While most activity trackers count steps, distance and calories, a limited few have been designed to make your gym workouts more effective. Doing a single exercise, like lifting a weight, is pretty easy. Doing an exercise well, on the other hand, is pretty hard.
The majority of us want to exercise more, yet only 3% of the global adult population are documented gym members and more than 50% of gym members are not regular. Perhaps the latest crop of wearables can help change this.
Essential reading: Taking activity tracking to the next level: fitness coaching from the wrist
They remove the burden of manual tracking of workouts. By identifying your exercises and recording reps and sets, your workouts are showcased in unprecedented detail. Some even guide you on your form.
Whether you are just a beginner or a hardened gym buff, there is an activity tracker to suit you. Read on for our selection of wearables to help take your gym session to a new level. While compiling this list, we’ve examined functions and features carefully and thoroughly. We’ve tested most of these devices personally, but where not possible we took user reviews into consideration and dismissed devices with bad customer reviews and low ratings.
Atlas is an innovative wearable that tracks and identifies your different activities, evaluates your form, counts your reps and sets and calculates the calories you burned. The company originally raised $629k on crowdfunding site Indiegogo to fund development. It is now on version 2 of the device.
With a single on-wrist tracker, Atlas can monitor your body in 3D. It can tell the difference between push-ups and triangle push-ups, bicep curls and alternating bicep curls and squats versus dead lifts. The tracker also has the ability to automatically detect and count over 70 of the most popular exercises. Not to worry if your favourite exercise is not in the database. You can teach Atlas Wristband 2 to recognise new ones.
Atlas logs your workouts with very little user action and keeps track of your heart rate so you can see how each movement affects your body. The on-wrist display gives you live feedback on the type, speed and quality of your exercises as you’re working out which means you can leave your phone in the locker for added convenience.
To achieve a higher level of measurement reliability, and to perform each possible exercise, the Beast sensor is configured as a small magnet, which enables it to be easily plugged on barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells or gym machines and to the body itself for performing free body exercises.
The device shows you in real-time how much you are pushing, rep by rep, whether you are lifting weights, using a machine or performing bodyweight exercises. You can chose to visualize Speed, Power or Strength and monitor your performance live while working out.
Beast utilizes something called Velocity Based Training. This takes the guesswork on how much load you should be adding or removing on a particular set. It also tells you if you should move on and try a new exercise altogether by using the measurement of the bar speed and work to understand the force production.
The gizmo tracks your improvement and helps you train better. Moreover, it gives you an overview of all workout data, keeping a diary of your performance. Out of all the devices we tested for tracking your reps and sets, this is one of the best.
Strenx by GymWatch measures strength and motion across fitness exercises, including machines, free weights and bodyweight. The sensor records the full range of motion of an exercise, determines every strength component, repetitions and detects incorrect execution to help ensure exercises are performed properly and desired fitness goals are reached.
The device is worn as an armband or on the upper leg and provides you with real-time verbal feedback. The user inputs the activity type using the smartphone app. The gadget then calculates your rate of motion and, should you overextend yourself, tells you that you’ve done something wrong.
It should be noted that Strenx can only calculate the movements for the limb that it’s wrapped around. The battery level is a decent 30 days, which should cover your workouts for a while.
Skulpt products measure metrics that you wouldn’t normally measure with more ‘traditional’ fitness trackers. Rather than monitoring daily activities, or counting your reps and sets, Skulpt measures muscle quality and body fat percentage.
The device tracks 24 different muscles on your body, providing the fat percentage and a rating of the muscle’s fitness for each muscle. You can then view a ‘heat map’ on the app to conveniently track your strongest muscles and identify those that need improvement. Skulpt claims that Chisel is five times more accurate than bioimpedance scales, and three to four times more accurate than measuring with callipers.
Essential reading: Devices that help you keep tabs on your body fat
The device will give you greater insight and enable you to measure the result of your fitness achievements, to better understand when you are losing fat and gaining muscle. The app will even suggest actual workout routines based on the MQ and fat % of your individual muscles. Next time you head off to the gym, you will have a clear understanding on exactly which muscles you need to place most focus on.
Moov is a one of a kind wearable fitness coach that actively monitors your activity and advises you in real time how to get the most from your workout. Similar to many other fitness trackers, the gizmo tracks your daily activity and sleep — but rather than steps, Moov measures movement within 3D space.
The device essentially translates your exact movement into real-time coaching, both through audio and on screen, and advises you whether you are performing your exercises correctly. It does this through use of the 9 axis motion sensing system – including an accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer to learn the wearer’s form and correct any issues that may lead to injury.
Moov pairs with an app to train users on five sports — running, cycling, swimming, cardio boxing, and a seven-minute bodyweight workout which you can perform at home as it doesn’t require the use of any weights. The tracker has been tailored to each individual activity, so offers separate exercise programs.
Push promotes its strength band as the first scientifically validated wearable to provide true objective insights about your performance in the weight room. This is an activity tracker plus mobile app that sends real-time weight-lifting data to your smartphone. The wearable can be attached to your body or the barbell to detect exercise repetitions. This is another device that uses the concept of Velocity Based Training to let you know whether to keep pushing or to hold back.
According to the company’s website, the device is already in active use by many professional teams across the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and AF. PUSH is water-resistant so you don’t need to wash it often. Just put it on and lift.
Fitbit’s flagship fitness tracker features exercise modes that provide real-time stats, helping you get the most from your sweat sessions. This includes multi-sport modes for tracking specific workouts like runs, biking, weight-lifting and yoga. Because the process is automatic, you will get credit even if you forget to log a workout.
Charge 2 doesn’t count things like reps or the amount of weight that you are lifting, but you can use its exercise mode to track your heart rate and calories while you lift weights. You also get a snapshot of your fitness level using a personalised Cardio Fitness Score. The value is based on your estimated VO2 Max that is calculated using your user profile and resting heart rate. The Cardio Fitness Level shows how you compare to those of the same age and gender, and ranges from poor to excellent. Plus you get bar charts of your fat burn, cardio and peak heart rate zones.
The Vivosmart 3 takes across all the features of its predecessors (apart from GPS), but adds more sophisticated fitness tracking tools such as VO2 max and fitness age, all day stress tracking, and for the first time for a Garmin wearable – the ability to count reps and sets in the gym.
Thanks to Garmin Elevate wrist heart rate technology, you still get 24/7 heart rate monitoring, and the wearable automatically tracks activity including steps, floors climbed, calories burned, intensity minutes, sleep and more. It also features smart notifications to keep you connected while on the go.
When you start a strength training activity, the device will capture your exercises, reps and sets along with your work and rest times so you can leave the notebook at home. That data gets pushed to Garmin Connect during your next sync so you can review your workout in even greater detail.
An alternative to the Vivosmart is the new Vivosport. Released in October, the ultra-slim tracker comes built-in GPS. Garmin’s strength training activity has also made it onto its high end sports-watches such as the Forerunner 935 and Fenix 5 line and the new Vivoactive 3.
Actofit is the new kid on the block. The Indian startup behind the product has partnered up with Indiegogo to bring the wearable to life.
The tracker promises to auto-track 75+ gym exercises and count sets and repetitions. You get various analytics including velocity, power, force, energy burn, explosive strength, one rep max and tonnage.
It also evaluates your form. Any exercise you perform is correlated against the database of expert fitness trainers exercise forms and compared for differences in speed, trajectory and range of motion. The software platform allows users to add or customize any kind of motion and track it, which has applications across different sports, yoga, physiotherapy and more.
Actofit also functions as a standard fitness tracker keeping tabs on your activity, heart rate, sleep and providing you with notifications.
This wearable has shipped now to backers. We have not tested it yet, but so far reviews have been mixed.
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