View Full Version : SUMMARY: support harness

Benjamin Dunn (wkd)
01-25-1995, 11:50 PM
This is a summary (well, a list anyway) of the responses I received
in response to a question about support harnesses. I appreciate
the great number of responses, so thank you for responding. The
original question was a request for information on any harnesses
capable of suspending a person's body without affecting their legs.


Being a climber I know what you mean about climing harnesses affecting
the legs....

Anyway, one suggestion may be to use a lifting strop, the type of which
are often used in helicpoters for resue operations. These devices
support the body weight under the arms and are fairly comfortable for
short periods of time. Another suggestion might be a chest harness,
which are used in industrial applications where mobility and freedom of
movement is important. I think that RS (radio spares) supply them..

Hope this helps you out.

Iain McDougall
University of London


How about the harnesses used to 'fly' actors suspended on wires, and
used in films, shows, etc.

Dr Eric Powell
Hope Hospital
United Kingdom


I don't know whether you have seen Garth Brook's stage act or one of the
early scenes in Sister Act 2 (starring Whoopi Goldberg and available in your
local video store) but they each wore a harness that may meet your criteria.
Best of luck.

Vaughan Kippers PhD
The University of Queensland 4072


When I was last in the U.S. I visited the strength coach from the Chicago Cubs. They have a device called the unloader which allows you to run on a treadmill
while being unloaded. I believe it can completly lift you off the ground. Theyuse it for rehab purposes ie. stress fractures, back pain. I will look for the
makers contact number tonight and e-mail it tomorrow morning. If you do happen to contact him, I will leave my address for you to have some info sent to me.
The guy never sent the stuff when I was there last and I only have his toll
free number.

Jarrod Meerkin
Queensland University of Technology


You may wish to check out a local figure skating training centre.
Skaters use a similar method for training to get the "feeling" of
performing different jumps. The skaters are hooked up to a harness that
is fed through two pulleys in the arena roof. This allows the coach to
"pull" them up to extend their air time. The harness, I believe, is
connected to their upper body only.

If you can't find this locally, let me know. I have some contacts at
training centres in Canada.

Michelle Kho


I wish you luck in your search. I am in the process of building a
reduced gravity simulator to study locomotion under partial gravities. I
am modifying a previous design that my professor's have used before.
They tried using several different methods for doing the same thing you
describe. They eventually settled on using a bicycle seat device to
support the body weight and allow humans to walk and run normally. It
works remarkably well at providing support without interfering with
normal leg motion. My professors are Rodger Kram and Claire Farley.
They did the previously mentioned research as Ph.D. students at Harvard
University under Tom McMahon. The two publications that describe their
set up are:

J. He, R. Kram and T. A. McMahon. The mechanics of running under
simulated low gravity. J. Applied Physiology. 71:863-867, 1991.

Farley, C. T. and T. A. McMahon. The energetics of walking and running:
insights from simulated reduced gravity experiments. Journal of Applied
Physiology 73(6): 2709-2712, 1992.

They had the same problem that you describe- it was either comfortable or
it interfered with leg motion. They have used the bicycle seat support
for many people and it really does a better job than I expected.

Let me know if you need more info.

Dan Ferris
University of California at Berkeley


I think you idea of climbing harness is a good one (I practise rock climbing
for more than 15 years now).
Did you try the two following kind of harness:

1- Troll (english brand). One of the model we used 15 years ago was
inspired by the equipment used in big expeditions in Himalaya.
You did not have to put your legs into anything. You had a big
belt around you belly (just above the hips) and a flat wide
("sangle" in french) rope running between you legs and attached
to the belt in your back and belly.
The positive point was that the legs were very free, but ....
because of the "sangle" some very sensitive areas of your body
(especially the men) were ... well disturbed if you had to hang
to long in your harness.
I think Troll stopped the production for this reason ...
2- Some hardness used in Moutain climbing (not Rock but Moutain) are
made of two pieces, one upper and one lower. In some model
the pieces are apart and you can use one of them or both.
I'm pretty sure you can use the upper part quite comfortably,
but I don't know what you expect to do, so ...

Some other ideas: equipment for safety in circus schooling, gymnastic ...

Good luck!

Serge Van Sint Jan
The University of New Mexico


I have also searched high and low and the best I have found is a racing
bicycle seat mounted on a thin rail. I used this in simulated reduced
gravity experiments. In addition to the climbing harnesses, I also tried a
parachute harness. It also was lousy. All chest harnesses will be awful.
Impossible to breathe. One last option is the "spotting harnesses" used by
gymnasts. No personal experience.

Rodger Kram
Univ. of California, Berkeley


Hi: You should try getting in touch with Hugues Barbeau, at the School of
Physical and Occupational Therapy at McGill, in Montreal. He was doing some
work on body weight support in spastic patients, and had rigged up a support
harness that was suspended over a treadmill (Can. J. Neurol. Sci. 1989;

Bob Colborne
U. Saskatchewan.


Jan Hondzinski has used a sky-diving harness to support individuals in
various postures. The lower extremities are free to move. The harness
does, however, use the pelvis (through the legs) as its support. I don't
know if this would be restricting for your subjects.

Marc Pizzimenti
The University of Iowa


Was SOMA the rehab company you contacted? If not, they make an
unloading harness that is reasonably comfortable & should meet your
criteria as long as your subject is less than 250 lbs. Their phone is

Kevin Garrison, PT
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center


You may want to look at the following two references as well as more recent
references from Dr Hugues Barbeau's laboratory at McGill Univeristy.
They have
been using a weight support system in rehabilitation for retraining spinal
cord injured subjects. The harness is relatively unobtrusive. The system
controls the amount of weight that is born on the limbs (i.e. from 0-100% of
body weight).

1. Finch, L., Barbeau, H., and Arsenault, B.
Influence of body weight support on normal human gait:
development of a gait retraining strategy.
Phys.Ther. 71:842-855, 1991.

2. Barbeau, H., Wainberg, M., and Finch, L.
Description and application of a system for locomotor rehabilitation.
Med.Biol.Eng.Comput. 25:341-344, 1987.

Universite du Quebec a Montreal