Will AI replace the strength coach?

Thanks to AI, athletes can essentially monitor their own performance and program.

Will AI replace the strength coach?

From wearables to coaching apps, the strength and fitness industry is fast becoming a hotbed for the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML).

Through progression tracking, programming, sensors, and ML, AI is proving to be an increasingly useful tool for strength coaches and athletes alike. AI programming can track, make changes, and even factor in injuries or performance issues.

The Beast Sensor/Beast Strength Lab and the Juggernaut AI Coaching app are two examples of products and services making inroads in this fast-changing field.

Beast Sensor

The Beast Sensor, developed by Beast Technologies, has been helping both professionals and amateurs alike, with customers ranging from soccer, rugby, basketball, volleyball, and track and field athletes as well as coaches and personal trainers.

The sensor is a small (38 grams), lightweight wearable that can be attached to a wristband, harness, or directly to a piece of equipment and measures the speed (meters/second) and power (watts) of each lift.

Through AI, the app and web portal collects data, tracking over time the strength, explosiveness, volume, average power, reps, density, energy burn, and set-by-set progress of each workout.


Beast Technologies

Beast Strength Lab

The Beast Strength Lab was created to analyze the data collected through real-time feedback and analytics from the Beast sensor. This tool enhances elite athletes' training and performance.

Termed Velocity Based Training by Tommaso Finadri, founder of Beast Technologies and Head of Performance at Beast Strength Lab, the Beast Strength Lab was created for analyzing the strength and conditioning data coming from sensors like the Beast Sensor.

According to Beast, research showed a linear correlation between the mean speed of the concentric phase of a lift and the training intensity. This means if you're looking for the optimal conditions for a specific training goal, mean speed is the key metric and should be targeted following specific ranges.

Beast Technologies and the Beast Strength Lab supports strength and conditioning coaches, trainers, and athletes with custom analysis of the data generated.

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"There is tracking, which includes AI," Finadri said. "But there is also AI involved in Strength Lab itself with its analysis methods. Thanks to Velocity Based Training, we can quantify Strength and Conditioning performances."

The tracker helps you customize weights, reps, and sets to perform while the AI helps to bring it all together.

It is a useful tool for both athletes and trainers alike. Athletes can track performance, see their stats, and plan and review their progress. Coaches and trainers have more options, including advanced analytics to best analyze and optimize their clients programs.

However, it comes at a cost. A single Beast Athlete sensor is $289 while a Beast Trainer set is $459, the later designed for coaches and trainers, supporting up to 10 customers and includes the sensor, wristbands, case, and cables. There is also an option for Strength Lab Coaching for $200.

The sensor is compatible with iOS and Android devices.

Juggernaut AI Coaching app

The Juggernaut AI Coaching system was developed by Chad Wesley Smith, owner and founder of Juggernaut Training Systems, and an elite level strength coach and athlete, and Garett Blevins, a competitive powerlifter and kinesiology student at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego.

Both Smith and Blevins are competitive athletes and understand the complexities of complex strength training programs and how to work with athletes.

The beta version of the AI coaching system, created by Blevins through Excel coding, collects client information and creates a program customized to the individual.

Through Excel, Blevins said he learned what was possible through Visual Basic, how macros can work in the background, and how information can be stored, worksheets created, and also how Outlook can be integrated to work with Excel. He realized there was a systematizing ability of creation and input, gathering information from clients in programs that could then be sent back and be viewed by a system. 

"Changes are then made, additional cycles created and then it is sent back to the client, all in an automated process," Blevins said.

However, it's not machine learning with deep neural networks, it is an expert system that replicates what an expert in the field would do.

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"They say how many days a week they want to train," Smith said. "But within that, it's deciding the right amount or the best amount of squatting, bench press and deadlifting. So how many times a week they perform that, how much volume they're performing of all of those exercises, which variations of the exercises that they're doing based on, you know where they struggle in lifts."

The system determines the weak points, from one lift to another, and modifies the program accordingly.

"It is really far beyond just tracking their weights," Smith said. "It's incredibly detailed, so far beyond what I could provide for anything more than like 10 or 15 people. It's doing it for 2,500 people, so we're very proud of what it does."

The beta version of the AI coaching system from Juggernaut costs $27 per month. Additional support through the Juggernaut community is also available for those needing help or a support system.

An app for iOS and Android will be available soon. Weightlifting and super total (combined powerlifting and weightlifting) versions are also in development.



Coach or AI?

Although AI can be a useful tool for coaches and personal trainers, these systems rely on the user to input and monitor the accuracy of the data, making it possible to knowingly or unknowingly manipulate the data. AI and ML requires massive amounts of data in order for it to maximize efficiency. 

The primary benefit of an AI coaching system is cost. It is much cheaper and faster for an algorithm to develop, monitor, and customize a coaching program than an actual human being. For example, one-on-one coaching from the Juggernaut coaches would cost $197 per month, whereas the AI system is only $27 per month.

Furthermore, where a strength coach can generally only monitor the progress of an athlete in real time, these type of AI programs allow athletes the chance to essentially monitor their own performance and program.

However, coaching is more than just programming and data analytics. Although these products can't replicate everything a coach can provide, such as real-time monitoring of physical and mental performance just yet, they can be a helpful tool for the athlete, personal trainer, or coach.

Also see

An Athlete Man Holding Kettle Bell

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