Diving in Deep with Proteus Analytics

About the Author: Eric Cressey

Today’s guest post comes from physical therapists Will Waterman and Tanner Allen.

In an analytically driven world, finding a way to capture coveted and seemingly intangible qualities of athletes is highly sought after. Back in January, Cressey Sports Performance – FL began looking into Proteus as a potential way to bridge the gap between training programs and objective measures (see the article Taking Proteus for a Spin). Following Proteus Motion’s release of the General Power Test in June of this year, we decided to apply this testing to CSP-MA and their college summer program in hopes of finding out what role power plays in a collection of athletic qualities. Today, we’ll reviewr the results of our power testing on athletes and discoveries that may have an impact when creating and enhancing individualized training programs for our athletes.

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The Power Test report shown above is an output shown on the Proteus system’s touchscreen after 17 exercises are performed in under 5 minutes. The data is tracked for each player over time, and can also be printed, shared by email, or accessed remotely through a web login.

Before we dive in, it will be helpful to know a little bit about the Power Test listed in the video below as well as the structure of our small study and what we intended to capture. The CSP-MA college summer program consisted of 14 collegiate pitchers tested 3 times over a 6 week period (beginning, middle, and end). Normally, it would have been a longer training period and sample size, but COVID-related restrictions thinned the herd a bit and led to a shortened timeline. We looked at General Power Test reports utilizing Proteus and pitching velocity captured by Rapsodo. This 3-minute video will briefly explain the General Power Test.

The five primary goals that we intended to identify utilizing Proteus throughout this study included:

● Showing objective improvements in CSP’s training with test and retest findings
● Establishing normative power profiles that quickly help identify areas of weakness among athletes
● Finding intra-body norms for push vs pull as well as unilateral vs bilateral comparisons and imbalances
● Identifying other metrics that Proteus captures to create more specific tests in the future to further enhance its capabilities
● Identifying correlations between Proteus and pitching velocity

Following the completion of the 6-week study, we were able to collect normative data ranges for our test group sample. This allows coaches using Proteus to analyze patterns in search of the lowest hanging fruit to address in training. Through providing easy-to-digest information, this helps coaches identify outliers as well as over and underperforming athletes within a group.

In the picture below, you are able to see a breakdown of how an individual improved from his 1st session at the beginning of training to his 3rd session following completion of CSP training over the six weeks. The dotted red line depicted below represents the average scores across the entire test group, allowing for simultaneous comparison. This ultimately allows for quick recognition of areas in which a specific athlete has under or over-performed compared to their age group norms and peers.

The addition of this quantitative and analytic test of power output can then be compared with the rest of CSP’s assessments to create a comprehensive view of how an athlete is currently performing, how they are improving, and which areas require further development. This comprehensive approach lets strength coaches and other healthcare professionals understand how structural and functional presentations may affect power output.

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Next, I want to show examples of interesting findings related to intra-body comparisons along with unilateral and bilateral imbalances discovered within the baseball population using Proteus.

*Disclaimer: These are based on small sample sizes, so by no means should these be assumed as a one size fits all.

1. Greater power in dominant side rotation compared to non-dominant side rotation

A unique attribute of Proteus is the ability for rotational qualities to be tested. One would think that these athletes have an increased amount of power rotating towards their non-dominant side (e.g. throwing or hitting a baseball), but our findings were the opposite. In our study, 7 out of 10 right-handed pitchers showed an average of 5.6% increased power output rotating towards their right (dominant side). After considering what could be the reasoning for this metric finding, we generated five hypotheses:

● Proteus motion is concentric in nature with the testing protocol performed in a non-counter (“non-plyometric”) fashion which does not allow the athlete eccentric loading prior to the task. With natural movements such as throwing a baseball, an athlete naturally pre-loads prior to rotating towards their non-dominant side. Due to the testing design, this could provide motor interference to what would normally be a natural movement to them
● PRI (Postural Restoration Institute) considerations, as Left AIC patterns are commonly seen throughout the baseball population.
● Years of eccentric stress from decelerating on their right side obliques improves strength on their dominant side over time.
● Limited thoracic rotation or decreased testing ROM.
● Simple fatigue as these tests were completed following max effort Rapsodo bullpen sessions.

Note from EC: we’ve effectively eliminated the last point (fatigue) as a consideration in the extensive testing we’ve done in our professional baseball players this offseason. The differences have been just as pronounced (if not moreso) in this population, and without a bullpen before testing.

2. Greater power in non-dominant side lateral bound compared to dominant side bound

In this example, imagine a right-handed pitcher being more powerful in his lead leg compared to his dominant right leg (his drive leg in pitching delivery) with a frontal plane movement like a Heiden. This group showed a 4.5% bias in power on the non-dominant leg (i.e., right handed pitcher was better pushing off from the left to go to the right).

One hypothesis might again be explained by the Left AIC pattern as described by PRI. Many athletes are subconsciously unaware that they tend to jump off of their left leg when going for a layup, jumping for a ball, or cutting for example. PRI explains this as a consequence of the L AIC pattern, as those with that pattern tend to be more comfortable in LOADING via standing or landing on their right leg and tend to be more proficient with EXPLODING or launching movements off their left leg. PRI explains this as a common implication of the Left AIC pattern, which is a pattern of being over lateralized on the right side in the frontal plane. This finding might be an indication of that pattern, as most of the athletes were biased towards having more power jumping off of their non-dominant left lower extremity. Greater sample sizes in the future will help us confirm or deny this finding.

3. Unilateral pressing and rowing movements are more powerful than bilateral variants by 4%

The likely reasoning for this finding is the rotational sport athlete’s ability to tap into the transverse plane component of these movements. Since Proteus Motion utilizes 3D resistance, the athlete is not confined or restricted by specific planes of motion (frontal or sagittal) as they are in other traditional training methods (e.g., shoulder blades being pinned down on a bench). This allows for proper scapular protraction and retraction to take place throughout the test.

In the picture below, you can see an example of points 1&2, of a right-handed pitcher showing both qualities.

Besides intra-body comparisons, we also looked at comparisons of Proteus data to pitching velocity to see if we were able to identify what movement qualities may translate to throwing performance. We used Rapsodo to capture pitching velocity, and then cross referenced it against all metrics that Proteus measures, even those not provided in the General Power Report (which only provides power data and does not give breakdowns of acceleration, deceleration, and other metrics). Whadiscovered was that average dominant side acceleration in (m/s2) had a strong correlation with pitching velocity showing a R-value of .76, and P-Value of .003 during Session 3 testing. This was an intriguing finding and one that has started future planning of a potentially better and more specific baseball related Power Test.

Dominant Side Acceleration = Average Acceleration of all dominant side movements except using non-dominant trunk rotation instead of dominant side.

In conclusion, here are the key takeaways the team has learned this summer and how we plan on implementing our findings into future iterations of CSP tests:

1. We can use Proteus for benchmark testing to help us identify areas of weakness or strengths in each athlete. This information can help to quickly adapt individualized training programs to improve training efficiency and outcomes.

2. In addition to measuring power in (Watts), we want to incorporate acceleration (m/s2) into our future readings and reports as well as provide a comparable metric across different resistances. This can be extremely beneficial for coaches when tailoring programs for individuals to allow for appropriate starting points along the strength/speed or speed/strength continuum (e.g., medicine ball movements and weight best suited for the individual).

3. Measuring the difference in output of an individual between using non-counter movements (which is currently how the General Power Test has been performed) vs counter-movements such as plyometrics. We can then compare the ability of the athlete to create elastic vs reactive qualities of movement. By allowing for small eccentric loads while transitioning between movements during the amortization phase, we can assess different metrics of power and acceleration of a plyometric and compare it to pure concentric drive when there is no or low loading phase present. Prior to Proteus, coaches relied heavily on visual observations and movement patterns to differentiate plyometric and concentric biased movements. Proteus will assist and enhance coaches targeted interventions specifically for upper body and core movements.

Overall, the summer study that Proteus and CSP MA performed had huge success in identifying the progress of players, improving target metrics for specific populations, and enhancing testing qualities. On average, athletes had a 25% improvement on the General Power Test from Proteus between sessions 1 and 3. Pitchers also improved on 3+ mph on their fastball velocity on average following their six-week training camp (84 -> 87 mph). Proteus Motion offers a lot of different benefits for both short term and long term development of athletes by capturing objective data throughout an individual’s strength and conditioning journey. Proteus provides CSP a unique way to objectify future evaluations, program development, readiness testing, and monitor training and rehabilitation.

*If you’re interested in learning more, visit www.Proteusmotion.com and follow them on Instagram @ProteusMotion to stay up to date.

 About the Authors

Tanner Allen received his Doctorate of Physical Therapy from the University of St. Augustine in 2019. After graduating, he completed an Internship at CSP-FL in the Fall of 2019, and recently joined Diamond Physical Therapy inside of Cressey Sports Performance – Florida. Tanner also serves as the Baseball Performance Manager at Proteus Motion. He enjoys working with athletes of all ages and backgrounds on a continuum from rehabilitation following injury all the way through sports performance training. He graduated from Valdosta State University in 2015 with a degree in Exercise Physiology and is a Certified Exercise Physiologist (ACSM-EP) as well as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).

Will Waterman, DPT is the Director of Performance and Sports Science at Proteus Motion. He previously worked as a physical therapist for over 10 years in a variety of clinical settings, including Stanford Hospital and D1 athletics at DePaul University. He is an Orthopedic Clinical Specialist (OCS), is Postural Restoration Certified (PRC), has a Certification in Orthopedic Manual Therapy (COMT) from the Ola Grimsby Institute, and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). He completed his doctorate in Physical Therapy (DPT) from Armstrong Atlantic State University in 2010 and his B.S. in Exercise Science from the University of Georgia in 2007. Originally from Atlanta, GA, he and his wife now live and work in San Francisco, CA where he serves as a primary resource for Proteus Motion on the West Coast.

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