I have exercised consistently for more than 20 years, especially with weights. One thing I've learned is that if you want to get results and keep them, you need to adopt and stick to a structured plan. A personal trainer is really the best way to get on the right track and stay there, but not everyone has access to that kind of resource (never had one, myself). A motivated and knowledgeable training partner is nearly as good, if not better in some cases. With a plan and a partner, now all you need is a way to journal and track your workouts. If you have an iPhone or iPod touch, Pushing Weight makes it pretty simple to plan and keep track of your pump!
I never really considered using my iPod for this, as much of a techno-geek as I admit to being (also didn't want to smash it accidently at the gym), but definitely see the benefits of using an app this way. Beats carrying around a notebook, for sure. Pushing Weight is a lightweight database app that makes setup of a custom workout plan a cinch. The app is very straightforward to configure a full exercise regime for each day of the week. You can then visualize the trends and see your improvements over time. If you are looking for an app that has a lot of bells-n-whistles, this is not that app, and I think that's actually why I like it. It does one thing well..keeping you aware of your workout progress over time.
The main screen presents 3 views that are intuitive and easy to manipulate. The first is a typical calendar view. Once you have workout data populated in the daily views, you can use the calendar to get a quick look at your workout breakdown. The month view reminds you a bit of Outlook or similar scheduling tool, and even handily color codes different exercise routines (i.e. arms, and shoulders).
Setting up daily workouts for your various body parts is also pretty simple. You tap-select a day on the calendar that you wish to enter data for or you can go right to the Today view (to enter/view today's workout info). The app presents categories of exercise filtered by body part. A handy status indicator will show you the relative frequency of the last time you exercised each body part, which reminds what you may be neglecting.
Once you have selected a body part (or parts, as you can certainly program multiple body parts for a single workout), the app gives you a selection of pre-programmed weight training exercises to choose from, including some isometric exercises like pushups. You can also create your own fully custom routine and exercises. Cardio workouts are similarly covered. Once you have everything programmed, re-selecting exercises is also easy as the latest update adds a useful history feature of previous workout info. If a specific exercise is not covered you can add your own, of course.
I had a few minor issues with the app that seem to have been addressed in the update. After selecting exercises, I couldn't always get the reps/weight selector screen to close. Also had to learn to be mindful when de-selecting at the main workout level (as it clears all your exercise entries).
A red status indicator reminds you when you have enabled a state that will remove items. The latest version also includes a timer feature for measuring your between set rests, but could easily be used to time cardio workouts as well (though that feature seems not available under the category). I set up my own custom Isometrics category (pushups/situps, etc.), and the timer function became available there.
What is the point of all that hard work if you aren't going to see any results, right? The app includes a simple graphing ability to track (per exercise), several trend indicators in X/Y bar graph format. You can adjust the sample period, or various indicators (track weight per set, max, or number of reps or exercise sessions). This part of the app could be improved somewhat, I think. It would be nice to be able to track all of these categories simultaneously over time (maybe colored line graph indices). More sophisticated graphing might also be useful, say relational graphs that indicate correlation between exercise frequency and result trends. For instance, a lack of performing consistent core exercises and/or neglect of big muscle groups (particularly legs) could explain a relatively long performance plateau or even decrease in overall strength. An overall strength or fitness index (that correlates statistical performance data to body weight, and age), might also be another helpful report feature.
More enhancements the developer might consider adding include the ability to post up your results to social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, or share them via e-mail, but not really essential to the app's functionality. Access to your music playlists from inside the app might also be another useful extension. The vendor might want to consider all these ideas for an add-on pack of features (hint-hint)?
Verdict: Like I said at the beginning of the review, I like Pushing Weight for it's simplicity and effectiveness. Though I'm still a bit of a muscle-head from my younger days, and have a routine that has been pretty well set in stone for years now, I like the geekier aspects of fitness too. Change is also necessary for a good fitness routine, and this app has reminded of some areas I could improve on. More importantly, tracking apps like this one can motivate you to higher levels of performance, especially when you can see that a particular workout routine is working. You can grab the app here in the app store for $2.99, which I think could come down at least a dollar, but maybe they will do a free app promotion soon, and you can grab it then (another hint-hint to the developer). Sometimes we have even been known to do promotions like this on our blogs here at iPhoneLife (at least for vendors that join our free vendor network)... ..triple hint-hint...