Meet Perch, the new weight room staple that's becoming a game-changer in the SEC and beyond
Jacob Rothman wasn’t a massive college football fan. He was just your standard MIT graduate/ex-college baseball player who wanted to change the way people lifted weights.
But when longtime LSU strength and conditioning coach Tommy Moffitt made the Tigers the first collegiate or professional sports team to roll the dice on Rothman’s new velocity-based training program “Perch” in 2019, there was suddenly an obvious rooting interest for the team on the Bayou.
“Yeah,” Rothman said, “I was supporting (LSU) so much that season.”
Needless to say, it worked out for both parties.
LSU got its national title, and Rothman and his 2 Perch co-founders (also MIT graduates) got the proof of concept that an upstart company dreams about.
Now, Perch is popping up in weight rooms of Power 5 programs and professional sports teams across the country. In the last 3 weeks alone, the velocity-based training system was installed in weight rooms of the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Seattle Seahawks, the Los Angeles Chargers and at Georgia. Ole Miss football and Kentucky basketball are among the growing list of programs to install Perch in their weight rooms.
So what is it? And why is it taking off?
Perch is a 3D camera and a tablet that attaches to any weight rack. An athlete can walk up, log in on the tablet and start lifting. Movement is tracked by the camera, and everything (sets, reps, velocity and power output) is logged into the tablet. The goal is simple — train smarter. Perch’s goal is to help emphasize proper form to prevent injuries while tracking the all-important in-season lifting needs for athletes.
For programs like LSU, they don’t have to suddenly abandon full back squats in the middle of the season because with Perch, they can track fatigue, explosion and overall output.
“It changes the way they lift so they can do things like understand where an athlete’s weakness is and really focus on that weakness, or they can approach a lot heavier weights knowing that they’re not over-fatiguing an athlete or risking injury,” Rothman said. “You learn a lot from them and have creative they are with the technology.”
Moffitt, who has been at LSU since 2000, began those conversations with Rothman after receiving a cold email from the company early in 2019. Rothman said that “with what LSU was using prior (to Perch), it took a lot of time to utilize, and therefore, it didn’t provide as much value as it could.”
By the beginning of that summer, Rothman had flown down to LSU to offer up a demonstration on how the technology worked and how easy the 3-minute installation process was. He left the demo device at LSU, and soon thereafter, Moffitt made LSU Perch’s first major client. The devices were installed in LSU’s weight room that September.
As they say, the rest is history. Lost in the shuffle of LSU’s monumental season was that it avoided those devastating in-season injuries. The Tigers played Clemson in the College Football Playoff National Championship without any full-time starter sidelined because of injury.
Moffitt later said that “Perch has fit seamlessly into our training program” and that “there is no question that Perch has raised the LSU standard of performance.”
When Rothman and his 2 MIT co-founders came up with the idea for Perch in 2016, the vision was well beyond just big-time college football. The origins began when Rothman suffered a herniated disk while working out. He wanted to make a smarter way for anyone to train.
“We felt that there was a large community of people that were working out and loved to lift weights, but were being underserved,” Rothman said. “It wasn’t like we flipped the switch one day. We felt like there was a problem that deserved to be solved, and eventually, we got to that solution over time.”
That process took Rothman dropping out of grad school and his 2 other co-founders working full-time on Perch in 2017. By early 2019, the improved technology paired with the minimalist design (it’s only a foot long and a few inches wide) led to the company’s first sale. Not being as cumbersome as their competitors is what Rothman believes separates Perch.
They’ve never been shy about reaching out to teams and universities, though as Rothman said, the goal early on was often for feedback instead of coming off like a pushy salesperson. Eventually, that list of clients expanded to the New York Giants, Tennessee Titans, Miami Dolphins, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia Phillies, Dallas Stars, and San Jose Earthquakes among plenty of others. Perch is also in small gyms, high schools, military bases and fitness/performance facilities.
That expansion slowed a bit during 2020 because of COVID. Rothman said they got plenty of “yes” responses from college strength coaches, only to be met with “no” responses from administrations battling budget cuts. The 3D cameras start around $2,500, but Rothman said they’re willing to work with organizations based on their specific needs.
With life getting back to normal, Perch is continuing to make its mark across the country. Rothman said Perch has a number of new clients in the works for the next 6 months.
“We want to be in every Power 5 and professional sports team in the country,” Rothman said. “The main goal is not just to get Perch everywhere, but let’s get velocity-based training everywhere, and show people how valuable it is.”