As a strength and conditioning coach in Minor League Baseball, being sent home from 2020 Spring Training meant a stop to hands-on work for what I initially thought would be eight to twelve weeks, not a year. Because of this, I lost time around our equipment and figured that would mean no more time around much—if any—strength and conditioning/sports science until returning for Spring Training 2021.
If you are at all unfamiliar with Minor League Baseball and how it is structured, strength and conditioning coaches are in multiple locations throughout the year. Therefore, during a normal off-season, we are not always at our organization’s facilities and likely are not able to use all the equipment we had at our disposal throughout the in-season.
Fortunately, not too long into quarantine, a LinkedIn message showed up from someone in Ireland. If not for it being on LinkedIn, I probably would not have given it a second look. I must admit, if there are two things I believe strength coaches need to invest their time in (beyond reading SimpliFaster articles and other relevant books/articles), they are having a professional looking LinkedIn profile and subscribing to Strength Coach Network.
Coaches in our field strive to appear professional and want to be taken that way, so it is imperative to act as such. Having a LinkedIn profile that is professional and investing in a network that allows for constant development and networking is ideal. However, without digressing further, it is through the fortune of that one LinkedIn message that I found out about Output Sports. At the time, they had yet to enter the U.S. market so the team sent me a system so I could be an early tester of their product to assess its potential for U.S. practitioners.Having a LinkedIn profile that is professional and investing in a network that allows for constant development and networking is ideal, says @sgfeld27. Click To Tweet
While remaining home for a year, it has been an absolute pleasure to use and watch the Output Sports system constantly improve, and to learn more and more about monitoring in a hands-on fashion. With all I have learned through using the system, I feel it is proper to share it with those who have not heard of or used it before and to help them determine if it is a system that suits their needs.
VBT and More
The Output system is quite simple and easy to use. All you need is a sensor, straps specific to the action being performed, and an Android device (all of which are provided in their kit). Functionally, it operates just like the Vmaxpro when used for barbell tracking, in that it is a sensor attached to a bar that uses a tablet or smartphone. By mentioning Vmaxpro I hope to show that these systems, while accomplishing some similar tasks, can be used together in the weight room. This is not at all to pit one against the other. However, at least for now with regards to bar path, Vmaxpro does have some features that the Output system does not yet have.
Output was designed to be more than just the next prototypical predominant velocity-based training device. If we looked at these two systems as if they were track athletes, we could say that it is like comparing a short sprinter and a decathlete. Output alone has a plethora of functions that allow it to work in all facets of a program.Output was designed to be more than just the next prototypical predominant velocity-based training device, says @sgfeld27. Click To Tweet
Through its sensor technology, Output has loads of jump metrics for both power and reactivity that it measures very easily. This is not to say that Output utilizes or is in competition with force plate technology, as they are two totally different devices. However, for a device that deals with velocity-based training, Output provides additional metrics for use that go beyond the standard ones measuring bar speed, the jump power and reactivity metrics being some of them.
As someone who loves having the chance to use a Hawkin Dynamics Force Plate, I will always want a force plate to use when and where I can. However, both force plates and contact grids, like the MuscleLab, are not at all inexpensive products. Fortunately, as Output continues to evolve, they do provide some of the metrics that both of the other products provide.
The Output sensor tracks and tests jumps including the countermovement jump (CMJ), drop jump (DJ), and 10-5 test. Performing these is as simple as putting the sensor with a strap on your foot, pressing record, and jumping. Some of the metrics Output has added to their jump testing include takeoff velocity, contact time, RSI, height, and others.
When it comes to the jump testing, Output has the ability to measure numerous metrics that a force plate system will cover without all of the bulk. While it may miss some of the variables a force plate will catch due to the constant shifting of forces throughout a CMJ, DJ, or any other jump test, the Output system still provides ample quality data. Overall, the data Output can provide for a bevy of jump tests is an excellent part of the system.When it comes to the jump testing, Output has the ability to measure numerous metrics that a force plate system will cover without all of the bulk, says @sgfeld27. Click To Tweet
Sprint and Field Metrics
Through their consistent development over the past year, Output has made the sensor far more versatile as they track contacts that go beyond the weight room. If the goal of tracking data for velocity-based training is truly to track all movements with velocity from 0.3m/s up to over 10m/s, then having a device that can measure all of these is a possible gamechanger. With the inclusion of all jump- and sprint-based field contact metrics, Output makes this possible.
Some of the features Output has recently added include airtime, contact time, and peak acceleration force. These are great additions to the timing feature they already had in their system, although it is not possible to use one system in multiple ways at the same time with the same device. Using these features to look at sprinting, sprint drills, bounding, and hurdle hops among other exercises really helps to create a more complete athlete picture.Using these features to look at sprinting, sprint drills, bounding, and hurdle hops among other exercises really helps to create a more complete athlete picture, says @sgfeld27. Click To Tweet
When profiling athletes, having data that includes both sprint speed and power can go a long way, and the ability to pair all this data with video makes it even more useful. Understanding how our athletes sprint and jump and move in general can likely tell us even more about them than understanding just their lifting capabilities. Within this system we are able to capture information that shows us metrics that can be directly translated to sport-specific activities.
Providing a system that allows sport-specific profiling is a major benefit of the Output system. While it is neither a contact grid nor a force plate, the Output system goes beyond that of a velocity-based sensor and can proves to somewhat successfully replace a grid and/or a plate.
Depending on the sector you are in, not all strength coaches are accompanied by athletic trainers or other similar professionals as coworkers. Having an Output system can help replace others who may run specific assessments, including range of motion tests.
Of the multitude of tests the Output system allows for, there are a plethora of mobility tests for all limbs. From head to toe, having an Output system allows a user to see if their athletes can check off proper mobility at each joint. Additionally, the Output system can measure the angle of failure and speed of movement for Nordic hamstring curls, which can be used in return to play settings for eccentric hamstring strength. There are also balance options, which offer the ability to measure an athlete’s steadiness when standing, and stability options to observe trunk stability throughout planks.
Having diagnostic and assessment tools within their software makes Output systems a one stop shop for practitioners. Overall, they have created a product that works very well to capture not only velocity-based training but also metrics that fully provide details into every athlete’s whole profile.Having diagnostic and assessment tools within their software makes Output systems a one stop shop for practitioners, says @sgfeld27. Click To Tweet
As a newer system to the market, it is imperative that Output makes sure they develop at a rate that ensures they can compete and/or collaborate with other devices. Launched in February 2020, this is only year two for the company commercially, though the research behind the tech commenced in 2013. Nonetheless, their company has already proven that it truly is dedicated to consistently developing and improving their product in all facets. They are able to provide such great improvements by having a staff who knows both the back end and front end of what they are working with.
Staff and Accessibility
The Output team is led by their CEO, Martin O’Reilly, a former lecturer in biomechanics with a Ph.D. in Machine Learning in Sports. O’Reilly co-founded the company with sports medicine lecturer and researcher Dr. Darragh Whelan and award-winning physicist and national handball player Julian Eberle. The team prides itself on listening to the needs of practitioners, and constantly taking feedback and advice from end-users like me. They then aim to use their interdisciplinary skills to create new features and improve the value of the technology.The team prides itself on listening to the needs of practitioners, and constantly taking feedback and advice from end-users, says @sgfeld27. Click To Tweet
Even more important than their knowledge both of coaching needs and product creation is their easy access and constant development. While COVID times have created far more physical distance than ever and limited in-person events, connectivity has not felt too much different overall. While time zones and distances can feel like worlds apart, the ability to link up via Zoom and WhatsApp at almost any time creates social connectedness regardless. Having the ability to communicate at all times and input suggested changes or improvements will go a long way towards the success of Output.
Peak Behind the Curtain
Because it is such a young company, Output Sports is not quite yet at their full development. At the moment, a drawback is that they are only supported on Android platforms. As such, there are plans for iOS product workability in order to be accessible to most users by the end of 2021. Additionally, there are more functions to come for velocity-based training that may improve things like capturing bar path, among other options.
The additional features are almost never-ending with all the work the team does at Output Sports. Even more impressive is their willingness to listen and true desire for feedback to develop their product endlessly. This cannot be understated as it is certainly what it takes to become one of the better and more multipurpose products on the market.Even more impressive is their willingness to listen and true desire for feedback to develop their product endlessly, says @sgfeld27. Click To Tweet
Within college and professional organizations, travel is a mandatory part of the weekly routine. Having traveled with a force plate and NordBord previously, I can safely say that traveling with larger items like those is not an easy task. Of course, it can be done, but it is not exactly the most ideal thing. As force plates continue to develop in lighter fashions, though, that may change.
However, traveling with an Output system is so easy, you can practically forget you have brought it with you. If you already travel with an Android phone or tablet, then the heftiest piece of their travel kit has already been accounted for. If not, traveling with a tablet is quite simple as many of us already know.
If you have Output, even if you use other systems as well, the number of items you need when you travel decreases significantly. Having all or most systems combined into one is a great benefit of this product and can go a long way towards managing travel stress and hassle.
One of the greatest features of the Output software is their Hub. Their Hub allows for easy access of trends for all athletes throughout all uses of the device. Within the Hub are easy-to-make charts and graphs that highlight all of the device’s components.
The Hub provides great feedback for athletes to view their progress, and for coaches to see trends as well. Because Output provides a wide range of metrics, the Hub truly gives great insight as it does not require input from outside sources that then have to be merged—all the data is already right there.
From a behind the scenes perspective, navigating the Hub is very user friendly and great to work with. Within it there is the ability to shuttle between one athlete or a created group of athletes. Reports can be created within the Hub or exported to Excel to adjust further, and leaderboards offer the chance to rank athletes from event to event. Of course, having this to show to athletes can only help further incentivize them and make the system far more effective overall.
In general, any sort of sports science kit is no inexpensive cost, and many offer some sort of yearly subscription service. Having some combination of contact grids, timing gates, velocity-based training devices, and force plates can take no small amount of money and even potentially time to acquire and gain familiarity with.
That said, Output is not the most inexpensive itself and will run more expensive than a similar sensor system like that of the Vmaxpro. It also uses a yearly fee for service based on its features—but for all that it encompasses, the Output Sports system is very reasonably priced.
Overall, the Output Sports system is a great sports science kit. Especially when looking for a cost-effective versatile solution, the company provides a wonderful product.
One of the absolute greatest qualities about the company is their team and commitment to constant and consistent improvement. They are steady in their effort to develop a product that can serve just about all sports science needs in one place. With this effort, they have already created a user friendly system that works very well.One of the absolute greatest qualities about the company is their team and commitment to constant and consistent improvement, says @sgfeld27. Click To Tweet
While they are a very young company, their early returns show much promise for a successful long-term product. Although they may never be like their Irish countryman Conor McGregor and be the leader in a specific area of sports science, they are rightfully earning their name as a Swiss Army-type product by providing a plethora of options all in one place. As a company, they are also deeply focused on the potential for diverse performance data in one system.
Output Sports has started off well and the future is bright for them. If you have limitations in budget, space, or kit amounts, they are the perfect company to work with. I would definitely recommend getting to know them while they are still a younger company and building a relationship.
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