Coros Strength Training & Workout Builder
The new Coros features add advanced functionality to Coros Vertix & Coros APEX (Pro) ranges. It’s partly a Garmin-catchup release but it’s also a ‘Coros edges ahead’ move as well…at least it is in some limited aspects of the watches.
Coros users now have the ability to build and follow alert-based, structured workouts from within the Coros platform. This is the first step to Coros later introducing the ability to calendarise workouts and then import workouts from 3rd party training plan providers like Training Peaks. This is very much catching up with what Garmin can already do but, interestingly, moving Coros ahead of what some of the established competitors still can’t perform.
The new strength training functionality is very interesting, allowing you to choose exercises to target specific muscle groups and then track, over time, your strength for key muscle groups AND to visualise it all via a heat map.
Within each of these two new feature sets, there are several interesting twists, turns and nuances. Let’s have a closer look…
Basics: What Are The Supported Watches
The original Coros PACE is NOT supported however all the other key Coros watches support all the new functionality, namely the Apex, Apex Pro and Vertix are all good.
A reasonable assumption going forwards would be that any new higher-end Coros watch would support this functionality as well but, as we have seen with Garmin, sometimes such features are disabled to help differentiate the pricing between models.
Basics: When Do I get the update?
You can sign up for a final round of beta testing NOW (here) but it’s best to wait until the software is formally released in early June. I’ve been using the beta on and off for a few days and it seems robust.
Basics: What Actually IS The New Functionality?
- App-based library with 200+ preloaded exercises with animations and instructions – this looks VERY GOOD but it’s on the app.
- Auto Repetition Detection – A degree of intelligence exists within the set to recognise reps. However, unlike Biostrap, there are no claims that Coros can detect the kind of rep you are performing.
- Muscle Heatmap – shows muscle group usage and intensity both pictorially and graphically over time. This looks highly innovative and good.
- Custom Workout Builder for Run, Cycle, Swim or Strength activities – This is ‘standard’ stuff in how it works but as we know several companies do not offer this. Coros do.
- Easy workout sharing via social media, email, text and more – There are elements of cleverness and weakness here. Some good ideas that are not clearly implemented.
- Night mode – Handier than it sounds…as you can use it in the day !?!
Let’s look at the workout builder.
You create workouts on the Coros app, store them in a library and sync them to your Coros watch in order to follow them in a workout; Run, Cycle, Swim or Strength activities are all supported and, on the whole, this is a nice box ticker from Coros that will keep almost all Coros owners happy.
There is no way that I could see to add any kind of nested rep nor have a single multisport workout – but I think that’s OK. Being able to create simple workout steps that target HR, speed/pace, weight (strength) and power (bike) is enough for most people, most of the time. There are some nice touches so, for example, you can create different steps within one workout that target different goals like 2×20′ using HR and then 5×1′ using pace. Another nice touch is that HR intervals are labelled in the library with text like AEROBIC THRESHOLD, rather than the beats per minute.
You can then sync to the watch, view the workout and, of course, follow it. As you can see in this image, the workout description is clearly presented.
One thing I didn’t like here was the synchronisation. Well, I loved one aspect and disliked another. Generally the Coros app and watches link and sync automatically, quickly and reliably which is no mean feat in itself bearing in mind the vagaries of Bluetooth. However for this functionality, a newly created workout has to be manually sent to the watch, Coros would argue that this helps manage the number of workouts on the watch but I just found it to be an unnecessary step or one which could be better handled in the app. HOWEVER !! at the same place where you would force the sending of the workout to the watch you could, as well, email it (app share it) to a friend and if your friend also has a Coros then the workout is very easily added to the library at their end. So that was cool.
I suspect the slight clunkiness I am seeing now is all part of a Coros masterplan for the integration later this year with external training plans and workout calendars. Though having said that, the Coros app is the weak point in their whole offering (the watches are great) and the clunkiness may simply be sub-optimal app design. But let’s forgive Coros that as they iterate new watches and new functionality at an impressive, industry-leading pace.
Strength Workouts – Building on the Workout Library
There’s some GREAT stuff here and some bits that need tweaking. Let’s take a quick visual look at the flow and then delve deeper.
The app has a very impressive list of 200 individual exercises in the exercise catalogue and it’s great how they are organised alphabetically (no big deal) and then by body part. So in the images above, I created a hilariously named workout ‘abtastic’ but it was simple to choose the right series of appropriate core exercises. And if I was unclear on what any of them involved there were good descriptions aided by an animated graphic. Whilst many exercises suggested a WEIGHT, other exercises like PLANKs were able to be defined on a time basis. As it should be.
After the manual sync of each structured workout to the watch, the workout has to be started as a TRAINING workout. This is a little confusing as I would have expected to start a STRENGTH sport profile and then add the specific workout to that before starting the workout – just how you might instead add a course/navigation at the start of a bike ride in the bike ride profile.
During the workout, the watch did then display the name and time of each upcoming exercise on screen and all was good. Coros even claim that reps are auto identified and I’ve no reason to dispute that. It seemed to work that way but I didn’t specifically try to find fault with it.
Let’s return, for a minute, to the ‘abtastic’ workout from earlier. You can see I’ve created the exercise “4×10 Exercise Ball Pull-In” as part of it. If I synced that specific exercise NAME to you, would you know how to execute it? Perhaps you would. Maybe not. Thus the flaw here might be that without the app you wouldn’t know how to execute individual exercises and that’s why, for example, the Garmin VA4/Venu handily has animations on the watch.
If instead of a pre-planned structured workout, you want to start an impromptu strength workout then, as the following graphic shows, it is possible to add and change the body parts as you go.
Personally I’ve never seen the point in creating or following strength workouts in the gym. I tend to do a circuit and I tend to be able to remember what to do next. However STRENGTH is definitely my triathlon weakness and so, perhaps, I should pay more attention to structure and progression? One benefit of the Coros approach is that you can edit these workouts to add progression over the weeks and that’s what we all need to do to get better.
My other criticism of ‘strength tracking’ lies in my bias towards endurance. A key metric to me is my training load measured by HR and the same principle would apply if it were measured by power. Yet if I measure my HR in the gym it very rarely gets above 100bpm unless the quads are involved and hence a taxing one hour strength workout would score just about ZERO against my training load. Yet CLEARLY it impacts my performance the next day, sometimes considerably so. Other vendors, like Polar, include an element of MUSCLE load in their overall training load metric but I’m still not convinced that anyone correctly takes into account the impact of strength training on fatigue and readiness-to-train.
Another criticism is just me simply not tracking my meagre strength activities over time. I mean; how do you do that?
You can hopefully see where I’m going with this 😉
Which brings us VERY nicely onto Coros’s new Strength Heatmap, which pretty much addresses many of my criticisms and excuses for avoiding strength training. (Note to self: Look for different excuses eg all the gyms are closed)
Coros Muscle Heatmap
I tried very hard with the free weights in my bedroom to emulate the feats of this impressive lady in the Coros image below. (I know, I know it could be a man with long hair, don’t bite me)
A few meagre half-hour strength sessions from me were hardly enough to light up the muscle groups, as she has done in the image above. Out of sheer embarrassment, I shall hang my head in a weak kind of slow-twitch shame and only show you the image Coros sent 😉
Isn’t that a great image though? Recorded reps are the basis for the intensity of the colouring, giving some indication of the accumulated impact over each muscle group. The heatmap gives an excellent overview as to where your strength efforts are being directed. Furthermore, you can drill down into a specific muscle group to track reps/sets over time
Excellent ! Still room for improvement
Night mode can be enabled from the shortcut menu. In a nutshell, it keeps the backlight on until sunrise or, if used in the day for a workout, it keeps the backlight on until the workout is stopped.
Coros know that their user base has been requesting these features and are rightfully proud of what they have delivered in the timeframe.
There are tweaks and minor criticisms that can be made here and there but no more or less so than could be applied to any other vendor. These new features nicely fill some important gaps in the Coros offering and now their platform is highly competent for a relative newcomer.
Coros like the rotating crown in their hardware and that also seemed to work well for the Apple fitness Watch (best-selling ever wearable). I don’t like that particular aspect of the hardware but apart from that, it is hard to meaningfully criticise their sensibly-priced, feature-packed watches. To me, the app still has ‘something about it’ that takes away from the overall Coros experience and it is that which needs some tweaking to placate those of you who spend time with their watch apps.
Personally, this is what it would take for me to switch to Coros: STRYD support (apparently coming) and native dropbox support (I’ve requested it). Then perhaps my only excuse would be the rotating crown. I only mention this as I appreciate I have erred on the side of being critical in this article, however THAT is how close they are to getting me to use one as my main sports watch, so Coros REALLY is worth considering.