Mirror, Tonal, Tempo, Jaxjox…If you’ve heard of these brands, then you’ve heard of the newest workout trend: high-tech fitness. These high-tech systems help create a workout studio experience in the comfort of your home. From streaming live workouts right on your wall to digitally adjustable weights, these setups might be the closest replacement we have to IRL fitness classes.
The at-home tech equipment space has grown in popularity throughout the COVID-19 pandemic—many of the products are space saving, have adjustable weight settings, and offer varied workout content, Chris Howell, C.S.C.S., founder of SPX Gym Design, tells SELF. The ability to bring all of that right to your home can be attractive to those who want to avoid a crowded gym.
Some of these smart systems even include all the necessary equipment, which takes the guesswork out of having to shop around for the right tools for your workouts, Ava Fagin, C.S.C.S., a coach and class instructor at Bodyspace Fitness in New York City, tells SELF. And that’s huge, since at-home workout equipment like dumbbells and kettlebells have been difficult to find during various points of the pandemic (especially without markups in pricing).
When it comes to opting for one “smart” brand over another, it’s important to ask yourself which type of exerciser you are, Marcel Dinkins, C.S.C.S., personal trainer and group fitness instructor in New York City, tells SELF. For instance, do you desire community? Love boutique fitness? Like to be led and motivated? Are you looking for instant feedback (from an AI-powered coach)? You may also want to consider long-term issues, too, like whether you want to focus primarily on cardio or strength goals. Size of the setup, variety of workouts, and tracking and syncing capabilities are all important to consider as well. Once you know what’s important to you for your at-home workouts, then you can figure out which features to prioritize, Dinkins says.
Ideally, you’d be able to test the products in a showroom before before you buy, says Dinkins. But due to safety concerns, that might not be feasible right now. So some brands, like Tonal, will offer you a personalized virtual demo. “You get to see how it works firsthand, which is pretty cool,” says Dinkins. Others may offer a 30-day trial, after which you can return the product if you don’t love it—though they may charge you for return shipping, says Howell.
It’s also important to do your research. “Companies are racing to the market right now to be the Apple of the smart-fitness movement,” says Dinkins. “However, [some] companies are sacrificing on quality software and even production value of their streamed workouts in order to do so.” To figure out which products hold up to their claims, Dinkins suggests reading lots of reviews and noting both the ratio of positive to negative feedback and if buyers are all complaining about the same things. “No matter how affordable something may seem up front, if it doesn’t work as it should, it’s overpriced. Good products take time and will have tons of great reviews and word of mouth testimonials.”
The bottom line is that if you’re going to splurge on a high-tech fitness setup—which tends to be significantly more expensive than traditional fitness gear, like dumbbells and resistance bands—then you want to make sure it’s safe, good quality, and the right solution for your goals, says Howell.
For SELF’s product reviews, where we rigorously test and evaluate all kinds of wellness products to help you decide what’s worth buying, we wanted to know exactly what to look for when shopping around for a high-tech at-home fitness system. We spoke with Howell, Fagin, and Dinkins to find out what the experts suggest. Based on their input, here’s what we pay attention to when testing these smart fitness systems for reviews.
High-Tech At-Home Fitness Systems Evaluation and Testing Criteria
Make sure that the trainers and coaches on the streaming platform are certified and qualified, says Fagin. “Since you’ll be learning from them, you want to make sure that you can trust them!” Look for a certification from an accredited organization (you can search here). Also, it’s not always necessary, but definitely a plus, if an instructor has an additional certification in the discipline they’re teaching—for example, a kettlebell certificate if they’re teaching kettlebell workouts.
High-quality display and instruction
You want to make sure any device with a screen has one that’s clear, high-quality, and large enough for you to really see what the instructor is doing and follow along throughout the workout. Some smart fitness systems have full-length screens, while others have screens about the size of a large tablet or small TV.