Talented personal fitness trainers are experts in physiology and psychology. Not only can they recommend the best routines to improve your performance, but they'll help you overcome mental hurdles, too.
Quality personal trainers are also expensive. That was a motivating factor for electrical engineering students Christopher Wiebe and Dhananja Jayalath, who thought it would be great to have useful feedback from a digital device that cost a fraction of a human trainer. As they worked on their studies at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, they set aside their free time for developing a fitness product that would offer more feedback than any other.
One of the most pressing challenges they faced was finding a better way to translate the body's natural processes into useful digital information. They opted for electromyography (EMG) sensors that sit right on the surface of your skin, where they collect data about the electrical impulses flowing through the muscles below.
EMG sensors have a plethora of uses in biology and medicine. Researchers use them to better understand neuromuscular activity and to create a clearer picture of what exactly happens when muscles work correctly — and also when they don't.
Your muscles are made up of many individual cells that in turn make up muscle fibers. When your brain tells your bicep to start pumping those huge weights, it sends an electrical signal to those fibers, which immediately contract. As they contract, they produce an electrical signal that's much different than the ones created by a muscle at rest.
The Athos sensors detect more than just whether a muscle is firing; they can also see just how much that muscle is exerting itself. That's vital data for a fitness garment.
Which metrics does Athos clothing track, and how could the system overhaul and improve your fitness regimen?