Fit Tech: Track your workouts with Physique for iOS

In my high school's strength training class, we used an old-fashioned file and folder method to keep track of our workouts: We opened up our folders, put our workout schedules on one side (complete with little boxes where we filled in how much weight we lifted and the number of reps we did on each exercise), and put a 1RM weight chart (that's one repetition maximum) on the other side. Our weight room had clipboards on the walls, so we could hang our folders while we were working out.

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Since I left high school, I've been searching for an effective way to keep track of my workouts without carrying a filing folder around my gym. Enter Physique, an iOS app that replaces the system of my high school days. Physique Workout Tracker is a $5 workout-tracking app compatible with any iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad running iOS 5 or later.

Working out with Physique

Physique is simple to use, once you get the hang of it. There are three screens: the home screen, which houses your workout data, workout routines you've used and/or created, and settings; the Routines screen, where you search for routines or create custom routines of your own; and the Exercises screen, where you can search for specific exercises to add to routines or create new exercises (for use in complete routines).

The app, as you might have already guessed, revolves around workout routines. There are a couple of ways to input these routines: you can choose a pre-set routine, or you can create your own. Physique has ten pre-set routines, each with different workouts for different days. These pre-set routines include a beginner level, beginner with supplementary exercises, a bodybuilding routine, a cutting routine, a dumbbell routine, a machine routine, a muscle building routine, a six-pack definition routine, a strength routine, and a weight loss routine.

There are different workouts in each routine, depending on what the routine is meant to achieve. For example, in the strength routine there are three workouts for three different days--Monday is squats and overhead presses, Wednesday is bench presses, and Friday is deadlifts and chin-ups. You can customize these routines by adding new workouts or modifying the existing ones.

To start a pre-set routine, navigate to the routine you want to follow and tap "Start Routine" at the top of the screen. Physique will ask if you want to track your weight progression, warm-up sets, and rest time via an in-app timer. The routine you choose will then be saved in your "My Routines" section, which can be accessed from the home page. When you're ready to start the first workout, navigate to the routine and tap "Next Workout." Tap "Start Workout" and you're ready to go.

The individual exercise screen is simple, yet complex enough to keep you on track. The top of the screen has the name of the exercise, as well as a thin progress bar to let you know where you are in the workout. Once you finish the exercise, input the weight you lifted and the number of reps you did, and tap the right-pointing arrow. If you chose to track your rest time, you'll be presented with a timer counting down, and then Physique will present you with the next exercise.

The purpose of workouts in a routine is to rotate through them, but you can skip workouts by tapping "All Workouts" and tapping the workout you want to do.

Creating your own routines

You can also create your own routines, workouts, and exercises in Physique. To create a full routine

, navigate to the Routines tab and tap the plus button in the upper-right corner. You'll be prompted to name the routine, and, for reference purposes, select the goal, number of days per week, and level (novice through elite) of the routine. You can then add workouts to the routine.

Adding a workout is a little complicated, but it's worth it in the long run if you plan on using this app as a real workout tool. To add exercises to a workout, you have to tap the "add exercises" button and then search through Physique's list of exercises to find the appropriate one. You can filter exercises by muscle type, equipment used, mechanic (compound or isolation), and by force (push or pull).

However, an exercise must be in the list before you can add it to a workout. If you want to add a new exercise, you'll have to first go to the Exercises tab, and then go to "Custom Exercises." Tap the plus button in the upper right corner to add an exercise. You can add the name of the exercise, the primary and secondary muscle groups it works, the equipment used, the mechanic, and the force, so that you can quickly find the exercise when you want to add it to your routine.

Beginners, beware

Physique initially takes a little getting used to. There's some set-up time involved, since you have to read through the pre-set routines to make sure you know what all the exercises are, or you have to create a custom routine, which can take a while to do.

However, once you're set up, it's a very well-made app for tracking workouts. You can export your workout history data as a .CSV file, which is helpful if you want to store your exercise data on your computer.

The actual exercise screen during the workout is simple and easy-to-use, with an intelligent keyboard that allows you to input weight/reps using a number pad or a stepper, which allows you to add typical weight increments quickly (such as +2.5lbs, +5lbs, etc). The app supports regular sets, as well as super sets and drop sets, and can estimate your 1RM (remember, that's one repetition maximum).

All that said, the app does have a couple of drawbacks. Its exercise database, while extensive, doesn't explain in any real detail what the exercises are. Because even seasoned lifters occasionally have different names for exercises, a brief explanation of the pre-loaded exercises--or even a link to an example of each exercise--would be extremely helpful. Of course, this would be great for beginners, too.

Like I said before, it takes a little getting used to, but after the learning curve Physique is an excellent tool for tracking weight workouts.

This story, "Fit Tech: Track your workouts with Physique for iOS" was originally published by Macworld.

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