Getting to know Athos: Muscle Effort

What is Athos?

1-nCipvwdjBLUTc7zvxalXAAAthos is the world’s first smart clothing that can measure exactly how hard your muscles are working in real time. The biological sensors developed by Athos measure the electrical activity generated by muscles when they are doing anything that requires force or energy. The technology behind these sensors is called surface Electromyography or sEMG. The sEMG technology measures the electrical activity generated by muscles and has been around for decades. Due to its prohibitive cost (~$10K per system), it has been previously used exclusively in high performance institutes, rehabilitation and physiotherapy clinics.

What is muscle effort and why should I care?

The human body consists of hundreds of individual muscles that control all movement and are designed to exert force or lift weight. Muscles have a large number of fibers and depending on the amount of force they need to produce, more of them are activated. The more muscle fibers are active, the more electrical signal is generated. This is the signal that is collected by sEMG. There are many factors that influence muscles and in turn the signal they generate. These factors include body fat percentage, muscle size and genetics. Because of this, Athos translates your muscle activity into percent muscle effort on a scale of 0 to 100% where 100% is your muscle’s highest potential.

The muscle effort score allows the user to determine if they are using the right muscles for each exercise if they’re working hard enough to achieve their training goal. It also allows people of all different shapes, sizes and fitness levels to compete with each other on a normalized scale. This is because the muscle effort score is based on YOUR sEMG upper signal bound (the highest signal or output YOUR muscles produce) which is unique to you and your body. A novice gym goer pushing themselves to 80% is just as impressive and difficult as a LeBron James pushing himself to 80%. To achieve 80% effort, Lebron may just need to add little extra weight or intensity to his workout compared to the novice.

Knowing muscle effort is useful because it provides instant feedback during the exercise and increases self-awareness of the movement performed. For example, at the gym you may look at muscle charts that are posted on each machine and assume that when you get on that machine and move the weights up and down that you’re doing what the picture shows. How do you know if that’s true? And how do you know if you’re lifting enough weight to have an effect on your fitness level and muscle development? Athos provides insights into both of these things by showing you in real-time what muscles are being activated and how hard you’re pushing them.

How can using Athos and knowing muscle effort help me train better?

Athos uses a number of techniques to provide you with the information that you need to train more effectively. When you first use the app, you go through a short calibration to calculate your muscle effort range.

Here is how you could use Athos during a set of squats to improve your form and maximize the benefits of the exercise:

BadSquat

In the Set Summary view above, you notice that your primary muscle group used was the glute. For a squat with good form, your primary muscle group should be your quads. In the next set, you should concentrate on using your quads to push the weight. You also see a muscle effort was 30%, this means that you only used 30% of your glute’s potential. If you’re looking to build muscle, you should be closer to 80 or 90%. On the other hand, if you’re goal is to tone that muscle you should be closer to 50% to 75%. In the next set, you should concentrate on pushing harder by increasing weight or by completing more repetitions. Finally, you should notice is that your left and your right are not showing muscle effort scores at the same level — in the next set, you should focus on using both sides of your body equally.

With those improvements, your output should look more like this:

GoodSquat

Here you’re using your quads as the primary muscle group, then your glutes and then your hamstrings (YAY!!!), you’re using about 91% of your muscle’s potential (EXCELLENT!!) and you’re pretty well balanced. Now that is a well done squat.