Understanding Fitness With Muscle Activation Data
sports & fitness
In this video, Shelly Jang shares her experience of tracking EMG for about 16 months. The EMG technology has been used largely by medical industries to diagnose various neuromuscular diseases. She also shares what she learned from looking at thousands of hours of muscle activation data.
Hello everyone, so my name is Shelly, and today I want to share my experience of tracking EMG for about 16 months. And the EMG technology has been used largely by medical industries to diagnose various neuromuscular diseases. But with the technology that’s been developing it’s actually gone into wearables. So this is Athos, the company that I work for is a pioneer in this industry.
So the garment on the photo actually looks a lot like just regular compressive gear, but underneath the plain black garment are these sensors that can track the different measures and how they’re activating and the electrical currents that your muscles are generating. So these are the muscles that we’re tracking and so I wanted to show how I can use this data to track my fitness.
So I joined Athos in 2016, because as a member of the QS community it was like a dream to work for a company that captures very unique about yourself. And so I was only happy to wear this garment nearly every day and test the wearability.
And so here is the graph of the cumulated hours I’ve spent exercising and testing the gear. It starts from November 2015, where I was invited to interview at the company and then I started working a the company about January 2016. And then there’s a huge spike in the February of 2016 that’s the honeymoon phase, where I really fell in love with the product also there was an internal Olympic, well Athos Olympics that I participated in the name of dog-footing and I ended up walking away with a gold medal and so I was really proud of that.
And so the macro trends of the exercises, my usual routine is weightlifting and some minimal bits of cardio, and since I’ve been tracking exercises I’ve lifted 300,000Kg against what was that 372
And so here’s the heat map of my weekly to hourly trend, and you can see this is my Sunday morning grind. I’m particularly proud of that one because I thought I was pretty lazy at the weekends but actually I ended up to working out.
So how did I do it? So the “how” is kind of secret sauce since I work for the company, I have untethered access to the database, so I just got to explore all of the data, but I will keep to the myself portion of the data.
So what did I learn? So first of all, I wanted to talk about the three major lifts in this talk. So squats and dead lifts, and bench-presses. And I wanted to show you how these different muscles actually recruit the different lower body muscles.
So for instance, when I do lower body movements I can usually measure the total amount of training load exerted and then I can actually break it down into the different muscle groups. So inner quad, outer quad, glutes, and hamstrings, so overall I tend to recruit my hamstring at the lowest of 32%. But if you actually compare that to my deadlift, so deadlift is really my favorite exercise. It makes me feel really powerful and strong. And you can see that you know it has a very similar distribution of my muscle recruitment. But you can see the glute activation has actually gone down.
For dead lift this is not a problem because you know it’s supposed to work out your hamstring. But in the squats I actually also have a lower level of glute activation. So this was actually a very useful cue for me because I want to correct my form that I’m actually getting all of the benefits I want from the exercise.
And finally, here’s the bench press data and so I know bench presses are an upper body muscle, and our company currently doesn’t have women’s tops, so I just wear the bottom and I just do the bench press. And you can see that actually an interesting trend has occurred. Like glute activation actually shot up to 26%, so what could have caused this trend?
Has anybody done bench presses in that form with the really arched back? So this is kind of a new thing apparently. My coaches have taught me how to do this. It’s meant to provide more solid base for you lift and it’s meant to recruit your entire posterior chain when you’re doing the lift. So that means when I’m doing the bench press I’m really really activating my glutes.
And so the next thing, you can actually study the contribution of the individual muscles, but symmetry in your movement is actually quite important. So that way, we’ve seen examples of data where you have asymmetric activation in your exercises it causes injury, and so I want to see how my own balance trends look like.
And so these are the balance of my squats over the 180 sets that I’ve done and it calculates to me to me the difference between the activation from the left to the right divided by the total. And you can see I had some shaky starts in early 2016, but as the moths go by there’s a consistency distribution. And usually when there’s a consistency that means that people are getting more comfortable with that particular movement.
And so if you look at the distribution of that data you can see that you know, I’m pretty well balanced as far as the squats go. So if you look at the lower body as an entirety, the squat looks good, the dead lift looks good, even bench press looks okay. Yes I’m leaning a little to the left, but there’s a hidden thing.
The thing is if I just look at my hamstrings it shows that squat is still okay, dead lift I tend to activate my right side a lot more. And what’s most alarming is when I’m doing my bench press, more that 90% of the time I’m activating my left hamstring way more than my right hamstring.
So actually I knew that, because every time I exercised my left hamstring is always very sore and I tend to pull it even. So this is again kind of drives home that lesson that you really need to focus on your symmetry.
And so the final thing is that be wary of incorrect compensation on your muscles. So every weightlifter just wants to lift as heavy as possible, but it comes at a cost if you’re not doing it the right way, so here’s an example of this.
So this is my bench press again and the excess in on the load that I put onto the barbell, so it’s from 50 to 60. I don’t usually go over 35, that’s why there are only a few data points there. But you can see going from 15 to 25 to 30 for the hamstring and outer quads there is this kind of diverging trend. So as I’m going heavy, my left hamstring is activated. And funnily enough when that happens, my right outer quad is now trying to compensate for that imbalance. So now there’s this sort of like entire body weird compensation happening, so I thought that that was a cue for me not to go to heavy until I can actually achieve that balance.