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Tackling Tech: Science and Technology - Using Brains to Build Muscle with Skulpt

In this week's column, Bob explains how an innovator's fitness tracker device could change the way consumers look at muscle building and maintenance by providing precise measurements of muscle quality and body fat.


Don't tell Saturday Night Live body over-builders Hans and Franz, that it's the quality of your muscles that matters most, not their size.


That's now measureable thanks to medical researcher-driven Skulpt whose new Aim consumer device measures the quality of individual muscles and muscle groups. Born out of diagnosing individuals with muscular disorders, Skulpt has expanded its focus to the consumer masses.

By measuring the quality of muscles and providing visual support of its analysis and findings, the Aim device is certain to be a hit with more than just body builders and likely to become a staple tool for muscle building, maintenance and injury prevention for organized sports at multiple levels.

"We've had interest from multiple professional leagues," explained Stasia Dara, communications director for Skulpt. "Our focus right now is the launch of our consumer device, but we would be open to working with both individual athletes and teams."

Skulpt and its products are born out at the intersection of medical science and technology. They underscore the importance of consumer devices to fight medical challenges of a finite audience while concurrently advancing health and fitness for the masses.

Taking Aim


The fitness tracking AIM costs $199.99 and measures both body fat and muscle quality (or lack thereof). Users simply apply the smartphone-like device to a muscle and quickly received what the company calls a MQ (muscle quality) score and a fat percentage which are shown on the device's display.

There are options to retest a muscle or move on to another one. To get the score and fat percentage for your body, Skulpt instructs users to measure four areas: biceps, triceps, abs, and quads.

Aim uses a technology called Electrical Impedance Myography (EIM) which sends a small current directly through your muscles. It features a dozen sensors and uses multiple frequencies to get accurate readings, explains Skulpt.

Since current flows differently in muscles based on their composition and muscle fiber size, Dara says Aim is able to evaluate the quality of each muscle.

What's Your MQ?

MQ is a rating of a person's muscles' fitness that is designed to be intuitive. Aim "Similar to the IQ scale, the average person has an MQ of 100," according to Skulpt. Higher MQ scores correlate with stronger, leaner, more defined and firm muscles. What does measuring your MQ score reveal? It enables you to see your strongest areas, focus on the ones that need improvement, or change your routine for the muscle groups that have plateaued.

While using your MQ to build better muscles and muscle groups through focused conditioning, the use of AIM plays a large role in preventing what organized sports teams from tykes to the pros fear the most – player injuries, be they short-term, nagging or debilitating.

Body builders, among others, have been known to focus on muscle building through weight training. This has also led to injuries from pursuing the Hans and Franz approach of trying to build the biggest muscles which may not get the high MQ from Aim because size is something of an old-school (visual) and low-tech gauge.

Interpreting Scores

The AIM device displays your MQ score and your fat percentage. But where to you go from there?

What happens when a muscle gets a low score? And how can you tell when a muscle is injured?

While a low score doesn't mean that a muscle is more likely to be injured going forward, the opposite is true according to the folks at Skulpt.

"If a muscle is injured, chances are it'll have a lower MQ," began Dara. "By being able to measure different parts of your body, one of the benefits is to track asymmetries in your body between the same muscles on the left side versus right side of the body. So, for example, if you had an injury in your left arm, chances are your left biceps will score a lower MQ than your right biceps."

The second scenario pits MQ versus muscle size, according to Dara. "Knowing your MQ can definitely help athletes train smarter. For example, the higher your MQ the better, which isn't necessarily true about muscle size. So if you're over-training a muscle and causing damage, you will see that in your MQ score, whereas it's not something that would be visible otherwise by measuring muscle size of even muscle percentage."

The Brains of the Operation

Skulpt's roots are in the medical world, where company founder Dr. Seward Rutkove served as neurologist at Harvard Medical School in 2000. Frustrated by the lack of good ways to measure muscle health he started his mission to create his own about 13 years ago.

Muscle measurement was imprecise to say the least, and the eye-test far too rudimentary for the medical innovator who was looking to identify and track muscles in order to deal with a wide range of known muscle disorders (from ALS to Spinal Muscular Atrophy to Sarcopenia) that reduce the quality of life for those affected.

Rutkove collaborated with physicists from Northeastern University and engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to create and test prototypes of devices that addressed his needs using EIM. He teamed with MIT electrical engineering graduate Jose Bohorquez in 2009 to co-found Skulpt and develop EIM devices used to track the progression of patients with muscular disorders.

The duo realized their long-running efforts and results are applicable to the huge population of fitness-minded folks looking to track their muscle health in order to build and/or maintain accordingly. That led to the launch of Aim.

Next Innovation Up


What we are witnessing with Skulpt is essentially muscle building 2.0, where bigger isn't necessarily better. And while Skulpt's Aim is available to the consumer masses, it's a safe bet that this medical science and technology device quickly makes its way into the competitive, for-profit world of professional sports.

Just don't tell Hans and Franz.

Stay tuned.

*Bob Wallace is a technology journalist with over 30 years of experience explaining how new services, apps, consumer electronic devices and video sources are reshaping the world of communications as we know it. Wallace has specific expertise in explaining how and why advances in technology, media and entertainment redefine the way football fans interact with the league, teams, players and each other. He's the Founder of Fast Forward Thinking LLC. *

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