One evening in late March, I was moving through some squats right alongside Peloton instructor Callie Gullickson during a 20-minute bodyweight strength class. But I wasn’t taking an in-person class or streaming it on my phone: I was watching myself move next to Gullickson in a side-by-side video of us both on the same screen. This is something you too can experience when using Peloton Guide, the mega fitness platform’s latest offering that hopes to change the way members strength train.
Instead of a traditional piece of fitness equipment — à la the Peloton bike and treadmill — Guide is basically a smart camera that allows for more integrated, connected, and personalized strength training. First of all, this puts you on the screen with the instructor, which does two things for your workout: You get to compare your form to the instructor’s (in real-time), and your movements are able to be tracked (for accountability and motivational purposes). Other features include Body Activity, which maps out the muscles you’ll work in a given session, and Movement Details, a glossary that shows you every exercise you’ll do in a workout as well as video demos you can view before class if you’re unfamiliar with a move.
The overall goal is to make strength training more accessible for people of all fitness levels. During a visit to Peloton’s headquarters in New York City where I was able to test out the new product, I met with Ben Schultz, Peloton’s director of product management, who told me the brand — when researching what their strength product would look like — spent time visiting people’s homes to see what was and wasn’t working in their strength routines. “We found that traditional strength products, like a squat rack or weight plate, can be very intimidating to people, especially at the start,” Schultz says. “You typically learn cardio movements growing up — how to walk, run, ride a bike. But not burpees. A lot of times, strength training movements are a little bit more unfamiliar to people unless you played specific athletics growing up that had strength training as a form of conditioning you had to do.”
With this new artificial intelligence-based technology, Peloton Guide works to streamline strength-based workouts so that everyone — from newbies to pros — can reap the benefits of foundational strength. Read on for everything you need to know about Peloton’s newly launched Guide device.
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How Peloton Guide Works
The Guide comes in two different bundles: Guide Strength Starter, which costs $295 and gives you the camera, three sets of Peloton dumbbells, and a workout mat; and Guide Power with Rogue, which will run you between $935 to $1,270 and comes with the camera, six sets of Rogue dumbbells, the Peloton Heart Rate Band, and a mat. You’ll also need an All-Access subscription to access Peloton Guide content (existing All-Access members won’t need to pay additional fees), which costs $24 a month through 2022 before it adjusts to $39 monthly the following year.
The key component of everything is, of course, the camera: This small but mighty piece of equipment (it’s smaller than your iPhone, for reference) has a wide angle that intuitively senses where you are in front of the lens and follows you around as you work out. (Peloton, BTW, has taken into consideration privacy concerns; the camera doesn’t store data and there’s a built-in slider that covers it when you’re not using it.) If you’re a tracker fan, the Guide is compatible with all Bluetooth-based heart rate monitors.
The workouts themselves are just like the typical Peloton strength offerings you may already be familiar with. That means you can pick a class based on length, difficulty level, playlist, targeted body part, etc. and the kind of strength-based workout you’re in the mood to do — think bodyweight (read: no equipment) sessions and classes that use weights. Peloton is also introducing new programs for Guide, including Floor Bootcamp, aka a floor-based version of the platform’s popular interval-based Bike and Tread Bootcamps.
Optimizing Strength Training
What really makes Guide unique is how it’s using AI (machine learning) to enhance your overall fitness routine. Peloton instructor Jess Sims puts it this way: “Guide removes the barrier to entry for beginners because it helps demystify strength training,” she tells me over Zoom. And strength training is something fitness experts recommend as a foundational element for one’s exercise routine since it, well, strengthens your body for more optimal mobility in and out of workouts.
Guide’s Body Activity Tracker, for instance, shows you the muscles you worked in class and even the percentages of the workout that were spent on each muscle. If you put this data to good use, you can, say, take an upper body-focused class the day after a sesh that was heavy on the leg muscles. “It just helps you make more informed decisions so you can get more well-rounded workouts or more targeted workouts,” says Sims. Translation? If you follow this intel and the app’s recommendations, you’ll have fewer muscle imbalances and therefore fewer overuse injuries down the line. As someone who spends most of my days running rather than strengthening my core or upper body (and therefore dealing with tight-as-hell legs and hip flexors), this is appealing to me.
What It’s Like Working Out With Peloton Guide
After chatting with Schultz, I was left to sweat to my heart’s content with the TV and Guide setup in Peloton’s office. I used the remote to pick the 20-minute workout from Gullickson, saw the index of exercise moves I was about to do, and hit start, when I immediately saw myself on the screen with the instructor. Mind you, I — and the majority of people today — am used to seeing my reflection on a screen every single day. While this has had a superficial effect on me (I now stay more on top of dyeing my roots every month and yearn for more regular Botox injections), I do find it genuinely useful to see myself when I’m working out — which hasn’t been an option in my home gym.
“There’s a reason why mirrors are all over the walls in gyms and fitness studios,” says Schultz. “If I tell you to straighten your back, you may not intuitively know which muscles to tighten or loosen in order to accomplish that.” Seeing yourself doing it, on the other hand, makes form adjustment easier. Plus, you can literally tweak your form so it looks like the instructor’s since you’re both visible on the screen.
In this sense, I loved the aspect of watching myself exercise. It’s also nice that Guide offers different screen views, so you can do a side-by-side, a stacked view, and even a self mode where the instructor is minimized and you have a larger image of yourself to monitor. I found the stacked screen to be the most useful since it made me and the instructor roughly the same size for easier form matching.
The tool also doubles as an accountability coach with its Movement Tracker feature. This is basically a sweat drop-shaped icon on the corner of the screen that lights up as you work through an interval. If you complete the reps, you get to hear the satisfying “ding” that indicates you got credit for that movement (your full performance credits are shown at the end of your workout). Give up mid-interval, however, and the icon doesn’t finish lighting up. I, for one, get pretty competitive with myself when I’m exercising, so this motivated me to push through — even when I was getting sore in my third round of Supermans.
Overall, working out with Guide felt like a regular Peloton strength workout, but with two noticeable differences: my reflection on the screen and the Movement Tracker rewarding me for completing reps. If your home gym setup lacks a mirror or you’re new to strength training and could use the form matching perk you get from being on the monitor, Guide can definitely upgrade your sweat regimen.
Those are the two most visible features, though. Everything else Guide brings to the table serves as more big-picture enhancements to one’s personal fitness journey. And these features — like the Movement Details, aka the glossary of video demos that essentially act as a strength training encyclopedia, and the Body Activity Tracker — are incredibly comprehensive. But it’s up to the user to put all this info to good use. If you’ve dealt with aches or injuries from your workout of choice, the Body Activity Tracker can tell you how to balance your muscles out. Fitness newbs who have never done a renegade row in their life can benefit from Peloton’s videos that walk you through every exercise you’ll ever have to do in a strength class.
If I didn’t live in a New York City apartment and had the 4.5 by 6 feet of unobstructed space required to use Guide, I’d be all about it. I am a wearable devotee, after all, and this takes tracking to a different level. As AI continues to enhance the digital fitness world, this new innovation from Peloton is bound to help people workout smarter — which, considering how many people now only exercise at home, is a really good thing.