Looking for an honest review of Fitbod for bodybuilding?
You've come to the right place.
In this review, I'll tell you what I really think of Fitbod's bodybuilding workouts as an exercise physiologist and qualitative biomechanist.
In a nutshell
- Fitbod is a somewhat versatile app
- It is fairly strong on presentation but questionable in the workouts it develops
- Experienced lifters might make good use of it
- Novices will likely be overwhelmed by choice and/or not get workouts that are the best fit for them
Why this review is different
It's easy to find reviews of Fitbod on the Web.
But most reviews are not written by experts. What's more, very few focus on Fitbod for bodybuilding.
This reviews fixes that.
Why should you listen to me?
I’m an exercise physiologist, qualitative biomechanist, and all-around pedant who has worked in and around the fitness field for 15 years.
I've worked as a:
- Personal trainer
- Martial arts teacher
- University instructor
I've even authored educational courses for fitness professionals.
Colleagues and friends in the field know me as someone with a unique view on
fitness who asks questions others don’t always think to ask.
I received my master’s degree in exercise science with an exercise physiology concentration in 2014, and I’m currently completing a Ph.D. in exercise physiology while conducting neuromuscular research.
When I’m not wrapped up in the ongoing existential crisis of pursuing a doctorate, I take on consulting work that ranges from tutoring in basic sciences; to teaching trainers and coaches how to critically think about complex clients; to providing guidance on reading and interpreting published literature (a service I’ve affectionately dubbed “science coaching”).
While my writing has found its way onto a couple of websites in the past, this piece represents my first foray for Dr. Muscle. Hopefully I can provide some thoughts that give you a decent idea about the Fitbod app and whether it might be a good choice for you.
Full disclosure: the team behind this blog paid me to write this review. They also created Dr. Muscle, an AI personal trainer that competes with Fitbod in some ways. While this is certainly a conflict of interest, I can confirm that this is truly what I think of Fitbod for bodybuilding.
Setting up the Fitbod app for bodybuilding
The first step upon opening the app and choosing to “Get Started” is to go through a series of questions/items that are intended to give some general customizations to the workouts that the . These are skippable in case you’d just like to dive in, but I wanted to see what the experience was like. Those items can be found below, along with my answers so you have a clear picture of the info I put into the
app. Screenshots are attached as well:
- “How experienced are you with lifting weights?” (I chose “Intermediate” in the hopes that I’d get a middle-of-the-road sampling of what the app has to offer.)
- “What is your main reason for joining Fitbod?” (I chose to increase muscle mass and size, because I’m still a wannabe 80s action movie star at heart, and we’re focusing on bodybuilding for this article.)
- “Where do you exercise?” (I went with a large gym, as I have decent access a solid facility.)
- [Equipment customization based on your answer to the previous question; note different categories of equipment to select, and this is where you can tell the app which pieces of equipment you do or do not have access to by simply tapping each item. The text states that this can be adjusted later, which hopefully allays some of the anxiety of “committing” to equipment too soon.]
- “The last time you exercised, which muscle groups did you work out?” (I selected back and shoulders.)
- “How often do you want to work out?” (I went with a bog-standard 3 days
per week for now, though there is flexibility here.)
- “On the days you exercise, do you want a preview of your workout?” (I liked
this as an option, so I said yes.)
- [Opportunity to sync body stats; for people with higher weights, it might
take a while to get to their weight since you have to scroll through one
pound/kilo at a time to get there – minor peeve.]
- A final sign-up page to save workouts, stats, etc.
My bodybuilding workouts in Fitbod
After the setup process, I was taken to a screen that listed target muscles and
associated exercises, along with a percentage value reflecting which muscles
are fresh/recovered. As a theme throughout this app, you can swap out
which muscle groups you want to train and which exercises you’d like to
perform for the selected workout. You can adjust the muscle splits to
prioritize by what is recovered, the region (e.g. upper body vs. lower body), or
the functional classification (e.g. “push” vs. “pull”), and you can also just
select a group manually. You can adjust the workout goal and difficulty level
that were set during the setup process. Finally, there’s an option to adjust
the duration of the workout, and this will change the exercises the app
suggests as well as the volume for each.
My first workout had 4 target muscle groups listed at the top:
- Lower back
It supersetted exercises into three pairs, with the
- Quads + chest
- Quads + chest
- Low back + abs
Details on the specific exercises can be found a couple sections down.
Some notes on customization:
- Tapping the three dots to the right of any exercise pulls up options to view
the exercise history, replace the exercise, and pull up instructions with a
video. A feature that is currently in beta also allows you to tell the app to
recommend that exercise more or less often (or not at all). Since burpees and
my knees have a strained history, I went ahead and elected to tell it that. An entire cluster or superset can also be adjusted, so I was able to add a different exercise in the place of burpees to superset with my dumbbell fly.
- While it’s not possible to include every variant of every exercise, the library is probably extensive enough that you can at least find a good approximation for an exercise you’re actually executing and use that entry in the app as a suitable placeholder.
- When you choose to replace an exercise, the app provides a list of suggestions based on the muscle group it uses to classify the exercise you’re replacing. Thus, my suggested replacements for burpees included dumbbell lunges, barbell step ups, Bulgarian split squats, and leg presses (which I ended up choosing in this case). The exercises can be adjusted for the number of reps per set and the weight used, and the app provides instructions (written and in video form) for every exercise that is included. The videos allow you to pause them and play them at half speed as well, which I thought was a nice touch. You can also customize rest intervals between individual sets and between supersets or clusters, depending on how the workout is set up. By default, my workout used intervals ranging from 30 seconds to 90 seconds, depending on which superset I was currently on, and the app can provide a notification for when your rest period is over.
With some rough attempt to follow the suggested rest periods, my workout came out to almost exactly 55 minutes, excluding some
warm-ups that took 5-ish minutes. Considering the workout was slotted to be an hour, I’d say that turned out pretty well.
When you formally begin the workout (by tapping the appropriately labeled red button on the screen for the workout), a timer begins that tracks until you complete your final set. At the end of the session, you get a recap of the workout duration, the total volume (sets x reps x weight), and an estimate of calories burned. This info is uploaded to your online profile so things can be logged and tracked. They were kind enough to send a congratulatory email as well.
The app tees up the next workout based on an estimation of how “fresh” certain muscle groups are. It attaches a percentage value to these muscles that give a quick-and-dirty sense of what you might want to hit next. For example, my triceps were assessed as 91% fresh since I did some benching, while my biceps were listed as 100% since I didn’t really do anything with them. I’d be keen on learning how the app calculates this, and it’s important to remember that the groups themselves are oversimplified (the biceps brachii isn’t the only muscle that flexes the elbow, for instance), but it may still be a useful tool for some users.
On a final note, my body often feels like it’s held together with duct tape and prayers, so my lifting habits tend to be a bit different from those of other people of my age and overall fitness level. I likely felt more aggravation with some of the suggested exercises than someone else would, so feel free to take that into account as you take in all of this.
What makes a good bodybuilding workout?
Perhaps the research can tell us something (at least in broad strokes) about what a good starting place for a workout might look like.
I’ve been banging this drum for a while during this article, but in short, a lot of your exercise selection should depend on physical capability. Assuming you’re not specifically limited, however, we do have some general guidelines available from the published literature.
A recent narrative review by Iversen and colleagues (2021) highlighted that in general, a variety of plans can get good results for hypertrophy, provided sufficient volume is achieved. In other words, if you can’t work out every day or several times a week, you can still achieve good improvements in strength and muscle growth with less frequent visits to the gym if you still accumulate at least some minimal number of sets per muscle group (typically 4 or more) each week. Gains tend to be similar whether you train a muscle once a week or three times a week, provided the same overall amount of work is done in either case (Iversen et al. 2021).
From the muscle growth standpoint specifically, it also seems that supersets are an effective means of driving muscle growth in a time-efficient manner. Strength gains may not quite be on par with more traditionally structured strength programs, but the ability to cluster in a lot of hypertrophy stimulus in a shorter period makes them an effective option for anyone who feels a bit rushed.
Whatever you choose, note that it is probably not necessary to train to failure. While that topic warrants its own entire article, know that evidence such as that compiled in a recent systematic review and meta-analysis suggests that getting closer to muscle failure does not necessarily improve one’s muscle growth (Refalo et al. 2022). As long as there is sufficient overall volume, you should be in good
Note that these findings and guidelines will probably be less applicable for people who are in the extreme ends of the bell curve, such as those with serious functional limitations or elite, highly trained lifters.
Finally, an important caveat. A workout – or even an individual exercise – consists of so many variables that we can manipulate, that it would be impossible to test all or even a majority of them in a head-to-head fashion in a research setting. Even something like a superset which we think has a reasonably clear definition can still vary in its execution and potential effects based on the exact rep cadences, co-contraction efforts, weight(s)/machine(s) used, rest periods, etc. This isn’t even touching inter-individual differences like body structure or physiological traits that also influence how an exercise will be experienced or how it will exert its effects on someone. Thus, research tends at best to be a guide on where we might start; it’s rarely a definitive indicator of the exact plan or program you should follow.
Are fitbod’s bodybuilding workouts any good?
As stated previously, there’s a lot of customization available to whatever workouts are given, and this will be pleasing for anyone who’s got the experience and know-how to tailor their exercises, volumes, etc. However, we’re interested in whether the workouts as provided by the app are good.
To that, I will say that it’s a mixed bag whose quality or effectiveness will depend somewhat on what you’re looking for. If you want to plug in your info up front and have everything perfectly customized for you, you might be disappointed. However, the app does tend to select exercises that indeed work the labeled muscles, and it chooses volumes (sets and reps) that make sense in light of my own
experience and what we see in the published research (e.g. 6-15 reps on many of the main hypertrophy exercises, with 3-4 sets per exercise). Details on that can be seen in the next section.
Ultimately, it’ll take a lot of adjustment to get things dialed in, but that’s the reality with just about any workout, program, or (in some cases) even individual exercise. These workouts are a great jumping-off point for someone who’s willing and able to continue tweaking things, and they may in some places be better than what an inexperienced lifter would put together for themselves. In many cases, people get
overwhelmed with choice. Having an app make a lot of those choices for you can be very helpful. With that being said, check out my thoughts on what was actually selected in the subsequent sections, and then you can make up your mind.
Fitbod gave me the following bodybuilding exercises
Workout # 1
My first workout consisted of a sort of upper/lower superset scheme for the first two supersets (chest + quads), followed by an abs + low back arrangement for the third superset. Specifics of the original workout plan were as follows:
- back squat with barbell bench (4 rounds)
- burpee with dumbbell fly (4 rounds)
- bicycle crunch with stiff-legged barbell good morning (3 rounds)
So a decent number of total sets, with rep ranges varying from 8 to 15 by default (I upped the crunches to 20). Note that as mentioned earlier in this article, I swapped out the burpees. You're certainly welcome to leave them in if your body can tolerate them, or if you don't like yourself (just kidding – mostly).
Importantly, I had to fiddle with the listed weights for all of the exercises so they’d make sense for me; they were typically too light, as it was recommending 100 pounds for back squat and 85 pounds for bench press despite my being a reasonably seasoned (if out of shape) lifter weighing about 200 pounds. With that said, the adjustments just required a quick tap on the set so I could type in the new weights. To get the most out of this, less experienced worker-outers will need some trial and error to figure out what weights are appropriate, while more experienced folks will probably sort things out quickly. I almost never do supersets in my typical lifting sessions, and I was still able to come up with numbers that were appropriately challenging after my first set or so of each exercise.
The next workout is also based on supersets of exercises, though a couple exercises were separate:
- barbell curl and close-grip bench press (4 rounds)
- hammer curl (3 sets)
- dip (4 sets)
- crunch and exercise ball crunch (4 rounds)
While I can’t confirm this, since I didn’t see this workout until after finishing my first one and entering my own custom weights for each exercise, I suspect the suggested weights were adjusted based on my previous workout. For instance, the app set the close-grip bench press weight at a number pretty near the barbell bench weight that I ended up using. Given that I had to double the bench weight during Workout #1, this suggests that the app adapted by calculating sensible numbers for later exercises based on what I lifted during other, related exercises.
As a final note on this workout, the ab exercises seem a little strange here for two reasons. First, having a substantial portion (8 sets) of the prescribed workout focused on abs felt out of place in a hypertrophy program where time and available volume are precious. Second, the two exercises that the app chose to superset were just two different kinds of curls; it would make more sense at least to have one of the exercises focus more on rotation or side bending for the sake of not overdoing it on direct flexion work.
Workout # 3
Workout #3 took more modification than the previous two. My original breakdown was as follows:
- deadlift + good morning (4 rounds)
- dumbbell row (4 sets)
- cable row (3 sets)
- Superman + leg pull-in (5 rounds)
Fitbod gave me some deadlifts that I didn’t feel ready for (janky hips and low back), so I made some changes. Very little upper/mid back and shoulder work was done thus far, so I added in lat pulldowns in place of the deadlifts (supersetting with goodmornings). I also swapped in shrugs in place of the dumbbell rows to get some upper trap work that I had not yet gotten all week, and I added calf raises and hamstring curls to take care of some additional stimulus there. The final breakdown looked more like the following:
- lat pulldown + good morning (4 rounds)
- cable row + cable shrug (3 rounds)
- calf raise (3 sets)
- hamstring curl (1.5 sets, because it turns out my hammies were already shot)
- Superman + leg pull-in (5 rounds)
Even after adding a couple of exercises to the overall plan, I finished this “1-hour” workout in about 45 minutes. Thus, the timing will definitely vary. While it’s probably better to have a workout run short than run long if you’re on a tight schedule, this is still something worth considering.
So how did things feel? I’d say that I got a pretty solid workout overall from these sessions after making the necessary modifications for volume and muscles/regions that wouldn’t be happy with the prescribed workout. I should mention that I do also do martial arts workouts a couple times a week, and this undoubtedly affects my recovery and ability to tolerate some of the stresses from the default workouts. If your only physical activity comes from gym time, then your experience might be different. Nevertheless, I’d wager some modification will be inevitable for just about anyone.
Are bodybuilding exercises in fitbod good?
Judging by the sample of exercises that I got so far, I’d say the selection itself is decent in a very rough sense. With the wide range of human capabilities, tastes, and limitations that exist out there, no app can be perfect for everyone right off the bat. That said, Fitbod provided enough versatility that I was able to tweak things
and give myself challenging workouts that also (so far) feel effective without too much difficulty. The interface was quick enough to learn that I could make whatever modifications I needed to make without grinding the workout to a halt. Thus, this is a decent means of creating and tracking exercises – for someone who is experienced and can make those necessary modifications.
For a less experienced or knowledgeable lifter, I worry that the story is a bit different. While a lot of the exercises that the app suggested were effective at giving me a challenge, several did not feel appropriate or make sense with where they were placed (e.g. the ab exercises for workout #3 or the overemphasis on certain low back challenge while ignoring upper back/shoulder work). In many cases, the exercises were “in the ballpark” of something that I felt would be a good fit for me, so I was able to use the prearranged workouts as a jumping-off point, but someone less experienced would likely have trouble finding a configuration that is appropriate for them. While the app’s default selections may give sufficient stimulus for growth in some areas, they may miss emphasis in other areas, and a more novice user might not realize the deficiencies in the workout that’s being created for them. The overall volumes do seem okay, at least, and the app attempts to rotate between muscles so the “fresher” ones get more work, but I think that feature needs further tweaking before I really trust it.
Fitbod for bodybuilding: pros and cons
- Solid overall polish in text/presentation (this might seem trivial to some, but I have found that a lack of attention to detail in verbiage, item symmetry, etc. can often present alongside omission of certain other important features/details in this industry.)
- Lots of customizability throughout the app; you can switch out exercises, body regions to focus on, etc. without much difficulty and adjust the ways muscles are prioritized. This is particularly helpful for someone like me who likes to be “in control.” I like the option of unplugging my brain when I want, but being able to take control when I need. This app seems to accommodate that well.
- The summary info (calories, volume, percentage values for worked muscles, etc.) is well presented and can probably be rather helpful and motivating for people who want something to help with direction. A clear “this is what you worked, and this is what you have left to work” kind of flow is likely to appeal to a lot of people.
- Fitbod makes enough decisions for you that if you’d rather not have to build your own workouts, the app can take a lot of that anxiety away for you – even if you still have to adjust the weights based on your capability.
- The instructions and accompanying videos can be quite helpful to those who are still learning how to execute exercises, so the app may serve as an educational tool for some users as well.
- Starting weights/volumes are not clearly related to the experience level and/or size of the user, so a lot of adjustment might be needed at first (it was for me). This might discourage people who want an app that gives more of a “wind it up, and let it go” experience, though it will probably become less of an issue as one continues to track their progress.
- The app’s decision to lean rather heavily on supersets (at least with the info I put in during the setup) might not be ideal for certain people, especially beginners or those who don’t know their bodies well. It’s a good “bang for your buck” option, provided you can handle that back-and-forth and the associated stress, but the app might do well to include a means of asking about exercise preferences, physical limitations, etc. from the beginning.
- While the overall presentation and interface are nice to look at and easy to use, there are still a few quirks. For instance: if the rest timer is on screen and you try to adjust the weight or reps for an exercise, the timer stays on screen above your keyboard and – at least on my phone – blocks the field you’re typing into. It is also not possible to see your next exercise while the rest timer is running, as it remains on the exercise that you just did. This can be irksome if you’d like to know what your weight or reps for the next exercise in a superset might be, though you can usually manually bounce around and look at things.
- There was not an obvious way to create NEW supersets. If you add exercises to a workout, they’re just added as standalone pieces. You can move things around and add exercises to a superset that the app already programmed in, but the inability to create your own supersets (at least from what I saw)
somewhat harms the app’s versatility.
The verdict: Fitbod for bodybuilding
Ease of use: 8.5/10
My final opinion on the Fitbod app is somewhat mixed. In terms of ease of use, the app sits near the top of the heap from apps I’ve seen – particularly when it comes to the ability to swap exercises around/make adjustments. There are some minor interface quirks (e.g. creating new supersets, the rest timer’s blocking of typing fields), but this app is quite easy on the eyes and pleasant to navigate overall.
Some of the presentation features like the “freshness” percentages for muscles are a nice touch, though how trustworthy those values are remains unclear. So for ease of use and aesthetics, I’d give this an 8.5/10.
Workout quality: 4/10
When it comes to the workout quality itself, things are tougher to endorse. The exercises themselves can be effective in a very general way for some people (in terms of the sequencing and volumes the app selects), and the selection trends somewhat with what we see in the literature. However, there were a number of times when one particular muscle group/region felt over- or under-emphasized or where certain kinds of exercises were pushed to the front when others should have been selected when the goal is hypertrophy. On the “punch in your info and get an appropriate program tailored for you” scale, I’d have to give the workouts for Fitbod no more than a 4/10.
Despite my reservations about the exercise selection itself, the free trial period probably makes Fitbod worth a shot – at least for those who either want some of the features described in this article or who have enough knowledge and experience to change the workouts to suit their needs. If you’re curious, give it a look.
If the app is able to improve how it selects and rotates through exercises – including how it quantifies what muscles are still fresh and which muscles/areas deserve the most emphasis at a given time – I can see it becoming a more helpful tool for less experienced lifters to create and track their workouts effectively.
Iversen, V. M., Norum, M., Schoenfeld, B. J., & Fimland, M. S. (2021). No time to lift? designing time-efficient training programs for strength and hypertrophy: A narrative review. Sports Medicine, 51(10),2079–2095. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-021-01490-1
Refalo, M. C., Helms, E. R., Trexler, Eric. T., Hamilton, D. L., & Fyfe, J. J. (2022). Influence of resistance training proximity-to-failure on skeletal muscle hypertrophy: A systematic review with meta-analysis. Sports Medicine, 53(3), 649–665. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-022-01784-y