is a weekly column where we review smart fitness machines and apps in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Thanks to technology, there are still plenty of ways to exercise if your gym is closed.
⚡ Mashable Score
When I used to go to the gym in the pre-quarantine days, I like to think I stayed in my lane. And by that I mean, I always marched right past the weight machines, squat racks, and dumbbells, and onto the treadmill.
And that’s because I don’t have the slightest idea of how to properly weight train. There’s also no way in hell I would attempt to figure it out in a crowded gym. But I also know that cardio will only get my noodle arms so far. So, when Tempo reached out with the opportunity to review its fitness machine, equipped with weights and motion tracking, I was all in.
I mean, what better time to struggle with lifting heavy things than during lockdown in the comfort (and privacy) of my own home?
At almost $2,000, Tempo isn’t cheap, especially considering there’s also a $39 monthly subscription fee for the content. But you’re getting a lot for that price tag.
For starters, the set comes complete with 16 weight plates, two dumbbells, a barbell, a workout mat, and a recovery roller — all of which is packed into a sleek storage unit that also houses a 42-inch HD display.
However, the one thing that sets it apart from all the other smart connected fitness machines is its 3D sensor that corrects your form in real time.
Whenever the sensor notices that you’re not properly executing the workout, a notification appears on the display to let you know what you’re doing wrong. It’ll also let you know when you’ve corrected it.
For someone like me, who has absolutely zero clue about proper weight lifting form, this feature is crucial. Not only does it help me learn proper technique for my own safety, but it also lowers the barrier of entry for weight training as a whole.
But even those of you who need no introduction to the workouts can use the machine to perfect your skills and keep up with your training the same way you would at the gym.
Although, I’d bet Tempo is probably a little more intense and effective.
A sleek and compact setup
As a whole, Tempo has a super modern and sleek look to it. The aluminum frame comes in either white or black. I opted for the black version because, in my experience, anything white somehow manages to look dirty in no time.
In terms of size, it stands at 6 feet tall and just over 2 feet wide. While the machine itself doesn’t take up that much room, it’s important to note that you’ll need about five feet of clearance when working out to make sure the 3D sensor can properly recognize you. So, when thinking about the placement of the machine, just make sure to give yourself enough room to stand away from it and also comfortably execute the workouts.
Another thing to consider is where it is in relation to your Wi-Fi router. Tempo supports both 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks, but I had some trouble connecting it to my own network. I typically keep all of my fitness machines in the garage since it’s where I have the most available free space at my parents’ house. Granted, my WiFi network isn’t the strongest and I do have issues with it in general. But, I’m able to stream workouts from my Peloton Bike in the same area without any problems.
Unfortunately, my Tempo failed to connect to my WiFi network from its place in the garage, so I had to move it inside closer to the router. After that, it successfully connected and streamed the workouts without fail.
On the front of Tempo is a large 42-inch HD touchscreen display with the Azure Kinect 3D camera underneath (which I’ll get to later). The display is not only bright, but super responsive when navigating through all of the classes. Additionally, it comes with 60-watt stereo speakers that sound crisp and clear. Although, I do wish there were a way to connect Bluetooth headphones.
With Tempo, you get four sets of plates that weigh 1.25 pounds, 2.5 pounds, 5 pounds, and 10 pounds. All of these are stored towards the bottom of the machine — open the cabinet-like doors and you’ll see racks dedicated for each set. On the back of the device are additional racks that house the 25-pound barbell and two 7.5-pound dumbbells.
You’ll also get six collars for attaching the weights to the barbell or dumbbells. They’re essentially clamps that secure the plates each time you need to swap them out for lighter or heavier ones.
It also comes with a few additional accessories including a heart rate monitor, a workout mat, and a recovery roller — all of which you can also store in the cabinet to keep everything together.
As for installation, Tempo offers white-glove delivery service which sees the team deliver, unbox, and set up your Tempo studio for you. In accordance with CDC recommendations, the company confirmed the delivery team will wear both masks and gloves when entering your home.
Of course, if you’re still uncomfortable with at-home delivery, you can opt to have your Tempo left on your doorstep instead.
If you’re like me and opt for the latter, I’d recommend having someone help set it up. The machine itself is already intact (so there aren’t any tools required), but at 100 pounds, you might need another person to help you move it around. Yes, my wonderful dad and brother dragged this thing out of the box and into the living room for me, but I’ll take credit for organizing and hanging up all of the weights, thank you very much.
The closest I’ll get to a personal trainer
Tempo offers hundreds of on-demand classes to choose from based on categories like strength-training, cardio, mobility, and high-intensity interval training (HIIT), as well as recovery classes (which you can use with the included foam roller).
The company also streams live classes, but due to the pandemic they aren’t as frequent. As of right now, live sessions are streamed on a weekly basis rather than daily. To keep content fresh, Tempo is currently pulling from its post-production backlog so there are still new classes being added constantly.
Similar to Peloton, the live classes allow instructors to call you out in real-time (whether to encourage you to keep it up or to help you correct your form). The classes also allow you to compete against others via the leaderboard.
Other than that, the experience doesn’t differ all that much in comparison to on-demand classes. Even during on-demand classes, you can still use the leaderboard to try and beat those who have already taken the class before you.
When selecting a class on the touchscreen, it gives you a preview (complete with visuals) of all of the exercises you’ll be doing. So, you’ll know exactly what you’re in for before pressing start. Each session follows a similar format where you start with a warmup and then continue on to the actual workout. Between rounds, you can either rest to drink some water or switch out the weights.
On the display, you’ll see a variety of different metrics. On the top left, is a countdown marking the duration of the class and a status bar that represents what part of the workout you’re on. Below that, you’ll see the title of the specific exercise you’re doing, the number of reps per round, and the weights you’re using. On the bottom of the display, you’ll see information like your reps, pace (reps per minute), and heart rate.
As you complete each rep, you’ll see the number update in real-time to help you keep track of where you’re at. So, your goal is to either get to the number on the display or surpass it. Of course, you’re also focusing on making sure your form is correct.
This is where that 3D motion sensor comes into play. Using Tempo Vision (the company’s proprietary technology), the camera captures your motion through pulses of infrared light to create a 3D model of your body using 80,000 individual points.
So, during a class, I’d see feedback that I was leaning too far forward or backward while lifting the weights. Other times, it’d correct me if my knees were over my toes while doing squats. Once I’d fix my form, a green checkmark would appear to let me know I was good to go.
In addition to using reps as a way to gauge how hard to push yourself, the instructors also use your heart rate. When wearing the included heart rate monitor, the display shows your beats per minute (BPM) and what heart rate zone you’re in (depending on your BPM). So, they’ll let you know whether you should be in zone three or four for each of the different exercises. That way, you can see whether you’re pushing yourself hard enough during the workout.
At the end of each workout, you’ll see a summary of all of the exercises you’ve completed and which ones you were given feedback on. It also provides you with the total number of pounds you lifted throughout the workout.
Viewing all of this information at once was definitely overwhelming at first. I wasn’t sure whether I should focus on correcting my form, elevating my heart rate, completing the number of reps, increasing my weights, or improving my spot on the leaderboard (I can get very competitive).
But with time, I realized all I really needed to do was just work out. Meanwhile, Tempo does all of the calculations for you, allowing you to focus on the instructor (virtually) in front of you. Whenever you need a little nudge, the feedback bubbles appear discretely in the corner of the screen, allowing you to quickly check yourself and keep going.
While other smart connected fitness machines, like the Peloton Bike and NordicTrack Rower, are certainly effective, their instructors are limited to verbal explanations when talking about form. It always leaves me wishing I had a personal trainer present to physically correct me because I have no idea if I’m following those instructions correctly.
Regardless, having direct feedback that I am actually positioning myself the right way throughout these exercises allows me to build on my technique and confidence in the long run.
The ability to educate myself and get better at these workouts every time is also what kept me wanting to continue training with the machine on a daily basis.
A niche but effective machine
Tempo is for sure a beautiful piece of machinery with high-quality equipment that will last a very, very long time. There’s also the fact that it’s aesthetically pleasing to look at, which is a plus for at-home equipment.
The workouts are also super effective and the instructors are motivational — even for a beginner like me who, up until now, has never worked out with a barbell. There are also plenty of options for more advanced weight lifters who are looking to improve their skills.
But at $1,995, I’m not sure that it’s for everyone. Before making that steep of an investment, it’s important to consider whether Tempo is the type of workout you’re going to commit to. While I can certainly say I will miss my Tempo Studio, weight training isn’t a huge part of my workout routine. And that’s even after training with the machine for a while.
If you’re looking for a wider range of workouts based on the equipment you actually use, I’d recommend looking into Mirror. At $1,495, the fitness machine has an LCD built-in that allows you to stream thousands of workouts. You can also pick your specific workout by filtering each class based on what equipment you have at home (e.g., dumbbells, kettlebells, or resistance bands).
While Mirror doesn’t correct you in real-time the way Tempo does, it does double as a mirror so you can check and correct your form while working out.
Of course, if you are looking into starting your weight training journey, then Tempo is certainly the way to go. Rather than having to piece together different weights and equipment for your makeshift home gym, Tempo provides you with all of the necessities plus a large catalogue of live and on-demand classes.
Most importantly, it keeps you in check — allowing you to emerge from quarantine newly muscled and with that very proper lifting technique.