in his workouts at the gym and, of course, the other members used it and found that it worked for them as well.
Age never was a factor on who used it. So, Bob also found that when he showed this to professional trainers, they wanted to use it for their clients, and some of their clients are professional athletes. So RPT is a great tool for athletes, whether you’re in middle school or at the highest professional level in any sport. Bob also discovered that his mom, who’s more than 80 years old –and for Mrs. Burton’s sake I’ll leave out her exact age– but she was beginning to walk like an 80-year-old. You know, shuffling a little bit, a little bit stooped over at the shoulders and having difficulty managing steps that would’ve been easy 20 years ago. He encouraged her to use the RPT to strengthen her core, hoping it would help her recover some of her gait. She began to get on it for a few minutes, two or three times a week. She noticed it was easier to pick up her feet, it was easier to manage her steps, and her posture began to improve. To give her the support she needs, she uses the RPT next to the refrigerator, or she might put it in the doorway. Now she’s walking more like a 60-year-old than an 80-year-old.
He realized, and that was the point we realized, wow, this could be great for anybody at any age. We continued to do research and found out, for example, in 2013, they did a study that said there’s 48 million Americans that are 65 or over, which I think, Phil, includes you and me and found one in four of these people are going to slip, trip or fall. I was kind of amazed that it resulted in just in one year, costing $34 billion in medical care. As bad as the financial side is, from a fall at age 65 plus, the potential loss of your freedom is even worse. When we were in our 20s, we could trip, and we could catch ourselves, mostly because we were at our peak physical condition at that age. In our 40s, we could trip and fall, but we’d likely just get a scratch or two. Again, most of it’s because our physical condition is beginning to wane, but we’re still in pretty good shape; we’re still a little bit active. But because of our sedentary lifestyle, it continues to decrease as we age.
But now that we’re 60 or older, we’re more likely to end up in the Emergency Room, maybe with a sprain at best and maybe a broken bone or broken bones at the worst. I know I just got an email this morning from one of my coworkers whose grandmother slipped and fell last night, broke her wrist, with scratches on her face, and ended up in the Emergency Room. So, they have to deal with that. So, this aging process combined with our more sedentary lifestyle results in muscle loss, loss of bone density and loss of flexibility. What the RPT can do is reverse that muscle loss and increase the flexibility. Science and medicine are giving us a lot more years of life expectancy, so now we want to make sure we can get back or maintain as high a quality of life as possible. A great part of that strategy for each of us needs to be the strength building and injury prevention, and the RPT provides both.
Phil Faris: What strikes me about the RPT is that the kind of training it does, it’s very different than what most people think about when they go to the gym. When most people think about going to the gym, they think of an elliptical or Stairmaster or treadmill. Maybe they’ll get on some of the weight machines, and that will build some strength. Maybe they’ll do some sit-ups or some crunches, maybe a plank to build the core. But they’re not doing anything to affect the muscles that allow them to move better and especially move on uneven surfaces, which can contribute to falls and in some ways better mobility performance. The ankles, the ancillary muscles around the ankles, around the knees, the hips don’t get worked. Those are the muscles that will give way first when you fall or trip. Those are also the kinds of things that come into play when you’re playing sports. I play tennis and the key there is having mobility and flexibility in all ranges of motion because you are moving and the more fluid you can move, the better it can be.
This works out muscles in a very different way than what they would typically get if they went to a gym or worked out with a personal trainer.
Maybe you can talk about how Baby Boomers might use this to improve their strength and coordination? Would you describe some of the exercises they would do?
Chris Freeman: There are a lot of routines, and we’re finding that there are some things we don’t even know about yet. We take the device to someone, and they use it. For example, we gave it to a strength and conditioning coach, Joel Seedman, down in Atlanta. Joel got on it, and after he did his review and analysis, he showed us doing glute bridges on there. So, for your clients who don’t know what a glute bridge is, you can lie on your back on the floor and put your feet on the ground and press your hips up into the air. Now you can use the RPT, put your feet on the RPT and do that glute bridge, and now you’re going to engage those glutes, which a lot of people neglect. Not only a lot of just regular people, but professional athletes have that same issues.
But the balance routines are simple. It involves standing on the unit for a set amount of time, trying to maintain balance. You have unlimited variations of this because you can change the angle of your feet on the platform and every time you’re changing the angle, it’s going to change the muscle that it works out. You can change the placement of your feet. For example, you can do a close stance where your feet are maybe just outside of the number one slot on the platform left and right. You can do a wide stance, where your feet are outside the number four slot on the platform. Or you can do an offset stance. When you do that one, what you’ll end up doing is putting, let’s say, your right foot outside of the one slot, your left foot outside of the number four slot, so now you’re going to be primarily working on one leg or the other. You can also balance and try to build strength by doing the balance in an upright position or a full squat position. Or you can do squats while you’re trying to maintain balance. All of those are going to build strength and involve different joints and different muscles.
Also, I have found that just controlled touching down on the platform left and right is a great exercise for flexibility. You were just talking about ankles, so you could stand on it, have your knees slightly bent, and just try to control touching left and right and you’ll feel the extension and flexion in your ankles. So, you’re building all that, but at the same time, you involve your knees and hips. So, those are all the balance exercises. You can do planks, like one-legged planks, reverse planks or planks with weight added. It’s limitless for all that, and all those plank exercises are just adding to that core strength and ability to control a balance.
Again, I talked about the glutes. You can do a lot of glute workouts on this. To increase upper body strength, push-ups are one of my favorites. You can do a simple, full body weight push-up. I still lift weights, so it’s easy for me to do a full body push-up on this, but with the three different grips, it allows you to build and focus on different muscles in those shoulders. A lot of us have experienced shoulder pain. It’s just from past injuries. You play tennis, so you can imagine you overdevelop that kind of forearm throw when you make that tennis motion, and maybe over the years you’ve developed a little bit of arthritis, but a lot of us have gotten away from strengthening those muscles just because of the pain. What the RPT allows you to do is to put the unit, let’s say, on a platform, maybe an 8-inch platform or a 16-inch platform. If you’re working at the gym or you’re working at the house, you can put it up on a step. What that does is it allows you to instead of pushing 100% of your body weight, you only have to push 50% of your body weight. Lower it down to the next step, and you can be pushing 75% of your body weight. Then you can progress to a full body weight push-up with both your feet and the unit on the floor.”
On top of that, if you want to progress even further, you can reverse that process. Put your feet up on the platform with the unit on the floor, and that will increase that percentage of body weight, and you can continue to go up, set your feet higher, and again, it just makes it more and more difficult to do those push-ups. But you can very likely begin to build your upper body strength and then you can take it to extremely heavy if you want to. But you have all those different abilities with this without having to add any additional equipment. And then one more, a variation where you can take this and lean the platform fully to the left, shift your weight to the left and try to do a push-up that way, which focuses on just one arm. It does a couple of things for you. It increases that strength building aspect, but if you have a weakness from one arm to the other, this will give you a chance to identify it. And not just identify it, but you also have that unit to build strength and correct it.
So, as we get into more and more of these gyms and homes and offices, every week it seems like we’re finding a new way we can do different workouts and different routines.
Phil Faris: Even though it’s a simple device, there are a lot of ways to do what trainers refer to as, “progressions and regressions,” because depending on your fitness level you can make it as simple to start as you want. When you’re ready, you can make it more difficult and challenging. Part of it is where you place your hands or your feet. You mentioned planks; I could see where you could do the plank where you put your hands on the device, and you could also see where you could do them with your feet on it. It works your core in different ways because your foot would be the unstable part and your arms would be the stable part on the ground. It has a lot of flexibility.
Talk to us about how you use the springs to adjust the speed at which the unit moves up and down. I think of it like a teeter-totter or seesaw going back and forth quickly. How much does each spring impact how quickly it moves?
Chris Freeman: Because it’s a first-class lever and it rotates on its axis, it only takes three ounces to make it move. This is really fast. If you’ve ever used, for example, a BOSU ball, which … I work out on a BOSU ball, and I think it’s a great tool to work out with, then you will have used what’s called a labile surface device. If you want to compare the speed of let’s say a BOSU to an RPT, the BOSU moves at one speed, and I would say, as an analogy, at the speed of a golf cart. And RPT, because of the springs, allows you to go from the speed of a golf cart to the speed of a 500-horsepower Corvette. We do that with the springs. You have two sets of springs; I’ll say one spring is rated at one and the second spring is rated at two. If you load both springs on each side, you will get a level of three on each side. So, if I get on there and have all those springs on there and I’m a first-time user, I’m probably going to be able to maintain balance while I’m on the unit.
If I want to increase the level of difficulty, I will take off the number one spring from each side, and now I’ve got a difficulty level of two on there because I still have the strength of two on either side. That’s going to make it a little more difficult so that you can progress slowly. If you want to take it down to a level of one, then you would pull the number two springs off, put the number one spring on, now you’d be at a difficulty level of one. With just that one level on there, it’s going to be difficult to maintain balance. It’ll ease it a little bit, and you’ll have to practice on it quite a bit to try to maintain balance with just the one spring on. But then when you talk all the springs off, now you’re at a difficulty level of, let’s say, zero. You’re at full speed at this point.
At full speed, we’ve had professional athletes try to do push-ups on it. A professional athlete who could maybe bench press 450 pounds and found it difficult for him to do a single push-up, not because he didn’t have the strength, but because his body wasn’t balanced enough. When he’s lying on his back on a flat bench, he can just press straight up, but when he was flipped over, trying to do a push-up on that and balance his entire weight, it was difficult for him just to maintain balance. Had we put the springs on, he probably could have done it easily.
Phil Faris: It can go from something that the average person can get on and use right away all the way up to where it’s challenging for a professional athlete. The RPT sounds like a great piece of equipment, but what are some misconceptions people may have about it?
Chris Freeman: I think there are some misconceptions about it. I think part of it is when people look the cost and see that it’s $499. And I would just say, “How do you stack that up to another year of exploring a national park or enjoying an active week at the beach with your grandkids?” $499 is the fraction of the cost of an Emergency Room visit for something as simple as a sprained ankle, much less something like a broken hip. It’s less than a nice treadmill that you may have sitting in your den, with the boxes stacked up on it, that got used for two weeks when it was brand new, and now it’s just sitting there.
It’s so much more than an exercise device. I mean, for half the cost or less than half the cost of a monthly insurance premium, you could strengthen your core and improve the rest of your life. Another thing is, it’s not a silver bullet. You know, we’re Boomers. Most of us have been used to working with what we have. The RPT can be a tremendous tool in that arsenal for living a much longer, much more enjoyable life. But it’s like any tool. I think at the beginning of this interview, I related that I sold tools for a living and I’ve realized that if you have a tool, it’s a great thing, but if it’s sitting on the bench, it’s not doing anything. So, if you use this tool, you’ll enjoy it, and you’ll get a great return on that small investment of time I think you must put into it to achieve the results.
And lastly, it’s the versatility. This is going to be one of the tools that you’re going to use to increase your core strength, balance, flexibility, and upper body strength now and for years to come. We’ve provided a tool that can be slowed down for a novice Boomer who wants just to start getting in shape, but it can also go all the way up and train professional athletes. This is something that’s going to be able to build core strength, upper body strength, engage all your joints, improve that balance and stability that we’re all looking for, all in one device, just one easy choice. So, to me, it’s very affordable, a great tool, and easy to use for the rest of your life.
Phil Faris: I would agree. You said that you showed it to a person and she looked at it and it didn’t excite her. But once she tried it out and tried to master it, she became addicted to it and just fell in love with it. She had to try it to appreciate it. Can you describe why that is?
Chris Freeman: The fact that it’s a very new device and it’s not been seen before. When people look at it, they’re like, “Oh, I’ve used a piece of equipment like this before.” Or they look at it, and they think it’s a seesaw. They don’t warm up to it immediately. As you mentioned, we took it to a young lady by the name of Rachel Hamrick. She is one of the top-rated female Spartan racers in the world, and she hates to work out, but she knows that to maintain that top ranking, she’s got to hit it hard. She’s former Army, a Lieutenant I think, and she’s tough as nails. So, when we took it to Rachel, she looked at it, and we talked about it, but it wasn’t until she got on it that she started to love it. When she stepped on it, she quickly realized how fast it was, and it just got her excited. Once she got on it, we couldn’t get her off it. After being on it for 30 minutes, she posted it on her Instagram page. She was excited and pumped about it because it did for her what a lot of the training programs don’t do.
When she’s running that Spartan race, she’s running up and down hills, she’s diving under barriers, and she’s jumping back up. It allowed her to build that core strength, plus give all that joint flexibility that she’s looking for.
Phil Faris: When you look at some pieces of equipment, it’s self-evident how they work. With the RPT, you look at it, and it’s just “a piece of equipment” … until you get on it. It’s one of those things where once you’ve tried it, you’ll love it. Right?
Chris Freeman: Right.
Phil Faris: Chris, we’ve covered a lot of ground today. What’s one thing that we may not have covered that you could share with Baby Boomers who want to get fit, stay fit using the RPT?
Chris Freeman: Phil, there are two groups of Boomers out there. I’m 60 years old, so I’m in that Boomer group, moving along with everyone else. One is the group which has allowed themselves to get old. They have busy lifestyles; they put work or family, a lot of good things and some bad things between them and their personal fitness. For those folks, the good news is, you can begin today. With patience and hard work and an open mindset, you can regain a lot of what you’ve lost over the last 30 to 40 years. The Reactive Power Trainer is a great tool for them just to start and continue to use.
The second group of folks probably listen to your podcast and are people like myself, who have worked at staying in good shape. They love to be active. I refuse to get old. I’m 60, and I still have a very active lifestyle. I’m busy with work; I have hobbies, grandkids; I don’t want to give up any of them. So, I’m always encouraged when I see people my age or older who are still enjoying life to the fullest. I ran my first marathon 18 years ago, and I ran next to a 78-year-old guy who was running his 76th marathon, and he looked like he could go on forever. That just encouraged me and inspired me.
Two weeks ago, we were shooting a video depicting different routines on the RPT, and I have this great friend of mine, his name is Rocky. Rocky is 79 years old. Rocky got on the RPT, and he was having fun, but it was a workout for him. He loved the feeling it was giving him because he could feel how it was straining his muscles and joints, and he wanted to do everything I could do. He wasn’t very far away from it. I want to be that guy. I want to be that guy that’s in good shape so that people say, “Wow, you look great for your age” or “You just look great.” I know that takes an investment in time and the RPT gives me the greatest amount of return on the investment of time that I put in. So, I get muscle strength, balance, and a mentally challenging workout, because if it’s not fun, it’s hard to get on there. Once you get started, you can use the RPT two or three times a week. The workouts can be 10 to 20 minutes at the most, and they’re fun.
But, Phil, I’d like to finish with this. I’m at this point in my life where I want to be a significant part of my children’s and my grandchildren’s lives. Many of us have experienced success, but how many of us have achieved significance? I’ve got a great friend of mine whose name is Aaron Walker. He wrote a book called View from the Top. He challenges men to rise above success to significance. I don’t know what that means to your listeners, but what it means to me is my four-year-old grandson could care less if his Pops was a success in business. He just wants to know if Pops can chase him, push him on a swing, or go on hikes with him. He wants to know why the sky is blue, how spiders spin webs, and how God made us. I want to spend as much time with him, influence him as much as possible, and I want to continue to be a significant part of his life and my other grandchildren’s lives. And my sons’ and my daughters-in-laws’. And I want to be there for my beautiful wife for as long as I possibly can and do it with as much joy as I can. I know a big part of that equation is my physical ability to be able to do all those things.
So today, if nothing else, invest in yourself, invest in your health so you can invest in those around you who mean the most. Just be significant.
Phil Faris: I think that’s a great message and I can relate to that because being around for my grandkids is very important. I don’t want to be on the sidelines of the game of life. I want to be in there giving it my all. Thanks a lot for sharing. Chris, if people want to buy the RPT or want to get more information about it, where should they go?
Chris Freeman: They can go to our web page which is baserpt.com, that’s B-A-S-E-R-P-T dot com. If they have any questions, they can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or if they just want to leave me a personal email, they can use my personal email address which is email@example.com. If your listeners are interested, they can go to our webpage, click the About Us tab and see five guys that have a huge passion for passing on this abundant life we’ve been given. One of our mottos that we put on the back of our shirts is that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, so we want everyone who purchases an RPT to experience the most of these great lives God has given us.