Watches/Sensors - Do I need one?

Discussion in 'Badminton Rackets / Equipment' started by Charlie-SWUK, Apr 30, 2018.

  1. Charlie-SWUK

    Charlie-SWUK Regular Member

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    So in 2007, we figured out how to put a personal computer literally in our pocket with a fancy touch screen and stuff. Then we figured, why not put them on our wrists? Hell, why not dump a tiny computer on the end of a badminton racket? We have seen tons of technological innovation in the past 10 years, and it's unsurprising we're looking at what we can do with it in sports. The idea of having a little sensor on the end of your racket accomplish the same task as a high speed camera, at the low cost of £30 or so, seems really appealing. But are they as useful as they say they are?

    Watches:
    Fitbit, Pebble, Garmin and now other watches like the Apple Watch are incorporating features for monitoring your calories, your heart rate, your sleep, everything you could imagine. I'm sure you've seen one at some point, and they usually retail for £100-£300 depending on which model you choose.

    I think one of the most popular uses for these devices is calories burned. However, to calculate how many calories you've been burning, the watch looks to your heart rate. Most of these watches will use a laser or optical sensor on your wrist, the sensor then detects changes to look for when your heart has had a beat. This is extremely unreliable, with wild fluctuations depending on brands. Especially at lower heart rates, the discrepancy can be enormous.

    What you further have to account for, is that in most of these studies they're looking at runners, or indoor cyclists (on an exercise bike or turbo trainer). Unlike racket sports, you aren't routinely tensing your wrists; while you may have to do this on mountain bikes, you certainly don't need to do this in a laboratory. In a racket sport, you're using your wrist at least once every 2.5 seconds as a core part of the game; even if you're just clearing, this is evidently an issue.

    At one point whilst using a FitbitHR and doing intense multi feed drills, my sensor reported I had climbed over 140 flights of stairs. That should tell you how accurate the metrics used by these devices are: they actually aren't very reliable at all. They look for very specific things, and if they miss or otherwise misidentify these things you end up with spurious data that doesn't tell you a lot of useful information.

    Racket Sensors:
    We all want to know how fast we smash, it's a pet curiosity: we see LCW smash and a satisfying 404kmph pop up in the corner, and we want to know how we stack up against that. These sensors promise us this information, but again, they work on accelerometers looking for very specific things. If my wrist watch can flagrantly lie about me climbing 140 flights of stairs, why would this device be more accurate?

    These devices even strive to tell us how many of each shot we've played, but did you consider it misread you scooping the shuttle up for your opponent after a rally as a net shot? Or when you swished your racket for fun, that it read that as a smash? These devices can not provide you with a comprehensive pool of information on your play; they're based on a very small amount of technology, with a very limited scope. One of the greater issues is that it doesn't even tell you how it's calculated: is it measuring your smash speed, your racket swing speed, where is point A and where is point B? They fundamentally lack key information points.

    They're also utterly awful to have on the end of your racket; not to mince words, they are absolutely noticeable. No matter how light they claim they are, or how you won't notice them, you will. You absolutely will. Go and get a big blob of blu-tac and stick it to the end of your racket, tell me how quickly it irritates you. 2 rallies and you'll hate the thing being there. It's deeply inconvenient, distracting, and takes away from the feel of your racket - it will defamiliarize you with the feel and touch of your racket.

    So what are these devices good for..?
    These devices are a self-comparative metric. If your racket sensor tells you, 2 months ago your swing was at 170kmph, and now it's 250kmph, then you can likely conclude there has been some change in your swing, and that there is probability it is a good change. If you see you now exercise for 45 minutes longer on average than you did 2 months ago because your watch told you, congratulations, your heart rate is higher for a little longer.

    These devices are good at making a sign post for you, to then establish a trend in information. They are not however, practical for telling you real world data such as swing speed or heart rate in a reliable fashion. If you want to look at general trends in what you're doing, these types of devices are ideal. If you want real metrics, you need better equipment. If you want better quality data, get yourself a camera or a coach. They'll serve you better.
     
    #1 Charlie-SWUK, Apr 30, 2018
    Last edited: May 1, 2018
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  2. varinder bansal

    varinder bansal New Member

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    It all depends on the individual whether he needs a badminton tracker or not. if an individual is not training under a trainer and wants to track his gameplay he shall consider in buying the badminton sensors as it is of great use. It helps in shot tracking,detection and various analysis to improve your game.
     
  3. Charlie-SWUK

    Charlie-SWUK Regular Member

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    I'm well aware you're the guy promoting your brand; you can make whatever claims you like, and I cannot with absolute certainty dismiss them as I haven't used your particular brand of tracker. The ones I have tried, have misreported racket movements, the 3D analysis was a joke, and as aforementioned, the 'racket speed' thing didn't provide enough information to tell me anything useful.
     
  4. LenaicM

    LenaicM Regular Member

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    Weighed the pros and the cons of sensors for a while last october after starting badminton as I have no coach available anywhere near my home and ended using the video solution. My main issue was that if I use a sensor for the speed of my smash for example, even if I increase the speed of it one session after another, how do I know I apply the correct technique. Speed increase on a smash from one session to another doesn’t necessarily mean a better smash on the long run.

    Using video is not always fun though as it is time consuming and I record myself almost every session before reviewing on week ends, days after the actual session. You need to be auto critical and watch a lot of matches or tutorial videos and try to replicate what’s right. It doesn’t replace a coach which will instantly correct you on court but it works for me in the meantime I move back to Asia where I will have an easier access to a coach.
     
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  5. Charlie-SWUK

    Charlie-SWUK Regular Member

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    Absolutely, but it's very easy to think "Hey! This is going to do all these jobs for me!", and coming to the stark realization that it doesn't do those jobs.
     
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  6. Ensio

    Ensio Regular Member

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    My 5 cents, I would say; If you are doing some base endurance training with a plan before the season starts the equipment can be good. If you dont know your body, rest levels and work zones. In my oppinion you should go to a test center before you start to monitor your heart levels with a watch.:eek: The built in heart rate analyzing metrics doesnt work for you, its a generalization. Training games can be good if you want to record and analyze shots, does it simulate a real game no, IN a game situation you dont need to worry about calories or shot frequency , just win the game. :):rolleyes:

    I had a lot of cycling equipment back in the days to track my improvment, did it make me win, no.

    The human is an adaption machine, so vary your training, improvement will happen

    Proper human training 1 to 1 will always win all gadgets. /at least in badminton, as technique plays an big role

    I would put my gadget money to 4-5 proper training session instead.
     
    #6 Ensio, May 14, 2018
    Last edited: May 14, 2018
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  7. Basquests

    Basquests Regular Member

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    The point about calories and heart rate tracking is a fair one, and one I always contextualize.

    The main way I contextualize it is looking how many steps I did in my session, in half hour chunks - this is how i guesstimate footwork, which is the main driver of variable energy consumption. You are going to be playing a lot of shots, and we can't measure how many, nor how much energy a clear uses vs a drop shot vs a smash. However, if we are doing twice the footwork, that's important; most people aren't too lazy with their shot making to the extent they are with their footwork.

    I think it'd be very rare you do a lot less footwork, but use more energy; smashing etc, requires a lot of steps to set up and complete a smash / recover and reset, which is what a high level player that might be smashing a lot, would be doing.

    In a 2 hour session i do around 10-11000 steps. In the half hour chunks, I get around 2500-3000 steps per half hour, if I've played that entire half hour [i.e. not rested].

    In table tennis its about the same [i play that to a reasonably high amateur level] i.e. since both are the same, i know my body is the limiting factor most likely, as there ought to be some difference in steps per hour, in each sport [although TT is singles, badminton is doubles - I'm sure half an hour of singles would be 3500+, which is why it is the most tiring].

    When you are fit and in good shape, you don't only take big steps, you take small precise ones to finalize your positioning. Older or less fit players try [consciously/subconsciously] take on a bigger proportion of large steps, and aren't constantly resetting their court position to the same extent after playing a shot, which reduces their step count a lot. If I'm playing at only 50% / playing very lazily, the step count and heart rate go way down. To like 1700 or 2200 steps / half hour.

    When you feel less fatigue / or are able to play at a higher intensity step wise, things are going well. With heart rate, yes it can definitely be quite unstable to track given the technology all smartwatches are currently using, with regards to racquet sports measurement
     
    #7 Basquests, Nov 28, 2020
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2020
  8. michael5098

    michael5098 Regular Member

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    I've been using a Mi Band 4 and recently a Fit Bit Versa 2 and although I find mine really useful, I have to agree with most people here that it doesn't provide any helpful data to improve your badminton game. Fitbit and almost all fitness trackers are configured for runners because that's the main demographic. This is most evident with fitbit since it requires running at a steady pace with GPS on to estimate your fitness/cardio level.

    Heart rate:
    Good to know your resting heart rate but doesn't do much to track intensity of a badminton match. I've had some real heart pumping games with lot of movement and lunges and heart rate was only recording slightly above normal. From my experience, fitness trackers work better when going at a steady heart rate and bad at HIIT or any explosive type of sports.

    Zone Minutes or equivalent:
    Most fitness trackers will have a tracker on how much "intense" exercise you do i.e. how long you are above a certain heart rate. This is a just pulling the heart rate rate and contextualizing it. Good to know but not helpful/accurate for badminton.

    Floors:
    Not useful for badminton.

    Calories:
    Not accurate plus I don't count calories.

    Distance:
    Could be useful but I don't use the data. From what I gather it's just steps + GPS data.

    Steps:

    As mentioned by Basquests this is the only data I look at when I want to analyse how my sessions went. And the data seems to back up. For example if I see I have less steps then usually, it's one of two reasons: games are too easy or too hard (can't defend shots so less steps). If I have more steps than usually it means I have intense games (not too easy not too hard) and more movement. I know it's not super scientific but it's the only data I find useful for badminton.
     
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