Those who are familiar with the fitness industry will recognize the name Nautilus. This can be accredited to Arthur Jones, the founder of Nautilus, who changed the fitness landscape in the 1970s with his cutting edge product development, workout structure and marketing tactics. His innovations in the construction and use of fitness equipment would propel strength machines and circuit style training forward into the massive industry it is today.
Detailed in the book, Legends of Fitness by Stephen Tharrett, Frank O’Rourke & James A. Peterson, the authors recognize the achievements of Nautilus and the impact Arthur Jones had on the fitness industry.
Introduced to the world in 1970, Nautilus machines were significantly different than anything else on the market before them. (Tharrett et al. 2011). One particular unique feature of these exercise machines was the Nautilus CAM, a specially designed pulley mechanism that was shaped like a nautilus shell (hence the name Nautilus).
The Nautilus CAM was so innovative to strength machines because it changes the way resistance is applied. When a cable with weights is pulled over a round pulley, the resistance is consistent, but when a nautilus shaped or oval CAM is used, the resistance is varied. This is due to the distance between the cable and the CAM’s pivot point changing as the CAM rotates. The load is lighter at the beginning and end of the motion with the full resistance in the middle. The variable resistance follows the body’s natural strength curve and makes for a much better workout.
In addition to the CAM, Nautilus’ efforts to design and manufacture individual training machines for various body parts also had a significant impact on the industry. (Tharrett et al. 2011). This series of machines enabled exercisers to train the body’s muscle groups-one machine and one particular body area (circuit-style) at a time. The Nautilus machines offered an effective and efficient way for individuals to engage in resistance training. The combination of the CAM and the dedicated machines for each body part drove an entire segment of the health/fitness facility industry in the 1970s.
In addition to revolutionizing the way strength equipment was developed, Nautilus was also one of the first companies to recruit athletes and celebrities to promote their equipment through marketing. Their successful marketing and revolutionary products pushed Nautilus to the forefront of the fitness industry.
Nautilus Sports/Medical Products Company became the largest manufacturer of fitness equipment in the world, achieving annual sales of close to $75 to $80 million (equivalent to $250 to $270 million in 2011) at its pinnacle in the late 1970s. (Tharrett et al. 2011).
It is easy to see how the early Nautilus machines became the blue print for strength equipment today. However, according to the authors of Legends of Fitness, the machines may not even be the most impactful achievement of Arthur Jones.
Truth be known, Jones’ most significant contribution to the world of fitness may not have been the Nautilus equipment that he introduced in 1970. (Tharrett et al. 2011). Rather, Jones’ most lasting influence may well be the core principles of training that he developed and advocated, including performing one set of exercises to exhaustion, undertaking super slow controlled concentric and eccentric training, and engaging in 20-minute workout circuits.
When asked, Co-Author & Fitness expert Frank O’Rourke expanded on the content of the book explaining, “Arthur Jones was the genesis of the fitness equipment industry. He revolutionized selectorized strength training by inventing the “Thinking Man’s Barbell” and popularizing Strength CAM Technology, he created an industry with the concept of Nautilus fitness centers around the globe. High intensity interval training (HIIT) was his original idea of making Bigger, Faster and Stronger athletes which carried on to the general public. HIIT continues to be a main stay for fitness enthusiasts over the years due to the effectiveness and short duration of the workouts. Arthur is a legend in our industry as an inventor and was the catalyst of what all fitness companies are today!”
Nautilus invented the entire modern strength training category more than 40 years ago, and we’ve been reinventing it ever since. We continue to honor Arthur’s legacy by innovating equipment to provide a fitness experience that naturally fits human movement. Arthur Jones’ legacy set the groundwork for the larger strength industry we have today. At Core Health & Fitness we are honored to continue on the Nautilus name and to be a part of the revolution that changed the fitness industry and the first name in strength.