Review: Gymwatch, your ultimate fitness buddy
- Very motivating
- Provides historical overview
- Real-time audio feedback during exercise
- App and web portal need further development
- Only calculates movement for the limb that it is currently around
- Sensors need to be moved around for different exercises
- Can at times produce erroneous readings
We have seen many fitness trackers aimed at tracking steps, distance and calories. But once you have this data, few of them follow through in helping you to make actual use of it. German based company GymWatch, is offering something entirely new. A wearable device that you strap on during your workouts that not only captures data on pretty much any exercise you’d like to try out, it also helps you train.
Essential reading: The best wearables for hitting the gym
The company ran a successful campaign on Indiegogo in 2015. It managed to raise $160,000 – nearly twice its initial $85,000 goal.
Doing a single exercise, like lifting a weight, is pretty easy. Doing an exercise well, on the other hand, can be pretty hard. GymWatch captures the full range of motion and can tell you if you’re doing a certain exercise too fast or too slow. It can also help make sure you’re doing it with the correct form.
You could on the other hand spend money on a personal trainer, but that cost will add up over time. So if you don’t have a personal trainer to guide you, then a digital coach such as GymWatch can teach you quite a bit.
Ease of use
Use of information
The device is comfortable and light to wear. The plastic casing where the motion sensors are stored has a slightly textured feel to it. Soft bands with washable velcro straps are attached to its ends. The main unit itself is only splash-proof. At the bottom of the sensor there is a Micro USB charging port and an on/off switch.
Gymwatch comes with two different sized straps. The longer strap can be used to wrap the sensor around the upper area of the leg while the smaller one is designed for the lower arm or bicep. Whenever it is in action, the sensor lights up the logo. This partially compensates for the lack of a screen. The led light provides information on start, stop, tracking mode and battery status.
Contained in the small body of the band are the accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer. The combination of the three records the course of limb movements on all axes and measures the time under tension of different muscle contractions. This device does not track heart rate, but the feature to allow it to connect to a heart rate sensor is planned for the future.
It should be noted that the tracker only calculates movements for the limb that it’s currently wrapped around. This isn’t a problem when doing a bench press, but for things like individual arm curls you will be required to rotate the strap from arm to arm. You can get around this by purchasing two trackers. Multiple trackers are also helpful if you want to track arm and leg movements at the same time or if you want to switch faster between upper body exercises and leg exercises.
The battery level is anywhere between 10 and 30 days, depending on the frequency of training. It takes only about an hour to get back up to 100% from a flat battery.
Ease of Use
The tracker is worn as an armband or on the upper leg and provides you with real-time feedback. Apart from the LED light, there’s no interface on the actual Gymwatch sensor. Instead, it works with the companion app and verbal feedback.
The first thing you need to do is download the smartphone app (iOS or Android). You then need to charge your Gymwatch to at least 20% in order to update the firmware to the latest version. Once this is done, you can connect it to your phone or tablet. The firmware update process is very easy and takes 7 to 10 minutes.
To use the device, you open the app on your smartphone, strap the sensor to the arm or leg that corresponds with the selected workout, tap the button on the sensor and begin your workout. The sensor automatically detects when the weight is lifted (concentric muscle contraction), lowered (eccentric muscle contraction) or is held static (isometric muscle contraction). You do need to enter exercise type and the weight load manually.
To get the most out of the device, it needs to be moved to different body parts for different exercises. Or, as mentioned, you can wear multiple sensors at one time.
Use of Information
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 power, force and velocity; repetitions (and partial repetitions), and detects incorrect exercise execution.
The app will record your motion and count your reps as you begin to curl your arm or squat your legs. It will also tell you if you’re overextending your arms, not moving them enough or if you are going too fast. There are some 900 exercises on the app which will provide you with information on motion, correctness, number of reps, and more. The workouts contained in the app all come with videos showing you how to do them.
The sensor works well, but is by no means perfect. When positioned in the correct spot, it does a great job of counting reps and sets and providing feedback. Several of the pictures online show the Gymwatch Sensor on the upper arm or leg, but many exercises require you to place the sensor on your forearm or lower leg. When placed in the wrong position the screen and audio feedback will let you know that you performed the exercise with the “Wrong Execution”.
The app and web portal currently leave much to be desired and do not provide a seamless experience. This is, however, work in progress, and the company is rolling out new updates on a regular basis.
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In addition to the app, there are voice prompts calling out rep count and feedback on form. GymWatch also recently launched an Apple Watch giving you the same type of real time data.
The app allows you to choose from a selection of ready-made workouts, there is a free workout section which is broken down into several areas, and you can also add customised workouts which you have designed yourself. At the moment though, to add customised workouts you do need to use the web portal rather than the app.
There is also a history section which is currently limited to providing details on reps (power, force and velocity) and time taken for each set. At the moment, however, the device provides the best metrics during actual workouts, which is not necessarily a bad thing.
You can now do away with the pencil and paper to write down used weights and repetitions. GymWatch allows you to see your progress from week to week, which is a great motivator to do your workout.
The device uses algorithms to analyze and determine your specific target goals. It combines your personal data and the recorded training data, then creates a personalized training plan for you. It automatically calculates the optimum weight to avoid overloading or under-loading, and to achieve goals more quickly.
In addition, the tracker provides useful feedback on your workout. It tells you if you’re going too fast or slow and if your form needs improving. You can keep your phone on you as you exercise for both audio cues and live feedback, or you can leave your phone in your gym bag and analyse your workout later on.
Gymwatch is one of the more advanced fitness trackers on the market today. While by no means perfect, it is a pretty decent little device, and one of the best fitness wearables if you are a casual gym user or go a few times a week.
We like that it can track strength exercises with free weights, your own body weight or exercises on machines, as well as cardio workouts. You will get a much clearer picture of what you are doing wrong or not enough of to maximise your performance. And the audio feedback in real time is a plus.
When it works, it’s great, but there are clearly some issues on the software front that need to be ironed out. The device can sometimes produce erroneous readings, and the software is not as polished as it could be. Also, the wearable can sometimes take away from the casual gym experience and slow down your workout, as it takes extra effort to manage your lifts on the apps and position the device on your body.
Working with a personal trainer is an ongoing expense. Buying a Gymwatch is a one-time expense, and while it doesn’t replace a person trainer, it can perform many of the same functions. There are no perfect gym workout trackers yet as this is a brand new industry. If you are serious about workouts and analysing your data, this can be a very helpful device.
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