Zander Machines Podcasts

Zander machines were the top of the line exercise equipment in the early 1900s. Some were also used for physical therapy. Find out about the ones in the park museum collection.

Watch video Zander machines, part I.
Watch video Zander machines, part II. Transcripts below

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Transcript, Zander machines, part I.
Hi again. This is Joe Herron, Park Guide at Hot Springs National Park. Today we are going to talk about Zander equipment. These machines, all dating from the teens and twenties, represent some of the work done by Dr. Gustav Zander of Sweden. A lot of them even though they are odd looking, these are the predecessors of machines we have today at gyms and other clinics.

All of these machines were donated by a spa in Hot Springs, Virginia, The Homestead when it closed right around the year 2000.

None of these pieces were actually in the Fordyce Bathhouse, but there were four machines. One of them was a Universal Vibratory. A patron would have a chair next to the vibratory and simply lay their leg across. The motor would cause this leather bar to vibrate. They felt it was good for circulation.

This is the abdominal unit. The motor would cause the pedals to move up and down. The patron would be stretched out, face first with their stomach right at the wood pedals. This would kneed and roll to simulate a stomach massage. This was widely used for women who wore their corsets too tight. Sometimes it would move the organs around; this was one of the treatments for that.

One piece that is no longer sitting on display at the Fordyce is the horse machine, which would simulate a horse ride. The Smithsonian currently has this machine.

The adjusted weight ankle unit. The patron would sit in front, often times in a wheel chair. Having their foot in this harness, the attendant would turn the wheel causing the foot to swivel. This helps fight off atrophy. People who had some movement would even get to a point to where they could turn it using their foot. The range of motion is adjustable as well as the weight on the bottom.

Zander machines, part II
Hi again. This is Joe Herron, Park Guide at Hot Springs National Park. Today we are going to talk about Zander equipment. These machines, all dating from the teens and twenties, represent some of the work done by Dr. Gustav Zander of Sweden. A lot of them even though they are odd looking, these are the predecessors of machines we have today at gyms and other clinics.

The leg lift is very similar to units used today. The patron would sit in the chair, kick their feet out with their feet strapped in, and the weight was adjusted by moving the weight up and down the lever. Even thought the weight itself is not changed for a larger weight, it is much heavier the further away from the center it moves.

The back stretch unit. This is an exercise that we do not use today. Dr. Kellogg talks about it in his book, The Art of Massage. The patron would sit with their back on the board, strap their legs down, and push against the pedal. While they are pushing they turn the wheel and the resistance pushing against their feet would work a lot of the back muscles as they are stretching forward. We don’t do this today because of the strain it would put on the neck.

The wrist developer. The patron would simply turn in repeated motion. This would work some the muscles in the wrist. The chair sitting next to it is simply adjustable for different people’s sizes.

The hip-twist unit also known as the camel machine. A motor would cause the set to swivel around causing the patron the use their hips, use their whole abdominal, really their whole core just to stay aboard.


Last updated: April 10, 2015

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