UX Review of Train Fitness — the best Automated Weightlifting Tracking app that uses AI & Machine Learning
Finally an Apple Watch Fitness app for the rest of us
UX Rating: 4.5 / 5
TL;DR: There’s small usability issues and room for improvement, but Train Fitness is by far the best auto-tracking weight-lifting workout app on the market.
This is a personal, unprompted 3rd party review. I am a Design Leader in the high-tech industry, who has lifted weights as my primary form of exercise and fitness for 29 years (since I was 13). I love weightlifting and technology, and I have patiently waited for the convergence of tech to improve tracking and analytics for this traditional style of fitness.
Train picks up where Apple left off
Apple doesn’t seem to care about traditional weight lifting as an exercise to be tracked on the Apple Watch. For years many have patiently awaited an Apple watchOS update that adds tracking for lifting weights in the gym. Yet year after year, we see amazing and magical new features to track running, yoga, and every other type of exercise under the sun. Sure some of the training in Fitness+ use dumbbells, but that isn’t really traditional weight or power lifting.
Enter Train (Fitness)
How does the app work?
The first time I opened Train on my Apple Watch I knew I was going to enjoy the user experience. Using a single button to get started with no configuration blew my mind in comparison to previous apps in this space. Also, using the 💪emoji instead of loading a custom graphic? Brilliant.
Pick a weight and start moving!
Again, I love the simplicity. Don’t make me pick a body part or category or exercise. Set a weight and go. Also, allowing for finger swiping and turning the digital crown is a nice UX affordance detail. Bonus: even this simple step is optional. You can just start moving and adjust the weight after!
Again, a very simple screen (seeing a trend here?).
- Submit exercise: very dominant and obvious primary action. (Bonus: after a few seconds the exercise will auto-submit)
- Easily change reps: if the app didn’t correctly count reps you can adjust (BUT you should consider: perhaps your form wasn’t correct and you shouldn’t count those reps)
- Easily change weight: changing weight has a convenience interaction; you can “accelerate” the pounds increments if you hold down the + or - buttons for a longer time
- When the app identifies the incorrect exercise you can click edit and select the proper exercise (I talk more on False Positives below)
Relatively recently, superset grouping and tracking was added to the app. It auto-groups the exercises in the superset nicely, and allows modification with a tap of the exercise.
Manual Exercise Entry
For certain exercises (like many legs exercises) that are hard to track from a watch, there’s a manual exercise entry option. You’ll get a dismissible note that these exercises are slated to be trackable soon.
I’ve joined the Train Fitness Exercise Demo App program, and can confirm that many of these currently manual exercises are being trained (see what I did there?) for auto-tracking now.
Finishing & Saving a Workout
When you’re done, swipe and complete you workout to save it to your phone. You’ll get an iOS notification and you’ll be greeted with your latest workout and a very nice summary with beautifully designed stats that are very sharable.
A small usability improvement would be to send a notification alert after a long pause or delay, as I’ve left the gym several times and forgot to end my workout.
Activity, Stats, and Leaderboards
Train offers comprehensive stats in their iPhone app. Some useful stats and metrics like total workouts, calories, reps, sets, hours, and my favorite: TVL (Total Volume Lifted).
Additionally you can track your workout streaks, monthly totals, and muscle group focus. I’m so proud that I’m not ignoring legs!
Feature Request: As the app popularity has grown, it’s become harder and harder to climb the leaderboard. I used to be in the top 30, then top 40…and now it feels hopeless to crack the top 100. The additional of subgroups would be nice for a more rewarding experience.
Shortcomings & Usability Issues
The app isn’t perfect. The good news is that it’s constantly evolving and improving, with obvious user research, feedback and community involvement.
Analysing (“Analyzing” for us folks in the United States) always takes JUST too long before timeout. I have to re-wake the watch. Every. Single. Time.
Last Weight Defaults
Defaulting to the last weight VS the last weight for a specific exercise
Where’s the Learning in Train’s Machine Learning?
The main benefit of Machine Learning (ML) and AI is that the experience can improve and adjust over time as the models are trained. It’s a bit disappointing for using an app built on ML/AI that doesn’t feel like it’s learning in certain areas. When using Train, I have to constantly change the weight of an exercise which I’ve done a thousand times. I’d expect the app to make a recommendation based off all my previous entries since I rarely use a different weight.
To be fair, there’s probably tons of micro-interactions where Train’s models and algorithms are improving and I’m not noticing it (as you shouldn’t with a good User Experience).
One of the most irritating current quirks is when the app constantly identifies a common exercise as something radically different.
I’d love if when I constantly correct the app, that it would learn and remember that there aren’t diamond pushups (a chest exercise), they’re in-and-outs (an abs exercise).
False Positive Worst Offenders (for me)
- Incline Bench vs Flat Bench (disappointing for such a popular exercise)
- Front Squats vs Smith Machine Squats
- Diamond Push-ups vs In-And-Out Abs
Interestingly I’ve gotten many more false negatives recently where the app doesn’t identify or track a recent set at all. As an app matures I’d expect less and less false negatives, but perhaps they’re over-compensating and over-tuning for some other bugs and features.
Training & Testing New Exercises
I was surprised to get an invite to install an additional app to help track and train new exercises. This is awesome! It’s an incredible community-building initiative and clever company strategy to crowdsource the training of their models for new exercises. Kudos to them for this inclusivity of their users in this process.
Train Fitness Exercise Demo App
When you join the progress you’ll get access to an additional iPhone/Watch app to record yourself testing new exercises. This is great if you have a home or private gym, otherwise it could be awkward…
Also… how in the heck is the Apple Watch going to accurately track all these leg exercises?!! What wizardry is the Train team cooking up here?
Additionally you get emails of Demo App ratings from the community and rewards such as Train branded shirts, shaker bottles, gym bags, and a free year of the upcoming premium version of the app “Train Pro”.
UX Rating: 4.5 out of 5
There’s small usability issues and room for improvement, but Train Fitness is by far the best auto-tracking weight-lifting workout app on the market.
- ✅ Super easy learning curve
- ✅ Overall very intuitive and accessible experience
- ✅ Allows for easy editing and manual entry where needed
- ✅ Impressively accurate results and stats, best in class
- ✅ Active community and nice early access demo program
- Mildly irritating False Positives and False Negatives
Train also has a 4.7/5 user rating on the App Store