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Why NBA athletes are using this device to enhance their training

For the success of the Hex, which tracks muscle performance in real time, Humon cofounder and CEO Alessandro Babini is one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People of 2019.

Why NBA athletes are using this device to enhance their training
[Illustration: Raymond Biesinger]


Most athletic wearables focus on heart rate, which can be helpful but conveys nothing about how your muscles are performing or how to adapt your workout. “You have more information about your phone, your computer, and your car than you do about your body, which is a billion times more important,” says Alessandro Babini, the cofounder and CEO of Humon, which makes the Hex, a wearable muscle-oxygen sensor that’s helping elite athletes achieve performance breakthroughs and work out more safely and effectively. The $295 device has consistently sold out since it launched in February 2018, sales increased 30% month over month in 2018, and NFL and NBA teams have used it to gauge how warmed up athletes are before practices and games. Here’s how it works:

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[Illustration: Raymond Biesinger]

1. Red vs. Blue Blood

When oxygen enters blood through the lungs, it binds with hemoglobin in the cells and turns bright red. After oxygen is ferried to and used by muscles, the blood turns dark blue-red. The Hex interprets how well muscles are working based on blood color.

[Illustration: Raymond Biesinger]

2. The Hex

The Hex shines red and infrared light into the muscle, then four evenly spaced sensors read how much of each light passes through the muscle and how much is absorbed.

[Illustration: Raymond Biesinger]

3. Light Absorption

Bright-red oxygenated blood will absorb more infrared light and allow red light to pass through, while blue-red, oxygen-poor blood will absorb more red light and allow infrared to pass through.

[Illustration: Raymond Biesinger]

4. Tracking Progress

The Hex measures oxygen levels in an athlete’s thigh muscle over the course of a workout and, using proprietary software, generates colored graphs that show whether the user’s muscles are consuming oxygen at a rate that’s sustainable (green), unsustainable (red), borderline (orange), or low (blue).

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About the author

Erin Schulte is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in Fast Company, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Harper's Bazaar, and Entrepreneur, among other publications. You can find her on Twitter @erin719nyc.

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