Since my first brush with calisthenics 2 months back, I have become an avid fan of bodyweight training. A typical bodyweight workout can consist of push-ups, sit-ups, chin-ups, pull-ups, dips, squats, burpees or their many variations. These exercises are simple but are great for Muay Thai as they are very effective when it comes to building strength, endurance, explosiveness and cardio. Bodyweight exercises also carry less risk of injuries compared to training with free weights or machines. Best of all, calisthenics can be performed pretty much anywhere, without a need for pricey gym memberships or fancy equipments. (For more information, see related article: “Calisthenics for Muay Thai“)
As I began to devote more time to bodyweight training and researching about calisthenics -for different muscles, learning about sets & reps, pyramid training etc- I found the amount of information to be overwhelming. Training on your own without a qualified fitness instructor can be challenging so this was where technology came in: Bodyweight training phone apps.
Phone Apps for Bodyweight Training
Health and fitness are all the rage right now. Almost everyone talks about getting into better shape. To cater to this growing fitness enthusiasm, there are now many phone apps developed for fitness purposes. Whether you train at home or at the park, your smartphone can be a great training tool. All you need to do is to install an app and you are all set to go. Here are some benefits of using phone apps for working out:
Easy way to track progress
Many workout apps offer a load of features that allow you to know how you have been progressing in your training. Your workouts are stored so you can keep track of your performance easily.
Quick access to workout routine ideas
You no longer need to memorise workout routines. Workout phone apps often come with a wide range of workout routines built for any occasion and every muscle group. Decide what you want to focus in your training -be it cardio, strength, specific muscle groups etc- and look for a corresponding routine in the app. Leave the rest to the app. Simple as that.
Imagine a world where you have a personal trainer (PT) who follows you wherever you go, so you can train whenever you want. The future is now. Your PT now comes in the form of a smartphone app. A fitness app tells you which exercise to do next; how many reps to do; when to start and stop; and when it’s time to rest. Anytime, anywhere.
Although some phone apps require you to pay a fee to use, the majority is free for download. You may have to pay a fee to access the complete features for some apps but I have found that it’s usually a negligibly small fee or that the free features are good enough as it is.
MadBarz Calisthenics App
I was searching for calisthenics workout ideas when I stumbled upon the popular street workout app, MadBarz. Just minutes after downloading the app and registering, I was off and done with my first bodyweight workout. It has since become an indispensable part of my calisthenics training
The MadBarz bodyweight workout app was developed by a Croatia-based startup and launched in 2015 for both iOS and Android to an ever-growing number of users (over 1 million users). The continually-improving app has more than 70 bodyweight exercises and over 35 built-in workout routines for different training purposes. There are also a few other cool features that I will discuss below.
Besides the app itself, there is also an active blog on the MadBarz website with loads of free information on bodyweight training, nutrition and many motivational videos. Did I forget to mention their YouTube channel, Instagram and Facebook page? MadBarz has it all.
MadBarz offers all benefits of a fitness phone app as highlighted above (progress tracker, workout routine ideas, portable, free to use) but there is no such thing as the perfect fitness app. Let’s compare what I consider to be the pros and cons of the app:
- Intuitive Interface: The app is easy enough to navigate via its sleek and intuitive user interface. Fonts are big and clear, each exercise in a workout comes with a thumbnail, and each workout comes with a visual overview of the muscles that are activated.
- Custom Workout Routines: You can customise and create your own workout routines using any of the available exercises in the app. Everything from the number of sets, reps, rest times, can be edited. If you have made progress -and you should-, you can edit the number of reps to fit your level and training goals without having to create a new routine (as was the case in the app’s earlier versions). You can edit these variables in the built-in routines too. Also, if you did more or less reps, the app allows you to confirm the actual number of reps perform for accurate tracking.
- Exercise Guide: Pike push-up? Hindu push-up? Pseudo push-up? If you don’t know what an exercise is, there are instructions as well as video demonstrations that you can download to view via the app. In calisthenics, it is best to perform each rep in perfect form to reap maximum gains and benefits. The videos are thus great when you want to see how an exercise is performed with the right techniques.
- Online community: The support of a fitness-minded community is a strong push factor, especially as you train alone. Calisthenics training can be challenging, especially for beginners. So the power of a community can reinforce the desire to train and provide valuable support to newcomers. Users of the app can “respect” your workout the same way a Facebook “like” works.
- Progressive levels: The app tracks your progress and assigns you with an according level based on your workouts. It’s a bit like Pokemon Go (for those who have played it) where you train to up your level. You will be awarded points based on the difficulty of a workout that you complete, that will go into increasing your level. It’s an aspect of the app that makes training fun.
- Weird workout names: Some of the workouts have overly funky names which give little clue about what they are. Example: The slicer? Apparently a routine that “slices” your sixpack so it’s a workout targeting the abs. This is something of a quirk initially but after a period of using the app, you will be familiar with most of the built-in workouts. Or at least your favorite ones.
- Non-backtracking: You can’t go back to a previous exercise if you accidentally tap on “done” during workout. It does happen from time to time but this is a mild annoyance since this doesn’t really happen often.
- Incomplete bodyweight exercises: The app does not contain the whole pantheon of bodyweight exercises, nor does it allow you to add your own exercise like some apps do. But what IS available is more than enough for your workout to be effective. I would imagine the developers adding more exercises in future updates if enough users make requests.
Strengthening and conditioning is a key aspect of Muay Thai training. As smartphones and fitness apps continue to improve, you may no longer have any reason to sign up for a gym for strength training. You are effectively your own gym and your app becomes your own personal trainer. With a great calisthenics app, a strong online presence and enthusiastic community of users, MadBarz may be all you need for bodyweight training. Train hard, train smart.