Jacobs Ladder is the original ladder-climbing machine that caught the eye of Bob Palka and the world.
In early 2000, Bob Palka was looking to buy a business. He sent out thousands of inquiry letters without much return. With a history in manufacturing, Bob certainly didn’t expect to find himself in the fitness industry. But in a reply to his search, someone brought up Jacobs Ladder as an idea for a business, and Bob was intrigued. Jeff Nichols created a ladder-climbing machine and was running the business out of his garage. When Bob got on the Jacobs Ladder, he knew that Jeff Nichol’s invention was the business he had been looking for. In 2004, Bob bought the Jacobs Ladder patent and assets and hired Jeff as his first employee.
In the early days, Jacobs Ladder struggled to be profitable. Despite the hardships, Bob continued to push the company forward with a growing fan base. In 2009, the scrappy company with its brand loyalists was pushed front and center into a huge public spotlight when Jillian Michaels brought Jacobs Ladder to The Biggest Loser, and a six-year partnership ensued. The Biggest Loser audience got a firsthand look at the Jacobs Ladder workout and more importantly, the results it delivers. “Getting exposed to 15 million people—you can’t pay for that type of exposure, especially if it’s good exposure,” said Palka. “It really legitimized our product in a gym setting. When we used to go to trade shows prior to The Biggest Loser, everybody thought it was unique but had never seen it before. After The Biggest Loser, people were saying, ‘I’ve been wanting to try this thing for forever.’”
With growing demand and revenue, Bob invested back into the business. In 2010, the Jacobs Ladder 2 was launched to deliver the beloved Jacobs Ladder workout at home. Perfect for the Biggest Loser fan base, people could climb on a Jacobs Ladder 2 from the comfort of their own homes. The Stairway was created in 2013 to offer a great self-propelled stair climb workout, complete with handrails, and updated in 2017 as the Stairway GTL.
Bob did not let the pandemic hold Jacobs Ladder’s momentum back. There had been a lot of development going on to introduce new products, so in 2020, the RopeFit and the Jacobs Ladder X (JLX) were launched. “We had been working on JLX for a while, and I just had this belief that we were going to come out of this strong as an economy and as a people,” said Palka. “It typically takes three to six months to get our message across anyway, so I figured if I start delivering the message in November, most people will hear about it right when we’re getting back to a normal economy and right when gyms are getting cash positive and they want to spend. So we continued on with our product development, knowing there was a fair amount of risk there.”
The JLX was a great success. It is a sexier ladder climb, with poly-coated rungs that reveal the natural wood with easy cleanup. The product breaks down intimidation factors thanks to a clear three-step graphic and a coordinating waistband, making the JLX the most user-friendly ladder.
In June 2022, Core Health & Fitness acquired Jacobs Ladder and brought it to its natural place in the StairMaster family. StairMaster loyalists cannot get enough of the high-calorie burn from the low-impact stair climb. With a 12-inch rung step, Jacobs Ladder creates an addictive HIIT workout. As StairMaster celebrates 40 years of climbing, its product line has grown by big steps with Jacobs Ladder. StairMaster flexed with the 10G featuring OverDrive and the 8GX, and now with the 4G, which is the perfect fit for climbing in multi-housing and hospitality spaces, nobody climbs harder in more places than StairMaster.
“The opportunity to work closely with Core Health & Fitness, collaborating across its portfolio of globally recognized brands to build an even more diverse ecosystem, is another huge benefit of this acquisition. In 2004, when we started Jacobs Ladder, we realized it was an unparalleled fitness experience. What we have lacked for the past 18 years is a partner to help us share in an economy of scale. Core not only brings economy of scale but also an iconic set of brands. We are delighted with our new ownership and excited by its implications, not only for Jacobs Ladder but for the sector as a whole,” Palka continued.
Bob often quotes Occam’s Razor, which says, “The simplest solution is almost always the best.” The movement involved in a stair climb or ladder climb workout is simple and effective. Gains are realized quickly thanks to the low-impact climb that gets the heart pumping fast! Bringing Jacobs Ladder, Jacobs Ladder 2, the Stairway GTL, and the JLX into the StairMaster product line is a natural fit and devout fans get HIIT with the hardest workout they love to hate.
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Alisa Maloney is the Marketing Content Specialist for Core Health & Fitness. As a communication professional, Alisa seeks out new opportunities to hone her craft. "I love the creative use of words in language to build stories and create relationships," says Alisa; "a word is worth a thousand images." Alisa spends her free time with her family and enjoys visiting places where sandals are the most prevalent footwear.