Smart Home Gym or Mobile App? What’s right for you?

Smart home gyms are for the person who wants an interactive gym experience, at home.

Whether it just be a couple of resistance bands or a full Rogue squat rack setup, these days you have the power to build your own gym at home with only a few clicks on your computer. Two solutions that have become really popular are mobile workout apps (like Apple Fitness+) and smart home gyms (fully integrated video or audio programs embedded in a mirror, bike, rower, or anything that you’re going to use for a workout). They’ve become great options to get you motivated and sweating but the big question is: which is the right path for you?

In the world of fitness mobile apps and smart gyms you have a wide selection at your fingertips. If you just scroll through your phone’s App Store to search for fitness mobile apps you will see A LOT. Some are just basic providing images of what you’re supposed to do with no sound or video and there are others that have Chris Hemsworth luring you into doing full video workouts with trainers who look as perfectly chiseled as him. The smart gym market has also exploded with options from the Peloton to the WaterRower to smart boxing gloves so whatever fitness fancy you desire, it can and will be served. 

I’m going to focus on the most impressive of the mobile apps and smart gyms: Apple Fitness+ and the Tempo Smart Mirror. They both provide workouts that challenge you but as you dig deeper into their features, depending on what you want, you’ll realize one type is better for you than the other. 

Fitness+ and Tempo provide an excellent selection of workout programs but differ on offering you the equipment you need to complete the workout

Apple Fitness+ came out in mid December 2020 and the other mobile apps were right to feel nervous because Apple brought their A-game right up front. When you launch the app in your iPhone, iPad, or your Apple TV you are presented with a beautiful UI experience that you’re used to if you’ve ever worked on an Apple computer or even visited their stores. You have several workout options that include core, cycling, dance, HIIT, mindful cookdown, rowing, strength, treadmill, and yoga. 

Tempo Studio is a self contained smart gym that offers strength training, HIIT, and mobility exercises presented in a 6’ tall mirror with 42” HD touchscreen display. This 100 lb mirror is on it’s own solid base and comes with a built-in locker kit that includes four 10lb, 5lb, 2.5lb, 1.25 lb plates, two 7.5 lb dumbbells, a 25lb barbell, a heart rate monitor, a workout mat, and a recovery roller. 

Notice the first difference between Apple Fitness+ and Tempo Studio: Fitness+ doesn’t give you any weights or bands. You have to provide all the equipment yourself. Tempo Studio not only gives you the workouts but they also give you all the equipment you’re going to need.  If you’re on the go and don’t care about having equipment then mobile apps might be the right path for you. But if you want all the equipment needed to level up your goals, smart gyms like the Tempo Studio are your best path forward. 

Challenging workouts to get you moving

Fitness+ and Tempo Studio both provide strength workouts that make you glow with sweat after each session. 

In my Apple TV, I launched the Fitness+ app and chose a 10 minute strength workout with Betina.  I hit the “Let’s Go” button on the screen which then triggered a command on my Apple Watch. HItting the start button on my watch is how you get the program to start. It seems silly to have two start buttons but (imagine shrugging image of me here) that’s Apple.  

The workout opens to a gorgeous, warm-toned gym that is excessively clean and has all the equipment you wish you had at your fingertips. Coach Betina comes on and greets you with positivity and charm that you’re hoping will keep you motivated to go through all the strength moves she’s demonstrating for you. I’ve heard some people complain about the excessive positivity that all the Fitness+ trainers seem to exude but frankly I’m ok with all this light and happiness. Because when it’s raining at 6am I need someone to get my butt moving and Betina does the trick. She takes us through a bunch of moves that involve deadlifts, rows, and lunges all to the latest hip hop tunes available in Apple Music. What I particularly like is she has assistants in the back who are doing slightly different variations of her moves so you see options to do more beginner moves or more advanced motions.  

On the Tempo Studio, I launched a strength training class and it felt like I was working out one-on-one with Coach Melissa on it’s large 42 inch vertical screen. Before the workout even begins you are told exactly what dumbbells to use and what weight is recommended for a bicep curl. You have the power to choose the type of music you want to hear and if they give you options  ranging from throwback hip hop to EDM. This smart gym can actually see you and instructs you to place your yoga mat 6 feet away from the mirror and to stand on it. Once you are in the right position, the smart mirror tells you it’s ready to go. Melissa guided me through a 20 minute session of shoulder presses, chest presses, dumbbell curls, alt reverse lunges, planks, bent over rows, and squats. Melissa was crystal clear on the screen and showed me exactly how I should be doing a move. Here’s another area where the Tempo Studio really beats the Fitness+: if you are off in your form the mirror tells you to fix your form. I was doing a deadlift but I wasn’t going low enough. The Tempo Studio popped up a message saying that I needed to go lower. That’s basically like having a trainer stand right next to you tweaking and fixing your form.

Smart gyms like Tempo provide unique two way tracking

Getting through a workout can be tough and I’m all for technology to distract, push, and trick me to keep going. Thankfully both Fitness+ and the Tempo Studio provide all these things to make sure you complete a session. 

If you have the Apple Watch you know about the Activity Rings. Those are the visual representation of whether or not you’ve hit your movement, exercise, and standing goals for the day. Your Activity Rings are displayed on the Fitness+ screen so you can see your progress and your heart rate as you do squats. When you pass a particular goal, the ring spins and sends off fireworks. It’s a small thing but that little visual representation really helps me keep with the workout. 

In the Tempo Studio, after each set a summary of your stats pops up on screen showing your reps, pace, and range of motion but more important it shows a leaderboard. I’m not competitive by  nature and if I’m in a group class I definitely don’t strive to be on the top. But in the privacy of my own home, when I saw that leaderboard and noticed I was in third place, that pushed me to go harder on the next set so I could move higher in the leaderboard. And once my stats showed I progressed higher up, I gave myself a personal high-five for hitting that goal. 

The Tempo Studio provides everything you need to have this interactivity. With it’s cameras that can see you and the heart rate monitor Tempo provides, the smart gym has a really good picture of what’s happening to you on the outside and inside. It can track your reps, offer weight recommendations and even monitor your pace. In order for Fitness+ to work as perfectly as it was designed, it requires you to have an Apple Watch and an iPhone, AppleTV, or iPad. You then need to make sure all these pieces are talking to each other and though Apple has made that process smooth, it’s not as simple as walking in front of the big, beautiful Tempo Studio and choosing a workout. 

Mobile apps are great but aren’t necessarily the cheapest solution

Fitness+ is great for people who want something to keep them motivated when traveling or just want to take their workouts away from their home. Mobile apps like these are also perfect if you were lucky enough to buy dumbbells before a 10lb set of dumbbells were selling on eBay for $100. But the Tempo Studio really outshines the Fitness+ in regards to programs, interactivity, and the equipment it provides. If you’re looking to bring your gym experience at home, then I highly recommend purchasing a smart gym like Tempo.  It may seem like the Fitness+ is cheaper than the Tempo Studio,  but when you add up all the Apple equipment you need to give you a comparable experience to a home gym the prices come out to be surprisingly similar. Plus, with smart gyms like Tempo it feels like you’re working out with a personal trainer one-on-one which is something you can’t get from a streaming mobile app. 

You have many options to choose from when looking for a program for your workout goals. Just keep in mind that mobile apps and smart gyms benefit people very differently depending on your expertise and desire. Rather than waste your time and money on something that seems financially cheap, analyze what type of fitness person you are and look for the tool that provides the right options to help you with your goals. Knowing this will really help you in the long run as you plan for your next personal record.