After months of research and trial and error, United States Sports Academy alumnus Dr. David Peterson created more than just a student-lead research project, but a tangible product that will benefit athletes both at Cedarville and elsewhere.
Peterson, an assistant professor of kinesiology at Cedarville University in Ohio, and 2022 Cedarville alumna Kaitlyn Tyms collaborated on a research project to determine the ideal grip width for a revolutionary new barbell designed for athletes with shoulder-related injuries. The barbell is now available for use in Cedarville University’s athletic center and for purchase online.
Peterson holds a Doctor of Education degree in sports management with an emphasis in health and fitness and was named the Academy’s 2015 Alumnus of the Year. He retired from the US Navy in 2018 after more than 20 years of active duty service and transitioned into the higher education field.
An avid weightlifter, personal trainer and strength coach, Peterson was first inspired to design the new barbell while working with the Cedarville University women’s volleyball team, as several of the team members had shoulder-related injuries.
“A traditional straight bar places the hands into an unnatural position, which may be problematic for those with a shoulder-related injury,” said Peterson. “I wanted to find a way to target the chest musculature without placing an unnecessary amount of stress on the shoulders.”
Peterson designed a barbell, named the Commander Bar (after his terminal rank in the U.S. Navy), with specialized handles that allows for a hand placement similar to that when using dumbbells, without the bulk of most commercial multi-grip bars. The bar can easily hold over 300 pounds, which is more than adequate for the average person.
“I had a great career waiting for me after my military service, all due in large part to my doctoral degree from the United States Sports Academy,” Peterson said. “For that, I am eternally grateful. I knew that my military retirement was imminent and I knew I would have to get a doctoral degree to work as a college professor.
“The Academy allowed me to pursue that degree while I was still on active duty. I could have started a degree at a brick and mortar school when I retired, but that would have taken an additional two or three years before I could start my next career.
“Being able to pursue my doctoral degree while I was on active duty was crucial.
“I was able to complete my degree over three different duty stations – from Millington, Tenn., to Patuxent River, Md., to the Naval Academy – because of the Academy’s flexible options.”
Tyms, then an athletic training student, picked this study as her ESSE 3100 Strength & Conditioning class project and in doing so helped determine the exact measurements for the bar. Tyms’ work on this project ultimately culminated in the release of a peer-reviewed journal article that was published in the Journal of Scientific and Technical Research.
“I really liked the collaboration involved in this project,” noted Peterson. “Not only in having a student participate in a real-world research project but also creating something that could be used in weight rooms at Cedarville and elsewhere.”
The barbell is currently being produced and is already benefiting students in the Cedarville University Callan Athletic Center.
“I’ve really enjoyed using Dr. Peterson’s new Commander bar,” said senior health and physical education major Lucas Beckerink. “It’s a great change of pace from regular barbells and dumbbells. It gives a different grip angle and provides a new sense of stability when doing exercises such as bench press, bent-over row, overhead press, and bicep curls. I’d highly recommend anyone give it a shot.”