Tennis star Jamie Murray backs AI fitness device
Posted on February 1, 2021 by Jonathan Symcox
The tech start-up behind an AI-powered fitness device has been backed financially by tennis star Jamie Murray and partnered with the LTA.
SujiBFR, a health and fitness start-up based in Edinburgh, has received a six-figure investment to support the development of the Suji Device which it is claimed reduces pain and increases muscle strength during exercise.
Based on blood flow restriction training principles, the device utilises low-intensity and bodyweight exercise to offer the same training benefits achieved with high-intensity weight training.
Tennis champion Jamie Murray and his partner Alejandra Murray invested in SujiBFR during an investment round led by BioCity Group.
The Murrays join investors Scottish Enterprise, Gabriel Investment Syndicate and Creator Fund.
The investment will be used for product development, to accelerate customer growth and create additional technical jobs in the firm.
The backing comes as SujiBFR announces a partnership with the national governing body for tennis in Great Britain.
The LTA Performance team can assign Suji Devices to players on tour, while also making it one of a number of technologies available at its National Tennis Centre for players supported through the governing body’s Elite, Pro Scholarship and Men’s & Women’s Programmes.
SujiBFR’s founder, Alexander Birks (below), set up the company after a successful career in boxing.
He said: “The idea for SujiBFR grew out of my own experience recovering from a traumatic sports injury.
“I felt frustrated by the length of time it would take to return to peak performance and started looking for fitness solutions that could help.
“After reaching out to sports professionals, I realised that BFR training was recognised as a powerful tool for mitigating pain and strengthening muscles using low-intensity exercise.
“My own BFR training was successful, but it also demonstrated that existing equipment was inadequate, requiring extensive user knowledge and offering a poor user experience.
“I created SujiBFR to fill that gap and make effective and safe BFR training accessible to everyone, not only the professionals but the huge number of fitness enthusiasts who could benefit from this technology.
“The device can be used by anyone to help reduce pain and improve muscular performance.
“Users have reported improvements in muscle strength of up to 31% as well as reductions in joint and muscle soreness by 7 points out of 10. The connected app safely guides users through set-up and use while their progress is logged after each training session.”
Jamie Murray believes the system could benefit athletes at every level. Describing what motivated him to invest in SujiBFR, he said: “Everyone is aware of the challenges of avoiding and overcoming injury, not to mention the joint and muscle pain that can be experienced during training.
“SujiBFR has taken the scientifically proven benefits of BFR and incorporated these into a device that is easy to use, safe and effective. For me, Suji Device also acts as an effective tool when I’m on the road with limited access to gym equipment.
“It’s a perfect example of how investment in new solutions can help athletes to reduce pain, optimise performance and recover after injury.”
By using a cuff to restrict blood flow to muscles during low-load exercise, BFR provokes a physiological response comparable to that achieved in normal workouts. By ‘tricking’ the body into believing it is working at a much higher capacity, the technique improves muscular performance, strengthens tendons and bones and can offer benefits to the cardiovascular system.
Dan Lewindon, Head of Performance Science & Medicine at the LTA, said: “We are very pleased to be working with SujiBFR and this partnership is further evidence of our drive to embrace technology to better support and empower our players, coaches and practitioners throughout the LTA Player Pathway.
“Blood flow restriction training is proven to have benefits for both elite and recreational sportspeople in maintaining strength, accelerating return from certain injuries and even managing pain, so this is an exciting partnership for us both from a Performance and Membership perspective.
“The portability of this system is a crucial element for professional tennis players who spend many months of the year on the road at venues with variable access to gym equipment and facilities. This system will provide us with an effective solution to support and develop players’ strength in any environment.”
The Suji Device is already used to support training and injury recovery at the English National Ballet, Edinburgh Rugby and Loughborough University.
Suji Device is comprised of two cuffs that wrap around the upper portion of an upper or lower limb and a Bluetooth-enabled pump controlled via a mobile app. Using proprietary AI, the device prescribes exercises suitable for each user’s body and fitness level, inflating the cuffs to partially restrict blood flow. During set-up, a medical survey is completed that ensures the technique is safe for the individual. The app then creates a highly personalised set of low-load or bodyweight exercises from which to choose.
The amount of blood flow restriction is determined by what is safe for the specific user. Consequently, the device can be used by amateur fitness enthusiasts at home as well as professional athletes as part of full-time training regimes.