As you’ve probably guessed from the title Men’s Health (or MensHealth.com) Personal Trainer is an online “personal training” program that helps you to set and track your workout goals. You select the type of workout routine you want to do from a list of 20 options, each with a different focus and the “personal trainer” creates the reps and sets for you to follow. You can also input specifics about yourself (weight, size of muscles, body fat %, etc.) and set additional goals which the system helps you track.
You can print (or download) the workouts with the goals to fill in as you workout or with the goals and descriptions of how to properly complete the workouts. The “personal trainer” varies the workouts every few weeks so you don’t end up doing the same things over and over again. Each exercise has a full description of how to properly perform the exercise along with some animation for easy viewing. The system also offers articles from Men’s Health Magazine, a Nutrition Plan with daily recipes and a ton of other features.
About me: I’ve been working out for years, am pretty comfortable in the gym and on a range of machines. My problem has always been keeping track of what I do and knowing how and when to push myself (increasing weights and or changing my routines). That’s what MH Personal Trainer gets me – tracking my workouts and planning what I should do for the full week. It essentially takes the planning out of working out (except it can't provide that motivation to push yourself).
I've been using the personal trainer for over two months on the “MH Select Workout” routine which I choose so I could have more control over what I did. I’m able to pick the days I want to focus on each muscle group. I also choose it partly because I really didn’t know what I was doing and the other routines seemed too specific. For those that are new to the site, I’d recommend heading over to the Community section and “Asking the Coach” what you should start with. Now that I want to reduce my body fat % I’m going to switch to the ABs Diet Workout in the next week or so.
My first month on the site was through the free 30 day trial and as I expected it wasn’t enough time to truly evaluate the system. You can get a taste for the layout but won’t be able to fully evaluate the routine. However I liked what I was doing (and the rate at which my Strength Quotient was increasing) so I I subscribed for a full year at $100. If you choose to pay in 3 month increments is costs as much as $15/per month or if you pay in full like I did it works out to be about $8/per month.
It’s one thing to know that each week you are slowly increasing the amount of weight you are lifting but it’s another to see your individual progress. One of the ways MH does this is through it’s proprietary Strength Quotient Level system. Check out my progress over the last month:
As you can see from the options on the side you can also keep track of your progress on your weight goals, body fat % goals, waist measurements, thigh measurements, etc. There are a lot of things I haven’t explored or am forgetting to mention about this system because it is rather detailed.
Unfortunately the “personal trainer” isn’t smart enough to ask you what types of machines you have access to so when it prescribes a workout you have to might have to do some adjusting. You can substitute any exercise for another but the system doesn’t remember what you do and don’t have. Also you can’t add any exercises or specific machines so again you are dealing with a set list of exercises.
I’ve also noticed a number of usability problems with the site. Aside from the workout routines and nutrition plan everything else is a little hard to navigate. The “Community” sections discussion boards are by far the worst and are slow to load. Using IE9 beta I wasn’t able to post to the discussion boards at all. But what do you expect for only $8 a month?
I didn’t try the meal plan so I have no idea how well it works and or if it tracks your calorie intake, etc.?
All in all the MH Personal Trainer is a great value. It works for the novice, it works for the expert and since the “experts” recommend tracking your workouts so you know where you are improving and where you are falling behind it just makes sense. When compared to the human personal trainer it doesn’t come close but then again it’s also not $50+ per hour!