Garmin update could point the way for better strength training with the Apple Watch

Posted:
in Apple Watch edited October 2017
A few weeks ago, Garmin upgraded the "Strength" activity on its Fenix 5 and Forerunner 935 watches with support for counting reps and weights -- something Apple would do well to mimic, if just partly, in a future update to the Apple Watch.




Last month's watchOS 4 upgrade included a "Strength Training" icon and label, but didn't make any fundamental improvements to the barebones tracking we complained about in a recent opinion piece.




Under the new Garmin system, users start a "Strength" activity as normal, but are immediately greeted by a rep and set time counter. Hitting a particular button starts and stops sets instead of the entire activity, with a rest counter in between. Users can still flip through multiple screens to see information like heart rate zones.




Much like the Atlas Wristband, Garmin's technology attempts to detect the exercise you're doing and count the number of reps automatically. If you want, you can both edit reps and add weight to an exercise, whether on-device immediately after a set, or later on using the Garmin Connect iPhone app.




The technology is definitely flawed. It regularly miscounts reps and misidentifies exercises -- not everything is a bench press or lateral raise, Garmin -- which means you'll be doing a lot of editing post-workout if you want to maintain accuracy. There also seems to be no long-term trend analysis that isn't cardio-focused, and for obvious reasons there are some exercises it just won't track automatically, like a leg press.

Still, simply counting sets and rest times would be an improvement in watchOS, and not terribly difficult to implement. The linear start/stop flow of Garmin's on-device interface makes things simple to process, too.

Apple might want to hold off on automatic rep tracking, but it's not inconceivable that the Activity app for the iPhone could be upgraded with options for manually adding names, reps, and weights -- or, in an ideal scenario, graphs for trends and individual workouts. Any of this would be useful for weightlifters, since it's easy to lose track of progress without writing stats down.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 11
    SoliSoli Posts: 6,202member
    I saw that Strength Training option all Summer during the 4.0 betas, but it now seems to be gone under the 4.1 betas.
  • Reply 2 of 11
    philboogiephilboogie Posts: 7,377member
    I’d rather see the global rollout of Garmin Pay.

    Soli
  • Reply 3 of 11
    It seems to me that a combination of voice commands and a strength app could work for those of us who use the Watch along with AirPods. The easiest input would be to tell the app after each set what you just did and let it record and learn from the movements that went into it. Over time the app may become intelligent enough to detect which exercise you are doing and at least prompt you for input after each set if not record reps, etc. The hassle of inputing data so often is the choke point that makes a strength training recorder less likely for me to use. 
    dedgeckopscooter63
  • Reply 4 of 11
    These auto detectors are not a better solution than a simple lift tracker. You select a lifting routine of your day’s lifts, you read what weights you should be lifting, and you easily record your reps per set. It’s not difficult in the slightest. StrongLifts, StartingStrength, Stacked, Wendler 531, etc....These task-specific trackers are much better than any autodect feature because they’re also keeping track of where you are in your program. And if you’re lifting, you should be following a program. It’s not like jogging or swimming. 
    king editor the gratebeowulfschmidt
  • Reply 5 of 11
    Check out Gymatic. It's already doing automatic rep-counting on Apple Watch. It's not my favorite workout app, and the rep detection is hit or miss, but if you're looking for that functionality it's worth a look.
    edited October 2017 king editor the grate
  • Reply 6 of 11
    Why do you need the watch to count reps for weight lifting? IMO, just have the watch providing the list of exercises and the reps needed, then just check off each completed step within the list on the watch.
    sandorNotsofastStrangeDays
  • Reply 7 of 11
    None of these are accurate enough to make it worthwhile to use, and most lifters don't need "auto capture,' and the friction in other apps is the entry of data. There is, however, a simple solution that is feasible with current technology and would be a home run for most users:

    1)  Option for App to announce/display first exercise ("Bench Press-5 reps 180lbs")
    2)  User announces exercise "Bench press 150 lbs," and then counts aloud or announces at end how many reps completed.
    3)  App or user announces next exercise- and so on.

    This way you have the app letting you know what is next exercises you should be doing, and then recording what you actually complete, and in the end recording everything in the app for you.  



     
  • Reply 8 of 11

    I have this feature on the Vivoactive 3 and all of the criticisms in the article are accurate.

    But it is a handy little app and if you use it in conjunction with a "workout" you built on Garmin Connect (web or mobile) then a lot of the problems mentioned so far in the comments are solved. If you build a workout the proper exercise names will already be in place along with the weights and you can manually edit any incorrect rep counts during your rest periods.

  • Reply 9 of 11
    popeyesm said:
    It seems to me that a combination of voice commands and a strength app could work for those of us who use the Watch along with AirPods. The easiest input would be to tell the app after each set what you just did and let it record and learn from the movements that went into it. Over time the app may become intelligent enough to detect which exercise you are doing and at least prompt you for input after each set if not record reps, etc. The hassle of inputing data so often is the choke point that makes a strength training recorder less likely for me to use. 

    I don't know how practical that would be in a gym setting. A bunch of people talking to themselves would be more annoying and distracting than the awful DBM blasting through the speakers.
  • Reply 10 of 11
    Why are we praising Garmin. You cannot use sensors to replicate the counting of reps, on successive movements using multiple modalities, indoors without constant attention to both the physical watch and the data entry it requires. That’s heavy lifting the watch would be better to avoid. It’s why people use a logbook. Paper and pen. Sure they put a barometer in the watch so it “knows” when ur stepping but it’s not possible to be accurate to the size of step or your execution of Said step. Which is what’s actually meaningful information. 

    Its a gimmick. And garmin is wise to find one because no one wants a 600$ Fitness watch the size of a clock. The Fenix is great but no one wants one. 

    1) Download “Strong”
    2) pay the premium for its features
    3) do your cardio.
    4) Stop worrying about your steps,
    5) program ur reps BEFORE u get to the gym - it’s quick and smarter than a sensor
    6) while at the gym let the program u wrote in ur phone run the show vis a vie the watch and it’s simple UI
    7) leave the Phone in your locker and lift with the watch signed into the same WiFi as the phone to negate the need for Series 3 LTE andbu get all texts and data flow the same freed from the phone 
    8) lift hands free
    9) play Legend of Zelda on the switch while running because you can 


    StrangeDays
  • Reply 11 of 11
    I'd just like for the pulse monitor to be functional during weight lifting. On my Series 1 watch it is useless. I may have a pulse above 130 the whole time, and yet it's always confused and showing nothing or ~ 65 and then at the end of the workout the average pulse is something ridiculous like 100 bpm. Totally useless.
    edited October 2017
Sign In or Register to comment.