The new kid on the block in the fitness industry is smart fitness equipment. For the purpose of this article, we will define smart fitness equipment as equipment that incorporates both software and hardware into a single solution for use in multiple workouts. Think of products like Tonal, Peloton, and Tempo to name a few. While on the surface, this sounds like a great idea, I want to discuss a few reasons why I think these will not become a mainstay in the gym equipment space. (Disclaimer: this is the opinion of a guy who has been lifting for over 10 years and is completely biased)
The first point that I’d like to bring up is that while this equipment is new in its implementation of software, the idea of a single piece of equipment for all your workout needs is not. Who remembers Bowflex? These pieces of equipment have been around for years and are still available, yet no one that I’m aware of has ever claimed to have gotten strong from this single piece of equipment. While they may be great for accessory work (honestly not sure; haven’t ever seriously used one), it seems like these ultimately become nothing more than a clothes hanger for most people for a few years, then find their way onto Craigslist. With all the fitness influencers roaming around the internet, why is it impossible to find one who solely uses this single piece of equipment? I rest my case. Now to counter my point, one could say that new home gyms use “smart software” to guide you through workouts and adapt to your training needs. I will concede that having a good program is a major factor in training, however you have to pay an additional subscription fee for the workouts. Additionally, some of this equipment (*cough* Tonal) has a maximum weight of 200 pounds or 100 pounds per arm. Now I’m not here to strength shame anyone, 100 pounds per arm is no joke. However, if you are serious about getting strong there will come a point where 200 pounds is *takes a sniff of ammonia* “LIGHT WEIGHT”… and now your piece of equipment is useless.
With that, let's talk about the type of people who might want to buy this piece of equipment. I think most people who like to workout and have been doing so for a while will quickly glance over this new technology (as they should) since they most likely already have a decent set up of their own. The target audience for this equipment seems to be people who would like to make a change and incorporate fitness into their daily life. Let me be clear, I am all for adding fitness into your life and there’s not enough room here to discuss the benefits. But I think there are better and cheaper ways to begin your fitness journey. So this brings me to the big point on price. Most of this equipment is priced anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000. Now I’m not here to say that I won’t spend that much on a home gym but I’m not spending that much on something that only creates either 200 pounds of resistance or is a single form of cardio. Also, this doesn’t even include the monthly subscription. Not only do you pay for the equipment but then every month you have to cough up a fee to use the equipment along with the specific workouts. This is ridiculous to me, especially with such a high initial price tag. I’ll write another article as to all the equipment you can buy for a single one of these things that would be way more beneficial, but the bottom line is that you can buy a whole gym for the price of one of these machines. Nowp to be fair, a whole home gym takes up a bit of space and these products have a minimal footprint so one could argue that they would be better in this regard. But again I would say this is incorrect. A few kettlebells of varying weight, a sandbag, pullup bar and gymnastics rings would cost you a third of the price and would lead to much better results if you had a good program. This equipment could be easily stored and would be way more versatile than any of the above options. I would suggest investing in a great program or coach with all the money that would be saved by buying the basics as opposed to one smart home gym.
The third point that I’d like to make is geared more towards the lifters out there, but this equipment won’t take off because we still measure strength in terms of the squat, bench, and deadlift if you follow powerlifting or the clean & jerk and snath if you follow weightlifting. Whether you’re a powerlifter/weightlifter or not, these lifts – keyword lifts – are the main ways that strength is communicated. Until you can get gym bro culture to value your smart home gym numbers, you’re going to need to lift to communicate to others how strong you really are.
The fourth point that I think needs to be brought up is the lack of functional movement patterns. The fitness industry is becoming increasingly aware of the importnace of functional movement patterns to foster explosiveness and fitness that can be more applicable to your everyday life. In the world of sport or those training for tactical job applications (military, law enforcement, first responders) these smart gyms cannot replicate one of the simplest pieces of gym equipment on the market – the almighty kettlebell. While there are plenty of other pieces of equipment that cater to explosive training, this is a great example becuase you can find a kettlebell for 1/100 the price of a smart gym. With the kettlebell an athlete learns and trains explosive power through something like a swing, works core and shoulder stablity with a bottoms up press, and can build extreme trunk strength with farmers walks. To my knowledge, none of these movements are currently replicated by any smart home gyms out there. I would much rather promote a cheap piece of equipment that has seemingly endless applications vice one uber expensive piece that only lets the user train a very specific modality.
The last point that I’d like to bring up, is the lack of the grit factor on this equipment. This equipment doesn't foster the use of chalk, loud grunts or slamming of weights – the key ingredients to getting yoked. Enough said.
I’m not here to say that there’s no place for technology in the gym, I actually think there is a huge opportunity right now to incorporate tech into the gym space. One major addition that I’ve made to my training has been using the Juggernaut AI app for my programming. I think this is a great example of how modern software solutions can be implemented into your training regimen. This technology dynamically changes your program in real time based on the results you input from your workout. If you feel more sore than normal, it will reduce the volume or weight, or if you feel great it will push you to do more. Can’t say enough about how pleased I am with this app. Another technology that I think has a great potential is the use of velocity trackers. This equipment will track bar speed for velocity based training, providing you with feedback on things like bar speed, and some incorporate bar path. Devices like this implement a technology solution to provide you intelligent insight that can affect the way you train or provide valuable feedback on where you can improve. The price tag on this equipment is still pretty high but as products become more mainstream I think cheaper solutions will go to market. The third area of tech integration I think has potential, is the use of wearables that provide feedback on biometrics. Things like the Whoop strap or Oura ring will track things like heart rate variability to let you know how you're recovering. This information is invaluable if you’re someone who wants to take training seriously and recover properly in between workouts. All of these pieces of tech are significantly cheaper than the new smart fitness equipment and provide vastly greater returns.
Thanks for reading today, would love to hear other thoughts on this equipment in the comments! If you are looking to buy equipment of your own and love America, please check out https://thegaragegymoutfitters.com/ for a wide array of equipment from American companies!