I periodically receive emails about health-related products because I write a blog. To stay impartial I won’t accept any compensation, and I only write reviews if I like the product. I recently got informed in this way about a smartphone app called “Dr. Muscle” to help guide you through strength training. It automatically sets up a suggested program for you and guides you through progressing workout to workout. I’ll get into the details below. First some background.
Dr. Muscle is the brainchild of Dr. Carl Juneau, who has a Ph.D. in Exercise Statistics, and an interesting background. He had successfully put on a significant amount of muscle through weight training, when he had a serious health challenge. He ended up in the hospital after collapsing, with what turned out to be a bad case of parasite infection, which led to food intolerances and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). He fully recovered after changing his diet, but was back to square one, having lost all the strength gains.
He got back to training in earnest after recovering his health, resulting in the after picture above. He wanted an app to help teach and motivate people to train, but could not find any existing ones he liked. He decided to develop his own, with the help of a client who also happened to be a developer. The result was the Dr. Muscle app.
The Dr. Muscle App
I downloaded the app for a free trial. It starts out by asking about your goals, and statistics including age and gender. It then designs a custom program. I liked that it inquires about what equipment you have access to. I told it I had a home gym with resistance bands. Other choices included bodyweight, home gym with dumbbells, and gym with weights. It came up with a simple but complete exercise plan: pushups, seated row, bent over reverse fly, biceps curl, triceps extension, deadlift, crunch. All except the crunch use resistance bands. If I found myself at a gym instead, I could change the workout to “bar and plates”. When you start each exercise it brings up a realistic animation illustrating how to do it at the proper speed. It also highlights which muscles are being used in the exercise, similar to what is shown in books like Strength Training Anatomy.
You can do all the sets of each exercise in order, or to save time you can alternate sets between different muscle groups. For example, while recovering from a pushup set, you can do a seated row set which uses opposing muscle groups. I discussed previously how this makes multi-set training more time efficient.
I also like how the app keeps track of progression, the key to successful strength training. After you finish an exercise it asks you hard it was for you, and from your response (chosen from a pulldown), it decides how much to increase the resistance or reps for your next workout. I remember the old days at the gym where you carried your card around with you, noting the reps and resistance at each weight station, to manually decide how to progress next time. The app automates that for you. But it’s more than that, because it is actually using an advanced method “Daily Undulating Periodization” to help you progress. This would be tricky to calculate and apply for yourself, but the app does the math for you.
If you sign up for the app you also will receive periodically some interesting and inspirational emails on training topics. I had let the app sit for a few days because I was only testing it out to do a review. I liked that it sent me an email encouraging me to get back on the wagon. And if I felt pressed for time, it pointed out the app could take me through a quick 10 minute bodyweight workout.
I like the app, and recommend it for someone who is either new to strength training or maybe stuck on a plateau and wants to improve. After trying it out, there is a monthly fee to continue. The can find out more at the website here.