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New fitness system Tempo judges your workout form to help you get better
This sleek new workout machine uses sensors to map your body in 3D and tell you when you're doing squats, lunges or any exercise move wrong.
Sarah MitroffManaging Editor
Sarah Mitroff is a Managing Editor for CNET, overseeing our health, fitness and wellness section. Throughout her career, she's written about mobile tech, consumer tech, business and startups for Wired, MacWorld, PCWorld, and VentureBeat.
The Peloton Bike has become the must-have home fitness status symbol -- but what if you don't like spinning? If weightlifting is what really gets your heart pumping, you're going to want Tempo, an all-in-one fitness system that comes with a set of weights and uses AI and 3D mapping to evaluate your form in real time during every workout.
At-home fitness has become a hot category in the last few years thanks in part to the rise of Peloton and Mirror. Unlike the bulky fitness machines of the 90s (remember the Bowflex?), these pieces of equipment are designed to be part of your decor and try to bring the experience of working out at a fitness studio into your own home. In fact, when it's not on, Mirror looks just like a full-length mirror -- you wouldn't know that it has a built-in screen where you can take a fitness class.
Similar to Mirror, Tempo's sleek design is meant to blend into your home -- it looks like an industrial bookcase and a TV had a baby, in a good way. But what sets it apart is that it uses motion sensors and infrared light to map your body (similar to the Naked Labs Body Scanner), analyze your form and record every rep. If your form goes astray during your workout, you'll see an alert on the screen with feedback on how to correct it.
Tempo officially launches Feb. 26 for preorders and it'll start shipping in the summer. The full system includes dumbbells, a barbell, weight plates, barbell collars, a heart rate monitor, workout mat and foam roller. The equipment allows you to lift weights from 7.5 pounds all the way up to 100 pounds, and using the 42-inch touchscreen, you can participate in both live and on-demand HIIT, strength-training and movement (basically yoga) classes.
The system costs $1,995 and there's a $39 monthly subscription to access all of the workout classes and plans, but you only need to put down a $250 deposit if you want to order it now. I got to try it out ahead of the launch, and I was impressed by how well it worked to count my reps and the immediate feedback about y form it gave me during my workout.
Form is imperative in weightlifting -- if you're struggling to complete a move with proper form, you could be using too much weight and be putting yourself at risk of injury. The inverse isn't great either, because if a move is too easy and you're moving too quickly through it, your weight is too light and you're not getting an effective workout.
The only way to be sure your form is perfect is to exercise with a trainer who can watch your every move, but Tempo is trying to replicate that experience as close as it can using both real-life fitness trainers along with sensors and AI. Every time you work out, Tempo checks your form during each move and alerts you if it's not hitting the mark. But during a live class, the trainers can see each person participating in the class and get those same alerts. They can then offer additional coaching to that specific person, or provide general feedback if several people are struggling.
In practice, the feedback worked really well. I tried out a prerecorded class where I did mostly squats and dumbbell curls. While doing those moves, Tempo easily counted every rep and I saw the real-time feedback on my form, both when I was doing it correctly and making mistakes.
Throughout the entire workout, Tempo showed me a robust dashboard of information that updates in real time, telling me how many reps I completed, my pace compared to the trainer and my heart rate. It captures all of that during every session and uses it to map your progress overtime. You can sign up for various fitness programs and Tempo will plan out all of the workouts you'll need to do to reach your goal.
Another feature I really liked is that Tempo takes you through an evaluation when first you set it up so it can learn about your fitness level. It then uses that data to customize every workout for you, telling you how much weight you personally should be lifting and scaling that up as you get stronger.
Tempo and other smart fitness machines don't come cheap -- a Peloton Bike costs more than $2,000 and Mirror is just shy of $1,500. Tempo comes in just under $2,000, which is a lot for most people to invest in a home gym -- especially considering you can easily work out at home with some inexpensive equipment and free YouTube videos. Tempo's following in the footsteps of Peloton and Mirror, which despite their high price tags, appeal to people who are serious about getting fit, but don't have time to hit the gym.
When it comes down to it, these machines are status symbols, in the same way the Bowlfex was 25 years ago. But having tried out both Mirror and Tempo, I think Tempo definitely has the edge because it provides real-time feedback that Mirror can only do if you pay extra for personal training. And while I don't think anyone absolutely needs Tempo to get fit, I don't think you'd be wasting your money if you ponied up for it -- especially if you want to lift weights.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.