The Gymnasticon – a late-18th- century exercise machine

The Gymnasticon – a late-18th- century exercise machine

The Gymnasticon - a late-18th- century exercise machine

Bodybuilders will love this bit of history. The first scientifically developed exercise machine was the Gymnasticon. But it was not developed as conventional fitness/gym/ bodybuilding related equipment. It was originally conceived as an orthopedic treatment machine.

The Gymnasticon was invented by Francis Lowndes in 1796. The machine was used to treat a wide range of ortho related problems. Lowndes described the Gymnasticon as a machine intended “to give and apply motion and exercise, voluntary or involuntary, to the limbs, joints and muscles of the human body.

But over time, people realized that the Gymnasticon is not just an orthopedic treatment machine for patients. It’s actually very effective for even normal people, who wish to exercise or workout regularly to maintain good health and fitness levels.

Gymnasticon machine


The Gymnasticon basically consists of a set of flywheels which in turn are connected to treadles for the feet and cranks for the hands. The machine was so well thought out that you can operate the treadles and cranks either together or independently, depending on the specific requirements of the user.

If you look closely at the above image, you will realize that the basic principles of exercising have not really changed in over 250 years! It is still essentially an assembly of weights and pulleys.


Early days gym

Of course, when I say this I am referring to only the basic equipment in modern gyms – and not the hi-tech equipment.

Amazing how Francis Lowndes thought through the whole thing, in such great detail, way back in 1741!



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