Review: The Moov HR Sweat pushes us to our limit
Most fitness gadgets track and monitor your exercise levels, but there are some devices which also use tech to push you to do more. The upcoming Moov HR Sweat uses your maximum heart rate to ensure you are suitably exerting yourself as you complete grueling HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts. We recently tried the workouts... and now we've got our breath back and stopped wheezing, we can let you know how we got on.
We've previously reviewed the Moov Now fitness tracker and smart sports coach. While we were very smitten with the AI-powered coaching ability of the wrist-or-ankle-worn wearable, which uses motion analysis to tell you what to do and where you are going wrong, we were disappointed by the lack of heart-rate monitoring, and concluded that there were better all-day activity trackers out there, like the Fitbit Charge 2 and the Garmin Vivoactive HR which both featured in our roundup of the best fitness trackers of 2016.
So when Moov announced its follow-up, the Moov HR, we expected it to address these issues. However, instead of making an activity tracker with heart rate monitoring, Moov decided to double-down on what it was best at – providing smart coaching – and apply heart rate monitoring there. As such, the Moov HR Sweat is a headband-worn heart-rate monitor that works with HIIT workouts in the Moov app to make sure you are pushing yourself while completing those Squat Jumps or Plank Rows.
The Moov HR device itself is a little plastic puck, much like the previous Moov Now it's pictured with above, though this time it's equipped with an optical heart rate monitor on one side, like those seen on countless other fitness trackers. However, this one isn't destined to go on your wrist, and is instead worn against your forehead, and held in place after being squeezed inside a rubber container and attached to an included sweatband.
In terms of the apps you'll be using, the new HIIT workouts are being added to the existing Moov app (available for Android or iOS) which is used for tracking and sports coaching. But if you just want to use the Moov HR as a standard heart-rate monitor, its Bluetooth connectivity means it's also compatible with many other fitness apps.
At launch there will be five HIIT workouts added to the app. If you're not familiar with HIIT, it consists of high-intensity exercises with short recovery periods in-between, which are repeated to exhaustion. It's said the training method is great for burning fat fast, and that your body will increase calorie burn by up to 15 percent for as long as 30 hours after you've finished the workout.
HIIT Foundation, HIIT Cardio Blast, HIIT Athletic Conditioning and HIIT Explosive Power, are bodyweight workouts which each consist of 12 exercises such as Mountain Climbers, Lunges and (the truly horrible) Donkey Hops. These are organized into three circuits of four exercises, and each circuit (a 30 second burst of each exercise with short rests in-between) is repeated four times, over a total workout time of around 30 minutes. Between them these workouts are suitable for beginner to advanced users, while a HIIT Running mode is suitable for all levels of fitness.
While the workouts cover a good range in terms of the exercise variety and the level of fitness you'll need to complete them, it feels like a missed opportunity that there isn't more guidance about which ones you should be doing when, and how often. While the Moov HR promises to offer coaching and motivation like a personal trainer, what you are not getting is the detailed schedule planning and advice of how to achieve your fitness goals. However, that's not too much of a criticism as we are yet to find an app which we think gets this spot on.
Getting going with the workouts is straightforward, once you've picked the one you want to do you click on it to download the routine and videos demonstrating how to do each of the 12 included exercises. At that point you're prompted to don your Moov HR and sweatband, with an on-screen display showing the strength of the heart-rate monitoring so you can make any adjustments as needed.
Moov says it opted for head-based heart-rate monitoring over the more common wrist-based variety as it's far more accurate and less susceptible to faltering as you move your arms. While this makes sense, it does mean you feel like you are dressed for a workout in the 1980s. Indeed, wearing a sweatband was one of the biggest issues we had with the Moov HR. Luckily, most of the HIIT workouts can be completed at home, so you don't have to wear it outside.
Completing a HIIT workout with Moov HR Sweat feels like a cross between using a Jillian Michaels or Joe Wicks video, and a session with a personal trainer. Videos on your smartphone or tablet (though we preferred to mirror the footage to a TV) show you what you should be doing while the voice coaching will give you tips, along with personal trainer type motivation phrases such as "let's crush this round" or "go, time to push it."
As you "crush it" your current heart-rate is displayed at the top of the screen, along with the heart-rate zone you are currently working in. We initially had a few niggles getting accurate heart-rate readings. However, this was due to a minor bug in the pre-release version of the app we were using (which we are assured will be fixed) and our positioning of the Moov HR sweatband. It took a few attempts to get the fit right, and fiddling with it mid-workout appears to cause heart-rate tracking to drop, but when it works the tracking seems far superior to a wrist-worn tracker, and comparable to a chest-worn monitor, like the Tickr X.
If you're not pushing your heart-rate high enough, the nagging voice of your digital coach will let you know to aim for specific heart-rate zones to force you to workout at a certain intensity, which is the whole point of HIIT workouts. When doing as instructed by the Moov HR coaching, we found the programs gave a very good work out… and often left us sweating profusely and panting for breath.
However, there seems to be one problem with this, which is that the Moov HR Sweat can (in a sense) be easily tricked into thinking you are still exercising when you've stopped. Because Moov HR gives workout coaching entirely based on heart-rate, once your heart rate is elevated into a certain zone, it assumes you are still working out at intensity. The system doesn't use motion data to check you are still completing the exercises. Yes, you'd only really be conning yourself, but who isn't guilty of taking it a bit easier if no-one is looking?
What we found disappointing about this is that Moov has shown that it has the capability to offer great motion analysis with the Moov Now, as with a previous 7 Minute+ workout in the Moov app which can be used for rep counting. Even if it had required the use of Moov Now along with the Moov HR, we'd have liked to have seen this implemented… if only to stop us from cheating and ensure we kept working right to the end.
It should be noted that HIIT Running, which we didn't get a chance to try, can make use of both a Moov HR and Moov Now. However, the motion tracking of the Moov Now is only used to give additional data such as cadence, impact score, and range of motion after your run, not for the actual smart coaching. Equally, while you can use a Moov HR to track your heart-rate when performing a Moov Now workout, that data will be used as post-workout information and the smart coaching for those workouts is only based on motion analysis.
Though you'll likely be too exhausted to care straight after your HIIT workout, the app logs your heart-rate throughout these workouts. This means you can review what heart-rate zones you were working out in, and just how intense your workout was. Workout data can be viewed as a summary, or in full detail with your average heart-rate, peak heart-rate, and calorie burn logged for each exercise circuit.
In terms of battery life, the Moov HR appears to give around 6 hours of use, and is charged using an included USB-powered dock. This is enough for you to do a HIIT workout or two every day for a week. The Moov HR is also waterproof to 10 meters (33 ft), so you don't need to worry about it getting too sweaty, though Moov don't suggest using it for tracking heart-rate while swimming.
The Moov HR Sweat is an undeniably cool bit of kit, which will give you one heck of a workout. Costing US$100 when it goes on sale later this month, it's only the same cost as a couple of sessions with a personal trainer, and a great option if you want to subject yourself to regular HIIT sessions.
The use of heart-rate monitoring makes perfect sense for HIIT training because it means that you can get a tailored workout which will push you to your limit. However, as we said earlier the failure to include motion analysis for rep counting (and to make sure you are still working out) seems like a missed opportunity to take the Moov HR from being a good home fitness option, to a fantastic one.
But there is hope it could fulfill its potential. When we reached out to Moov, we were told that it's currently working on integrating both motion and heart-rate data into smart workout coaching. It was also said that additional HIIT bodyweight workouts and indoor cycling will be added to the app during 2017.
The firm is also working on a feature to reestablish the connection between the Moov HR and the app, should it drop during the workout. When this happened to us, we had to quit the workout and start again, so this update – which is due to launch this month – will be a welcome addition.
You can check out a promo video for the Moov HR below.
Product page: Moov HR Sweat