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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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