Strummer Sports Therapy

Strummer is a research-focused project, and the design was reached without preconception of a product or function but through multi-faceted research and experiments. The project started with the broad topic of "Exercise," which was later narrowed down to exercise and muscle recovery. The project includes research on nine different therapy methods, 10+ brand analyses, 36 interviews/ surveys, and two experiments. Only key findings will be presented here.

Type

Design Research, Product Design

Duration

4 Months

Year

2020

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Analysis from the research has pointed towards a preference for stretching and passive recovery. Yet interestingly enough, stretching is considered both the most effective and one of the least favorable recovery methods. Since stretching recovery can mostly be done individually and does not require any equipment, designing a product for it prove quite challenging. Thus, the design direction for this project is focused on mimicking the effect of stretching, specifically products targeting the tendons and ligaments rather than the general muscle mass.  

Thus, the proposed solution is a motor-driven massage tool that relaxes muscles post-exercise by targeting ligaments and tendons through a strumming motion. Contrary to the all-so-popular massage gun that pounds on a general muscle mass, the Strummer strums the muscles and tendons in a perpendicular direction, separating and breaking down collagen cross-links, splaying and relaxing connective tissue and muscle fibers. 

Sports Therapy research uses the standard scientific method, asking a question and hypothesizing a possible solution. 

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Problem: People need ways to recover from exercising by themselves

 

Question: Is there a new way for people to recover from exercising by themselves?

Hypothesis: A new modernized device/product that utilizes one or some combination of 1. Stretching 2. Acupuncture 3. Cupping 4. Percussion 5. Traction 6. Electro 7. Supplement 8. Compression 9. Temperature therapy to enhance muscle recovery after workouts.

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Based on the trends and potential product development, the scope was further narrowed down to selected products and three recovery methods (Percussion, Cupping, and Stretching). From there, the goal is to reaffirm the research direction and determine potential designs.  

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Research beings with historical and business research, which includes gathering basic information (usage, origin, effectiveness, etc) on all nine recovery methods, general market trends, and product comparisons. 

A series of surveys, in-depth interviews, and usage observations was conducted. 

Demographics

36 individuals: 23 females and 13 males selected from China, Taiwan, and the United States, of which 12 are Asian Americans and the rest, Chinese.

Participants’ age range: 24 - 33

Professions: Students, office workers, creative producers, educators and physical therapists.

What’s wrong with resistance bands, why don’t you use one when you stretch?
“I think I can handle more massage gun pain… But stretching is like being torn apart, I don’t like that pain. I can handle maybe a 6 but I don’t want to go above a 7.”

Is there anything you’re unsatisfied with stretching? 
“Yes, I’m unsatisfied with the pain of stretching my legs, also stretching feels like it takes a long time, especially for someone who has stretched in awhile.”

What’s wrong with resistance bands, why don’t you use one when you stretch?
“Because to use [resistance bands] effectively, I need professional instruction. Learning how by yourself takes a long time, nobody likes to use it.
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Ideations

Some of the earlier explorations focused on improving the massage gun and designing attachments that can help the product be more stable, safe, and versatile. However, the exploration was not fruitful.

Experiment 1 - Testing Strumming

After arriving at the idea of strumming, we needed to confirm its effectiveness. This experiment measured each participant's flexibility before and after receiving a strummer recovery after a short jump rope session. The result was also compared with percussion therapy (massage gun). 

Each leg of the participants received either strumming or percussion recovery. The participants was asked which was more effective and which leg felt more relaxed afterwards. Their flexibility was also measured after the treatments. 

Surprisingly, 80% of the participants reported that their calves were more relaxed after strumming but not after percussion massage.

Prototyping

To test the effectiveness and desirability of a motor-driven strummer tool, we decided to repurpose a palm sander as it has a natural bilateral axis movement structure. The sander's motor was too powerful and dangerous to test, so we reconstructed the sander to fit into a hand drill to better control the motor's power. 

Experiment 2 - Testing  Prototype

Experiment 2 focused on testing the prototype's effectiveness and comparing its effect with percussion therapy. The test showed that strumming recovery could not replace percussion therapy as it relaxes different muscle parts. However, the result showed that the prototype was indeed more effective than the hand tool and effective in relaxing the muscle, especially the tendons. 

Final Ideation