Notts rower who suffered rib fractures creates gym equipment to support others

Date posted: June 6, 2023

A British rower who has hopes of becoming an Olympian has designed new gym equipment to support other athletes who may be prone to rib stress fractures.

Max Parker, 23, created the GymMax to support other sportspeople, like him, who endure such high training loads that they can fracture their own ribs.

The Nottingham Trent University (NTU) student is a competitive rower with ambitions to represent Great Britain in the Olympics, and is currently training for the FISU World University Games.

Max, who is studying BA Product Design, has fractured his own ribs twice, but says there’s no specific equipment available which focusses on strengthening the serratus anterior muscles which support the rib cage.

Max, from Hickling, Notts, said: “I’ve been rowing at a high level for six years and I’ve had rib stress fractures twice now.

“It’s not an uncommon injury in competitive rowing, but from my perspective there’s not a lot of work that’s been done on how to prevent it occurring.

“The injury comes from the repetitive motion that puts a strain on the ribs. It normally affects the third or fourth rib down from the collar bone, usually on the front of the rib cage. It’s usually a very small fracture, often only a hairline crack, but is quite painful.

“During racing season, many people train through it and push through the pain, but a physio would probably recommend a couple of months out.

“The first time I had it was during racing season and I just pushed through the pain. Luckily it did gradually heal. The second time wasn’t as bad as I was able to have break.”

Made from a plywood base with two layers of sustainable natural rubber for grip, GymMax allows athletes to easily train with resistance bands by hooking them onto the stainless steel bars, while short yellow ropes limit the load.

It allows people to easily practice a range of exercises against resistance including side planks, planks, press ups, scapula press ups and more.

“I would be keen to take it to market, as I think there’s definitely potential in it,” says Max, who aims to train full-time after finishing his degree. “I’ve had lots of people try it and have received great feedback from them all.”

Paul Kennea, senior lecturer in Product Design at Nottingham Trent University, said: “Max has taken his own personal experience of a competitive sports injury and used it to design something which will help other athletes, like him, to cope with the amount of training which is required to compete at the top level.

“His product is a sustainable and affordable way to improve the training experience for athletes who need to strengthen themselves in specific muscle areas to prevent season-ending injuries.”


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