A year and a half ago, I was really into the crowdfunding craze having seen companies like Pebble, Misfit Wearables and Basis push out commendable products. I funded 2 projects one of which was the Skulpt Aim muscle quality an body fat measurement device.
About 2 months back I finally received the finished product and here’s what I have to say.
*Do not use Skulpt Aim if you have an electrical implant or if you’re pregnant.
LOOK AND FEEL.
The Skulpt Aim is a rectangular device roughly the size of a smart phone. A small display adorns the “face” of the Skulpt Aim while reading sensors line the back of the unit like hieroglyphs.
There are 2 nodes on the right side which mimic the “Up” and “down” buttons. Another single bigger node on the left side of the device acts as the “Power/Shut down” and “Enter” button.
The MQ measuring device juices up using a proprietary charger which is powered by a standard USB to mini-USB cable. The Skulpt Aim ships with a carry pouch and a tiny spritz bottle for spraying water on the connective surface. I’ll come to that later.
As i funded the project during the crowd sourcing phase, I actually received a “first edition” Skulpt Aim device. Unfortunately the make and finish wasn’t up to scratch and I requested for an exchange which was promptly attended to.
The plastic trimmings on the side of the Skulpt Aim device lights up during various phase of use such as charging, when initiating a reading, when reading is captured successfully or reading has failed.
FUNCTIONS AND DATA PRESENTATION
If you’ve used Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA) devices, you would understand the concept of measuring impedance to calculate body fat percentages and how hydration levels can affect the results.
The Skulpt team was nice to send me a few research papers detailing Electrical Impedance Myography (EIM) technology and its application. Skulpt Aim works on the same principle of passing a very weak current through a body area and measuring the resistance but unlike BIA, EIM is focused on a localised area and unaffected by hydration levels.
The Skulpt Aim website does a much better job than me in explaining the science behind it and I suggest you do your share of reading to understand EIM better.
Let’s put the Skulpt Aim to work.
In order for the Skulpt Aim to work properly, the measuring sensors must be wet and there must be full contact with the skin. Here’s where the spritz bottle come in hand. Fill it up and spray away.
If in doubt, the mobile app has an entire library of videos demonstrating the correct way to initiate measurement. I’ve linked one in this review.
There are 3 options; a full body measurement of every single muscle group, a single muscle group or just 4 muscle groups to gauge total body fat and MQ; the biceps, triceps, abs and quads. The 4 measurements to estimate overall body MQ and body fat percentage seemed the most convenient of the 3.
I’d recommend the 4 muscle group measurement once a month and thereafter going ahead with your physical conditioning exercises before returning for a review a month later. Here are my readings
According to Skulpt, a MQ score of 100 is considered average and being in the fitness industry, I understand my body fat percentage is on the higher end based on Skulpt Aim’s results. Not very encouraging but I’m not surprised. So in the month of May 2015, I figured it’s time to start working out.
Unfortunately, my zest and passion ran out as quickly as a deflating balloon and what originally started out as a quest from a Parks and Recreation to a post Guardians of the Galaxy Chris Pratt body had to be scaled down to…well nothing much really. I don’t gym, do calisthenics, HIIT or go for runs. My main form of physical activity is really just plenty of walks; my average step count is in the region of 20k with a BMI of 22.9.
As a teacher, I’m currently enjoying the school holidays and I’ve been chilling for a month now I figured the latest measurement should be similar to the first reading taken about a month back
According to the latest measurement, my MQ has dipped slightly and body fat percentage has gone up. The date is incorrect though. My latest measurement is on 25th June and not 7th June.
Again I have to stress that I understand the readings are by no means 100% accurate and should be used as a gauge at best. I based the readings against my own physical activity level and the BIA machines I have at work. Assuming my lifestyle has remained pretty much similar, it is well within what I anticipated.
Check back in a month’s time again when I’ve finished my workout. My new target? Jurassic World Chris Pratt.
According to the Skulpt team, EIM has been researched for the last 16 years and Skulpt was actually a medical company for the last 6 years employing EIM to to track the progression of muscular disorders in patients with ALS, MLS.
The co-founders behind Skulpt include Dr. Seward Rutkove, a physician researcher and neurologist at Harvard Medical School and Dr. Jose Bohorquez, electrical engineering graduate from MIT. The duo has worked together since 2009 to develop EIM to track the progression of patients with muscular disorders.
Though they have yet to publish their findings, Skulpt’s internal research have shown EIM measurements to be within 1.5% to that of Hydrostatic weighing, the gold standard in measuring body fat percentage.
Apparently Skulpt Aim was also used, in collaboration with NASA, to study the impact of weightlessness on the muscles of mice that have been in outer space since the lack of gravity causes muscular atrophy due to lack of loading on the muscles.
From a layman perspective, I personally found the device convenient to use and informative in a simple way. It’s just MQ and body fat percentage. The syncing of the information to the app is a bonus and helps to chart progress over time.
IN A NUTSHELL
- Measure muscle quality (MQ) and body fat percentage
- Small and portable
- Guest mode for impromptu measurements
- Allows up to 6 users on a single Skulpt Aim device
- Battery lasts up to 2 weeks depending on usage
- Skulpt Aim stores up to 500 individual muscle measurements without syncing
- Water resistant
- Bluetooth enabled
- Mobile app available for compatible iOS and Android devices
- Lack of published research on body fat percentage measurement validity with EIM
- MQ readings lack benchmarking versus other body composition measurement methods
What’s hampering the Skulpt Aim now is probably the lack of published research of the EIM technology on a wide population. The algorithm is the key in determining the eventual scores be it MQ or body fat percentage. The smaller the research subject group, the less reliable the algorithm will seemingly be.
It would be great if we could see comparison of EIM versus consumer friendly technology like BIA or even lab standard equipment like Bod Pod, DEXA and hydostatic weighing. Let us be the judge.
Compared to the heavily researched BIA technology that’s employed in so many device from Omron and Tanita to Withings and Fitbit, the Skulpt Aim cannot claim supremacy yet. What it does do better is the localised readings of MQ and body fat percentage for every group which I felt was practical and meaningful.
As a Physical Education teacher, I know a lot of educators try to use BIA devices to educate students on the importance of body fat percentage rather than relying on BMI because it appears to be more informative and doesn’t assume every body to be a cylinder.
More accurate measures like calipers or hydrostatic weighing must either be administered by trained professionals or are stored within university science labs. The Skulpt Aim could be a potential education tool in the future.
As a device for gauging MQ and body fat percentage, I’m intrigued. If accuracy and validity can be further reaffirmed by published researches, I’ll be sold.
In the mean time, I’ll happily hold on to my Aim while I sculpt my way to a leaner me. With higher MQ of course.
You can get the Skulpt Aim at a RRP of $199 here.