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January 29, 2013Kansas has been getting national attention lately as one of the leading innovators in the Strength and Conditioning community.
Earlier this month, Kansas Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Performance, Andrea Hudy was voted by her peers as the 2012 National Strength Coach of the Year.
In the last six months Kansas has invested in new equipment that gives them invaluable data and insight into their student-athletes that a college athletic program has never had before.
"I think we are setting standards in terms of sports performance," Hudy said.
The first type of equipment has given Kansas an edge is from EliteForm, a Nebraska based technology company that has changed the way the Kansas coaches measure the results of a workout.
Coaches have always been able to track how much weight a player lifts, but the difficulty was being able to quantify the intensity or the speed of the lift because they had to rely on their own subjective judgment. This technology changes that.
Attached over the lifting rack are two 3D cameras that digitally records the lift and measures the speed of the bar. The equipment will measure both the meters per second of the lift and overall wattage which is the power generated during the lift. This allows the coach to calculate the intensity of the lift with raw numbers.
"What this does is create quality reps and more intent reps for us," Hudy said. "We probably have less training time because we can pinpoint what we need to get. We can get more efficient with what we do."
Under the 3D cameras on the rack is a touch screen tablet. When a student-athlete arrives at a lifting station, they can type in their name and get that day's workout. The software stores the historical lifting data digitally for each player so the coaches and players can track the progress and truly see what is happening in their development.
"It is a lot more competitive in the weight room now because it shows every single rep you are doing," Kansas guard Naadir Tharpe said. "I feel like people are trying to do the best they can than just going in and getting the rep done."
Other schools such as the Nebraska and Texas A&M football programs implemented the EliteForm technology in 2012. What separates Kansas though is the combination of using EliteForm with their new Sparta force plate system.
A force plate is a platform where the student-athlete does a series of vertical jumps, similar to going up for a rebound and the technology measures the force the student-athlete puts into the ground.
While force plates have been around for years, what separates Sparta's equipment, particularly its software package, is that almost immediately after the jump the software will produce a graph that will highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the student-athlete's body based on the force and the time of the jump.
The graph, which is called a "movement signature", compares a student-athlete's personal signature with Sparta's data pool of more than 10,000 other athletes signatures so they can see exactly where they rank in different areas compared to other competitive athletes, not just to their own teammates.
Hudy had been searching for a software program that measured movement to this level of detail for the last eight years. She learned about the equipment over the summer when she was in Germany vistiting the Adidias World Headquarters researching different weight lifting shoes. On the trip by chance she met Dr. Phil Wagner, owner of Sparta Science in the San Francisco Area and learned about their system.
"As soon as I talked with him it was an easy decision that we needed it," Hudy said.
The athletic department was able to install the force plate in the Anderson Center in November. The strength coaches will test the student-athletes on the force plate once a week. They will then take the information the software gives them and can better determine exactly what lifts and intensity levels each individual athlete needs to reach on the EliteForm equipment for the remainder of the week.
Already the coaches have seen how the new equipment has helped players such as center Jeff Withey improve performance by better individualizing the needs for his 7-foot frame and help minimize the potential for injuries during the season due to training imbalances.
Withey's initial testing on the force plate showed that his anterior chain - muscles in the chest, abs, and quads weren't as strong as his posterior chain - muscles that run down the lower back and the back of the legs.
The coaches were able to take the information from the force plate, and design workouts and lifts on the EliteForm equipment to specifically target those areas. Through the next several weeks through testing they saw his anterior chain numbers improve dramatically.
"His bar graph went up like a signal from a cell phone," Hudy said.
While the initial testing of the systems has been positive, the drawback to being an early adopter is they are still tweaking their system to find out how to most efficiently apply the all of the new data to their workouts.
"The problem now is we have too much information," Hudy said.
Kansas is a signature school for EliteForm and are sharing information with the company to customize the product to their needs. Every sport in the athletic department except for football, which works out in a different facility, uses the EliteForm and more teams are starting to use the force plate technology every week.
Hudy said she has been getting calls daily from other schools enquiring about their system. When asked about where she sees the future of college athletics strength and conditioning, she just smiles.
"We're it right now."