Week 6: Conor’s strength training diary – Working out with Garmin's rep counting

I don the Vivosport and reflect on the journey so far
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Well, you know what they say: time flies when you're using wearable tech to track your strength training sessions. And after spending weeks on end with the Apple Watch and the Fitbit Ionic, it was time to explore something different, the Garmin Vivosport.

It's not just fitness trackers and smartwatches I've been using throughout this diary series, though. I've also been keeping one eye on my body through the Garmin Index smart scale and receiving some posture feedback with the help of the Upright Go.

Essential reading: Best Garmin watch 2017

Both have filled in some of the blanks outside of the gym itself, so let's take a look back at what's changed before diving into how the first week has been with the Vivosport.

Slow but steady progress

I'm not a great believer in weighing myself very regularly. Your body fluctuates so much from day to day that results are often inconsistent and unable to provide anything but a broad look at progress. This hasn't really changed with the introduction of a smart scale into my daily routine, though Garmin's offering is able to give you feedback on not only your weight, but also your body mass index (BMI), body water percentage, body fat percentage, skeletal muscle mass and bone mass.

I'm not going to get too caught up in my weight, but based on the data I've gained around 6 lbs (or a little under half a stone) in the past six weeks. That's not too dramatic, granted, but what's interesting and encouraging is that this has coincided with my body fat percentage dropping by around 1.5%, now sitting at just over 10%. And while BMI is renowned as an imperfect metric for keeping a tab on your health and wellbeing, the graph says that my 22.7 rating is optimal for my height and weight (6'1", 177lbs).

I wouldn't normally keep too close an eye on this kind of body data – like most people, I'd usually notice any significant body change by simply looking in a mirror – but in a way it has given me more of a back up and confidence to stick to the path I'm currently on.

As for my anterior pelvic tilt affecting my back and abdomen, which I detailed last week, well, that's a work in progress. When you're in the midst of a busy working week and a Halloween extravaganza, finding ample time to stretch and correct your body isn't always easy. And unfortunately, consistency is paramount to improving in this area.

For the rest of this diary series, I'll be looking to simply remain consistent and keep pushing my body.

Living with the Vivosport

After growing tired of having to put too much legwork in with the Apple Watch and not being afforded any insight with the Ionic, I was excited to switch over to Garmin's latest fitness tracker, the Vivosport, and test out the automatic rep counting.

And while the idea is great in principle, a few sessions with the device leaves me doubting whether it's ready to make a difference to my workout, or whether it simply throws me different problems to deal with. It's not that it's wildly inaccurate in terms of counting repetitions – in fact, I've actually been impressed by how easily it does track certain exercises. But when it's off, it's way off. And when you're performing single-arm exercises, it obviously only applies to the arm the tracker is positioned on.

Thankfully, any inaccuracies can be edited while you're in your rest period, but continuously tapping at the Vivosport's minuscule screen isn't ideal when you're in the middle of a workout.

Essential reading: Best gym trackers and wearables

After your workout is complete, you'll be given an insight into your heart rate throughout the session – similar to how Apple and Fitbit operate – while the sets you performed during your workout are also formulated into a list. How does it know which exercises you've performed, I hear you asking – what sweet magic is this?

Well, it's not exactly as good as you'd imagine. Take the shoulder session below, as an extreme example. On the feedback of the 18 sets I performed, four were tagged as bench press, two as sit-ups, one as push-ups and nine marked blank and ready to fill in. Only one, a lateral raise set, was correctly tagged by the Vivosport — not ideal. And while the order can be edited in Garmin Connect, the actual tagged sets can't be changed. Even if you could edit, trying to remember your entire routine is anything but easy.

Week 6: Conor’s strength training diary – Working out with Garmin's rep counting

As I say, this is an extreme example, but for this recognition to work it needs to be consistent or not be an offered feature. It's hard to place your trust in something that reflects little to nothing about your workout, after all.

And that's a shame, because the promise that your fitness tracker can correctly track different exercises and essentially do everything for you is very compelling. Perhaps more input is needed before your workout to aid accuracy, such as simply saying which muscle group you're looking to focus on in order to narrow things down, because at the moment it appears to be a guessing game in which most of the answers are wrong, despite some solid results in the physical tracking of your repetition.

Whether this improves over time remains to be seen, but I'll be living with the Vivosport for another week in order to find out. And if you need to catch up on the rest of this diary journey, have a read of previous entries below.

Conor's strength training diary

Week 1: Getting hench with wearable tech

Week 2: Strong but shallow with the Apple Watch

Week 3: I've grown weary of you, Apple Watch

Week 4: Taking the Fitbit Ionic for a spin

Week 5: The importance of posture

How we test

Conor Allison


Conor moved to Wareable Media Group in 2017, initially covering all the latest developments in smartwatches, fitness trackers, and VR. He made a name for himself writing about trying out translation earbuds on a first date and cycling with a wearable airbag, as well as covering the industry’s latest releases.

Following a stint as Reviews Editor at Pocket-lint, Conor returned to Wareable Media Group in 2022 as Editor-at-Large. Conor has become a wearables expert, and helps people get more from their wearable tech, via Wareable's considerable how-to-based guides. 

He has also contributed to British GQ, Wired, Metro, The Independent, and The Mirror. 

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