For many fitness enthusiasts, the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic meant a necessary switch-up of their workout routines. With gyms temporarily shuttered, many turned to at-home workout classes to get their sweat on. Many also purchased workout equipment like the Peloton bike, which provided live and on-demand cycling classes and an online community that people could experience from the safety of their homes.
Though many gyms across the United States have opened back up, that doesn’t mean everyone wants to give up convenient workouts that come without any COVID concerns, commute or pressure to purchase a wardrobe of cute exercise clothes. At least, that’s what CLMBR is counting on as the initial rush to purchase at-home fitness equipment becomes a memory of the early days of the pandemic.
CLMBR is unique in the fitness space, in that it’s the first vertical climber to bring fitness classes into the home. Users have the choice to sign up for its subscription service called CLMBR Connected ($39 a month), which allows climbers to use their machine in conjunction with on-demand classes.
Aesthetically speaking, the machine is stylish with a small footprint that means it may be possible to fit into even tiny apartments — all that’s needed is 3 square feet of space and eight-foot ceilings.
The company, however, is most proud of how CLMBR, according to the brand, provides a low-impact workout that engages 86 percent of the body’s muscles while also burning more calories in 30 minutes than biking, running or rowing. As a climbing apparatus, it puts users in proper spinal alignment — there’s no hunching forward like one might do on a cycling bike.
It’s for all these reasons that the machine had enthusiasts long before its official launch this year. In December 2020, the company raised a whopping $500,000 in sales in less than 24 hours on the crowdfunding platform IndieGogo.
If you haven’t heard of CLMBR before, it’s likely you’ll start seeing the machine pop up on your Instagram feed. Just take a peek at LeBron James’ recent Instagram Story in which he shared a video of himself working out on CLMBR, breaking a serious sweat in just 15 minutes. Investors and fans also include Jay-Z, Ryan Seacrest and tennis star Novak Djokovic. Now, CLMBR is working on getting its lauded product to regular folks who have pre-ordered the machine, with shipping beginning in late summer and continuing through the fall.
While bikes, treadmills and even rowers are old news when it comes to this kind of exercise model, CLMBR stands out. CLMBR CEO Avrum Elmakis first became passionate about vertical climbers in 2017, when he entered into a small climbing gym and tested out the VersaClimber.
“I was so blown away by the modality — the safety, how safe I felt, how fast and efficient the workout was — but I hated the machine,” Elmakis explains to Yahoo Life. “I was just like, ‘God, I just can’t get this pole out of my face, and I don’t understand the resistance.’ It had so many challenges to it. So I was like, ‘How can I reinvent this technology and share it with the world?’”
Elmakis founded the company in 2018, with the initial idea being to create a climber that improved upon existing machines and would be sold directly to gyms and fitness studios. But come March 2020, Elmakis saw a new opportunity.
“It wasn’t until the pandemic hit that we pivoted from a business-to-business company, though we still do that as well,” he says. “We want to give people this technology in their home because it’s become so popular to have a home gym. People have become accustomed to working out at home and that convenience. I’m not one of those believers in one or the other. People attend classes in a gym for community and congregation and personal instruction, but people at home like convenience and ownership instead of having to pay for every class.”
Elmakis is familiar with the pay-per-class model: He owned multiple Rise Nation studios in Colorado, which use the VersaClimber machines for an efficient, 30-minute workout akin to club-adjacent cycling studios like SoulCycle and FlyWheel. However, two out of three of the Rise Nation Colorado locations were shuttered due to pandemic-related losses.
For those watching James’s CLMBR videos, it may seem like the machine is made for only the most fit. Not the case at all, stresses Elmakis — climbing apparatuses, while less common to see in a gym than, say, a treadmill or a bike, can actually open the doors for more people to use at-home workout machines.
“When you look at America, there are so many people who are sidelined for musculoskeletal issues,” he explains. “They have low back pain, they have knee pain. That’s what excites me about CLMBR. It’s about the variety. It’s not just about rhythm and amazing music. It’s something my mom can use. She’s not interested in loud, type-A stuff. She’s going to put on light jazz and keep her body moving.”
Mostly, though, Elmakis wants to get his customers out of their seats — and that includes the seat of a spin bike.
“We’re not going to sell a bike, we’re not going to sell a treadmill, we’re not going to sell a rower,” Elmakis says. “I have a standing desk in my office, like a lot of people do now, because we know that sitting is not that great for you. To me, it’s like, ‘Why in the world would I sit down to get my exercise?’ Some of these fitness companies have done incredible things and they’ve built wonderful communities, I just think they’ve done it on the wrong machine. To me, it all starts with the message of ‘stand up.’”
Louis Chandler-Joseph, a certified personal trainer who works at the celebrity-beloved gym DOGPOUND in Los Angeles, approves of the machine, which just arrived in the DOGPOUND studio. He credits the CLMBR with potentially improving “cardiovascular endurance as well as full-body strength.”
As for Elmakis’s stance on standing, Chandler-Joseph agrees: “I’ve never been a fan of sitting for long periods of time during exercise due to the unnatural position of one's posture,” he tells Yahoo Life. “The CLMBR allows for proper posture.”
The CLMBR, of course, only works if you work it — and don’t allow it to become a dusty clothing rack. Certified personal trainer and owner of Bloom Training Anthony Coffey notes, “The best form of cardio training is the one you enjoy doing most, regardless of your set position. If you enjoy what you're doing, you'll be more consistent, your routine will last longer, and you will see long-term progress. This is instead of quick progress followed by a rebound which is usually seen when you're doing something you don't truly enjoy.”
Yet there’s good reason for Elmakis to be optimistic that people will enjoy the CLMBR. Given the unprecedented success of the Peloton, which exploded in sales during the pandemic, it’s possible that enough people have gotten the at-home workout itch ... and may want to try a new machine to scratch it.
“A bike is a transportation tool, a rowboat is a transportation tool,” says Elmakis. “None of those things were supposed to be stationary. For me, it’s about what’s good, better and best. I’m not saying cycling is bad or rowing is bad ... but there’s something better.”
And given how many stars have come to him to endorse the machine, Elmakis isn’t worried about creating buzz.
“When I think about really inspiring companies, they don’t need big marketing budgets or campaigns. Tesla doesn’t make commercials,” he muses. “It’s all people talking.”
Whether the gym will ultimately reign, or if at-home workouts are here to stay, however, remains to be seen. For now, the CLMBR’s biggest endorsers, like James and Jay-Z, are happy to take their workouts to new heights.