July 26, 2008
Trainer Aims the Skorcher at the Gluteus: Scottsdale Entrepreneur Promises Device Will Revolutionize Workouts
By Craig Outhier, The Tribune, Mesa, Ariz.
Jul. 26--Bret Contreras is a strong believer in the hip-thrust. And he's looking for converts.
If Contreras sounds a bit like an environmentalist touting the untapped benefits of solar power, there's a good reason. The hipthrust, long the domain of cagefighters and Elvis impersonators, is also the inspiration for a device that Contreras hopes will one day join the likes of Bowflex and the ThighMaster in the pantheon of fitness marketing.
It's called the Skorcher Butt Machine, and with it, the former schoolteacher and self-made bodyshaping guru hopes to thrust himself all the way into your garage or fitness room.
It all started when Contreras, a former bodybuilder and lifelong fitness buff, caught an Ultimate Fighting Championship match on television and noticed that one competitor lacked the core strength to free himself when his opponent piled on top of him. Inspired, Contreras combined two pieces of common gym equipment and came up with the prototype for the Skorcher -- in crude terms, an elevated sit-up module with the middle taken out.
The way Contreras recalls it, his first Skorcher workout was a revelatory event to rival Moses receiving the 10 Commandments on Mount Sinai: "My butt muscles were so fired up, they actually started twitching. I've been working out for 15 years, and that never happened before."
Sensing a Bowflex-style windfall, Contreras took out a second mortgage, quit his job as a high school math teacher and commissioned a fitness consulting firm called Human Performance and Wellness Biomechanics to run stress tests on the device. He also hired a public relations firm to help launch the product.
So far, Contreras' business plan seems to be paying off. Last spring, he managed to place several Skorchers in the gift room at the Tony Awards in New York. The next day, the New York Daily News and New York magazine each ran snarky items about "Harry Potter" star Daniel Radcliffe falling in love with the Skorcher leading up to his much-publicized nude scene in "Equus," due on Broadway this fall.
It hardly mattered that Radcliffe never actually said he would use the Skorcher to tone up for "Equus." (He did say: "We don't have things like this in England.") The media, pathologically incapable of resisting the opportunity to use "butt" and "Daniel Radcliffe" in the same sentence, simply drew their own, Radcliffe-butt-angst conclusions.
Contreras says an avalanche of orders followed the star's pseudoendorsement, along with official inquiries from the likes of celebrity trainer Gunnar Peterson and an offer to appear on "The View." (The introductory Skorcher model, priced at $299, doesn't beginning shipping until next month.)
"Better Butt, Better Body" is the company's motto, and at least one of Contreras' clients agrees. Scottsdale resident Brooke O'Conner began seeing Contreras at his Gainey Ranch-area studio, called Lifts, last January to shape up for her June wedding to minor league hockey player Sean O'Conner. Contreras put her on a regimen of 23 Skorcher-related exercises and she promptly saw a difference in her physique.
"I told him, 'If you make me bulk up, I'm going to kill you,' " O'Conner recalls. "But that didn't happen. I lost 2 inches on my waist and butt and totally transformed my body.
"It definitely burns. And you can feel the workout the second you get on it."
Contreras is eager to distinguish his product from the flimflam that has traditionally saturated the fitness market (i.e., the aforementioned ThighMaster). He offers a mountain of biomechanical data that demonstrates, for instance, how the Skorcher delivers "three times as much muscle activation in the hamstrings as a squat workout."
Still, the success of the Skorcher may have less to do with its biomechanical merits than the marketing savvy of its inventor. By the time two beefed-up versions of the Skorcher -- the "Skorcher Pro" and "Skorcher Extreme" -- hit the market later this year, Contreras hopes to be personally pitching his butt-shaping invention in an infomercial.
"This is a revolutionary piece of equipment," he says, with steely certainty. "It's not just something for the gym. It's a gym replacer."
Indeed. No buts about it.
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