Wearables for Serious Athletes

A look at the trackers worn by Lebron, Michael Phelps and other pros

Baseball player throwing a ball
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Within the fitness tracker category, there's a wide variety of wearable products and feature sets from which to choose. If you're a more casual fitness buff, you'll likely do just fine with an entry-level or mid-range option from Fitbit, Misfit, Jawbone or others. If you're training for a marathon, meanwhile, you might want an activity tracker that offers additional functionality, such as the ability to track your heart rate thanks to a built-in sensor and/or the ability to track your runs thanks to built-in GPS

If you're a professional athlete, chances are few of the devices marketed to the general public are going to cut it. When your livelihood depends on your excelling at a given sport, you need tech that's made to deliver at an extra high level, with specialized tracking and analysis that goes beyond highlighting patterns to providing suggestions that result in improved performance. That's where these devices come in.

Keep reading for a look at the sensors, trackers and other products worn by some of your favorite pros.

GPS Trackers From Specialized Brands

While several fitness trackers targeted to average consumers include built-in GPS, when it comes to monitoring stats for pro athletes, a standalone GPS device is often a better choice. And these aren't just any old GPS sensors; pro sports teams often pick ones that can track a huge variety of metrics, from speed and distance to even heart rate. As far as particular brands that athletes and pro teams turn to, Catapult Sports and its variety of GPS systems is a favorite for NBA, NFL and soccer teams.

Whoop Strap 2.0

This device has been worn by superstar athletes like Lebron James and Michael Phelps, and it's now available for purchase — for the rather steep MSRP of $500. This wristband-style device tracks a ton of metrics, including heart rate, heart rate variability, ambient temperature, and motion (thanks to a 3-axis accelerometer).

If the steep price is tough to swallow, a subscription plan is available for mere mortals at the cost of $30/month with a six-month commitment. Subscribers receive a Whoop 2.0 strap, all the accompanying app-based analytics and access to the Whoop community of users.

The Whoop Strap 2.0 really appeals to the pro sports crowd thanks to analyzing athletes' habits, and the company claims that it helps improve fitness, increase heart rate, reduce resting heart rate, increase sleep time and reduce alcohol intake before bed.

Those are some big claims, but with an in-depth app and desktop dashboard — and an elite team of coaches and trainers monitoring stats as well, since we're talking about pros here — it makes sense that this gadget would have an impact on athletes' performance. The Whoop band seems to especially popular with NBA players, though due to league guidelines they can't be worn during any games.

Motus Baseball Sleeve

The Motus compression sleeve is designed for both pitchers and batters, and it's used by 27 different MLB organizations (and players can even wear it during games). Features include monitoring workload and physical stress levels to develop personalized throw limit recommendations, analyzing pitch locations where athletes perform the best and worst and more. The clip-on style device can be attached to any glove, and players can view all their data via the pitching and batting versions of the app.

Unlike some of the other devices mentioned in this post, the Motus Baseball Sleeve is available to the general public online at a fairly reasonable price. The Motus Baseball "Complete Package," which includes the compression sleeve equipped with a sensor, an accessory clip, and a USB charging cable, costs $149.99. There's also a Motus QB version, dedicated to throwing analysis for football, available for the same price.

Zephyr Bioharness

Another device made for baseball pros, the Zephyr harness tracks movement, heart rate, acceleration, respiration and more. Like the Motus, it's approved by the MLB for use during games. It straps onto the chest to monitor and track all these stats.

While other Zephyr-made devices are available to the general public, the Bioharness is harder to track down — an online search did turn up the product on Amazon for a steep price of more than $600, however.

Bottom Line

Most of them aren't cheap, but these specialized gadgets do offer more features than your standard, consumer-friendly fitness tracker. The data-hungry among us could definitely have some fun taking these for a spin.