GymFu Fitness Apps
January is the top month for gym memberships enrollment. Everybody resolves to get into better shape. And come February, the peak volume of January declines to normal levels as everyone quits. I know that my gym is filled with noobs right now – we’ll see how long that lasts.
For those of you who don’t want to pay for a gym membership, body weight exercises provide effective exercise with minimal equipment and space requirements. And they’re not a wuss-out form of exercise, either – studies have shown that bodyweight exercises will build mass, reduce fat, and get you in shape just as efficiently as weight equipment, if you do it right. In order to help you do it right, a company called BrainBakery has created a suite of iPhone applications and a supporting web site under the moniker GymFu.
The GymFu line consists of four iPhone applications – CrunchFu, SquatFu, PushupFu, and PullupFu. They run $0.99 each. There is also a free version of SquatFu called SquatFu Lite that limits you to 30 reps but gives you a chance to try out the product line. I downloaded three of these apps – I did not buy PullupFu because I don’t have a pullup bar. The other three exercises only require some floor space to test out.
The basic concept behind all the apps are the same. Each application trains you to reach a target goal for the given exercise. For pushups, the target is 100 reps; for squats and crunches the target is 200 reps; and for pullups the target is 50 reps. There are two modes. The training mode is used to progress towards the target reps for the exercise, while battle mode allows you to compete against other GymFu members. In order to use battle mode, you need to create a GymFu.com account (which I didn’t do). If you create an account, you can post your progress to GymFu.com and see how you compare against other users of the app.
GymFu’s apps, however, don’t just record your progress – they make sure you’re doing each exercise correctly by using the iPhone/iTouch’s accelerometer to figure out if your rep was a good rep. They only count the good ones, so the apps help keep you honest and make sure you’re doing a full range of motion.
To start off, each application gives you a short tutorial on what proper form looks like for the exercise in question. It also gives instructions on how to mount the iPhone/iTouch for best sensitivity. The app then has you go through a leveling section, where it tries to figure out at what level to put you into. There are ten stages to the training but you can skip several of them depending on how many reps you can do when you first start out.
Each training session consists of five rounds. The first four rounds have set target reps, depending on where in the progression you are currently at. The fifth round is an “as many as possible” round, used to help determine whether to move you on to the next level or drop you down some. Each training stage consists of three “days”; once you pass the 10th stage, you reach a finale where you perform the target number of max reps in one go.
The apps count your reps for each round. They will also tell you if the rep was a half-assed one or if the rep was done incorrectly. In use, I found this part to be a little annoying – it’s highly dependent on proper placement and perfect form. It’s also important to get a strap that will fit you. That’s not a problem for arm straps but finding an arm strap that will also fit around your thigh (for the squats) will be a bit of a challenge.
The default voice is a bit mechanical but if you sign up for an account, you can download two additional voices.
Since I belong to a gym and work out on a regular basis there, I didn’t use these apps as much as I thought I would. However, for people who want to exercise in their homes and want a way to keep themselves honest and motivated, these apps are as good as anything else. They’re also probably a better workout than a Wii Fit and a heck of a lot less expensive.