The Tye4® is resistance training equipment that is worn on the body as a small harness with specially designed thin bungee cords that attach to the arms and feet. Originally developed for standing Pilates exercises, it helps improve balance and posture and has a wide variety of applications.
I like a lot of things about the Tye4®. It's a great concept, though I do some readers will be more ready to deal with than others at this point. Read more below.
Trying the Tye4®
My first experiences with the Tye4® occasioned several emails and calls back and forth with the inventor, Joan Breibart of the PhysicalMind institute. I just didn't get it. It seemed fiddly, small, and not entirely user friendly. Part of my problem was that my harness and shoulder straps weren't fit together right. I don't know if it came that way or I pulled it apart trying to untangle everything when I got it.
The upside of having an initial malfunction was that in the process of figuring out how the Tye4® must work, I came to an appreciation for its economy of construction that I might have missed otherwise. As resistance training equipment goes, the Tye4® is small, but efficient and ergonomic in design.
So I'm enjoying my Tye4® now. I like the light resistance it provides and the variety of ways it can be used. But I think it takes a level of "fitness devotion" to get used to it. It's not always comfortable. I wish the harness and hand and foot straps were more substantial and easy to adjust while worn. But how comfy can one expect wearing resistance training equipment on the body be? It's probably as comfortable as it can be, and it is very interesting. I now have the hang of slipping it on and off without getting tangled up, and I do feel the stability and toning benefits - which means I am often found around the house looking like some kind of Pilates marionette.
Balance and Resistance with Tye4®
What is so great about the Tye4® is that the lines of resistance feedback to the core of your body. This is a very Pilates approach to fitness. It's an effect we get from much of the larger Pilates equipment like the reformer, but getting that direct feedback with something as portable as the Tye4 is unusual. For example, even exercise bands tend to pull oddly at the distant ends of our arms and legs as we use them in resistance training, and we have to use extra focus to make sure we are working from our core. The Tye4® is a more core-direct experience. It is also more stabilizing for the joints this way.
This is not super resistance training that we are talking about. We are still in the realm of Pilates where we are more interested in core strength and stability than pumping up our muscles unnecessarily. Therefore, the bungee cords do not need to be very thick and the adjustable lengths are set to give just enough resistance to tone the muscles and activate the core. They can be crossed or held shorter to increase their resistance or stabilizing effect.
The feedback the bungee cords provide also help the body figure out where it is in space, and how it needs to organize to maintain balance. There is a whole repertoire of standing Pilates exercises developed for use with the Tye4® to take advantage of the enhanced proprioceptive aspect of it. Dancers and Pilates teachers, of course take to it very naturally, but I can imagine that eventually it will be used to help many people who need extra balance training.
Tye4® is available for anyone to buy. At $70.00 it is affordable, but so far I don't think it's quite user-friendly enough for beginners to strike out on their own with. The support materials - DVD, online videos, forthcoming web training - are geared toward those with Pilates training.
The DVD, Standing Pilates, goes through the classical Pilates mat sequence adapting it to standing positions with the Tye4® providing extra resistance, and making them closed chain exercises. Some of the exercises correlate with the classical series better than others. I wonder if it was even necessary to try to make them match. In any case, this DVD is meant to be a reference and is not easy to workout with. I often say that I don't need fancy sets or a lot of extras to like a DVD, but this one takes the prize for sparseness. The demonstrations are clear, however, and those who have had exposure to Tye4® elsewhere might find it useful.
Pilates, dance, and yoga professionals are exploring ways to use Tye4® with clients at all levels of fitness. It can be used alone, or in combination with Pilates and maybe other fitness equipment. And, new ways of arranging the cords for extra stability and/or resistance are still coming forth. Breibart suggests teachers can even use the bungee cords to help support a client through Pilates exercises like the roll up or roll over.
Most people are exposed to Tye4® through Pilates instructors who have taken the Tye4® teacher training through the PhysicalMind Institute. If you are interested in it, finding a Tye4® class or teacher training is the currently the way to go. It seems unrealistic to share Tye4®s across classes so participants will need to have their own, which has the benefit of encouraging home practice and giving studios a product to sell.