Well known actor, bodybuilding legend, and one time Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has been teasing a new workout app he's been working on with his team for months. Well, by working on I assume he's been approving and guiding content, as opposed to cracking open Xcode or Android Studio.
Anywho, last week he finally launched it. It's called THE PUMP. It had a limited launch to get early users on and get some actionable feedback for the later full release, and prices started at £105.99 for an annual membership or £249.99 for lifetime membership. The App Store has a monthly price tier at £10.49, but that wasn't availabe in the app yet.
I was going to give it a pass. A monthly sub would have been worth a punt for a few months to see if it was worth it and useful, but the annual price was a bit steep for a new app, let alone the lifetime. But then I read the perks for the first lifetime members:
- A motivational conversation with Arnold (held via Zoom) that is only open to our lifetime members
- A Pump Club Founding Member T-shirt
- A free pass to the 2024 Arnold Classic
- A special invite for a Pump meet & greet with Arnold at the 2024 Arnold Classic
So after clearing it with the wife, I instabought the lifetime membership.
I mean, a free T-shirt is pretty sweet too.
THE PUMP is different to other work out apps and program builders I've used in a few ways. Firstly, it's an all-in-one workout program builder, with nutritional and well being guides, and regular Q&As with Arnold and/or his team. Most workouts (eventually each workout) has a video guide that is done by Arnold and his team, and/or taken from his Pumping Iron documentary. The major difference though is it doesn't suggest weights for you, at least not on the starter program (that may change on later ones; I'm not there yet).
After selecting your workout goal (Get Shredded or Get Big) and your available equipment and experience level, you're given a set 12 week program to work through. You don't see the full 12 weeks; it's shown in 3 session periods, and you can only 'do' the next workout available. No skipping ahead.
Obviously you can still actually do it, you just can't complete it in the app. Arnold doesn't turn up at your gym and berate you for exercising free will.
I chose Get Shredded (I think I'm big enough), gym equipment, and advanced, giving me The Foundation: Advanced Program. From other's feedback that I've seen, it seems that if you lower the experience setting, you'll get easier workouts and warms up; I can't check that out without scrapping my progress. Likewise with the goal. A feature for later perhaps.
The workouts themselves are based on Arnold's decades of personal notebooks and workout logs, as well as his years of coaching. It'll tell you the exercise, the suggested rep count, and the numbers of sets, but interestingly not the weight. That's for you to judge. How much can you do at that level? How much do you have in you today?
This was jarring at first, especially as there's no easy way to check your last weeks progress to compare it against whilst you're in the workout mode. But in other ways, the bug became a feature. Other apps and ready built spreadsheets I've used all mandate the weight based on your input and various percentage calculations, taking the math out of it on a personal level and giving you an easy thing to digest and just get on with.
By not doing that, it forces me to do it, which forces me to actually make decisions. I'll check through last weeks progress before hand, note down wha I did and what I think I could manage today, and enter that in the app when done. Last week, for example, my barbell squat session for 3 sets of 10 at 55kg. This week, the aim was 3 sets of 15. I figured 55kg might be a bit of taxing, but could probably manage 50kg so went with that.
This self-evaluation has actually been pretty empowering. It's not like I couldn't do this previously, of course. But the pressure is there; when your program says you do 3 set of 5 at 120kg, anything less is a failure. Instead, what effort can you do today. No pressure.
This feets neatly in with the ethos that they've been expressing through the mailing list and in the various social media stuff they've done for years. Embracing a positivie mindset, focusing on the effort, and on making that effort. Arnold and his team want to create a positive corner of the internet, use our habitual phone use for good, and I can kind of see it working.
It's still very early days, so I can't comment too much on how effective it is for my long term goals, or how the programs are on any real scale. The Foundation program pushes a mix of lower reps for strength, and higher reps for volume, and once complete I'll get access to other follow on programs I can get on. For now, it's similar to some of the stuff he put out in his New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding, albeit smaller and more focused. I got on with the basic programs from there pretty well when doing wedding prep, so this is all feeling very familiar.
The articles are similar to their mailing list; basic nutrition advice (kept basic to encourage use; things like don't focus too much on macros and focus more on what you're putting into your body, eat more proteins, etc), motiviation posts from Arnold, and Q&As.
There are other bugs, some I've kind of molded into a feature and others are just straight up bugs. One such bug/feature is the rest timers pausing if you switch apps, so if you complete a set, start the timer, then switch to check messages, going back to the app shows the timer paused. I thought this would frustrate me more, until I realised that it would essentially force me to stay in the app, focusing on the workout and on the rest as opposed to doom scrolling elsewhere. If an urgent message or call came up, I'd put the workout on hold or even cancel it anyway, so it all fits.
It also flicks a switch in my brain that forces me to stick to the rest timer. Normally, I'd sort of judge it for myself, aiming for 3 minutes on a heavy set and maybe 1 minute for a lower weight set, but that would always fluctuate depending on how rushed, fatigued, or lazy I was that day. For some reason, having that timer as part of the program itself forces me to acknowledge it and stick to it. Timer says 2 minutes, I'll give 2 minutes. No more, no less.
The workouts are also pretty rigid. There's no way to rearrange the exercises, or an easy way to skip forward then back. Again though, this works for me. It forces me to actually stick to the program as written, instead of seeing someone on the lat pull and going 'ah, i'll do that later' then never getting round to it. Now, I'll actually ask how many sets, and if I can sub in (if the guy looks amenable to it).
Some bugs are just bugs though. Like the time the 'weeks joined' counter just kept going up into the hundreds, or the occasional video not loading. But they'll work themselves out over time.
Like I say, it's still early days. there's still a lot to come out, and lot to implement, and as time goes on they'll be more updates, new functionality, etc. But it's been a good start.
On Anrold's team is Adam Bornstein. Adam's been the editorial director at LIVESTRONG.COM, Fitness and Nutrition Editor for Men's Health and Women's Health, and a columnist for several others whilst also writing his own nutrition books and advising LeBron James. He writes a lot of the nutrition based articles so far, and is pretty responsive in the Q&As, so given his credentials I'm looking forward to seeing what he'll be posting over the months ahead.
The programs are challenging and more to the point, my body is responding well. It's only been two weeks so I'm not seeing miracle results, but along with some of the diet changes i've been making, I've managed to get back on the weight loss train in a more solid fashion.
But the positivity is there. Cynically, you might expect a bunch of people who have paid for an app to be pretty enthusiastic about it, but the Q&As are full people helping each other, not just waiting for one of the team to reply. There's encouragement, there's advice, there's community. Again, cynically, this might change as the app gets a wider release and more people join in, but I'm choosing to be optmisitic that it won't.
Either way, I'm pretty happy with it. It's given me a kick I've needed for a while now, and God willing could actually provide a decent long term support for me.
Plus I get to meet Arnold f'ing Schwarzenegger. SOLD.
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