Soldiers ‘use force’ to stay fighting fit

James Cook University researchers have given soldiers a potential new way to work out based on assessments from force plates – special mechanical sensing systems.

JCU Sport and Exercise Science Associate Professor Anthony Leicht said the plates, which measure the forces generated by an individual during activities, showed potential to support individualised training.

In a study recently published by a team of JCU researchers, 14 male and five female Australian Army soldiers were randomly allocated to two groups and performed five weeks of physical training with assessments using force plate technology before and after the training period.

During the study, one group of participants completed a standard group-designed regimen while the other group modified their training based on the metrics provided by the force plates.

“What we found is that individualising training is feasible in the military and that personnel are no worse off than what they’re currently doing. In some cases, there were some aspects that might be better, particularly if they’ve got an imbalance in musculoskeletal performance,” Associate Prof Leicht said.

“So, the force plate technology might be able to identify this imbalance and then use the metrics provided by the plate to guide training for these people. Such training may minimise the risk of future injuries coming to fruition.

“There was some indication that their force plate assessment profile can be amended with training and what you get at the end of the training is essentially a military person who has maintained their fitness, and in some cases, improved aspects.

“We found that one of the strength metrics was better in the modified training group with the other metrics essentially the same.

“Importantly, we didn’t make anything worse by doing this individualised type of training.”

Associate Prof Leicht said that the study was a collaboration between JCU and Army to trial the effectiveness of the force plates with the hopes of better informing how the military could conduct future physical training.

“This was a preliminary study to test whether we could use this technology in a military setting, which we can, and what kind of results could be achieved in a military population who have quite diverse roles,” he said.

“Obviously, physical fitness is important for the military and if someone gets injured, that not only poses a risk to the organisation but to the country. Therefore, training to enhance fitness while minimising injury risk is of paramount importance.”

Associate Prof Leicht said he and his team would ideally like to do further studies of the technology with military personnel over a longer period of time to determine whether it could help reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injury.

The study was conducted by lead author and recent JCU alumnus and University Medal recipient Dr Chelsea Smith and staff from JCU Sport and Exercise Science including Dr Kenji Doma, Brian Heilbronn and Associate Prof Leicht.

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