|Technology and exercise in soccer
Technology has become increasingly popular in modern day sports training and performance. Devices such as fitness apps, sensors (wearable technology), accelerometers, and GPS are all incorporated into the training and competition of an elite level athlete. The goal of these devices is to improve overall health as well as achieve optimal performance in the skill or sport.
Accurate measurements are obtained and used by training/coaching staffs to better understand what needs to be trained and how that training will be conducted. With technology, athletes and coaching staff are able to focus on specifics to tailor programs to the individual and the team. In addition, devices offer feedback on skill, which aids in motivation to further develop and improve. Therefore, fitness apps, wearable technology, accelerometers, and GPS will be observed to further understand the relation of these technologies to athletes and sport.
Fitness Apps In Training
Fitness apps are increasingly becoming the must-have accessory for an individual’s smartphone. They have become a big part of society with the interesting and intelligent features they offer in order to connect people.
With the increase in fitness apps, people are beginning to question the need to spend money on a gym membership when an app can be downloaded that offers everything a gym membership proposes and more. There are fitness apps that function as personal trainers, provide training specific to a sport, or prescribe programs specific to an individual’s goals.
Nike, as an example, has launched its own brand of apps ‘Nike +’, with an addition of sensors to track calories burned, steps taken, jump height, speed etc. In addition, the Nike+ apps connect the individual to friends to compare results and training goals. A weblog post titled ‘New Nike+ Apps and Shoes Cater to Basketball and Training Athletes’ illustrates how the information and measurements obtained by the apps and shoes provides motivation for the users (New Nike+, 2012).
It allows for athletes to have a big impact on training loads as well as increase desire to improve upon previous results. By retrieving information on jump height and quickness, athletes can focus on what needs improvement in their game as well as increase training motivation. In addition, having the ability to be connected to other athletes allows for friendly competition (New Nike+, 2012).
Competition fosters great training and with great training the athlete has the ability to personally improve. Therefore, fitness apps have the ability to motivate individuals to get better through measurement of skill as well as competition between other athletes in the fitness app community.
Wearable Technology In Training
Wearable technology, like fitness apps, is another popular accessory that promotes fitness in society. Devices have increased the amount of features as well as improved in displaying accurate and smarter measures (Duffy, 2014).
Wearable technology can now read many different things that are associated with the individuals’ health such as heart rate, sleeping patterns, walking distance, calories burnt, etc. Technology such as Nike+ FuelBand, Jawbone, Fitbit and Larklife permit accessibility to important information that can increase an individual’s overall health (Duffy, 2014). Devices are usually synced with a corresponding fitness app that organizes fitness goals, results and training programs.
Elite athletes are able to use these devices like integrated sensors in shoes to sync training information to the app to better understand what needs progression and overall improve performance (New Nike+, 2012). In relation to training, these technologies provide “on-the-go” live information that allows athletes to determine what training protocols need to be done and at what intensities they should be performed.
In addition, devices provide on-the- spot information about physiological characteristics throughout a particular training bout or workout. For instance, a soccer athlete who is performing endurance training has to run at a specific heart rate zone to mimic competition load. Wearable technology (ex. Polar Watches) allows athletes to monitor and adjust to the training demands and intensities by observing their heart rate. The availability of this information makes the individual with the device much more motivated to improve on previous results as well as provide effectiveness and efficiency on monitoring different training loads/demands (Duffy, 2014).
Accelerometers in Training
Accelerometers in relation to training are mainly focused on measuring acceleration of movement (Sato, 2009). For instance, measuring running speeds in a soccer player through use of accelerometers allows for measurements of proper acceleration of the skill. Retrieving information on running speeds/acceleration will allow for a basis to look back on in determining improvement as well as ensure proper feedback is given to foster progression in running speeds.
In Michael Higgins’ study ‘Measurement of Impact Acceleration: Mouthpiece Accelerometer Versus Helmet Accelerometer’, he observed football athletes and the different accelerations suffered to the head during hits (Higgins, 2007). The study specifically looked at which method, mouthpiece accelerometers vs. helmet accelerometers), was best at measuring impact acceleration. However, the findings can be used to state that accelerometers can aid in prevention of injury in sports like football, hockey and soccer.
The ability to retrieve information with accelerometers specifically measuring impact acceleration allows for inclusion of injury prevention methods such as different training protocols or enhanced equipment design. Lastly, accelerometers can be effectively used in determining proper lifting speeds for different exercises (Sato, 2009). Observing the measurements permits proper feedback to correct the speed of movement to achieve the full benefits of the exercise. Therefore, accelerometers aid in improving proper acceleration for different tasks and increase the benefits of the movement/skill being performed.
GPS Utilization In Training
Global Positioning Satellites (GPS) in relation to sport are best known for their ability to generate specific information on distance covered by athlete in low- and high-intensity activities, as well as the training/in-game velocities achieved (Gabbett, 2010).
Observing the information obtained from GPS allows for sport scientists and coaching staff (specifically trainers) to compare intensities/velocities between training and games. In addition, being able to take the material generated on GPS, trainers are able to evaluate results and implement different strategies in training to improve performance level during a game. For instance, if a soccer athlete’s velocity decreases as full time is approaching, spotting this on GPS will allow for coaching staff to implement different training techniques in practice to improve results of the individual soccer athlete in-game.
In a study conducted by Tim Gabbett ‘GPS Analysis of Elite Women’s Field Hockey Training and Competition’, he observed 14 field hockey players analyzing 19 training sessions and 32 AHL games (Gabbett, 2010). The goal was to create game-based training to improve performance level during the actual game. Through the use of GPS, Gabbett was able to observe different velocities as well as establish the method of training best suited for the athletes.
It was concluded that in-game players were generally working at low-intensities with short bouts of high-intensity (Gabbett, 2010). Thus, the data generated from GPS in Gabbett’s study allowed team trainers to modify specific techniques during practice for optimal performance.
The utilization of GPS is new and evolving in team sports (Cummins, 2013). In Cloe Cummins’ systemic review of GPS and micro technology sensors gathered information on the application of GPS comparing training with competition loads (Cummins, 2013). It was proposed that GPS adequately described the different training demands for each drill (Cummins, 2013). This understanding of the drills allowed for a more “accurate reflection of competition demands and ensures athletes reach optimal training targets” (Cummins, 2013). In addition, due to team sports being periodized, GPS is able to provide effective information on different training loads for different phases to better tailor the training protocols to the athlete during different seasons (Cummins, 2013).
For instance, a football athlete during the offseason will have higher training loads/intensities to optimize development and having the ability to prescribe a training protocol for the athlete for the offseason with adequate information from the GPS technology can only further improve the development of the athlete. Whereas, a football athlete who is in-season can be prescribed lower intensities to ensure overload does not occur to fully optimize competition through observation of GPS technology. Therefore, GPS technology is innovative and has the ability to tailor training loads to competition demands for optimal athlete performance.
In conclusion, technologies are evolving and increasingly becoming more involved in athlete training. Technologies such as fitness apps, GPS, accelerometers and sensors (wearable technology) are some of the basic tools assisting in improvements in athlete performance.
Fitness apps and wearable technology provide easy to use, on-the-spot information about physiological characteristics during training bouts that allow athletes to train at specific demands to reach optimal performance. In addition, fitness apps and wearable technology is tailored for individualized training; whereas accelerometers and GPS look at group training and team sports. However, like fitness apps, GPS and accelerometers provide interventions of improving performance through specifying training to competition by collecting accurate measurements of in-game loads and training loads. Lastly, technology in sport provides the athlete with feedback, which leads to improvement in skill and performance.
Randy Correia is a student the Humber College and is completing an internship placement with Soccer Fitness Inc. For more information about Soccer Fitness Inc., please visit www.soccerfitness.ca.