#Trending: Fitness trackers are getting more gym-friendly

Garmin and Samsung have stepped up. Now it's time for the rest to do the same
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Fitness trackers are just for counting steps and offering basic sleep stats you say? Not any more my friends. Those days are well and truly over. Yes, there are still those options out there if you want to keep tracking simple, but when you start talking about Fitbit, Garmin and Misfit's flagship devices, things swiftly start to get more comprehensive and feature-packed.

We are also seeing the kind of advanced metrics that your typical fitness tracker owner are probably hearing about for the very first time. VO2 Max? heart rate variability? Those are stats that serious athletes who own Garmin, Polar and Suunto watches probably ever only cared about.

Read this: Best wearables for real-time coaching

While we are pleased to see those additional metrics being added to the mix, we feel there's still some work to do on making these trackers better suited for the gym. We're not talking about recording the duration and heart rate data from a bodyweight workout like many of these trackers call 'gym tracking'. It's time that we got proper gym tracking whether it's analysing form or counting sets, which we hope will start becoming the norm for fitness tracking.

Thankfully, things are changing and we are seeing those type of features being embraced by the big fitness tracker players. Here's the current state of play.

So, what's happening?

This week Garmin unveiled the Vivosmart 3, its latest fitness tracker and while it decided to ditch built-in GPS (boo), which is packed into the Vivosmart HR+, it did still find room to include a new Strength Training mode.

What does that do then?

Well, it's designed for anyone that is more concerned with bulking up or getting toned as opposed jumping on a treadmill and burning calories. Using the motion sensors on board and Garmin's software, it'll count your reps so you can focus on form and making sure you're actually sticking to that strict workout routine.

Okay, so is that new?

Well, it's certainly new for Garmin's wearables but there are other devices that already offer rep counting for bodyweight and free-weight training.

And they are?

Samsung is the biggest wearable player to add rep counting skills to its latest wearables. If you have the Gear Fit 2 or the Samsung Gear S3, you can now count reps for exercises such as crunches, lunges, squats and star jumps. Jabra's latest Sport, Coach and Elite Bluetooth headphones also offer similar rep-counting skills.

Right, but what about if I lift weights?

So, Samsung's wearables aren't really equipped for that, but the Vivosmart 3 will be able to track curls, presses and sit-ups as the video above explains. It'll also factor in rest times and let you edit reps during a workout.

What if I do other gym workouts?

Then you're out of luck unfortunately. You're better off going for a dedicated gym wearable that offers greater a variety of exercises that can be tracked.

#Trending: Fitness trackers are getting more gym-friendly

And they are?

We've tried a few and the standout examples are the GymWatch and the Atlas Wristband, which recently got an upgrade in the form of the Atlas Shape (image above). The Shape offers all of the same great motion tracking as the Wristband 1 and 2 adding in a real-time coaching and an AI-powered personal trainer.

Anything else?

There's also the Beast sensor, which can be worn around the wrist, in a vest or you can slap its magnetic body to a weight machine to see strength data such as intensity, starting strength and explosiveness. Actofit also features a 9-axis motion sensor and recognises over 75 different exercises counting sets, reps and evaluating form.

What about Apple and Fitbit?

As far as being prepped for the gym, the two wearable heavyweights are lagging behind Samsung, Garmin and the companies we've mentioned above. Apple's smartwatch largely relies on third party apps that focus on offering instructions and workout plans. But there are some apps you can downalod that offer rep counting as well.

As far as Fitbit is concerned, trackers like the Charge 2 and the new Alta HR do offer automatic exercise recognition but do not count specifically reps during a workout.

But surely that's going to change?

We hope so. Especially when the first Fitbit smartwatch and the Apple Watch Series 3 are both very likely to launch in the second half of 2017. We've already seen Apple make a big push on fitness with the Series 2 by adding dedicated swim tracking and built-in GPS. As for Fitbit's first smartwatch, we're expecting big things obviously because its wearables are all about fitness. So stay tuned.

How we test

Michael Sawh


Michael Sawh has been covering the wearable tech industry since the very first Fitbit landed back in 2011. Previously the resident wearable tech expert at Trusted Reviews, he also marshaled the features section of T3.com.

He also regularly contributed to T3 magazine when they needed someone to talk about fitness trackers, running watches, headphones, tablets, and phones.

Michael writes for GQ, Wired, Coach Mag, Metro, MSN, BBC Focus, Stuff, TechRadar and has made several appearances on the BBC Travel Show to talk all things tech. 

Michael is a lover of all things sports and fitness-tech related, clocking up over 15 marathons and has put in serious hours in the pool all in the name of testing every fitness wearable going. Expect to see him with a minimum of two wearables at any given time.

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