Fitness tech may have figured out cardio, but strength training is still an area where at-home fitness struggles. The Peloton Guide hasn’t taken off, Lululemon is floundering a bit with the Mirror, Tonal had a bunch of layoffs, and it’s generally easier for city dwellers to go to the gym than store a whole dumbbell rack in their living room. But Tempo is back with a big update to its at-home strength training system, adding full body scans and AI-powered classes that adapt to your performance in real time while providing form feedback.
“Finally, for the first time, we’re able to connect your body and workout to an AI and have them actually talk to each other to optimize your workout in real time,” co-founder and CEO Moawia Eldeeb told The Verge while demoing Tempo’s new features over Zoom.
The gist, according to Eldeeb, is Tempo will pull all your fitness data — including biometrics collected by the Apple Watch or other wearables with HealthKit integrations — to get a holistic picture of your readiness. That includes your heart rate variability (HRV), sleep quality, and what other workouts you’ve recorded on other platforms like Strava or Garmin that week. Depending on what the data says, the Tempo app will now recommend the difficulty and intensity level for your workout, what weights you should be using, and adjust your workout targets based on your real-time performance.
For example, Eldeeb says Tempo will now ask users how many additional reps they could’ve done at the end of a set. That will help Tempo’s AI determine whether you were working out at the right difficulty. Depending on your answer, you'll get recommended either more reps at the same weight, fewer reps, or perhaps a recommendation to lift heavier. Likewise, if your heart rate zone is too high after a set, the app will automatically pause workouts and lengthen your recovery time until your heart rate settles. This might sound like common sense if you’re a strength training pro, but it’s an area newbies often struggle to master without help.
Tempo is also leveraging the iPhone’s cameras to generate optional full-body composition scans. It works similarly to the controversial feature that Amazon debuted with its now-defunct Halo trackers. In a live video demo, I watched as a Tempo trainer spun around in a circle, and then poof, a 3D image appeared in the app itself. According to Eldeeb, the app takes 150 photos to reconstruct your body, and using your weight, height, and gender, it can estimate how much lean muscle mass and body fat you have. Plus, it provides body measurements (i.e., biceps, calves, quads, etc.)
The idea is so you can measure your progress — whether it be losing fat, gaining muscle, or both — without resorting to a number on the scale. However, the image part of it is optional.
“You can just say, ‘Hey, I want to keep my avatar. I want progress over time that I can see.’ Or you can switch and say you’re done, delete [the image], and keep the numbers,” says Eldeeb, referring to the 3D body composition avatar. Unlike Amazon’s version, there’s also no problematic slider that manipulates your avatar’s weight based on differing body fat percentages.
“It’s totally optional. You can still do baseline classes and still be able to calibrate everything and have the whole experience.”
The idea of an at-home system that’s portable and adaptive is a tantalizing one. It’s one of the reasons why the $495 Tempo Move was an interesting proposition. Not only did it have a sleek design, but it was ambitious and innovative in using smart weights and the iPhone’s TrueDepth cameras to deliver real-time feedback. The only issue, in my testing, was that connectivity between the device and my TV was wonky. Plus, despite the Move’s space-saving design, it still took up too much space in my cramped apartment.
It’s intriguing to see Tempo go in on the at-home fitness space at a less-than-auspicious time for the category
On that front, Eldeeb says Tempo now makes an even smaller and more portable $245 Tempo Core. It’s essentially just the Move’s “smart” dock, along with 50 pounds of connected, adjustable weights. The company has also added AirPlay compatibility, so there’s no need to actually hook up the device to your TV and take up a precious HDMI port — another issue I came across during my testing. I can’t say how well it works until I try it out for myself, but it’s promising on paper. The only thing that Tempo hasn’t addressed just yet is Android compatibility — partly because there’s a lot more variance between camera and tech specs on Android phones. For now, Tempo remains an iOS-only platform.
Even so, it’s intriguing to see Tempo go in on the at-home fitness space at a less-than-auspicious time for the category. And without raising subscription prices, at that. The bigger question is whether the added smarts will deliver a smooth enough experience for Tempo to pull ahead in the space. A lot of the right elements are there. Now it’s just the execution that matters.