This High-Tech Tool is Helping Athletes Get More Explosive

The PUSH Band is the first wearable sensor that can track movement velocity.

Training is typically about how much weight you can lift. Problem is, strength doesn't guarantee that you'll be a good athlete. No doubt it's important, but other qualities have a huge impact on your performance in your sport. Most notably—speed.

But how often has someone come up to you and asked, "How fast can you bench?" Never, because for the vast majority of us, progress is determined by weight.

Sure, you can perform reps explosively, but you can't measure that explosiveness unless you have complex and expensive equipment, often found only in labs. Products that have made their way into the weight room are pricey and limited.

That's why I was excited to try the PUSH, a wearable product that allows you to measure movement speed in the weight room and during athletic movements.

PUSH Band

"One of the issues I had is I didn't have an effective way to measure my progress over time besides lifting heavier weight," says Rami Alhamad, CEO of PUSH. "But lifting more isn't always a good barometer for progress—especially if your sport requires explosiveness."

His solution was a lightweight device that's worn on your forearm. A small plastic housing holds an accelerometer and gyroscope—two sensors found in virtually every smartphone—which measure acceleration and the position of the device. Custom algorithms fuse this data to measure movement speed, which is transmitted to the PUSH app on your smartphone via Bluetooth.

Alhamad describes PUSH as a Swiss Army knife for the weight room. And based on my experience with the product, it has the ability to drastically improve your workouts and make you a better athlete.

Here are the three primary features of PUSH:

Velocity-Based Training

VBT prioritizes the speed of the exercise rather than the weight used. For an in-depth explanation of VBT, check out this article.

PUSH measures movement speed on over 250 exercises. Each move requires a custom algorithm so the band can accurately assess the speed from your forearm. For example, the band has to assess a different movement profile for the Bench Press than a Back Squat.

PUSH Band Squat

The first exercise I experimented with was the Deadlift. I used a weight that was about a half of my max so I could focus on moving explosively for 8 sets of a single rep. After my first set, PUSH detected the speed of the lift and displayed it on my phone, which I had set down on the floor in front of me.

I immediately went into competition mode, determined to beat my velocity number on the next set. I settled in at about .75 meters/second before topping out at .8 m/s on my last set.

Overall, my 8 sets were more productive than usual, because I was competing with myself and improving velocity on each rep. Without PUSH, I could try to perform the reps explosively but would have no way to validate my efforts.

"You're not just crossing off your reps," adds Alhamad. "You're training with a purpose and that's more impactful. It changes the dynamic and experience in the weight room."

Also, the velocity reading allows you to make intelligent decisions about your workouts, depending on your goal. If your lift speed is a bit slow for building power, simply lighten the load, or vice versa. And you can see when fatigue kicks in as you slow down, helping you determine exactly when you need to end a set.

The end result of having PUSH data is more effective workouts. You can do a better job at increasing your explosive power, making you a better athlete.

Free Movement

Free Movement is PUSH's latest feature. It's only been out for a little over a month. In addition to the exercises built into the app, the band can now measure explosive dynamic movements such as a Med Ball Throw, baseball pitch or even a sled push.

"Coaches kept asking us to add sport-specific exercises," says Alhamad. "We realized coaches are a creative bunch, so instead of limiting them to a database, we decided to create a lightweight universal algorithm to help them use it how they want, along with video to give coaching cues and motivate athletes."

To use Free Movement, you take a 5-second video of an athlete performing an explosive movement. The PUSH band automatically tracks the velocity of the move, which is displayed on a separate screen, which allows you to compare your results against past attempts.

My first Free Movement test was with the Med Ball Slam, which turned into a competition among a few of us here at STACK. Thanks to the velocity feedback, I improved with each attempt and reached my peak on my third and final attempt.

The beauty of Free Movement is the ability to record video of a sport-specific movement and see how technique alters your velocity. For example, a coach might tell a baseball player to focus on driving through his hips as he swings. The player can then see how this cue (hopefully) improved his swing speed.

Athletes and coaches can also use Free Movement to assess progress over time. When beginning a strength training or skill development program, they can measure a movement to obtain a baseline. At the conclusion of the program, they can retest the move to measure improvement.

Performance Testing

On the subject of assessing progress, PUSH also has built-in tests to help you track strength and athleticism over time.

Your Squat, Deadlift and Bench Press max are typically calculated with one-rep max tests. Max testing sounds simple, but it can be challenging to do correctly, and it can put you at risk of injury if you're not careful. You can also do a multi-rep max, which involves lifting as much weight as you can for around 3-5 reps. Again, this can be tricky and the conversions to your true max aren't always spot on.

PUSH simplifies the process with a unique max testing system. The app instructs you to perform 5 sets of 3 reps as explosively as possible with a weight based on your predicted max. The system factors in your movement speed over the five sets and generates your one-rep max for that lift. It's a relatively safe way to test your max, and it's based on actual performance data, not a universal conversion.

The app also has several jump tests designed to measure power output and reactive strength. Completing the five tests will give you an overall assessment of your athleticism and allow you to track your training progress.

PUSH has the ability to completely change how we train and monitor progress. I've yet to see a workout tracker that offers as much valuable data for strength training. Most products are geared toward runners. With consistent use, PUSH should improve the quality of a training program and ultimately make you a better athlete or coach.

For more information, visit TrainWithPush.com.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: SQUAT | BENCH PRESS | DEADLIFT | POWER | TESTING | WEARABLE TECH