Athos Perspective: Don Faul

Every year leading up to the end of February college football players prepare for the NFL combine. The goal is to improve the athlete’s performance in the standard NFL combine tests which include vert height, 40-yard sprint time, 5-10-5 shuttle time and others.

Athos partnered with Fast Twitch to help 6 college athletes prepare for the combine using the combination of Fast Twitch’s elite performance training approach and Athos’ performance data. Each athlete used Athos’ compression shorts throughout their program. With Athos the coaches at Fast Twitch were able to measure the activation and workload of the quads, hamstrings and glutes and personalize the programming for each athlete based on how each athlete was leveraging these major muscle groups.

Each athlete performed a benchmark at the start of the program to evaluate their performance in each combine test. The athletes were re-tested during the program to monitor progress and tested at the completion of the program. With data on how each athlete used each major muscle group over the course of the program we were able to better understand what correlated with greatest improvement in different combine tests.

Athos measures the workload placed on each muscle group by accumulating the intensity of the muscle activation over time.

Balance of the athlete can be evaluated by comparing the workload of symmetric muscles on the left and right side. For example, overall lower body left and right balance can be compared by comparing the overall left side workload to the right side workload.

Also, the contribution of workload from different muscle groups can be compared as a contribution percentage. For example, the workload contribution of the glutes is just the workload from the glutes compared to the total workload from the glutes, hamstrings and quads.

Starting with the vertical jump, it is well known that a strong posterior chain is essential to generate maximum ground force to get the body as high off the ground as possible. This is why the vertical jump height is often used as a measure of lower body strength and the glutes being the largest muscle in the body is an essential component to this overall strength.

We looked at the relationship between the % of total workload done by the glutes and the improvement in the athlete’s vert. As seen in the figure below, the athlete’s that had a higher proportion of glute workload throughout the program had the greatest increase in vert height. There was a very strong correlation between the % of glute workload and vert improvement. Coaches can use this information to evaluate the effectiveness of a program at the movement, workout or program level at targeting a specific muscle group. Knowing how important glute workload is to vert improvement coaches can use this information to personalize the programming for each athlete to get to higher contribution that will translate into improved performance. Combine Graph 1

We also found that the athletes who demonstrated worse balance between their left and right side over the program had lower vert improvement. Again, coaches can monitor the imbalance each athlete is demonstrating to adjust the programming for specific athletes to ensure their overall program is promoting balanced training on each side of the body which was shown to result in improved performance. Combine Graph 2

On to the 40-yard start. The hamstrings are an essential muscle group to helping the athlete get off the line as fast as possible and generate explosive ground force to translate into higher acceleration. The figure below demonstrates that the athletes who had a higher overall workload contribution from the hamstrings during the program had a greater improvement in their 40-yard time. Combine Graph 3

Coaches can use workload per muscle to understand how their programming is stressing different muscle groups of a given athlete and to understand how higher stress on one muscle group compared to another can translate into performance improvement in different combine tests. The coach can use this information to target specific combine test weaknesses of a given athlete and use the information as a tool in the coach’s arsenal to dial in the performance for a specific athlete.

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