Train Like LAFC

The Major League Soccer team works out with these apps. So can you.

Los Angeles Football Club may be among Major League Soccer’s youngest teams, but it has world-class players (Carlos Vela, Diego Rossi), a world-renowned coach (Bob Bradley), and a gorgeous new home field (Banc of California Stadium).

It also has a state-of-the-art training program that leverages two affordable, easy-to-use apps available to pros and amateurs alike. This might be part of why LAFC is also one of the most successful MLS teams.

We spoke with LAFC performance director Gavin Benjafield at the team’s training facility about how apps are giving the team a leg up in its push for MLS Cup glory.

How often does training as a team involve an app?

Pretty much daily. 

In the mornings, our athletes use an app called HRV4Training, which lets them use their phone’s camera and flash to take a heart-rate reading so we can check the variability. You don’t need any other sensors or devices.

We have all our guys do that for one minute, and within the same app our staff can access a coach’s dashboard, which tells us if they’re within their normal heart-rate range.

Polar Beat can track dozens of different workouts.

There are a lot of ways to track heart-rate variability. What makes HRV4Training so great?
It’s affordable and super-simple to use. The app works with just your phone, but it can also pair with many heart-rate straps, which we sometimes use, and with your Apple Watch, which many players on the team use.

The team at its state-of-the-art performance center in East Los Angeles (top). Head athletic trainer Sean Kupiec consults Polar Beat on his iPad.

What other apps does LAFC rely on?

Polar Beat is an app we use as a team to track all kinds of workouts.

It connects to Bluetooth heart-rate straps, and like HRV4Training it has a coaching platform that allows us to work with our athletes whether we’re physically together or not.

HRV4Training uses the iPhone’s camera to measure heart-rate variability—a stat coaches can use to prevent overtraining.

So for example, if we have an upcoming road trip, I‘ll give everyone a heart-rate strap, and in Polar Beat they’ll have specific workouts to do—maybe a specific-length run, which they track in the app. Later I can open my MacBook and see how everyone did.

Heart-rate monitors are integral to understanding team fitness (top). LAFC players stretching during a training session.

What we’re doing with these apps we call “remote coaching.” It gives our guys the freedom to train when and where they want, outside of practice and what we do together in our facilities.

Goalkeeper Tyler Miller makes a save during warm-up (top). Team members Eduard Atuesta, Mark-Anthony Kaye, and Latif Blessing in a match at Banc of California Stadium.

Are these apps easy enough to use for a non-pro?

Everything we use basically needs to be about three taps and you’re done. Still, when we share a new app with our athletes, someone on our staff will use the iPhone’s built-in screen-recording feature to create a quick how-to video. 

It's amazing that with just our phones we can not only remote-coach successfully but also create the tutorials to get athletes up to speed.

You can watch the Los Angeles Football Club compete in Major League Soccer matches on the ESPN app, and you can follow the team in both the MLS and LAFC apps.