The following post is sponsored by FitFluential LLC on behalf of Under Armour.
Must confess, before using Under Armour’s Armour39 I have had a somewhat negative attitude towards the usefulness/relevancy of heart rate monitors in my own training. Part of this was due to past experience with bulky plastic HRM straps collecting sweat across my ribs and only providing very boring data like realtime HRM (not saved) and maybe average HRM over a period of time if I was lucky. In other words, the data was not useful enough to me to warrant wearing a clunky uncomfortable sensor band.
The first thing I noticed about the Under Armour Armour39 was the unusually soft and flexible band. The only hard plastic part is the very center which houses the removeable Bluetooth enabled Armour39 module. During several of my workouts I forgot it was even there. I was slightly annoyed to find out that the Armour39 was not going to work on my iPhone 4 and that it needs at least an iPhone 4s for the right kind of Bluetooth. Before using this product review as a “great!” excuse to upgrade my phone, I decided to try it on my iPad 3 aka “The New iPad” and found that it worked fantastically. I also enjoyed the larger iPad readout. My iPad spends some of its time in a specialty clamp-mount on my desk, so when I work out at home I can see exactly what’s going on from nearly any angle in the room. This proved to be very interesting and entertaining during my at home workouts. The large iPad display was also very amusing for my workout partner when I brought it to one of our infamous “go all out” workouts. She felt vindicated to see I was being challenged as much as she was!
Part of the reason I wanted to participate in the Armour39 campaign was to see if HRM data was useful to me at all, as I’m absolutely not an endurance athlete. Also, I don’t usually care much about HRM or calorie burn or setting paces. The type of training I enjoy tends to be more of the “sprint” variety at least in terms of cardiovascular training. I also spend a lot of time on strength, skilled movements, and mobility—and I wasn’t sure how relevant any of that would be to using an HRM. Kettlebell swings and snatches, sandbag clean and presses, throwing around battling ropes aka Muscle Ropes, pull ups, push ups (with and without a weight vest), 1 leg squats etc. all feature regularly in my workouts. Basically my personal workouts tend to involve a small variety of basic (if not unconventional) items while not really focusing on calorie burn or heart rate.
But, I’m very pleased to say that the Armour39 has significantly altered my thinking. I tested it in a variety of situations and the information it provided was not only useful, but gave me further insight into how some of my less strenuous activities were actually more involved than previously thought. It’s also helped my approach to designing workouts and workout programs for myself and my clients.
The more I used it, the more curious I became. Here are some of the situations:
- A very “typical for me” at-home workout which included maximal bodyweight strength exercises along with Primal Move, mobility and qigong exercises to warm up.
- An at home workout with bodyweight exercises done to near failure with significant rest but ending with an all-out short duration kettlebell component
- A brisk 2 hour “wandering around exploring things” walk
- An all out “bring everything I own” workout in the park with a friend using intense 5 minute flat-out rounds.
- A recovery workout focused on tai chi, the Convict Conditioning Trifect (mobility), and Primal Move exercises
- During the infamous RKC kettlebell snatch test (5 minutes, 100 snatches, kettlebell weight varies by weight class. For me it’s a 14kg).
- Bedtime reading/meditation to find resting heart rate
Just from that short list, I learned a TON about why some workouts were more mentally taxing or restorative than others, and how simple activities like the wandering walks I take, and the qigong especially seemed to at times raise my heart rate in places more than I had suspected. So not only do I have more understanding of how I’m training, I’ve been inspired to work more on my cardiovascular training, which I’ve always thought of as more of a “side effect” of everything else. I was not surprised to learn that the RKC kettlebell snatch test absolutely threw me into the maximum range, as did battling ropes and heavy kettlebell swings. It was also interesting to work with realtime heart rate data in timing rests. During one of the workouts I would complete a set of very heavy kettlebell swings then rest until my heart rate had just recoved into the moderate zone before continuing. It was a very interesting experience and occasionally humbling! But it was also nice to learn that where I “FELT” my actual max to be is beyond what’s estimated for my age.
Needless to say several of my friends, clients and fellow instructors are very curious to try the Armour39, and I would absolutely recommend it to anyone looking to either get into shape, or to fine tune the “rhythm” of their workouts. As a kettlebell and progressive calisthenics instructor just the the brief time using the Armour39 has provided a ton of useful feedback to back or refute some of my “hunches”.
I’ve got an interesting relationship to the “Willpower” metric which is calculated by a proprietary algorithm in the app, I noticed that my pure strength/skill workouts didn’t range too high (4.29, 7.29, 6.51, 4.96) in Willpower, and my 2 hour brisk stroll barely registered (2.45). However the “All out circuit with several maximal moments” did manage to hit a nice solid 8.95 out of 10. Which is a good thing, that involved some walking around in a daze style recovery at a few points.
The other nice thing about the Armour39 was that it provides an assessment which provides a baseline for your progress. I can’t wait to use the Armour39 for a longer period and re-test to see what’s happened.
While eagerly waiting for it to arrive, I did a quick search to read other reviews on the Armour39. And need to say that I found the strap VERY easy to wear and to put on. One of the reviewers (a guy who apparently hasn’t worn a bandeau bikini top before) had a hard time with it. I found a very easy no-contortion-necessary method right from the start:
- Adjust the sliding back strap so that the whole band is just slightly smaller than your chest.
- Dampen the sensors with a small amount of water, then hold the front of the strap to your chest with your right thumb on the right side of the strap.
- With your left hand, trace the long, adjusted end of the strap across your back until you meet the fingers of your right hand. Hold both ends of the strap with your right hand at this point.
- Bring your now un-occupied left hand around to hold the strap in place at the front (where you right thumb used to be).
- Keep holding with your left while you gently stretch the band with your right hand and insert the hook into the front of the band.
My personal wish list for the app would include the ability to add very specific body composition data (I would LOVE to add my more accurate basal metabolic rate data from a BodPod visit for example, or have the option for inputting VO2Max information instead of theoretical defaults). Other than that I really can’t say that I have many improvements in mind for the Armour39 as it stands.
You’d do well to get your own – and if you train with me, please wear it to your session or class!
This post is sponsored by FitFluential LLC on behalf of Under Armour.