Disclosure: I was given free access to the Workout Box training programs and was compensated for this review.
When I joined the YMCA a few years ago, the shiny workout machines scared me, the guys lifting weights intimidated me, and I still have no idea how to work a rowing machine. I ended up on the elliptical or the treadmill most nights, going nowhere literally and not making as much progress as I could have with a better training program.
Sometimes you just want a professional to tell you what to do. There are several ways you can get a training program together, either by hiring a certified trainer, buying a book, reading expert bloggers’ sites, or purchasing a plan from a web-based service like WorkoutBOX. I was asked to review the latter and decided to take them up on the opportunity. I’ve been craving a bit of variety in my program, but I don’t really want to hire a trainer, nor do I feel like I have the expertise to figure out a plan on my own.
Several aspects of the WorkoutBOX site are free, such as their forums, blog, exercise demonstrations, and training logs, though you do have to create a free registered account to access them. If you browse around for a bit, you’ll get a pop-up that advertises the meat of the site, the WorkoutBOX Training Programs. They currently offer six programs that fall into two categories: losing weight and gaining muscle. Within those two categories there are three programs, a beginner, intermediate, and advanced plan. Each plan takes six months to complete and is broken into four-week periods as illustrated in this graphic.
A video on the Getting Started page explained the difference between a workout and a training program. A workout is a collection of exercises for a single day’s work. A training program is a collection of workouts that changes frequently. This variety prevents your body from getting used to any single exercise, which helps you avoids plateaus and ends with better results. All the programs are developed by Travis Steffen. The team page states that he is a personal trainer and mixed martial artist who is completing a Masters in Exercise Science (pending spring 2010).
Once you purchase a program, you can log into the site and access all the information for every week of that program. You can click on tabs to view each day’s routine and you can click on links to display inline videos from the site PhysicalFitnet which demonstrate each exercise. There is also a print-friendly option so you can print out the program to bring to the gym. Please note, these programs are created for use with gym equipment, so it’s not something you can do solely in your living room.
Obviously, I wasn’t able to do all three-years worth of programs in the past week. Also, I’m not a certified trainer myself, so I can’t give any expert opinion on that angle of the plans. I did look through the programs though, and from my amateur perspective here are the good and the not-so-good things I saw:
- The videos are filmed on a solid background, making it easy to see the proper form the models are using.
- The three levels of expertise let you start with a program you’re comfortable with, instead of throwing you into the deep end of the pool. (That’s figuratively, not literally. There are no actual pool exercises :) ) For example, the beginner’s program starts you out on weight machines before moving to free weights, which are more effective but require better technique.
- Each four-week period starts with a summary of what goals you’ll be striving for this week and what changes to expect in your body. This lets you know why you’re doing what you’re doing instead of expecting you to mindlessly follow a program. Each exercise is also tagged with the area of your body you are targeting with that movement.
- There appears to be a genuine emphasis on becoming fit, not just thinner.
- The routines add reps, increase weight, and up your cardio through the weeks, keeping you challenged. The variety also helps fight boredom, which I have found to be one of the biggest enemies of weight loss and weight maintenance.
- They mandate rest periods and the occasional rest week to give your body time to rebuild after you’ve broken it down.
- They provide definitions of terms like set, reps, supersets etc. for newbies
- If you’re too intimidated to hire a trainer or can’t afford one, this is a cheaper alternative that will probably freak you out less.
- When I browsed through the forums, it appeared that everyone’s questions were answered by a WorkoutBOX team member. It looks like they have good support if you run into troubles.
- If you’re unsatisfied with the program, they offer a full refund.
- Once you buy the program, you get to keep it forever.
- Although the programs are divided into two categories called “weight loss” and “muscle gain,” this seems to be code for “girls” and “boys.” The images on the weight loss pages are mostly of fit, slender women like her:
and, granted, a few buff guys like him. (Can I lick him? Please?)
Whereas the “muscle gain” section only had photos of ripped guys. I wish the muscle building programs were more female-friendly. Even the text says the muscle building routines will help you develop a “bigger and more defined physique,” but I don’t know too many ladies who want to get bigger. They do want a defined physique though. We can have one without too much of the other, right?
- The use of words like “toned” and phrases like “burn fat” annoy me. The word “toned” stirs up much controversy among female weight lifters and is really a whole entry unto itself, so I won’t get into that. But if anyone actually burned my fat, I’d run screaming to the closest emergency room with a burn unit. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if these words are proven effective in marketing, so I can’t ding them to harshly for it.
- The videos typically display an exercise from only one angle. It would be great if you could see at least two angles to make sure you’re using correct form. Since you presumably won’t have a trainer with you, this can be important so you don’t injure yourself.
- The programs are really, really light on nutritional information. I hope in the future they develop more content in that area. Eating the proper foods before and after a workout can greatly increase your results.
Each program is pitched as costing $1.50 a week, which really means you pay $38.95 for the program upfront and then use it for 26 weeks. That appears to be a decent price when you compare it to other programs available from trainers online. (Craig Ballantyne’s Turbulance Training program that I’ve seen mentioned on Skwigg’s site costs $77.00.) It sounds like they’re working on adding more programs in the future too. An iPhone app is also in the pipeline which you’d be able to use on your phone at the gym.
If you’re interested, you can sign up at WorkoutBOX. Let us know how it goes!