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Jim Fiore, another brilliant example of an ignorant

The $14,615 Head-Spinning Workout

Category: Health and Society
Posted on: December 18, 2006 1:03 PM, by Jim Fiore

Every now and then I come across an advertisement that makes me say "What the #&$!?" I have seen the ad for the ROM machine in the back of Scientific American for some time but I never bothered to read it. Until yesterday. Then I went to their website. Yeow. My head is still spinning.

The ROM (Range Of Motion) machine promises a complete workout in only four minutes per day. Yep. Four, count 'em, four minutes per day. It's a bizarre looking device with a central seat, pedals, handles, chrome tubing and what appears to be a large flywheel or friction wheel, all for the amazing price of only $14,615. This appears to be an entirely passive device (no motors like a treadmill).

As a person who runs competitively (for my age) and indulges in a variety of other muscle powered endeavors, I just had to find out more so I went to their web site. I mean, how could this thing provide a full workout in only four minutes and why does it cost nearly 15 k-bucks? And if it's so dang successful, why hadn't I heard of it before?

The web site explains much. First, it warns you that experts in the field of aerobic and strength training (or any field for that matter), are the people least qualified to judge "new excellent ideas". It's so important that they usher you off to a very special little web site called (the idea of links to these "special purpose" web sites is a common theme and one that I assume is designed to make this thing look more legitimate). I should've known. Experts only exist to maintain the status quo. The keepers of the faith. Only people without formal knowledge of topics are free of status quo bias. It's so obvious. The web site also explains how the $15k price tag is actually cheaper than other forms of exercise such as running, walking, lifting free weights, and the like. At various places on the site the cost of ownership is quoted as being as little 20 cents per use. That's odd because by my figuring, I can buy a set of iron free weights for a couple hundred dollars and I am darn sure that I'll get more than 1000 uses out of them. The same is true of other endeavors: Nobody ever went broke feeding their walking habit. Of course, a major argument is that the ROM workout only takes four minutes, and therefore, that needs to be figured in to the total cost. In fact, when it comes to "figuring" the ROM folks are pretty inventive. Consider their comparison with running on a treadmill:

1. A 180 pound person burns about 415 calories during a typical treadmill workout of 60 minutes. They burn 350 calories during the 60 minutes on the treadmill (walking at 3 to 4 miles per hour). During the treadmill workout you use 25% of the body's muscles and you use them through only 15% of their range of motion. This means that only 15% of 25% or only 3.75% of the body's muscle cells are stretched and stimulated during the exercise. These 3.75% of muscle cells that have been stimulated during a treadmill workout provide for an additional 25 calories of metabolism during the 2 hours immediately after the treadmill workout and another 40 calories for the remainder of a 24 hour period. Total calories from 60 minutes walking on a treadmill then are 350 plus 25 plus 40 calories for a total of 415 calories burned as a result of 60 minutes of walking on a treadmill.
2. The same 180 pound person will burn 465 calories as a result of 4 minutes on the ROM machine. How is it possible that more calories are burned as a result of 4 minutes on the ROM than from 60 minutes on a treadmill? During the 4 minutes on the ROM you use 55% of your muscles and you use them through an average of 80% of their range of motion (ROM stands for Range of Motion). The total percentage of muscle cells involved in the ROM exercise are 12 times as many as the 3.75% used on a treadmill because 80% of 55% of your muscles is 44% of all your muscle cells that are stimulated to an increased metabolism. During the 4 minute ROM workout the 180 pound person burns only 40 calories. But those 44% of the body's muscle cells that have been stimulated to increased metabolism will burn another 150 calories in the 2 hours after the 4 minute ROM exercise and they will burn another 275 calories in the remaining time of a 24 hour period.

Now that's some amazing shit. These guys have invented an exercise machine that doesn't really burn that many calories during use, but stimulates your body to burn calories when you're not exercising. Granted, anyone with some background in physiology knows that lean muscle contributes to basal metabolism more than an equivalent mass of fat, but these guys have taken it to the next level. They've taken it to Bizzaro Superman level. They need to focus their attention on food next. How about a dessert that, although it contains quite a few calories itself, actually stimulates your body to shed calories after consumption? I don't know all of what the recipe would call for, but one possible ingredient would be syrup of epecac.

Moving on, one of their basic claims is that if you workout harder, you don't have to workout as long to achieve the same benefits. Apparently, their lack of knowledge of the body's energy systems makes them eminently qualified to assess the value of this "new excellent idea". By this logic, a world class sprinter should have no problem becoming a marathon world-beater without a change in training (let alone genetics).

What would happen if I used this device four times per day at four minutes a pop? Would I burn so many calories by not running that extra hour or two per day that I'd only weigh 98 pounds? Well, I'm not sure that my body would be all that much lighter, but my wallet surely would.


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    It looks like a Victorian time machine.

    Posted by: John McKay | December 18, 2006 01:52 PM

    Every time I've seen this ad over the last few years, I've felt awestruck by the chutzpah of its manuafacturers. It's practically supernatural. They should take Randi's JREF challenge.

    Posted by: jon | December 18, 2006 02:18 PM

    I think there is a PhD out there waiting to be plucked for the individual willing to research and write up the links between anyone dumb enough to buy this and those that believe in ID, UFO's, Kent Hovind, miracles and god(s).

    Posted by: J-Dog | December 18, 2006 02:42 PM

    I know little about biomechanics, but from a power output standpoint, wouldn't this stress the body a lot? I mean, running for an hour is already exhausting to many people. I am thinking of tendons and protein breakdown.

    Posted by: Koray | December 18, 2006 04:16 PM

    Four, count 'em, four minutes per day.
    This reminds me of the scene in the movie There's Something About Mary, where a character is talking about his exercise video, Seven Minute Abs.

    Posted by: Mustafa Mond, FCD | December 20, 2006 01:21 PM

    Digging deeper holes for themselves

    We found some more "expert" opinions in defense of Jim Fiore's article. Quite eloquent writing. Some profanity is x-ed out as our public service to the writers and readers.

    A strange way to concede an argument
    Category: Hootworthy
    Posted on: February 6, 2007 9:59 PM, by Kevin Beck

    Back in December, Jim noticed an ad in Discover for a magic exercise machine. "Magic" is about the only way to put it; the makers of the ROM machine, apparently between bong hits, crafted claims on behalf of their equipment that are simply laughable even by the ramshackle standards of the snap-to fitness industry, and while there are people who can be convinced they can get ripped by adding a few jumping jacks to their nightly routines of beer, flatulence and Girls Gone Wild promos, most such specimens don't have $14,000 to throw at vanity.

    Jim spent a few desultory words and minutes deriding this scam, and that was apparently that. However, the makers of the machine took notice of his post and decided to both reproduce it on their site -- complete with comments -- and link to the original here on the Refuge. They included Jim's review in a category on their site called "related topics," where they introduced Jim's column with this complaint:

    Jim Fiore, a brilliant "expert"?
    Another brilliant example of a person having lots of opinions without ever having tried a ROM. They don't have to try the ROM because all their education just tells them that it would be a total waste of their 4 minutes to find out that the ROM cannot possibly do what we claim it does.

    The interesting thing is that this was the sum total of their rebuttal: "What would he know, he hasn't tried it." Of course, Jim's post explained concisely why it was completely unnecessary to try such a machine in order to know it couldn't live up to its claims, and it's humorous that they unwittingly may have scared off a few potential fish by letting Jim's words stand unchallenged. It's as though bullshitress extraordinaire Sylvia Browne had included the words "JAMES RANDI SUCKS!" on her site along with a link to the Randi Foundation page and mention of the $1 million challenge, but nothing else.

    Then again, considering the minds behind this product, self-debunking by proxy is not necessarily unexpected, nor is it among their chief problems. Have a look at their Q & A section; if you're unlike me, you'll find a way to get past #1, "How can you possibly get a cardio workout in only 4 minutes per day when almost all people, including most "experts" apparently, believe that a cardiovascular workout requires at least 20 to 45 minutes?" The ensuing "explanation" about aerobic exercise -- that the benefits of a workout are related only to total oxygen consumed -- is a livid joke. If these clownhumpers were correct, one could become supremely fit by doing thirty seconds of madcap squat thrusts employing all of the body's muscle groups in a hyperbaric chamber every few days.

    I'm not sure I want to know exactly what kind of people buy into the "physiologists are all deluded, but you can trust us illiterates 'cause we're visionaries" angle; I can only imagine that such victims inhabit dark rooms filled with xxxxx pumps, Anthony Robbins tapes and printouts of plaintive e-mails from the wealthy sons of Nigerian diplomats.

    ROM-per roomers, if you're still reading our blog, please plaster this baby right alongside Jim's post. Remember, we're fitness enthusiasts too and we're here to help any way we can.
    (comment by ROM: Well you experts, here is your "baby" plastered right with Jim's dumb article) 

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    [O]ne could become supremely fit by doing thirty seconds of madcap squat thrusts employing all of the body's muscle groups in a hyperbaric chamber every few days. (ROM comment: Maybe that would indeed be possible)

    Where can I get one of these "hyperbaric chambers"!?! I'll do anything to get one (short of sleeping with Michael Jackson, even if we only slept).

    Any company with at least as much credibility as Scientology would have threatened a harassment lawsuit against Jim for his criticism. The best they can manage is "the 'experts' oppose us, so we must be right" arguments? That's just sad.

    Posted by: John McKay | February 6, 2007 11:45 PM

    ...inhabit dark rooms filled with penis pumps...
    Great. Now you're knockin' my hobbies.

    Posted by: Warren | February 7, 2007 11:48 AM

    You can't put new information into these people's heads. 'ROM', after all, means 'Read Only Memory' .

    Posted by: llewelly | February 7, 2007 12:44 PM

    (ROM comment) They don't have to try the ROM because all their education just tells them that it would be a total waste of their 4 minutes to test the ROM. They will be stuck forever with their mistaken belief that the ROM cannot possibly do what we claim it does.

    (directly below Jim Fiore is starting to dig deeper. He should read that explains why "experts" can be routinely 98% of the time correct without putting their logical part of their brain in gear. That leaves the 2% of times when they are dead-wrong, but their arrogance does not allow them to take these 2% of wrong expert opinions into account).
    I love the simplicity of this argument. It is obviously meant to be a sarcastic slap in the face, but it is precisely, perfectly correct. That is, I really DON'T have to try it to find out that it cannot possibly do what they claim it does BECAUSE my education does indeed tell me that it would be a total waste of time. Apparently, these guys (or guy) believe that education is a bad thing. My education tells me all manner of things that would be a waste of time (or worse) to try. For example, I know that pounding 10 penny nails through my feet would not be an effective way of gaining traction on slippery winter roads, without having to pick up a hammer. I know not to try breathing under water as a way of increasing oxygen input while swimming, even though by weight, there's more oxygen in water than there is in the air. My education also tells me when someone has made outlandish claims that are not supported by the evidence of countless scientists and researchers. Yes, education is a very bad thing. Very, very bad if your goal is to hoodwink gullible, misinformed people out of their money. I suggest that folks read the responses to e-mails for a better insight into the folks behind the ROM. Try this:

    After wading through more of the ROM site (and associated sites) than I care to remember, my personal opinion of all of this is that this fellow knows that he is selling a fraudulent scheme (4 mins/day=full aerobic workout) (correction here Jim: full anaerobic cardio workout in 4 minutes that results in the same or superior benefits for the cardiovascular system as does the typical low level long duration, 20 to 90 minutes, of aerobic cardio workout) and he has specifically set the price so as to appeal to people with more money than brains. At the same time, the site is rife with derogatory commentary on the ROM from a variety of sources, which he tends not to counter. Perhaps he puts it up there for the dual purpose of 1) snickering at the "experts" for those he intends to hook, and 2) offering the excuse of posting opposing opinions if someone were to try to sue him. Either that, or he's just a loon. After all, what can you say about someone who also has a site called ? Don't you get the impression that an old Michael Douglas movie made a big impact on his life, but in the wrong way? (don't forget another interesting site from the same "loon" This tax reform proposal is far better than the Flat Tax or Fair Tax proposals.  The "loon" has applied for a utility patent for this tax proposal, not because he expects to ever make any money with it, but because he believes that if he were to be granted a patent that he would get more media attention for this tax reform proposal that would bring an end to the insane 65,000 page tax code all of us are suffering under. This interesting proposal is currently posted on the website of the United States Patent Office because it has been accepted for patent examination and a patent examiner has been assigned to it. Just imagine what fun the "tax experts" will have with this, because it also sounds too good to be true just like the ROM.

    I have come to the conclusion that one does not buy a ROM, rather, one buys into the ROM.
    (that is indeed true. We make no effort to follow up after mailing out our free DVD. People have to sell themselves on the ROM to be able to take a leap of faith and rent the machine for a 30 day trial period to make absolutely certain that it is not the hoax that you insist it is. The rental deposit is $2500 and that fully applies to the purchase price. Over 97% of people who rent the ROM for 30 days are purchasing it at the end of the 30 day trial period. There are about 3% that do not and they get $1000 refund from their $2500 rental deposit. The $1500 we keep barely pays for the freight to the customer and the installation and the pick-up and freight back to us. To have the ROM picked up takes a simple phone call. After we receive those returned ROM back we lose a $185 crate, we have to detail the machine and we reduce the price by $850 because the machine is no longer brand new. We aggregate all these dumb blogs and funny emails so that people do not have to search for them on the web themselves. They also get to read your clever blogs so that they may be saved by you from making such a big mistake. The problem you foresee is not nearly as big as you imagine because only 1 out of every 52 DVDs mailed out by us results in a ROM purchase. On the other hand every 4 ROM machines out in the market will sell another ROM per year. Keep on blogging guys. Some of your former hostile skeptics own ROM machines now. And if you happen to be in the neighborhood of our factory showroom, please come on down and visit us for your first 4 minute ROM workout. We love to witness that remarkable transformation from skeptic to believer in 4 minutes flat).