Michael Johnson Performance (MJP) is a total-solution training center, founded by their namesake, for the athlete that wants to achieve their dreams. Whether that’s an Olympian that’s getting ready for the Tokyo Olympics, or it’s the nine-year-old down the street that just wants to get off the bench.

Lance Walker, VP and Global Performance Director for MJP, focuses on implementing the best practices and technologies to help athletes reach their dreams. His challenge was finding a body composition solution that was efficient enough to test athletes regularly and accurate enough to provide trustworthy results. Frustrated with the time and resources it took to conduct gold standard tests, Walker found InBody to be a solution that could efficiently test the large number of athletes that daily came through their facility with highly correlated accuracy. After careful vetting, Walker has fully integrated InBody into MJP methodologies to help MJP achieve its mission of helping every athlete reach their athletic potential.

Seeking Innovation in Body Composition Analysis

Before Michael Johnson was a 4-time gold medalist and 8-time world champion, he was just a kid from North Texas who ran differently. He ran with an upright “choppy” running style that was drastically different from his competitors. Growing up, all the kids made fun of him for how it looked. Almost every college coach that recruited him wanted to change his form. When he turned professional, track commentators said he had the talent to be a world champion… if he changed his running style.

Even though he experienced tremendous success at every level, people doubted his ability to continue to succeed in his style. Whenever Johnson questioned why he needed to change it if he kept winning, most just pointed to history and said every past champion at this level ran this way, not your way.

How did Johnson defy the critics? It was only later in Johnson’s career that researchers, conducting a study on his biomechanics, found that his upright style was much more efficient and effective at generating power than the “proper” form. If he listened to his critics as a child and conformed, we might not know him as one the fastest men in history. People found that just because something is different, it doesn’t always mean it’s wrong. It could be an innovation.

Today, trainers at Michael Johnson Performance embody that innovative mindset by using state-of-the-art technologies to study every athlete’s movement before they begin training. After analyzing the data and finding areas of opportunities to improve, trainers at MJP then create a personalized training program for each athlete. Instead of trying to fit every athlete into a mold of what they should look like, MJP looks to create individualized training paths for each athlete to maximize their performance.

Walker believes that technological monitoring is the backbone to that freethinking and innovative approach. Transitioning from the eleven years as a coach, physiologist, and researcher to more of a top-level, down approach, Lance Walker, Global Performance Director, thinks about how to innovate and how to bring best practices to MJP to leverage against the results that their athletes come to expect.

Trainers at MJP optimize athletic performance by gathering data that shows how the athlete is responding through different markers so that they know exactly what is working and what isn’t so they can quickly pivot to a better solution. A key marker for Walker and MJP is body composition.

“We truly believe that a lot of performance and function is built on structure.  And, part of that structure is body composition. We know that if we don’t measure [body composition], if we don’t monitor that, and we don’t train that or somehow augment that… they may not realize their full potential.”

Walker understood the need for body composition analysis to be done for MJP athletes. The challenge was finding the time to test a professional athlete using established body composition methods, like DEXA or hydrostatic weighing. These methods were not designed to handle the volume of testing that a modern performance training center would require. Athletes would have to sacrifice an entire day to test, and most trainers could fit in only one or two tests during a training program period. Instead of using body composition analysis as a monitoring tool to continually evaluate the progress, it became instead just a series of data points to hit.

“I think that’s something we’ve done in the past wrong… We have this one point and this other point way off here in the distance, and what we haven’t done is monitor the trends along the way.”

They tried solutions that were easier to implement like skinfold analysis, but the trainers knew these weren’t the best practices. A former colleague in sports science suggested Walker consider Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA) devices. But Walker was skeptical because it seemed to good to be true– how could a BIA device analyze body composition in sixty seconds and be accurate?

Because MJP leverages the best practices globally in performance training to ensure that athletes realize their fullest potential for their sport, Walker sought to thoroughly understand and see if InBody had truly innovated BIA technology.

Turning from a Skeptic to a Supporter

After taking the time to learn more about InBody technology, Walker began to realize how different the technology was to the BIA he learned in his textbooks.

“The technology has gotten…so much better that now they’re making some claims that this is validated against some of the gold standards that I do have faith in that but are too time-intensive and too cumbersome.”

If what InBody was claiming was true, that meant that its body composition analyzer was accurate enough to be validated against DEXA but at the fraction of the time and resources it would have taken to operate a DEXA full time at MJP.

Walker invited a world-renown nutritional Ph.D. to help run trials with the InBody against methods they were currently using during MJP’s most critical time period: NFL Combine training season. This is when prospective NFL athletes look to MJP to help them prepare for the most important job interview of their lives. From the end of the collegiate seasons to the NFL Combine, these high-level athletes have a limited time period to get even better. Even small improvements could mean millions of dollars more in their contract. The challenge for MJP trainers was trying to convince an athlete to give up a day to test on the DEXA when they much rather train.

Going into the trial, Walker and the Ph.D. knew how quick and easy the InBody test was, but they had the same “I don’t think it’s going to be accurate” mindset. After reviewing the results, they had an, ”Oh wow!” moment.  

“We really don’t need to do anything else, except the InBody. We got all the information we needed. It was reliable. It was effective. It was efficient, and it was something that the athletes began to trust and look to do every week to note their improvements.”

Walker continued to consult with different PhD clinicians that were experts in body composition testing. As a group, these clinicians were pessimistic about BIA technology and many of them would not have considered exploring this topic until Walker brought it to their attention. He shared the results he was getting, and the approach InBody took to develop those results. He posed a simple question to them. “Tell me why I shouldn’t trust this technology?”

This what they told him:

“Based on the multifrequency model they’re using, based on some of the results we’re seeing from some of the Whitepaper, there’s a strong possibility that these guys are right – that [InBody] is going to be validated against DEXA.” It’s absolutely better than anything we’ve ever seen from the previous technology.”

Just like Michael Johnson pushed the limits of speed with his record-breaking form,  Walker found that InBody had pushed the field of BIA to levels of efficiency and accuracy that other professionals didn’t think was possible.

Consistent, Quick, and Easy Monitoring Throughout The Training Season

The validation from his colleagues helped Walker trust the technology. What ultimately sold InBody was the functionality. Very quickly, InBody testing became a vital piece of weekly monitoring for athletics improvement because it showed trainers and athletes what was working and what was not.

In any given day, three, four, or even give hundreds of athletes to go through their facility. From major league baseball players to the NFL off-season program to even the youth training, MJP trainers are able to get body composition results quickly and accurately for all of these athlete with InBody.

“….the efficiency of being able to get this information very quickly and accurately, and having it not choke the throughput down of what is three, or four, or five hundred athletes a day circling through this space… Now, suddenly, you’ve ticked two very, very important boxes for us. And, when it’s both effective and efficient, now it’s something that not only do we need to consider it, we need to make sure that this is integrated into our programming.”

MJP has thrown out all the old school methods they used in the past to get their numbers, and they can monitor key metrics over the course of six, eight, twelve, or twenty-four-week program. Athletes can get instead feedback–positive, negative, neutral–on the impact of their work the previous week through the Body Composition History Chart. They get more motivated and more invested to get their body composition tests every week because they’re getting feedback on what they did the previous week to take care of their bodies.

All data is supplied from InBody USA. Learn more about the InBody Result Sheet here.

For trainers, they can analyze InBody data in real-time- whether it be for nutrition, resistance training, etc – and then make on-the-spot recommendations. They can sell this solution back to the athlete by pointing to their body composition results as evidence of what is working, what isn’t working, and where they need to pivot in their training.

“[The InBody Test] opens an entirely more expansive dialogue around why body composition is being measured, how it impacts your performance, and how what we’re doing in training impacts the body comp. And, suddenly, it really ties the practitioner together with the data, and it makes sense, and it becomes actionable for the athlete.”

As any coach will tell you, you can have the best program in the world but if the athlete doesn’t buy in, it’s not going to help the coach or the athlete to improve. And that is the power of the InBody– athletes trust the results they are getting and that helps validate the training. Sometimes too well for Walker’s taste as he found that the athletes began to place their trust in the InBody machine more than the exercise physiologist.

Using Body Water Analysis for Athletic Recovery

The more MJP used InBody, the more they realized that they could go beyond monitoring program performance and use outputs such as extracellular water and total body water to assist in the functionality of recovery. The focus shifted away from monitoring water for the sake of lean body mass to looking at these things and asking, “How are they adapting to the training that we’re proving them and/or the recovery processes that are going on?”

Walker and his staff always suspected that not all athletes recovered the same way from training. Using InBody has helped in their efforts to shift their regeneration protocols from one-size-fits-all to a targeted and personal approach.

“Body water ratio became a real metric now for our coaches, and for our athletes, as a recovery metric. And, being able to then use that with these other biometric markers has really enabled us to get sharp on this concept of individualized recovery, and regeneration, and early signs of overreaching. We’ve really been able to cut that back tremendously with more sensitive tools like InBody. ”

With the ECW/TBW ratio, trainers started to see when athletes that were going into an overreaching period, or an overstressed period of time. They even saw some interesting changes with athletes that were probably not recovering with their diet correctly, or in some cases were doing the opposite.

During periods of intense training, Walker and his staff saw the effect of that extra workload on segmental extracellular/total body water ratio. The physical therapy staff could then prescribe more in-facility treatments to bring the inflammation and swelling down.

Of course, most of the recovery occurs outside of the facility. Sleep, diet, and extracurricular activities all have a significant impact on recovery. The InBody device is so sensitive and powerful, it can pick up on these disruptions to any of these factors.

Half serious Walker says, “Alcohol consumption and the ratio of extracellular water to total body water.  I think that would be a great, great study to do, because I know we’re seeing it anecdotally here.”

With InBody, Walker doesn’t have to rely on questionnaires to see how well the athlete is following the recovery and nutrition recommendations.

Building Trust by Providing Actionable Results

To help athletes reach their fullest potential, Walker found himself turning his skepticism into support for the InBody body composition analyzer. The body composition testing fueled the MJP mission. It forced everybody to be better versions of themselves. And it also built stronger relationships between trainers and athletes because of the individualization.

“With the advent of technologies like InBody, I really don’t think there’s any reason to why you wouldn’t want to do more monitoring over the course of time. …  It’s going to get you ultimately better results. And, it’s also going to demand of your training program and your trainer better results. It’s going to help force everybody to be better versions of themselves.”

With the help of accurate machines like InBody, MJP has become very sharp in the space of body composition and can monitor their athletes in any season. The more they could monitor body composition, the better they were able to use those data points as true diagnostics of what’s going on. And, that’s how MJP is using body composition now: one more piece of critical metric data to monitor the training process all along the way.

Body composition allows MJP trainers to not only benchmark athletes but also monitor their training and influence with those athletes and the effectiveness of those systems. Trainers build better relationships with their athletes because they’re able to gain insight into how well an athlete is performing and recovering for constant and accurate analysis.  MJP athletes continue to stay ahead of the curve, now with the help of InBody.

“What we’re all about is the end of the day results. Day to day, week to week, month to month; “Are you better than you were yesterday? If so, we’re winning. And, if not, why not? We need to come up with some solutions for that.” And, that’s what InBody helps us do.”

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