Q&A with Chris Chapman, Director of Sports Science at PUSH

If you lead a busy, hectic life, finding the time and energy to hit the gym on a regular basis can be a challenge. The majority of us want to exercise more, yet more than 50% of gym members are not regular. When you consider that gyms are inundated in January year after year, it is truly amazing that 80% who join a gym at the start of the year, typically quit within five months.

One thing that can make a big difference to your motivation level is wearable technology. Doing a single exercise, like lifting a weight, is pretty easy. Doing an exercise well, on the other hand, is pretty hard. Wearable technology designed to make your gym workouts more effective is here to stay, and soon it might be indispensable too.

PUSH is a sport technology company that designs solutions to help athletes perform at their best. Their flagship product is called the PUSH Band. This is a wearable device used by over 50 professional teams across the world, one of which are the San Francisco 49ers.

Essential reading: Boost your gym session with these gadgets

Push says the Band is the first scientifically validated wearable to provide true objective insights about a users performance in the weight room. The arm-based activity tracker is able to detect exercise repetitions in real-time, and provide actionable feedback after each set to let you know whether to keep pushing or to hold back.

With its most recent software update called Free Movement, the Band is no longer confined to classic gym-based lifts. The wearable now allows for the measurement of velocity and acceleration beyond the barbell, and provides you with the ability to monitor any athletic explosive movement that you define.

We spoke to Chris Chapman, who joined PUSH just after the 2016 Rio Olympics as Director of Sports Science. Prior to this, Chris was the Head Strength & Conditioning Coach at the Canadian Sport Institute Ontario, and has trained gymnasts, freestyle skiers, basketball players, and athletes for over a decade. Here’s what he had to say.

G&W: The latest crop of workout wearables remove the burden of manual tracking of activity. They can identify your exercises and guide you on your form, then record reps and essential data to showcase your workouts in unprecedented detail. What is it that makes the PUSH Band unique?

First, our product is scientifically validated by numerous third-party, peer-reviewed published research studies. This means that users can trust the numbers they get from the PUSH Band. These numbers include more than just reps, with actionable metrics such as movement velocity, power, total workload and even jump heights all being recorded. In combination with our back-end desktop software the PUSH Portal, you can access secondary metrics such as peak and average force production, tempo, and duration of the movement phases. These number are important for coaches and trainers as they are regularly prescribed during gym-based training programs to maximize the benefits of training.

Second, our newest feature called Free Movement is something that hasn’t been done before in the sport wearable world. The user can create any movement they wish to measure, extending the applications of the Band outside of the gym and into the field of play. I will touch more on this later. This is in addition to the testing features which are available, which gives the user to options to test athletic performance using common standardized tests.

Lastly, our product is actually used by professional athletes across most major sports. The numbers PUSH gives are meaningful to improve physical performance. Coaches and athletes actually use our product daily to get better, and don’t just endorse it for advertising purposes.

G&W: The PUSH Band measures Velocity, Power and Total Work. All of these metrics are derived from the speed at which an athlete lifts. What are the main benefits of Velocity Based Training and why is it so effective?

Traditional gym-based training for sport is typically done using a percentage of the amount of weight a person can lift. The problem with this is that you can move that weight at various speeds, which changes the stimulus applied to the human body. Fast movements are more intense and will result in different outcomes. With a tool like the PUSH band, you can now track how fast you are moving, and then create interventions and certain target speed ranges to hit accordingly.

Sport happens fast. The athlete who is more powerful, who can do more work in less time, and who can do their job faster, typically wins. In order to be fast you have to train fast. Velocity-based training and associated technology is so effective because it allows you to measure this while training, and gives guidelines to follow in order to maximize these qualities.

G&W: How is your product different from the Beast Sensor?

First, kudos to Beast for having a solid product. We know how hard some of these problems are to solve, and they are still fighting the good fight and definitely keep us on our toes.

We have been around longer than Beast so we have had more time to tackle these problems and garner feedback from users to continually improve. Our latest release, Free Movement is something that hasn’t been done before. There is currently no other product that is able to measure the velocity and acceleration of any explosive movement.

Under the hood, the fundamental technology is the same between the units, but our sensor collects data at 200Hz while theirs collects at 50 Hz, meaning we can get a better signature of the movement profile. Further differences come in the signal processing and algorithms, as this is the unique intellectual property that allows each product to thrive. From a user experience standpoint, the form factor is a little different, and the unit placement for various exercises is also different depending on what you are doing.

G&W: According to your website, the PUSH Band is used by over 50 professional teams across the world. Are professional sports teams your target market? If so, do you have plans on expanding retail availability?

Our focus right now is on serious athletes, whether that be professional, collegiate or amateur. We’re not only used by pro teams but hundreds of private training facilities as well. Like weight training, we span the entire spectrum of elite sport.

Currently, our focus is strictly online. Anyone can purchase a PUSH Band from our website and have it mailed to their door, but physical retail isn’t something we’re considering at this time.

G&W: PUSH has a database of exercises that allows the Band to track workouts automatically. We understand the company has just launched a major software update that allows users to add custom movements to the app. Can you give us a bit more info on the changes?

This is the Free Movement update I had mentioned earlier. It was released last week and the feedback has been really positive. We are seeing pretty quick uptake with athletes and coaches creating a lot of unique movements to test.

Free Movement is an incredibly easy tool to use that can measure the velocity and acceleration of any explosive movement. With Free Movement a coach is able to record their athlete’s movement while wearing a PUSH Band, and instantly see how explosive the movement was performed. Once the movement has been completed, the coach is able to review a video replay with their athlete and provide coaching cues to improve form and technique. The replay even highlights the point that the peak occurred, so it’s easy for coaches to see when their athletes are the most explosive.

G&W: What else can we look forward to in 2017 and beyond from PUSH?

Right now we are focused on making our current products, the PUSH Band, PUSH Portal, and PUSH Vital, the best products they can be. The same way we recently overhauled the PUSH App to create a more intuitive and user friendly UI/UX, we are applying those learnings across the board to bring a seamless experience to all of our products.

The problem these days isn’t collecting more data, it is making the data more meaningful and useful for coaches and athletes alike. We are doing some really innovative things with data interpretation and utilizing machine learning/AI in the algorithm layer to provide actionable metrics. Further to that, we are always working on improving the algorithms and metrics under the hood, essentially creating a mobile lab. So you can expect more updates on the software end in the near future.

Finally, we are working on some new products. We are really pushing the bounds of what can be done in sport tech. There are a still a lot of problems to be solved in the sport world. The tech and knowledge are getting to a point where we can really push the limits of what we thought possible. While I can’t say much about our current research and innovations program, I can say the future of tech in sport is very exciting.

G&W: Where do you see this technology heading in the next 4-5 years?

We see inertial motion sensor based technology the mode of the future. Reason being it isn’t as limited by hardware as the other technologies. As the algorithms improve, we will be able to extract even more meaningful usage out of the small, portable, cost-effective tool that is the PUSH Band. This means over time the metrics will get more accurate, eventually reaching the level of laboratory based tech. The user experience will become more seamless, taking advantage of machine learning and exercise detection to minimize user input and maximize actionable information. An analogy for this would be going from your car’s speedometer and a map to navigate, to using Google Maps, which optimizes your route to the end of the journey. I think we will be blown away by what we are going to see in the next 5 years. Exciting times for sport technology for sure!

For more info on PUSH, head over to trainwithpush.com.

 

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