Carsten Frederiksen / Miha Drobinc (SuperTrening founder)

Friday, September 1, 2023 · 0 min read


Measuring and Monitoring Athletic Performance

“Citius, Altius, Fortius” is an Olympic motto that means “faster, higher, stronger.” Technologies like force plates and isometric stations are tools to improve or recover physical capabilities. They enable biomechanical testing of multiple aspects of athletes’ sports performance, such as baseline assessment, performance recovery, load monitoring, and power, strength, and stability. Slovenian SuperTrening needed to enhance its training services, and Dewesoft helped develop devices providing objective data.

Measuring technology can obtain and process objective data for quality training planning. For elite athletes, it can make the difference between victory and failure. Research confirms the usefulness of tests for monitoring progress and comparing athletes as indicators of athlete performance. 

SuperTrening helps professional and recreational athletes achieve the best physical fitness. Top sports have reached the level where all factors affecting the final result count. Training without performance measurements and diagnostics is guesswork. Testing and measuring the performance gives a clear insight into individual abilities and status and exposes room for improved performance.

Sports are popular and strongly developed in Slovenia. Team sports like football, basketball, volleyball, ice hockey, and handball. Individual sports like climbing, skiing, ski jumping, athletics, cycling, and tennis. Just think of the Grand Tour cycling stars Primož Roglič and Tadej Pogačar. 

Celje, the home of SuperTrening, is just the second largest regional center of the Slovenian region of Štajerska but the country’s most significant athletics center. The town is home to the first independent athletics club, the Celje Handball Club, and more Olympic champions and medalists, including the Olympic runner-up in snowboarding, Tim Mastnak, who trains and lives here.

In 2019, the SuperTrening Tech (ST Tech) gym opened its doors in Celje. Its team of experienced physical preparation specialists has more than ten years of experience working with more than 1,000 athletes of all levels. Today the gym works with athletes of all levels. From children and recreational athletes to top professionals. It offers an environment and space to feel good, make the maximum effort, and achieve results. 

Figure 1. SuperTrening co-founder Miha Drobnič.

I run the company together with my friends Domen Bremec and Robert Simonič. It is a professional yet relaxed environment. We deal with the strength and conditioning of top athletes, and rehabilitation, and organize international seminars on training and sports science.

The main point is to help athletes who want to become (the) best at what they do. The assistance includes applying the latest technology and approaches in sports science, measurement, and diagnostics to assess sports, biomechanical, and health metrics.

Figure 2. The SuperTrening gym.

Athletic Monitoring Services at SuperTrening

  • Cross-sectional measurements
    SuperTrening carries out cross-sectional measurements comparing individuals with available reference values. E.g., an athlete in the Slovenian first league to an athlete at the Champions League level. This way, the athletes get a clear picture of their status compared to the highest professional level of physical fitness.

  • Longitudinal measurements
    SuperTrening also performs longitudinal measurements, where the athlete is measured periodically to monitor progress accurately. After each performance measurement, we advise the individual about the next steps of training based on the obtained data. Additionally, we check whether the training progresses in the desired direction.

  • Immediate feedback
    On specific exercises, SuperTrening also provides immediate responses to training, individual feedback displayed by the DewesoftX software. The individual athletes can then instantly correct their performance according to the data-based feedback. In daily practice, SuperTrening focuses on developing a carefully designed training program that adapts to the individual. 

We obtain an objective picture of the athlete's physical performance level through testing and measurements. We can compare this with reference values in databases and assess progress upon retesting. The testing follows this procedure:

  1. An initial analysis to determine the tests and most important parameters to progress on the field or in sports activities,

  2. The actual performance of the selected test protocols, e.g., jump, sprint, fitness, or strength,

  3. Analysis and interpretation of test results, and

  4. Recommend exercise guidelines and training programs for further individual work and development of the athlete following responses to training.

Figure 3. Tim Mastnak is celebrating his silver medal at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

An Example - the Snowboarder Tim Mastnak

Olympic runner-up in snowboarding Tim Mastnak is one of the more than 1,000 athletes in Slovenia and abroad who have already used the services and equipment. He is currently training for the next winter season. 

The Celje-born champion began his snowboarding career in 2011 when he became the junior world champion in parallel giant slalom. He achieved his first World Cup victory in 2018 in Scuol, Switzerland. In 2022, he returned home from the Winter Olympics in Beijing with a silver medal.

"I trust my coaches. But the technology confirms our efforts,” says Tim Mastnak. “Thanks to such technology, I progress from one training session to the next. At the level of professional sports, my level, every little thing contributing to improving my physical form and the final result is welcome."

Figure 4. Tim Mastnak preparing for the coming season using a tensiometry plate for various types of jumps.

SuperTrening and Dewesoft

Some years ago, I trained with a friend in Trbovlje. We often talked about technology for measuring sports performance. We found that the companies whose sensors we used needed to be more responsive to our suggested equipment improvements. They simply weren't willing to fix the limitations in their software. The refusal triggered our motivation to do something, to develop a solution ourselves. 

Everything changed after our first meeting with mentor Mihael Gornik from Dewesoft in the business accelerator Katapult. The follow-up meeting with the president of Dewesoft, dr. Jure Knez directed us to MonoDAQ, which today is named Dewesoft Monitoring

MonoDAQ d.o.o. was founded in 2015 to develop and sell low-cost measuring devices and operates within Katapult. In 2018, the MonoDAQ team developed integrated accelerometers for long-term vibration monitoring of bridges and wind turbines. These proved surprisingly adaptable in sports as well.

We found that MonoDAQ could help us develop all the sensors we had imagined. I started learning the basics of electronics and the Dewesoft software, and at the same time, we created our company SuperTrening.

SuperTrening started cooperating with Dewesoft to:

  1. Develop technology enabling feedback on the specific movement ability of an individual - strength, power, speed,

  2. Develop technology for monitoring athletes’ progress and guiding coaches and athletes in their training process, and

  3. Transfer the solutions developed to other areas - such as rehabilitation, recreational exercise, the entertainment industry, and space technology.

The SuperTrening Facility 

The Supertrening gym is a 150 m2 space with artificial grass and 2cm gym-thick rubber flooring. It includes a section with artificial grass for sled push, loaded carries, plyometrics, acceleration, or other movement-based activities. The lifting section is covered with thick rubber to absorb the impact of throwing the weights. 

The machinery includes a self-motorized Curved Treadmill for sprints and conditioning and an Exer-Genie for resisted sprints. Also, a kBox4 from Exxentric FlyWheel Training device, LPT for Velocity-based training from ChronoJump, and a MuscleLab contact grid for jump measurements are available.

It’s all there: The gym has two double racks (4-6 lifting spots), five Olympic bars, three U-Bar, Monkey Bars, Pull Up Bars, 630kg of bumper plates, and dumbbells from 1 to 30kg. As well as sleds, medicine balls, wall balls, mini Medballs, and kettlebells from 4 to 32 kg.

A SuperTrening measurement display - the DewesoftX user interface is highly customizable

We use the DewesoftX software included with all Dewesoft DAQ hardware. It may seem complicated, but the data acquisition software can record video in sync with analog and digital data. It has a highly customizable user interface. You can design your screens. You may record any signal from any sensor and analyze data in real time and after recording. 

The software’s main advantage is the easy synchronization of video recording and data. For data capture, we calibrate the sensor properly and set up the software to record each step of the jump correctly. 

With the appropriate display setting in the measurement mode of the DewesoftX software, the metrics are within reach as soon as the athlete lands back on the force plate. In this way, we get data on the height of the jump through two different calculations, the execution time for individual phases, and most importantly, data on the force behaviour throughout the entire push.

Currently, SuperTraining is developing three new training devices supported by Dewesoft equipment:

  1. A force or tensiometry plate, 

  2. An ISO or isometric plate, and 

  3. A photocell timing system.

New training technology

Figure 6. SuperTrening uses the force plate to measure various jumps and isometric or eccentric-concentric strength.

Force Plate

We are currently developing our force plate or tensiometry plate. Force plates allow athletes and coaches to analyze the Ground Reaction Force (GRF) of athletes during walks, runs, or other physical exercises like jumping. 

A force plate is a surface upon which athletes can perform a variety of movements while it detects and measures the forces exerted on it. The instrument consists of a metal plate under-rigged by strain gauges or load cells that measure forces and time at high-frequencies. Force plates allow athletes and coaches to analyze the Ground Reaction Force (GRF) of athletes during walks, runs, or other physical exercises like jumping. 

Force plates typically present measurement values in Newtons (N). When the frequency of the force data is known, it can perform additional measurements providing far more information about human movement. With some basic math, this information can measure:

  • Velocity (m/s) 

  • Power (Watts)

  • Displacement (Meters)

  • Temporal parameters (Seconds)

  • Left/Right Asymmetry (for bilateral systems) 

At SuperTrening, the plate consists of two scales, one for the left and one for the right leg, which capture force data 1000 times per second (1000 Hz). Each scale contains four load cell sensors and one Dewesoft measuring instrument IOLITEi-1xSTG.

We most often measure six types of jumps with the plate:

  • Squat jumps,

  • Countermovement jumps,

  • Arms-free countermovement jumps,

  • Single-leg countermovement jumps,

  • Drop jumps, and

  • Reactive jumps.

In addition, we use the plate to measure:

  • Accelerations, speeds, and distances during explosive movements (concentric and eccentric phase),

  • Asymmetries between the left and right sides during various exercises, especially during the rehabilitation phase, e.g., push-ups, squats, deadlifts, and

  • Free-mode – other data that are of interest to us from the point of view of force when performing exercises.

The Dewesoft data acquisition software stores the data for later evaluation

If a medal depends on high-quality training, modern coaches depend on sophisticated technological equipment that helps them develop the most optimal movement for the athlete through the data obtained.

By analyzing force, we can identify specific things that affect the athlete’s final result. E.g., if the braking force on the right leg is periodically significantly less than on the left, the athlete cannot brake as aggressively with the right leg - he has reduced eccentric strength. 

Obtaining such data will significantly influence the planning of further training. The coach can introduce specific exercises for the right leg that increase the ability to brake aggressively. We apply such practices in lower limb injury rehabilitation, where we want to reduce asymmetries between the left and right leg over time.

Asymmetry is just one example of the practical application of force curve analysis in a counter-movement jump. Over time, we will include more parameters in the DewesoftX software. The measurements not only strengthen the athletes but even more the coaching knowledge. With the help of such developed equipment, coaches obtain key facts and indicators about the athlete's performance, which they include in upgrading their work with athletes.

Figure 8. Isometric muscle contraction exercise on the ISO plate in front of the DewesoftX measurement display.

ISO Plate – Measurement of Isometric Strength

An isometric exercise is a form of exercise involving the static contraction of a muscle without any visible movement in the angle of the joint. Isometric Strength Testing consists in setting the athletes up at a desired joint angle that is either specific to their sport or effectively isolates the muscle or joint needing rehabilitation. They then push or pull at maximum effort or within their pain-free capabilities.

The ISO plate can measure the rate of force development, submaximal isometric strength, and maximal isometric strength. Isometric Strength Testing enables to: 

  • Test strength and asymmetries through intricate joint functions, which will assist in piecing together pain/injury presentations in the physiotherapy rooms.

  • Test baseline strength and progression over a training journey.

Figure 9. The strain gauge amplifier, IOLITEi-1xSTG.

The ISO plate consists of a load cell sensor, the most advanced self-retracting system for strip length adjustment on the market, and Dewesoft's IOLITEi-1xSTG. The IOLITE device is a configurable isolated strain gauge amplifier with EtherCAT bus and Dewesoft software support. The setup enables accurate measurement of the resistance of the test strips in full-bridge, half-bridge, and quarter-bridge configurations with any bridge excitation voltage. 

The IOLITEi-1xSTG is galvanically isolated, which reduces noise in the signal, so it is suitable for detecting both low and high elongations. The STG device transfers the data to the DewesoftX software through the EtherCAT protocol.

Figure 10. The ISO plate has a load cell sensor and an advanced self-tensioning tape system.

Rate of force development and maximal isometric strength

An athlete can exercise in many different ways, but the most common exercise is the squat. The athlete puts on a harness or belt, steps on the device, and fastens on the strap pressing the button to adjust it. Then lowers him or herself to the desired position, and releases the button to lock the system. With each pull-up, the sensor then detects the force generated by the athlete in this movement.

In this position, the athlete starts upwards as explosively as possible, and the sensor measures the rate of force development (RFD). This parameter indicates the level of the explosiveness of the individual. In addition, we can obtain data on the individual's maximum isometric strength at the same time. As no external load or weight is applied, this is the safest way to measure the force maximum.

For example, measuring submaximal isometric strength, the individual squats up while keeping a preset intensity level within a specified window. Immediate feedback and a clear display of results ensure that the motivation in this exercise is long-lasting and at a high level. 

This type of exercise does not cause micro-damage to the muscles. It means that the pain and stiffness felt in muscles after unaccustomed or strenuous exercise called DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) does not occur. This exercise method is extremely useful in rehabilitation, as we safely and precisely can monitor the individual's recovery.

Figure 11. The DewesoftX software displays data on how quickly the athlete developed force after 50 ms windows, the maximum achieved, and at what time.

Photocells - Speed Measurement

In cooperation with MonoDAQ, we developed a simple photocell system (timing gates) for measuring athletes' short-distance sprint times. Easy access to signal manipulation with Dewesoft mathematics allows us to determine the exact moment we want the sensor to detect the athlete. So, we decided on "torso detection". This means that from the signal’s shape, we can determine precisely when the athlete interrupts the laser with his torso. In this way, we avoid false triggers, e.g., when the laser is first interrupted by the hand.

Figure 12. Photocells capture short sprints and direction changes.
Figure 13. The MonoDAQ UX is inside the photocell housing.

Final Words

Dewesoft's measuring systems have two advantages:

  1. Dewesoft's hardware. Being much more accurate than the competition means we can trust the IOLITEi-1xSTG instrument signal 100%. 

  2. The DewesoftX software ensures the implementation of our ideas in straightforward software solutions.

The idea driving SuperTrening is helping athletes who want to become the best at what they do. We use the latest technology to assess an individual's sporting ability. The obtained data offer coaches and athletes an insight into various aspects of the athlete's performance: From daily monitoring of training to strength, power, and speed testing. Developed technologies have a significant impact on training planning and the final result itself.

The developed training devices are intended for professional athletes but can also serve as effective exercise aids for other users, e.g., home exercises. The ISO plate and the isometry station are light and portable and even offer a wide range of adjustments to the exercise intensity - to achieve similar loads through weights you need almost half a gym.

Another application of these devices could be astronaut training in space. With a few modifications, the ISO plate could be even lighter. Without weights, the plate can achieve extremely strong forces. The built-in sensor makes it easy to quantify the exercise and monitor progress.

As our primary expertise is in sports science, it’s hard to imagine our development of new technologies measuring and improving athletes’ performance without Dewesoft and Katapult. Dewesoft and Katapult take care of the engineering aspects of development. For us young entrepreneurs, regardless of the field in which we operate, this means we can reach even higher in our dreams.