When it comes to weightlifting, some exercises are significantly more novice-friendly than others. A simple barbell curl, for example, is pretty hard to get wrong. But a lot of exercises require proper form to maximize gains and to avoid injury — sometimes very serious injury. Squats and deadlifts are often the most intimidating exercise to new weightlifters, and have a lot of potential for injury if you aren’t lifting properly. That’s why a team of researchers from the University of Auckland’s Augmented Human Lab have developed GymSoles to correct weightlifters’ form.
When performing an exercise like a deadlift or squat — both with or without weight — it’s extremely important that your form is correct throughout the movement. Most people will turn to personal trainers to learn the correct form, but there are prototype solutions that utilize modern technology instead. Unfortunately, those are usually expensive or impractical to implement. Some use video motion-tracking, and some use a suite of IMU sensors. GymSoles is significantly more practical and less expensive, because it relies on the minimal amount of technology necessary to properly correct weightlifting form.
To accomplish that, the GymSoles are inserted into the user’s shoes like conventional insoles. The GymSoles consist of a pressure-sensitive mat and eight vibration motors. An Arduino monitors the pressure-sensitive mat to determine where the wearer’s center of pressure is, and the system checks to see if that pressure point is where it should be throughout the lift. If it isn’t, then the user is given feedback on how to adjust, either through haptic feedback using the vibration motors or visual feedback on a monitor. Although testing was only done with 13 participants, the results are promising and GymSoles could be a very valuable asset in gyms.