Remember the good old days when you measured your foot speed with a stopwatch and learned how to properly perform a Deadlift from an old guy with a whistle around his neck wearing mustard-stained shirt tucked into a pair of short shorts? Those days are no more. Advanced fitness technology has been infiltrating professional sports for years, giving coaches and players fresh insights on how their bodies work and what they need to thrive on the field like never before. Read on to learn how fitness technology is changing the landscape of sports.
Zephyr BioHarness 3
Photo courtesy of Zephyr
The Zephyr BioHarness 3 allows coaches to keep tabs on their players’ workout loads. Looking like it was stolen from Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man trailer, the circular device measures how hard an athlete’s heart is working during physical activity (in contrast to his or her heart rate while resting), as well as acceleration and velocity—metrics that allow coaches and trainers to understand how intense a training session was on a player’s body. Future workouts and recovery sessions can be tailored in accordance with the results. The Phoenix Suns introduced the BioHarness in 2013, and Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Russell Martin wore one throughout the 2014 season. Also, Under Armour used it in its performance shirt, called the E39, to track data during the NFL Combine in 2012.
If you’ve ever attempted to lift weights and then thought, “Wow, this is entirely too heavy, but I have to finish because that girl is watching,” PUSH might be your saving grace. Attach the device to your arm (though it measures more than just upper-body strength), and it will analyze how you lift weights in real time. Then, combining factors like force, velocity, power and balance, it will tell you whether you should be lifting more weight, less weight, or the same amount, simply based on your form. PUSH takes each and every rep you do and puts it through the gauntlet of analytics, with the goal of creating a personalized workout that is perfect for your body and abilities. Then, if you’re not going hard enough, the corresponding app on your phone won’t hesitate to let you know. You can also send your workout results in real time to a coach or trainer, and he or she can give you a call and yell at you for having weak form on that Sumo Squat. PUSH is scheduled to release this fall, but the St. Louis Cardinals have been testing it all season.
Catapult OptimEye S5
Photo courtesy of Catapult
Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly, the NFL’s sensei in all things player science, has taken to planting a product called the Catapult OptimEye 5S on his players during training camp and practice. “Why?” you ask. To find out where they live so he can attend that weekend party Jeremy Maclin didn’t invite him to? Not quite. The small sensors track player movement, allowing Eagles coaches to observe each player’s acceleration, velocity and positioning on the field. The collected data gives feedback to Kelly on how his players are adapting to his fast-paced offense, and how stressful or demanding a certain practice has been on a specific player. If an individual’s workload needs to be lowered or increased, OptimEye will provide the data, ensuring that the Eagles are as physically prepared for gameday as they can be. Philadephia isn’t the only team employing OptimEye’s services. The State of Texas has an affinity for the Catapult product as well, as the Dallas Cowboys, Dallas Mavericks and Baylor University all use its microchip technology to improve their athletes’ performance.
Ralph Lauren Polo Tech Smart Shirt
Photo courtesy of Ralph Lauren
We’ve written about it before, but this high-tech polo shirt from Ralph Lauren is worth a second look. Sensors built into the fabric keep tabs on your heart and breathing rates, as well as how many steps you’ve taken. The data is then sent straight to your smart phone. Ball boys debuted these high-tech threads at the U.S. Open in August, and the shirt was worn during a few practice sessions by Marcos Giron, an NCAA singles champion. Alyhough the shirt can be worn to play any sport, the corresponding app was built specifically for tennis, as it measures things like court coverage and breathing depth.
As we learn more about sleep and the effect it has on our bodies, the importance of getting a good night’s rest continues to rise. The Dallas Mavericks have honed in on that trend to ensure their players are getting the best sleep they can, both in quantity and quality. The Mavericks are equipped with a device called the ReadiBand, which detects how long they sleep each night and measures the quality of that sleep. During the day, Mavericks players can check their performance level (on a scale of 0 to 100) and discover how much time they have before their bodies enter a “fatigue-impaired state”—i.e., when they will no longer perform at an optimal level. More in-depth data can be viewed on the corresponding iPad app or computer.
In 2013, the Cleveland Cavaliers hired Krossover, a company that was already employed by over 2,000 high school and college programs. The team at Krossover takes scouting, practice and game film and analyzes it, using advanced statistics to give the client team a look at categories like possession time, PER, true shooting percentage, pace and much more. The data can be broken down any way the team wants it (based on game, quarter, etc.), giving the coaching staff a more in-depth understanding of how their team and individual players perform in specific situations on both sides of the ball. Other prominent programs using Krossover include the University of Kentucky Wildcats and Georgetown University Bulldogs.
COSMED Bod Pod
Step into the COSMED Bod Pod for five minutes to give your body a check-up. The Bod Pod assesses body fat percentage—along with other measurables like fat mass, fat-free mass and total body mass—to help athletes understand how their bodies affect their on-field performance. Bod Pods have been used at the NFL Combine for nine straight years, providing data to coaches and scouts on the body composition of the players they are looking to draft.
HydroWorx Underwater Treadmill
Photo via training-conditioning.com
If you’re an athlete who’s seriously injured a knee or you just want to get some cardio in without putting too much stress on your legs and joints, the underwater treadmill might be the way to go. Both Adrian Peterson and Robert Griffin III used the HydroWorx underwater treadmill during their rehab from major knee and leg injuries, and Texas A&M has HydroWorx treadmills in their training facility. Running underwater removes the athlete’s body weight from the equation, thereby taking stress off the ligaments and relieving pain for players trying to come back from injury.