For the last 15 years our training and research lab has cycled through more new technology than just about any other training center I know. We have tried video analysis in just about every form, various forms of heart rate monitoring, force plates, accelerometers, high tech electronic timers, resisted treadmills, self propelled treadmills, various forms of low impact cardio devices, etc. We even altered our equipment to use it in ways only a mad scientist could envision (like flipping the safety hooks on a smith machine to train maximum isometric pulling and squatting while standing on a force plate).
And why do we do this? As Carl Valle summed up quite nicely in this blog post, with his 4-S Rule:
We were looking for ways to use technology to simplify (SIMPLE) our training while making our sessions more efficient (SPEED). The use of technology can add excitement (SEXY) to the training to get athletes more engaged in the process. But ultimately 90% of the ideas mentioned earlier lacked the most important criteria (STICKY)… the ability to make the training protocol so easy, efficient and effective that we would keep in in the program year after year.
Although many did not pass the sticky test, some of these processes did stand the test of time. We plan on highlighting a few of these products in future posts, but machines like the Cybex Arc Trainer, the Woodway Curve Treadmill and the Fusion Sport Smartspeed and Smartjump systems have proven to provide us with meaningful test data, effective training progressions and they allow us to run more time efficient, motivating training sessions.
And products that cost more have not necessarily proven to be better. We have used several popular video analysis tools, but the free iPhone Ubersense app has proven to be much easier and more efficient than the other high priced models in terms of teaching and learning within the training session. With this app I can shoot a video in a training session and quickly compare two athletes together, sync the video and use it as a quick reference during rest breaks to discuss form, positioning, etc.
Coaching is an art… We need to understand the science and enjoy the data collection process, but as an industry we need to find ways to blend the science into the training progressions in ways that simplify it for the athletes. We need to use technology to make our programs cleaner, more organized and more productive and not just to collect data that we don’t have time to break down, that tell us things we already know.
We need to stop focusing on the Sexy and start focusing on the Sticky. What will give us the biggest bang for our buck, and how do we build a progression off of those aspects to help our athletes continue see improvements, while keeping the motivation to train hard year round.