Last year ended on a high note for me, health-wise. I had finally reached a proper and healthy BMI .. and I started off 2014 feeling great! Now that I had managed to reach my goal weight it was time to consider tone & muscle definition. As we wrap up the first quarter of the new year I wanted to take a quick moment to review one of the apps that I will use most in my new endeavors to shape up!
Prior to the end of last year I had already begun using various pieces of software/hardware to utilize technology in my workout regime. For almost a year now I’ve tracked my weight using MyFitnessPal, and late last year I also picked up my Fitbit activity tracker. But to help increase muscle and track my “gym workout” I had been using Fitness Buddy from Azumio.
Now in all fairness, that app worked well. It never left me stranded and remains one the largest databases around for exercises/workouts. However after iOS 7 came out it just felt dated. And the interface always left something to be desired. In 2013 Azumio released their Argus app and I really wanted to like their software even more. But issues popped up during my testing of Argus that required interaction with Azumio customer service, and that experience was just horrible. It was at that point where I started looking elsewhere, because I was unable to get Argus to work right with my Fitbit (and other issues with Argus software), and overall it just left a bad taste in my mouth so I wanted to get away from the Azumio suite. It was a bit of a “personal” reason I guess, but I don’t regret it at all.
Sidebar: Last year I had been using Instant Heart Rate by Azumio to record my resting heart rate. Because of the above noted issues I ended up switching to the Runtastic Heart Rate Monitor. I’ll openly admit that the Runtastic version often has issues getting a pulse, where the Azumio app was more reliable. But I’ve been overall satisfied with Runtastic, and recommend it only marginally behind the Azumio app for reading your pulse before/after a workout. If your workout includes cardio-based activities I suggest using a heart rate monitor (HRM) which I go into more detail in my sensors review (CLICK HERE).
It was right around Thanksgiving time that I first stumbled upon Reps & Sets and decided to purchase the app for $1.99 and give it a whirl. Within the first few days of using the application I had questions about it, and suggestions for how it could be better. I shot off an email and a few screen shots, expecting I might hear something back a few days later if at all. So imagine how surprised I was to hear back less than two hours later!
Since then I’ve had a few more emails back and forth with Graham who has picked up a few improvements I suggested, and others I mentioned luckily were already in the works. Overall the app continues to blossom and I’m confident the team behind it will improve upon it further (Thanks in part to suggestions from folks like you and me, naturally).
Reps & Sets has a great website (repsandsetsapp.com) that does a superb job explaining what the application does and how it works, providing a great deal of screen shots. I’m going to fly through my “typical workout” and a few other odds and ends, to show you what the software looks like to me, pointing out some of the features that I love best!
When you use Reps & Sets you can create programs tailored to your needs. There is an extensive list of exercises in their system, which you can filter through by body area, muscle, equipment, or function. In the case shown here I just chose “all exercises” and grabbed a screen shot. Those exercises that do not yet contain illustrations have a grey body, but as you can see MANY of them have these awesome drawings.
Digging deeper here you can see the illustration of a Lat Pull-Down, and if you tap on the muscle illustration you get find the rich view, showing the agonist/synergist data and more. This is very useful for someone like myself who never really worked out in the past and wants to learn more. Their data has provided me a chance to educate myself about the muscles utilized in each application, and help make sure that I receive the full-body workout that I desire.
Sidebar: I’ve created a three-day full-body workout enlisting the help of my friends, as well as reviewing the programs provided by the manufacturer of my home gym and a competitors’ home gym. Between all these inputs I’ve created my ideal program set, blending the best options and utilizing the data from Reps & Sets to ensure I hit all the muscles I want equally and appropriately over the course of the entire program. If you’re interested in a copy, which utilizes a home gym (no free weights) and a stationary bike, let me know!
Here you can see those three Home Gym Workouts that I just mentioned, plus the Whole Body Program that I downloaded from Reps & Sets. You’ll notice the oval “Workout” icon next to workout #2, because I snapped this screen capture while I was still in the middle of doing that particular workout program. I’ve also included two shots which show just some but not all of the programs you can download via the app, to help get you started.
When you add an exercise you can set the reps/sets and weights (the weight selector imagery is super cool). While performing an exercise there is a column on the far right (the light grey data) which shows the last workout you did, so you can see how your weight/time has changed in the program. While you are performing exercises within a program you can adjust the time, weight and reps/sets to what you ACTUALLY did during that workout. Later, when you’re done, you have the option to save the program to your new adjusted workout. So if during the course of the workout you made changes you can choose to leave those changes to just that specific day/workout, or save those changes to permanently adjust the saved program. Cool stuff!
My programs all start with a warmup on my stationary bike. I wanted to include that exercise in my program, so I was very pleased to see its inclusion in Reps & Sets. Here above you can see the view after I completed a cycling exercise as well as two images deeper within that show some of the adjustability. I don’t have the time to elaborate here entirely, but let’s just say that the depth of configurability is amazing for all of the exercises that are included. And the are constantly adding more options and more exercises.
TIMERS, REMINDERS, & COMPLETION
In the early version of Reps & Sets you had to use your own timer during an exercise that was time-based. That is no longer the case thanks to a recent update. Now the app includes built-in timers. For example I performed a Plank for 60 seconds and in the photos above you can see me mid-exercise where the current plank has 18-seconds remaining. I love the added touch of the blue ring that moves around the circle too! Once complete a pop-up saying “Job Done” will appear along with an audible alert. You can toggle the audible alerts to be on/off, as well as other settings such as units of measurement and “auto next” when you complete an exercise. All of the settings can be found under the main Settings of your iPhone and scrolling down to Reps & Sets.
Let’s say you are doing a workout that takes a longer period of time (such as a 10 minute bike ride) and you want to know when the time is up — no worries! Or perhaps during a rest that you included between reps you went to check a text message. In either case the app will notify you with a pop-up reminding you that your rest (or timer) is over and it is time to return and move forward. Right from the pop-up you can Launch the app to return to your workout, as shown in the example photo.
Once you’ve completed your workout you tell the app you’re finished and it brings up the Finish Workout screen shown above. You can see the time you started/finished and the duration. You can adjust how you felt (for later review, I presume), add notes, and as I had noted earlier, there is a button to “update program” that will make any changes you made during the workout permanent to the saved program. There is also sharing capabilities, if that is your thing (social media, etc).
There is a History section within the app that allows you to see past workouts, a Calendar view which I most prefer (shown above), and other features. Within these pages you can see when you last performed an exercise, how often, what weights/reps, and so forth. You can also record your measurements within the confines of Reps & Sets if you so desire.
Also found on the main page of the app (but I didn’t bother including photos here) are some quick stats showing what muscle groups you have worked out the most or least lately, and how often you’ve been working out.
Overall the flow of the app is simple, clean, and pure. You get only data you need, with useful illustrations but no unnecessary fluff. That isn’t to say the app lacks frills, because things like the timers and the drill-downs for each exercise provide a scope not offered by most of the competition. If you’re looking for results, data, and simplicity this app offers all of that in a clean package.
Moving forward I know that the folks at Reps & Sets are considering an iPad version. And down the road who knows if perhaps they’ll include some cloud sync options too (just a suggestion, if you guys allow people to use multiple devices!) There isn’t much more the app needs right now, and it is already a staple in my diet of workout apps.
For my needs I use my Fitbit to track my daily movements, Digifit to track my cardio-based exercises with my Wahoo heart rate monitor, and then Reps & Set to record my gym-type workouts. It would be slick if Reps & Set eventually added heart-rate support for cardio exercises, but that isn’t really the focus right now so I don’t expect that anytime soon.
If you’re looking to start working out at the gym, or perhaps you already do, I highly recommend checking out Reps & Set to help during your workout. It has a great interface while you’re at the gym (or in your own home) to help make sure you get the results you want, and they really want to make the app even better. Check it out and let them know what you think– it is already great, and with your help, it can become even better!
(… now I just need to get off my arse and work out more often !! …)