Local man creates small wonder

With an inquisitive mind, Justin Elledge developed a desire for building products when he was a child. Through the years, some never got a sniff, while others scratched the surface en route to being marketed.

Always looking to reinvent himself, Elledge found a new target in athletics.

With the level of sports participation brimming and muscles constantly aching, the Montrose resident sought out a creative idea geared for athletes suffering from sore arms and shoulders.

Elledge developed the Wonderweight, a device weighing between two and four pounds designed to strengthen shoulder muscles without causing traumatic stress. The device resembles a traditional free weight in which the top and bottom portions are flat and rotate. The object is designed for users to spin the flat portions while holding it in an upward position.

It took a while for the product to get noticed, but it's caught on for various athletics.

"For the last two years, I've had baseball players fighting over it," said Elledge, 53, whose product is available online at http://www.wonderweight.com. "It wakes up dead arms on pitchers because the muscles have been dormant for some time and it almost instantly fires up every muscle in the shoulder.

"It's also something that can work for somebody who's 8 or 80. It's strictly mind engaging matter when using it."

Elledge, an instructor at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena for 14 years, said he came up with the invention idea in 2000. He pitched the product to a plethora of licensing companies, but no one bit.

In 2008, Elledge began giving the product, manufactured by an independent contractor in Orange, away for free to anybody who had a keen interest in building their arm endurance.

"There are a zillion inventions out there, and, for every 1,000 created, maybe 10 of them actually make money," said Elledge, who said the Wonderweight costs $89. "With the Wonderweight, it's been 10 years of my life and I want it to take off and do well."

With athletes, Elledge said it might expand their careers.

That's what Elledge would like to see accomplished.

"It's about giving something back to their lives that makes it the most rewarding," said Elledge, who added that Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cole Hamels, a former World Series Most Valuable Player, recently tried the product for the first time. "It doesn't fix arthritis, but it can greatly alleviate the pain, along with carpal tunnel and tendinitis."

Elledge said Wonderweight has begun receiving notice, from California to Texas to Tennessee.

Elledge was recently selected by Collegiate Baseball as the official "Best of Show" new product at the 2011 American Baseball Coaches Assn. conference in Nashville. The award is given each year to an outstanding new product shown to strengthen the sport of baseball.

In addition to baseball, Elledge said the device can help enhance performance in football, swimming and basketball. It's also designed for therapy, general training and advanced training. Currently, it's being used by the USC baseball and men's tennis programs.

USC pitching coach and former Major League Baseball pitcher Tom House said the Trojans' pitchers have been using the product to help them warm up.

"You can get more bang for your buck using it because it's essentially about doing stability and mobility exercises," said House, who pitched at USC before playing for the Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox and Seattle Mariners. "It stabilizes the muscle joints and you can feel the difference.

"It's a product that makes sense, so I made it available to our players and even told the pro players because the proof is in the pudding. We use three or four different devices to work out the shoulders, but we have our guys picking up the Wonderweight."

Scott Bush of La Crescenta and several of his friends were recently engaged in a home-run hitting contest at Montrose Park.

Bush, an eighth-grader at Rosemont Middle School, saw the product and asked Elledge if he could experiment with it. Within several minutes, Bush noticed an immediate difference and endorsed the invention.

"When I first saw it, it just looked like a regular weight," Bush said. "It didn't look very hard to do, then I started using it and I could feel my muscles burning.

"It looks easy to use and it's not that complicated once you get used to it. I'm a water polo player, and it's something that I think can help me out."

Elledge said there's one specific future goal he's got in mind concerning the Wonderweight.

"I think it's something that can work for an astronaut and I'd love to see it on a space shuttle," Elledge said. "It's an exercise that can be done in space.

"It's a dream, but it would be something that would make my day."

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