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Diving in Deep with Proteus Analytics

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.

(Right-Click to Expand/Save and View)

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.

(Right-Click to Expand/Save and View)

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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Accidental Strength and Conditioning Success

I often joke that some of the biggest training successes of my career came about when I was trying to develop one athletic quality, but actually wound up accidentally developing something else that yielded a great return on investment. Medicine ball training might be the absolute best example of this.

Back around 2007, I started implementing high-volume medicine ball training: both rotational and overhead work at least three times per week with our baseball athletes. There was some decent research on how it could positively impact throwing velocity and bad speed, but I found the training protocols in those studies to be really underwhelming. It was just a lot of “three sets of 10 reps” monotony and relatively basic and unathletic drills. by getting more creative with exercise selection, I felt that it would yield bigger returns on power development while keeping athletes more engaged. And, it accomplished both goals.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that it was also simultaneously creating much better movers. You see, all that medicine ball training was chipping away at some important adaptations we needed in the fascial system to prepare athletes for elasticity in more extreme positions of rotation. By manipulating load, the extent to which we pre-loaded, and where we sat on the force-velocity curve, each rep was helping athletes to develop adjustability, something that’s crucial to withstanding the unpredictable nature of many sports.

And, the truth is that what we learned from training with medicine balls, gave rise to open mindedness in similar avenues. The Versapulley allows us to train higher load, lower velocity rotation with more eccentric overload. 

Proteus allows us to train both high and low load rotation with a concentric focus.

Rotational work on traditional functional trainers seems to be a happy medium between the two. I’ll have their place, but you just need to know what to train.

In the weeks ahead, I’ll have a few new articles to dig deeper on the topic of rotation. In the meantime, however, I would strongly encourage you to check out my new Medicine Ball Master Class. I created this new resource in collaboration with athletes acceleration, and it’s on sale for 20% off through this Sunday at midnight. It includes over 50 exercise demonstration videos, as well as my rationale for including them. Just visit www.CresseyMedBall.com and the discount will be automatically applied at checkout.

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Creative Conditioning: Installment 2 – Proteus Circuits

As a follow up to my recent Creative Conditioning post (here), here's another good one I've been using - this time featuring the Proteus Motion units we have at both our Cressey Sports Performance facilities. This is just a three-exercise 30s on: 30s off interval approach, but you really could utilize a number of different options.

Here's why I like it:

1. Similar to a medicine ball medley, Proteus is concentric-dominant, so you won't elicit much, if any, soreness the following day. That makes it fit more easily with the rest of your strength and conditioning programs. Unlike with med balls, however, you can vary the loading the resistance in the line of motion. This is a key differentiation; just going heavier with a med ball changes the patterning; that isn't true of the Proteus, where movement quality is preserved.

2. Traditional cardio approaches typically get you "stuck" in sagittal plane, repetitive initiatives like cycling, elliptical, and even sprinting. Similar to hopping on a slideboard or doing change-of-direction movement work, this exposes you to reps in different planes to stimulate different body systems (fascial, lymphatic, etc) to unique patterns. As you can see, I need more of this in my life!😂

3. Depending on the exercises you choose, there are limited ground reaction forces, which can make this helpful if you have heavier athletes/clients who may not be able to take the pounding of sprint/change-of-direction work.

You can learn more about Proteus Motion by visiting www.ProteusMotion.com.

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Taking Proteus Motion for a Spin

Today’s guest post comes from former Cressey Sports Performance intern and current physical therapist, Tanner Allen. I asked Tanner to take the lead on our work with Proteus this offseason, and he does a great job of summing up our initial experiences below. Enjoy! -EC

In December, we brought in a Proteus Motion unit to Cressey Sports Performance – Florida to try out for the offseason. It goes without saying that we found some excellent benefits, and I thought I’d use today’s blog post to dig in on them. First, however, I think it’s important to appreciate what Proteus is.

Proteus Motion uses electromagnetic brakes to produce resistance that the user must overcome to move the arm or beam. This futuristic cannon packs a heavy punch of technology. Utilizing biofeedback and tracking technology, Proteus enables athletes to optimize their movement patterns and power development. It allows you to train within the freedoms of your own movements while providing resistance continuously in a manner different than you'd experience with cable machines, barbells, dumbbells and kettlebells - because the impact of both gravity and specific planes of motion are reduced and eliminated, respectively.

The only other place on earth an individual can experience this 3D resistance is in water. In fact, the machine was named after Proteus, the son of the sea god Poseidon in Greek mythology. The quality that links water and the Proteus machine is the ability for an individual to move fluidly throughout every movement that they may perform. The main handle attachment of Proteus is unlike traditional grips and enables the user to sync multiple movements together in a natural and organic way. As soon as you step up to the machine for the first time, you can move the arm in any direction to get a feel for the continuous resistance which is unlike any other resistance training you have ever done before.

Currently, we are using Proteus as an adjunct to conventional training involving our Arm Care and Med Ball programming. This gives our clients variable training environments to aid in motor learning, control, and carryover between common exercises and movement patterns. Below, I’ll demonstrate a few examples of exercises that we are performing with our clients:

Arm Care/Scapula Stabilizer strengthening, consisting of: D2 Flexion and Extension, Horizontal Abduction, External Rotation while simultaneously transitioning into Internal Rotation and lead arm stability during swing.

Med balls and Rotational Core Variations: Rotational Chops, Chop and Lift, Rotational Shotput, Split Stance Anti Rotation Chops as well as many others.

One of the foundational principles coached regardless of training method is the appropriate activation of your core during extremity movements for optimal stability and force transfer. Something that we notice with first-time users is the lack of awareness that they have throughout rotational control and power, which typically causes the athlete to lose their balance backwards during their first couple repetitions. Once an athlete’s neuromuscular system kicks in and maximizes full-body engagement, they make the needed adjustments to maintain balance appropriately during exercises. This challenge to the neuromuscular system eventually improves the client’s ability to properly sequence movements and create/transfer force, which subsequently improves the power production numbers Proteus tracks.

The sky is truly the limit with Proteus as the potential for possible exercises and movements is endless, making this exercise machine a potential one-stop-shop for workouts. This machine can be utilized for sports-performance training due to decreased restrictions on natural movement patterns or for an extremely effective total body routine, as you can seamlessly flow from one exercise to the next. This machine also allows easy resistance adjustments during a workout through Bluetooth controls for on-the-fly changes. The weight ranges from 1-35lbs, making it versatile for warm-up routines prior to powerlifts, sport-specific skill drills or training peak power production in multi-planar movements. The Proteus can also be extremely beneficial during rehabilitation due to visual feedback and tracking capabilities.

The Proteus also offers a wide range of metrics that can be tracked for each individual user to assess progress. This is helpful for re-assessments following an individual’s program, tracking improvements throughout the off-season, following an injury during rehabilitation or assessing fatigue during a periodization period. You can track power output (Watts), Acceleration, Deceleration, Endurance, and Consistency looking at the client’s ability to reproduce a specific movement. The pictures below provide you with a visual of what a post-test report might look like.

The report provides you with an in-depth analysis of your performance, comparing movement patterns or exercises bilaterally. It allows you to determine specific trends an athlete might have in fatigue or recovery management, helping the provider make necessary changes to programming. Results can be determined based on a single repetition, or a 3D graph can be created overlaying multiple repetitions. A cool feature included is the visual feedback of an entire motion throughout the length-tension curve, allowing you to assess strengths and weaknesses along the total path of motion pictured above. Moving forward, from a testing standpoint, we see ourselves using it extensively with:

a. objective measurement of shoulder strength tests in a standing (and therefore more functional) position

b. measuring rotational power - but peak and in terms of side-to-side comparisons

On this second point, there's a lot to be said for the ability of Proteus to slide into a relatively untapped portion of the force-velocity curve. Looking at this old video from EC, you can see that it could fit anywhere in the speed-strength to strength-speed aspect of this continuum - almost like a medicine ball that you can load more - but have to apply force over a greater distance. And, because it's concentric dominant action in nature, it could be trained frequently without making athletes really sore.

As you can see, Proteus is a versatile machine with broad application in peak performance training as well as rehabilitation and testing. It measures and tracks data on hard-to-measure patterns to assess an athlete’s progress, provide biofeedback, and train rotational sport athletes along the force-velocity curve in a safe way. We look forward to diving into the Proteus system’s capabilities even more in the future. We have only just begun to tap into the potential and vast capabilities of Proteus with testing and programing at our CSP-FL.

If you're interested in learning more, check them out at www.ProteusMotion.com.

About the Author

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. Tanner enjoys working with athletes of all ages and backgrounds on a continuum from rehabilitation following injury 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).

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