Last year, nearly 30 million wearable health devices were shipped out to a growing base of mobile-minded fitness fans. That might sound like a hard market to radically change, but at the same time, Mike Lovas and his team were working on a new app-enabled fitness tracker that would blow Nike, Fitbit, Garmin, and Under Armour's trackers out of the water.
What's the Deal
The result is PUSH, a wearable device and companion app claiming to be the first to automatically measure users' strength. Most existing trackers measure activity through steps (think: Nike+ Fuelband and Fitbit), heart rate (think: Under Armour's Armour39) or location (think: Azumio's Argus). But PUSH uses a built-in accelerometer and gyroscope (features also included in most other trackers) and some very fancy math to calculate metrics such as reps, sets, force, power, balance, speed, explosive strength, one rep max, volume load, and tempo.
“If your forearm moves during the exercise, we can measure it,” says Lovas, a co-founder of PUSH, which is based in Toronto. “There are specific algorithms to track each exercise; that's kind of the heart and brain of the whole thing.”
For example, those algorithms tell the device how the user's arms should move during a given exercise. This helps PUSH know when a rep is complete and how quickly it was performed. (On the flip side, lounging around at the bottom of a squat could throw off the data.)
To get it to work, users have to manually enter their workout (for example, what exercise and at what weight), and the app will automatically count reps and calculate velocity and force based on a number of factors (including user information about height and weight, which PUSH also collects).
It's a little bit of extra work to get set up, but the payoff is a more in-depth set of stats about your workout. “Heart rate variability is a good metric,” says Lovas. “It gives you a sense of cardio vascular output. But we're giving a direct measure of how hard you're pushing the weight, how fast you can complete an action… A lot of sports teams are loving the idea.”
In fact, PUSH has gained interest from dozens of top-tier athletes, trainers, and teams in the NFL, NHL, MLB, European soccer leagues, and MMA leagues. (PUSH isn't allowed to name names, but trust us, we asked.)
“It's been pretty wild,” Lovas says. “Big teams have been asking if there's any way to get 60 betas, and we're trying to hand out one per team.” Part of that might be the fact that the PUSH team (now eight people strong) is literally hand-soldering devices at their shared workspace in Toronto's MaRs Discovery District. (MaRS is a not-for-profit corporation that acts like an accelerator for promising health-based technologies.)
PUSH has even been testing out their device and app combo against similar data collected from force plates, an industry standard for measuring power.
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PUSH is one of the first apps to attempt to measure how we track strength and power as opposed to general activity or location. These metrics might be less relevant to the everyday user just looking to hit the gym more often, but they've proven to be important for trainers, athletes (amateur and otherwise), and coaches.
That's why PUSH has created a “Coach's Portal” feature where trainers can create specific workouts for an athlete (or whole team) on the app. It allows coaches and teams to work out together, measuring important metrics such as explosive power on sprints or the amount of forced delivered in a tackle. These metrics are then automatically uploaded to the mobile app for all users who, after completing the exercise, can compare their scores and set new goals.
The feature and the device are already a hit among college athletic programs for their relatively low price tag. “They're using existing devices that ran from $200 to $2,000,” Lovas says, “and they're excited that PUSH is just $150.” (The device will retail for $149, though there is an Indiegogo campaign offering preorders for $139.)
PUSH officially launches on Thursday when they'll have to prove that they can live up to their pre-launch hype not just for the pros, but everyday users looking to improve their workout.
Would you use a device that measures your power? Let us know in the comments or find us on Twitter @greatist!