Jamie Morton

Jamie Morton is science reporter at the NZ Herald.

Visiting sports scientist unveils super-suit

Joe Dolcetti talks with NZ Commonwealth Games Athlete Portia Bing, who tries out the Exoskeleton training gear that has been developed as a training aid. Photo / Greg Bowker
Joe Dolcetti talks with NZ Commonwealth Games Athlete Portia Bing, who tries out the Exoskeleton training gear that has been developed as a training aid. Photo / Greg Bowker

It can make them better than they were - better, stronger, faster.

Just like in TV's The Six Million Dollar Man, the visiting creator of a new wearable exoskeleton for high-performance athletes is using cutting-edge technology to push the human body to its furthest bounds.

Canadian sports scientist Joe Dolcetti, chief executive of LILA Movement Technology, unveiled his Exogen Exoskeleton at AUT University's Milennium Institute this morning before a group of elite trainers from New Zealand's rowing, weighlifting, yachting, netball and rugby sevens teams.

The suit, designed to apply muscle resistance while still allowing its wearer full movement of their body, is presently being trialed by some of the US' top sportspeople, including players from the NHL, NBA, NFL and pro-baseball league.

Demonstrating it ahead of its international launch in Las Vegas next month, Mr Dolcetti told the Herald he was keen to offer an exclusivity deal to the All Blacks ahead of next year's Rugby World Cup.

He and his team spent ten years developing the exoskeleton and trialing it with high performance athletes around the world.

In doing so, they created a training product capable of targeting specific muscles, movements and skills.

Among the suit's functions were light-weight resistance pads that could be applied to most any of the body's muscles or movements, adding loads ranging from 50 grams to 10 per cent of the wearer's body weight.

Mr Dolcetti said the suit's design allowed athletes to adjust the suit to meet the training requirements of their sport, while allowing their bodies full flexibility and movement.

His research had shown the training in the suit resulted in a 17 per cent improvement rate in power and speed after five weeks, a 10 per cent improvement in muscle recovery and a 12 per cent boost in energy expenditure and calorie burning.

Presently, AUT University's Sports Performance Research Institute of New Zealand (SPRINZ) is researching its effect on various aspects of performance.

The research sought to establish a body of empirical evidence for the benefits of training with the exoskeleton, and AUT's research team saw potential to improve training results through its use.

Mr Dolcetti said AUT University had been chosen as its first international research partner as it was recognised as one of the world's leading research centres for the study of human performance - specifically in the areas of strength, speed and power.

"Collaborating with a New Zealand team was also a draw card - home to a sports-mad and active population and New Zealand has something no other country in the world has - the All Blacks," he said.

"A lot of countries play sports but Kiwis live it. It just made sense."

Dr Adam Storey, of AUT University, said while the suit had just been unveiled, there had already been "a lot of interest" in it from New Zealand's high-performance sport sector.

The New Zealand Rugby Union did not immediately respond to requests for comment this afternoon.

*Dr Storey is seeking participants for a study to determine the effects of the Exogen vest on strength and power during Olympic weightlifting movements across a 5 week training period. People interested can phone him on 021 212 4200 or email him at adam.storey@aut.ac.nz.

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