Most feedback athletes receive on their weight-lifting form is subjective. They rely on a coach or a mirror—and even the best coach in the world has trouble telling precisely what’s going on with every rep.
Mazen Elbawab, CEO of Heddoko, a combination app and biometric clothing system that debuts later this summer, wants to change that. He founded his company to create an empirical tracker of form during gym workouts.
“When I do a squat, the angles of my knees, the separation of my legs, my balance between my legs, these are objective evaluations. But if a coach is looking at my form, it’s subjective, it’s what she can see, and I’m relying on the attention of the coach, too,” he says. Heddoko, he promises, won’t be subjective. It will measure exactly what your personal form is like (live!), during each exercise.
Most smart (and we use the term loosely) fitness apparel today tries to track heart rate or muscle output. To capture those metrics, it needs to be skin-tight, which in our testing experience has led to uncomfortable, ugly clothes.
Heddoko is different. Its baggy tops and bottoms (which will launch in both a men’s and women’s version), are designed to track a body’s position via multiple sensor pods at the arms and legs, so it doesn’t need to be constrictively form fitting.
Read: it won’t make you look like a freak.
“The aesthetics are really important,” says Elbawab. “You don’t hire an engineer to put a suit together then hire a fashion designer to make it pretty.”
Here’s how it works. A user manually inputs her exercises on a companion app, which then displays a live, animated version of her working out. The app eventually compiles a database of example animations, allowing users to track progress and compare form against themselves, not “some gold-standard elite athlete who can do the very best squat in the world,” says Elbawab. The database will critique form to prevent injury, but it won’t dock you points if you can’t pull your elbows beyond 50 degrees for a row.
Think of it as a mirror designed to track minute imbalances and imperfections. Elbawab’s goal is to give wearers “actionable data they can use to get better at their gym workout.”
The tech might be especially beneficial for athletes in rehab who are working to regain full range of motion, says Elbawab. The database will have tracked a user’s pre-injury range of motion, giving her a target to strive toward.
Batteries and sensors are Heddoko’s main limitations right now. The apparel will launch with a battery about the size of a stack of business cards, and the sensors on the limbs will be visible (although at about the siz of a Gu shot, they’re smaller than what’s shown in Heddoko’s debut imagery).
But those batteries and sensors will shrink, Elbawab predicts. And when they do, personal trainers better watch out.