Over the past few weeks, my Facebook has been bombarded with advertisements for a workout app that goes by the name "Mad Muscles".
I had never heard of it but the advertisements I was getting were pretty worrisome.
They were telling me to do...
- "Tip-toe wall squats" rather than back squats (what the heck are those?)
- Push-ups rather than bench press (they're both awesome, just do both!)
- Other dubious exercises I've never even heard of (as an exercise scientist)
Curiosity got the best of me so I downloaded the app to check it out (good marketing I guess).
I was expecting a bit of a mess based on the ads but it wasn't as bad as thought it was going to be... at least at first.
In this Mad Muscles app review, I'm going to go over this new app to see what it's all about (and hopefully learn what tip-toe wall squats are).
Who I Am: Why I'm Qualified To Write This
My name is Garett Reid and I have been in this industry for over well over 10 years. I have earned my Masters in Exercise Science as well as hold several high level certifications and accolades including:
- NSCA CSCS
- Executive Council Member of the NSCA Strongman SIG
- Published writer in NSCA COACH
To be clear, I have been in the gym for over 20 years and have seen the rise of this industry which includes both the good and bad.
Along the way, I have witnessed the way some fitness brands will use various marketing techniques I have seen with Mad Muscles. As such, I will be able to differentiate what the truth is; is Mad Muscles a good app!
I'm then going to give you some info on another app I use and love, Dr. Muscle.
In a nutshell—honest review of Mad Muscles
It offers pre-written programs (that are marketed as "personalized") and uses questionable marketing techniques (i.e. offering programs based on career).
Unfortunately, the app has a list of issues in almost every area of the app which makes it impossible to recommend. Those include:
‧ Bugs / glitchy
‧ Hard to cancel subscription
‧ Bad programming / exercise selection
What Makes My Review Different
You can find personal reviews on the app's download page as well as on several "content mill" websites.
However, as Mad Muscles is relatively new, there are few, if any, full-length reviews. Due to the novelty of this workout app, this review seems to be one of the first, if not the first.
With that in mind, I will review this app using my vast experience in the world of fitness and workout apps. I will critique it from multiple angles including:
- Customer Support
Basically, I will look at everything to judge if Mad Muscles is worth it.
Mad Muscles Workout App: A Quick Overview
Mad Muscles is a relatively new workout app that "makes regular workouts accessible, effective and joyful." They claim to make personalized workout plans for users based on their answers to various questions such as:
- Time available
One aspect I like about Mad Muscles are is it offers "extra-curricular" actvities outside of your regular workout program. This includes;
- Setting different "achievements" that you can unlock after achieving various milestones.
- Joining different physical challenges
While Mad Muscles does supposedly offer nutrition programs, I did not purchase this option. However, a large majority of the reviews I saw were negative.
Drawbacks With Mad Muscles
I'm going to be honest right off the bat. No matter how much I tried, it was very hard to find something good to say about Mad Muscles.
In other words, there was a lot of negative to discuss. These issues seem to affect every part of the app:
- Ease of use
- Customer service
In fact, several reviews genuinely question if the app is nothing more than a scam. While I don't think it's a scam, I completely understand the reasons why some may think it is. Here are a few.
Difficulty In Ending Subscription
Before we go further, I want to start with this problem.
One of the more troubling issues is a repeated complaint of users having troubles ending their subscription. These complaints ranged from:
- Extreme difficulty canceling
- Needing to call customer service direct (sometimes more than once)
- Being charged even after cancellation
In fact, this is one of the driving factors that led some to accuse the app of scam; it must be extremely irritating.
Due to the numerous complaints of being overly charged, I actually did not buy a membership.
Having to call to cancel is a huge red flag for me; especially when seen in context of the other reported issues.
One thing that concerned me were several statements made by Mad Muscles in terms of helping you with your fitness. These were made in either the marketing, on the website or the app home page.
Basically, these comments made me question the integrity of the website.
In total, there are three I want to touch on;
- Training by body type
- Controlling your hormones
- Training by career
Training by body type
Training by body type is a recent phenomena that claims that different people should train different ways depending on their body somatotype:
You'll notice that ectomorphs (thin face, skinny) are basically treated as a weight gain client while endomorphs (round face, big belly) are treated as weight loss clients.
This is because your "body type" has nothing to do with your internal physiological systems. I've seen a rise in "train by body type" lately and every time I do, I know what system not to use.
A fun fact; the initial creation of these somatypes had nothing to do with fitness. Rather, it's creator aimed to associate certain personality traits with body shape, not design programs to lose weight.
Controlling your hormones
I'm really not sure what they mean by this. While your hormone balance does play a major role in your fitness, you can't control them with a workout; at least on a macro level.
Of course working out too hard or too often will raise your cortisol levels while resistance training can improve your testosterone levels (and also increase cortisol levels).
However, our hormone levels will also fluctuate during various times in the day naturally (Hayes, et al. 2010). In other words, your hormone levels always fluctuate.
All studies have shown these minor fluctuations throughout the day are normal and there are currently no studies to suggest an elite exercise program exists that can optimize these.
There is no secret exercise or sequence that will optimize these levels. You basically train hard with loads of 70-95% of your 1RM with appropriate volume and you're good to go. No need to make it complicated.
Train by type of career
This was seen on on one of their advertisements. They claimed to have challenges specifically built for you based on your career such as policeman or farmer.
Again, no idea what this is trying to say but it's wrong.
Together, these statements gave me the impression that Mad Muscles is trying too hard to seem like an advanced training system. While these don't necessarily affect the app, it's alarming that these claims are made.
Major Issues With Programming
I can't go through every issue seen with programming as there seems to be a lot; whether from what I noticed or complaints from other users. However, here is a rundown of commonly reported problems:
- Inability to lengthen rest times (Many users claim they weren't fit enough to perform the workouts as is)
- Prescribing exercises that are too easy or too hard
- Not allowing substitution exercises (due to lack of equipment or injuries)
Major Functional Problems
In addition to the issues with the actual workout programs spoken about above, there are also a slew of issues with the apps functionality. I want to specifically point out two.
1. For whatever reason, Mad Muscles does not let you log weight. As you probably know, tracking weights is one of the most critical parts of proper training. That's why there are some apps that only work as a tracker. However, apparently Mad Muscles decided this isn't that important? I really am at a loss for this.
2. Another issue that would be annoying is that the app must play on the main screen. The workouts are timer-based and run through a video once your workout begins. However, if your friend texts and you leave the workout page, the workout will restart and you need to watch the entire video again. While we could say this is "good" as it keeps you focused, that's just not how the real world works.
Horrible Exercise Selection: Water Bottles And Towel Rows!?
Remember above when I spoke about suggesting "standing toe squats" as well as other silly exercises? Well, this stuff really happens. Here's a screenshot of Mad Muscles suggesting you perform a "towel row" rather than a bent-over row:
One of the weird suggestions I saw was to use water bottles for weight. Sure this might work if you have zero weights and it's all you have. However, in no way, shape or form should this be what you're using if you have full access to a gym. I saw multiple complaints of this so I'll leave a screen shot below.
There is a list of reasons why this is a horrible choice including:
- Difficult to implement progressive overload (Check this out to find out how!)
- Limited max weight
- Difficult to hold
The only reason I can think of why an app would suggest this is that the developers want to try and look different; stand out from the crowd. While this makes them stand out, it's not for the reasons they think.
Expensive (For What It Is)
While Mad Muscles isn't the most expensive app on the market, it's definitely not cheap. Below is the price point as of the time of writing this review (September 2023):
- 1 Month: $19.99
- 3 Months: $39.99
- 1 Year: $59.99
- Lifetime Access: $119.99
This high price is only exacerbated when you consider the app has so many issues. While the prices could be appropriate for an awesome app (see below), you should expect top quality with real personalization and minimal bugs.
There were plenty of reviews in which people who still had access to Mad Muscles went ahead and downloaded other apps as they found Mad Muscles so frustrating.
Mad Muscles Workout App For Bodybuilding
Do I think Mad Muscles is a good workout app for bodybuilding? No.
Apart from all of the logistical issues that would make using this app difficult, I still think there are major issues with the programming.
First, there is not enough customization available to optimize a bodybuilding program for an individual. To succeed in bodybuilding, there are several variables which need to be applied for a program to produce best results. This includes things like:
- Exercise selection
- Rep scheme
- Duration of workout/Total volume
Unfortunately, these things are very difficult to adjust, if you're able to at all.
Verified Reviews for Mad Muscles Workout App
Summing Up: Mad Muscles App Review
I'm not sure where to start with my summary of Mad Muscles. I feel as if all I had to say was negative and I really don't like to just criticize an app. However, this is the way it is with Mad Muscles.
Perhaps my review wouldn't have been so negative without the high price tag. However, when an app is asking for a premium app, they will be critiqued accordingly. Therefore, there are far too many recurring issues, especially for the price they're asking, to recommend this app to anyone.
As mentioned, many users stopped using it even after they paid for it. To these people, Mad Muscles wasn't worth using even after they paid for it.
With all that in mind, at this point, I can not recommend Mad Muscles to anyone. In fact, I would actively encourage users to try a different workout app.
Dr. Muscle: A Superior Body Building App
While I can't recommend Mad Muscles to anybody, the good thing is there are plenty of other great apps out there for you. In particular, I want to talk to you about one by the name of Dr. Muscle.
Dr. Muscle is a real, AI-driven fitness app designed by real exercise scientists. It's been described as a "trainer in your pocket" and I would have to agree. Here is why I feel that Dr. Muscle is a premier workout app.
Meant To Last A Lifetime
Dr. Muscle is not designed for you to only use for a workout or two, and then move on. Rather, Dr. Muscle is designed to be used for a lifetime.
Dr. Muscle use extreme workouts with the sole intent of making you tired so you feel like you did something. Instead, it's designed with a goal of long-term success.
To do this it utilizes:
- Proper loading and volume
- Adequate rest and recovery
- Correct use of progressive overload
- Awesome exercise selection
In addition, specialized programs have been used in Dr. Muscle so that your programs "level up" with you as get stronger and more experienced.
With this innovative feature, you don't have to worry about using the same program for the rest of your life. Rather, you use Dr. Muscle for the rest of your life and it will implement all of the necessary changes you need.
This is similar to a proper fitness coach. Their goal is not to throw you into an ultra intense workout to wipe you out from the beginning.
What they do is identify a reasonable goal months out and then write a program to get you there. This is because a true coach, like Dr. Muscle, knows that success in fitness does not happen in a single workout but over a lifetime.
Delivers Truly Personalized Workout Programs
The workouts that Dr. Muscle delivers are anything but cookie-cutter. In fact, the programs it produces are the closest to the personalized programs that I write for my clients.
Upon downloading, you're taken through a series of questions so that the AI system knows you better. This includes:
- Your training age
- Current fitness level
- Injuries or areas of special attention
- And so on...
After this step is finished, the program does it's thing and produces an original program that's specifically built for you. I've played with the variables and changed my answers to see how the app reacts and Dr-Muscle does in fact build a program built around the new answers.
Huge Database Of Exercises
In addition to Dr. Muscle delivering personalized programs , you're able to swap out exercises if needed. To do this, Dr. Muscle hosts a huge library of exercises that are separated by body part. This makes it very easy for a trainee to make any unforeseen changes or to add some variety.
Use Real Training Principles
You won't find any training methods in Dr. Muscle that are based off what your job is or how tall you are. Rather, Dr. Muscle uses legitimate training methods to produce optimal results. In particular, there are two to point out.
- Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)- RPE is a method to determine your intensity of training. In a nutshell, you are prescribed a number from 1-10 that dictates how hard you train an exercise. It's a simple yet effective method by which trainees can optimize their training while mitigating fatigue (Impellizzeri, 2004). In fact, it's one of the more applicable and useful discoveries that has been made within exercise science recently.
- Daily Undulating Peridodization (DUP)- DUP is a method of altering intensities on a daily basis to target different adaptations. For example, you may have three workouts in a week which all use a different training goal such as power, strength, and hypertrophy (muscle growth). This form of training has been found to be more effective than other methods in eliciting greater adaptations (Zourdos, et al. 2016).
Mad Muscles Vs. Dr. Muscle: Side-By-Side Comparison
|Dr. Muscle||Mad Muscles|
|Who is it designed for?||Trainees who are looking for a quality program that they can follow to build muscle and strength while improving body composition||Targeted towards novice men who want to gain muscle and strength|
|Set-Up Time||Simple and straightforward that takes less than 5 minutes. Simplistic goal specific design.||Long list of questions before you can start|
|Program Design||AI designed by leading muscle building researchers creates a baseline program from your information including training experience.
Monitor each exercise using your effort and ‘reps in reserve’ to adjust loads depending on actual performance.
Suggests adjustments and rest ‘de-loads’ based on your individual progress.
Can run forever
|Several pre-written programs
Not true personalized plans
|Home workouts available?||Yes||Techincally, yes
Issues with prescribing exercises yet not having the appropriate equipment
Mad Muscles Vs. Dr. Muscle: Summary
Comparing Mad Muscles and Dr. Muscle is a no-brainer; Dr. Muscle is in a league all it's own.
It's like comparing a high-school basketball team to the NBA. In fact, they are on such different levels, it's difficult to even compare the two.
Mad Muscles seems like an unfinished app that charges the price of an awesome app. On the other hand, Dr. Muscle is a top-quality app designed by real experts in sports science.
The app is designed to be a "trainer in your pocket" as it takes you through the entire training process; for your entire life if you wanted.
Verified Reviews for Dr. Muscle
For more reviews and videos, check out customer feedback.
FAQ: Free trial, cancel anytime & more
Is Mad Muscles workout app free?
No. While you can set up a profile for free, you are very limited to what you can explore on the app without paying. There is also not free trial.
Is Mad Muscles just for men?
Anyone can use mad muscles but it seems to be geared towards men.
Is Mad Muscles a good workout plan?
Compared to other workout plans, Mad Muscles has many issues with programming.
Is Mad Muscles actually good?
Mad Muscles has a lot of areas to work on. It seems to have been released too early.
My Take On Mad Muscles
Mad Muscles simply seems to have been released too early as it still has a lot of bugs and programming issues it needs to be fixed. I say this because the other option is it's simply a money grab so I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt.
That was the impression I first got upon trying it. Part of this being due to their being very few pages which were heavily lopsided.
In that I mean some pages seem to have a lot of content while other pages are severely lacking any useful content. They're just there.
All in all, I would recommend Mad Muscles to take their app off the market and do some serious trouble shooting as well as add-ons. For lifters, I definitely recommend you skip Mad Muscles.