- Comfortable design
- Rich data insights
- Accurate HR and sleep tracking
- Expensive accessories
- Could record more user input
- Need to experiment to improve accuracy
The Whoop Strap 3.0 is the third generation of a wearable that seeks to go beyond what your typical fitness tracker or sports watch is capable of.
It wants to hone in on tracking recovery periods in your training or workouts. By doing that, it hopes to help maximise performance for your next big session.
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The Whoop has been seen on the wrists of professional athletes from across the sporting spectrum: golfers, CrossFit athletes, swimmers and the NBA's finest. Pretty much anyone who needs their body to be in peak performance at all times and less susceptible to injury.
With the latest iteration of the Strap, Whoop brings new improvements including a Strain Coach to help you train smarter according to your recovery level and goal. You can now also overlay your performance metrics over videos you record in the Whoop app. Battery life has also been improved to up to five days, from three on the Whoop Strap 2.0.
While the Whoop Strap 2.0 originally came with a lofty $500 price tag, it's now only available through a subscription model. It's a $30 a month subscription (with a six month commitment), bringing the cost of the wearable down substantially. Longer fixed-term contracts bring the monthly outlay as low as $18 a month still with no cost for the Whoop Strap 3.0 itself.
We were fans of the last generation Strap, so do the latest improvements make it a great wearable option for training like a pro? I've been living with the Whoop Strap 3.0 for over a month to find out. Here's my comprehensive verdict.
Whoop Strap 3.0: Design and comfort
Not a great deal has changed between the Whoop Strap 2.0 and 3.0 in terms of look and feel. It’s still a relatively discreet wrist-worn wearable, especially as there’s no screen on it to view data. The Whoop Strap 3.0 has a range of different color and strap options, ranging from the plain black we were sent to more eye-catching white, green, orange and blue bands.
You can also customise your Whoop Strap 3.0 further with premium band and clasp combinations, as well as different material bands.
There’s also a new ProKnit band as standard, which has a decent amount of stretch to it. The underside has textured patterning designed to stop the Whoop Strap from sliding around your wrist. If there’s one knock against the ProKnit though, it’s that it is pretty slow to dry if you get it wet.
Whoop Strap 3.0 next to a Fitbit Charge 3
Considering the Whoop Strap 3.0 is water resistant, you’re able to keep it on in the shower or for a swim, but it can be a bit uncomfortable when it’s still dripping wet. There is an optional Hydroband strap that’s designed to dry faster.
The Whoop Strap 3.0 can also be worn further up your arm, either on your forearm or on your triceps, similar to the Polar OH1+ heart rate monitor. For anyone whose workouts require wrist wraps, like CrossFitters, this is a useful option. There are also optional arm and bicep sleeves, or longer bicep bands.
While the regular band being too small to fit over my bicep was a nice ego boost, wearing the Whoop Strap 3.0 in an upper arm sleeve is a much better option. You simply remove the strap and slide the Whoop Strap inside the sleeve. It then sits comfortably and securely against your tricep.
The sleeve also has some padding around the Whoop Strap’s pod, providing a little bit of protection if you’re partaking in a contact sport.
Getting consistent readings is key to the Whoop doing its thing, so it’s worth experimenting with different positions depending on the workout. Anything that requires a lot of wrist flexion might mean you’re better off taking a reading from your upper arm instead.
I got really inconsistent readings during deadlifts from my forearm, which were much improved from my triceps, for example.
The Whoop is meant to be worn relatively tight so that the heart rate sensor maintains constant skin contact. As such, the Whoop Strap sits considerably more flush than a device like the Fitbit Charge 3 I also wore during testing.
Not having external light impacting the Whoop Strap’s sensor is important for it to get more accurate readings, so you want it tight enough that it’s hard to get your pinky finger underneath the band.
Whoop Strap 3.0: How it works
The central concept behind the Whoop system is using your heart rate and heart rate variability to monitor the ‘Strain’ you accrue, both during a workout and throughout the day. It also monitors recovery levels by checking your sleep overnight and naps during the day.
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By factoring in your strain versus your recovery, you’re better able to make an informed decision on the intensity of your next workout. That's the idea anyway.
Strain is a measure of the load on your cardiovascular system and Whoop measures this on a 21 point scale. A light workout is anything between 0 to 9.9, and an intense workout is anything between 18 to 21 on Whoop’s Strain scale. Whoop admits that going to a 21 scale was basically an arbitrary decision (think Spinal Tap) and you won’t ever actually hit a 21 score.
Fundamentally, the Whoop system is looking at your cardiovascular exertion, so its benefit is largest for cardio-based workouts. During testing I wore it for 5-a-side football, where an hour of activity would amount to around a 17-18 Strain score, as well as running. The scores here felt appropriate for how hard I pushed myself.
But contrast that with a 2-hour powerlifting weights session, where I might hit close to a 1 rep maximum high exertion lift, followed by lots of accessory resistance training. Many of these would barely hit a 10 score on the Strain scale but would still feel just as intense and draining as football or running, if not more so.
But because my time spent in elevated HR zones was much lower, it gets assigned a much lower Strain score. It leaves you feeling a little hard done by, especially as weight training will have just as much impact on your muscle soreness, and other factors like central nervous system (CNS) fatigue.
After a workout, you fill out a brief survey detailing your Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE), your performance level and whether you were able to complete your intended workout. The Whoop system will use your answers to determine its recommendations for your next workout and Recovery readings.
Whoop says that if your reported RPE is consistently different from your Strain score, it will decide if it should reevaluate. After five weeks of use, I haven’t really noticed any big adjustments in Strain score from similar powerlifting workouts, however.
It’s perhaps good that Whoop isn’t too quick to adjust because studies have shown that athletes have a tendency to over-report their RPE after a workout. But I imagine if you’re consistent in your rating, it can lead to a more personalised Strain score if it is ultimately adjusted.
Whoop Strap 3.0: Whoop Live
A new addition for Whoop Strap 3.0 is Whoop Live. This lets you use the app on your smartphone to record video of your workout, and your heart rate information from the wearable is superimposed over your video. You can see what that looks like here.
Depending on what you’re doing, this can be a useful tool to see if your form breaks down and if this correlates with your heart rate and fatigue. Otherwise, it’s just a cool video to share on social media.
Strain isn’t only built up during a workout, however. You’re meant to wear the Whoop Strap 3.0 constantly outside of the gym or track. It’s then taking measurements while you go for a walk, play with your kids, or carry the shopping.
It will also detect when you have an elevated heart rate due to stress or other external influences. In my case, watching football leaves me with a higher than normal heart rate for 90 minutes.
These all take an additional toll on your cardiovascular system that you might not otherwise consider, and need to be factored into your Day Strain score.
Whoop Strap 3.0: Recovery and sleep tracking accuracy
Measuring your effort levels during a workout using your heart rate isn’t too dissimilar to what’s done when wearing a MyZone MZ-3 chest strap, but that is only worn during exercise. The Whoop deviates further through its use of heart rate variability for recovery tracking.
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Between workouts, the Whoop system uses heart rate variability – the variation in time between each heart beat – alongside your resting heart rate. Essentially, a higher heart rate variability is considered an indicator of higher recovery and a decreasing resting heart rate shows a more efficient cardiovascular system – a sign you’re getting fitter.
These two heart rate metrics are used alongside the Whoop’s sleep tracking, as this is the period when your body recovers from the intensities of exercise. You’re assigned a sleep quality score based on the duration of your sleep measured against your prescribed ‘sleep need’, as well as your time spent in the various sleep stages such as REM and Slow Wave Sleep (often referred to as ‘Deep’ sleep).
Each morning, you’re given a survey asking about your energy level, soreness and other factors. You’ll also be asked about your sleep conditions, such as whether you had any caffeinated or alcoholic drinks, worked on a screened device or shared your bed.
All of these things can have an impact on your sleep quality, and Whoop says its users have a significant reduction in alcohol consumption. The survey and sleep tracking does make you more accountable and it’s now part of my routine after waking up.
A sleep coach feature also lets you decide what days you want to have peak performance or simply to get by. The Whoop app will then send you an evening notification letting you know how much sleep you’ll need to hit your goal for the following day.
If you don’t hit your prescribed sleep need, this is added to your sleep debt. You can top this up by napping during the day, but unless you’re a full-time athlete this might not be a realistic way to catch up. You’re given a Sleep Performance percentage score based on your actual hours of sleep – duration of sleep, minus time awake – versus your sleep need.
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As for the accuracy of the Whoop Strap 3.0’s tracking, I wore a Fitbit Charge 3 alongside the Whoop Strap 3.0 during testing and found that generally both trackers garnered similar sleep results in terms of automatically detecting my sleep duration.
There was an occasional deviation in terms of time spent in different stages, however. I typically found the Fitbit Charge 3 reported more periods ‘Awake’.
By combining your heart rate variability, resting heart rate and sleep metrics, you’re given a ‘Recovery’ percentage, informing you of the preparedness of your body to take on Strain in your next workout.
From here you can then decide the intensity of your next workout or whether you should dial back and have a rest day. If you have a high recovery score, it could be time to go for a PB, whereas a low score could mean you’re on the way to an injury.
Considering overtraining syndrome is one of the biggest fears of any athlete, I feel like there could be more information discerned from the daily survey. Studies have shown that there's a correlation between mood and underperformance when it comes to overtraining syndrome.
An extra question simply asking how you feel that day could be beneficial for gathering data, as would further questions around nutrition. Re-fuelling between workouts is also important alongside sleep, and a reduction in appetite has also been associated with overtraining syndrome.
Those extra data points alongside all of the other information captured from Whoop users could bring up some interesting insights.
Overall, this emphasis on sleep for recovery has made me pay much more attention to my sleep quality. It’s rarely the training itself that pushes you past functional overreaching, but rather the stresses outside like not getting enough sleep.
Whoop Strap 3.0: Strain Coach
The Strain Coach feature lets you see in real time how you accumulate Strain during a workout through the app. You also get a live view of your heart rate, which is something I found useful to monitor my rest periods between powerlifting sets.
Based on your Recovery level, the Strain Coach will give you an optimal strain level for that workout. Optimal range is considered enough intensity without the risk of burning out. Anything below is considered restorative and will speed up your recovery. Higher Strain levels are considered overreaching.
Functional overreaching can be useful in improving your overall fitness and performance but is not something you want to undertake regularly and can lead to the dreaded overtraining syndrome.
Even if you don’t manually start a workout using the Strain Coach, the Whoop Strap 3.0 will automatically detect exercise by sensing extended periods with elevated heart rate. You can then assign a workout type afterwards. The workout types are really just labels for the activity and there’s an extensive list of options.
Whoop Strap 3.0: Battery life
Whoop rates the battery life as an improved five days, up from three days on the Whoop Strap 2.0. In testing, however, I found it typically lasted closer to four days. That’s still a respectable amount of time for a wearable you’re never meant to take off
The Whoop’s strength lies in its tracking in between workouts after all. Better yet, you don’t have to take it off even to charge. That’s thanks to a separate battery you charge over Micro USB. You can then attach this to your Whoop Strap 3.0, almost like a battery backpack, so you can carry on wearing it while it charges without any holes in your tracking history.
I’m guilty of taking off other fitness trackers to charge and forgetting to put them back on. So this is an elegant solution and something I wish other wearables would adopt. It takes about 90 minutes to get you to a full charge.
Note that the battery charger is not water-resistant, so you need to remember to take it off before jumping in the shower. I was very close to making this mistake a few times.
You can double tap the Whoop Strap 3.0 to light up the battery indicator LED on the side, otherwise the app is good at pushing a notification to let you know you need to top up.
Whoop Strap 3.0: Does it work?
I think the most succinct testimonial to the Whoop Strap 3.0’s effectiveness is that I fully intend to carry on wearing it well beyond writing this review.
It has made me more aware of how important recovery is to my performance and how improving my sleep is so critical.
I make a concerted effort to get more sleep by going to bed earlier, but also to aim for better quality sleep because not only has that resulted in better recovery as shown in the Whoop app, but it correlates with how I feel. On days I feel sluggish, I can see my HRV is lower than usual and my Recovery score invariably suffers.
Granted, my primary training is around strength and powerlifting, and it hasn’t necessarily translated into me hitting new PBs, but it has made me train smarter and more conscientiously.
The app and desktop dashboard both provide really useful ways of presenting all of the information, so you can draw parallels between your Strain, Recovery and Sleep Performance.
The new subscription model also brings the cost down massively, making it an option for far more people.