Joe Wicks’ fan, Lauren Smith put his Body Coach App to the test. Here’s how she got on with the nation’s PT’s latest launch.
I think it’s fair to say that pretty much anyone vaguely into fitness (or in possession of a school-age child), knows who Joe Wicks, aka The Body Coach is these days. But back in 2016, when he was more famous for his punchy 15-second food videos on Instagram than becoming the nation’s PE teacher, I bought and completed his 90-Day Transformation Plan.
I got the fittest I had ever been in my life, ate a LOT of spinach and became far too acquainted with burpees – but the plan was also brilliant for giving me a focus and a proper fitness routine while introducing me to resistance training, which I loved.
Fast forward 7 years, and we’ve experienced a (now distant but never forgotten) global pandemic, Joe is extremely famous (even my Dad is doing his HIIT workout for seniors videos on Youtube), and I’ve completely lost my fitness mojo.
While I wasn’t going to beat myself up about being a bit lax with fitness, at the beginning of the year, I decided I was going to find a plan, and stick to it. It would be something to give me something to focus on other than work. So, when I saw that Joe had launched The Bodycoach App for iPhones, (after years of tailored PDF fitness plans), I knew I had to give it a try. Here’s my honest review.
What is the body coach app?
Joe’s Body Coach App is essentially an upgraded version of his 90-Day Plan, except instead of sticking to 3 months, you can subscribe for whatever amount of time you wish. I found an introductory offer that made the whole year only £60, so decided to go the whole hog. (A steal when I paid £100 for the 3-month plan five years ago.) Also, if you’re reading this and you’re currently in the teaching industry, Wicks just announced that he is offering you 3 months entirely free. Yep, really.
The goal, says Wicks, is to deliver fun, varied workouts and a sustainable eating plan tailored to people’s specific needs. ‘After more than 600,000 clients on my 90-day plan, we have taken everything that I’ve learned about why people succeed at getting and staying fit and healthy and put it all into this app,’ he says.
(Did’ya know he was awarded an MBE by the Queen for services to fitness and charity for his family-friendly YouTube workouts during the coronavirus pandemic?)
Each month you do a ‘Cycle’, like Joe’s old plan, and these consist of four to five workouts per week: a warmup and cooldown, and an additional two live workouts to sub in each week if you want.
The live workouts are different each month and are saved to your app if you can’t do them in real-time. Fortunately, there’s a real variety, from core workouts to HIIT, weights and stretching. If you’re REALLY short on time, there’s one 10-minute ab routine and one 20 minute HIIT routine per cycle, too.
The workouts themselves are again, very similar to what you’d expect from Joe Wicks, a mix of HIIT, strength training, Tabata, and weighted circuit training. There are three levels to the plan: Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced. I opted for the Advanced as I’ve been training in the gym for five years. It’s pretty easy to change this option if you change your mind and find your workouts too hard or easy.
Tailored towards home workouts, rather than the gym focused plan I remembered doing, there is a need for some home gym equipment on the plan, but it’s pretty minimal; a pair of light and heavy dumbbells and a kettlebell. Don’t fret if you don’t have any kit – there are so many no-equipment options on the app once the live workouts are factored in.
Like the 90-Day Plan, food is a BIG part of the app. You’re given a meal plan based on your goals and asked about your activity levels, health conditions, dietary requirements and your starting measurements and weight.
The food and workouts are designed to go hand in hand – you even get a weekly planner to add your workouts and meals in to stay on track. And, best of all, the planner creates a shopping list on your notes iPhone app, so you can easily plan your supermarket trip. On the meal plan, you get three meals a day, plus two snacks. Plus, every recipe is saved to the app for you to revisit once you have completed a Cycle.
After you’ve finished a ‘Cycle’, there’s a section on the app where you put your ‘progress photos’, measurements and how you’re feeling each month. Anyone who follows Joe on Instagram will know that transformation photos have been a big selling point behind his plans but you can also skip this bit if you just want to work out.
Trying the body coach app
After a five year break from Joe Wicks (I did my own thing with weights after completing his plan), was going back just as good as I remembered? I did 3 cycles of the app to test myself and see if it compared to the OG plan.
After some time away from the gym, I found Cycle 1 hard. Going back to HIIT five days a week was difficult and I was really grateful for the warmup and cooldown exercises to loosen up my tight hips (especially as my NEAT exercise and daily steps had gone down significantly being at home so much).
The sessions were pretty much all HIIT workouts of varying lengths, and three of the five routines included weights. The food structure was also very similar to the old PDF plan: Two lower carbohydrate meals, with a higher carb meal on workout days.
I really enjoyed getting back into intense workouts, and these ones were really tough (in a good way). By the end of the month, though I was a bit bored of burpees and press-ups.
My favourite workouts were on the Live section of the app: there was one HIIT workout with 30 different moves for 30 minutes – an exhausting boredom-buster. Joe’s fun, infectious energy really kept me going, and he seemed totally knackered during the workouts too – encouraging when you’re also dripping in sweat.
Vaguely similar to his 90-Day Plan, Cycle 2 contained more ‘carby’ meals, as well as more weighted workouts. There was more pasta and rice-based meals to choose from and you can toggle bigger portions if you’re not satisfied.
The workouts remained quite short, at around 30 minutes max, but Tabata only happened once a week and the rest were weights-based resistance training. Circuit focused, they still got my heart rate up which was ideal if I was short on time.
In this cycle I loved the ladder workouts, as well as the GVT (German Volume Training) – I was so eager to use weights and delighted to still feel the burn with only 5kgs at home. I also swapped in a live Saturday Sweat workout when I wanted a more cardio-based workout, or a Sunday Stretch if my body felt sore.
Cycle 3 went back to a lower carb situation with the food, which to be honest, I didn’t love. I found the recipes the least appealing on this cycle. But with no specific fat loss goals, I could swap back in meals from previous cycles to keep things interesting and my energy high.
Workout wise, I was in heaven: It was all weight circuit training and there was a longer 45-minute circuit which was extremely tough. I was getting a bit annoyed at certain moves that kept making an appearance (mountain climbers, get in the sea) – but I liked how Joe threw in some more fun things like bear crawls and clean and jerks to keep you guessing, rather than just going through the motions.
What this cycle taught me was that after just two months of the app, I had really improved my fitness levels. Burpees were no longer absolute hell, I could do push-ups off my toes again, and I was desperately scouring eBay for heavier weights. Pretty impressive given I wasn’t following a specific strength-building plan.
My Fitbit was also telling me my resting heart rate had lowered a few notches. And although losing body fat wasn’t my goal, I felt more toned than I had in years. Plus, I was sleeping like a log, something I had really struggled with.
5 things I learned following The Body Coach App
The app has definitely changed a lot from the OG plan, which makes sense given it was seven years ago – a veritable lifetime in fitness!
1. Some things have changed but the core of Joe Wicks’ offering is the same
The workouts are much shorter, the food is definitely more mainstream than #fitspo (think burgers, pasta and pho, less spinach or mounds of greek yoghurt), and you can actually follow the workouts on your phone rather than printing out a PDF to take to the gym.
However, the basic principles of the plan – HIIT workouts and strength training, performed in cycles where you mix up your carb intake and a tailored meal plan based on your fat and or weight loss goals, are essentially the same.
2. There’s a lot of choice but HIIT is still the name of the game
I really enjoyed the workouts as they were short, effective, required minimal equipment but still tested me. While some may have been a little samey after a while (don’t pick this fitness app if you dislike HIIT), there’s a lot of choice, and countless workout variations. (It really is amazing value for money and beats repeating the same old Youtube workouts.)
I also loved the warm-up and cool down and Stretch Workouts – brilliant after doing lots of HIIT. I also liked that you didn’t have to submit transformation photos or measurements for each cycle, as not everyone finds that encouraging.
3. The food is easy to prepare
Food-wise, the meals were mainly tasty and easy to make with lots of fresh ingredients. I loved the dark chocolate low sugar granola, Black Bean Quesadillas, Singapore Noodles and Chipotle Burger. I didn’t religiously stick to the food plan and I pretty much swerved the snacks as they were sometimes complicated to make, but they are definitely handy for inspiration.
4. It wasn’t super easy to make the food work for a bigger group
Another thing I noted was that many recipes were hard to bulk up into meals for a family or to have the next day, which means a lot of meal prep and quite an expensive shop. While I was given the option for a PCOS-friendly plan, my menu had quite a few sugary ingredients that I know aren’t great for my condition. But then, you don’t go to a fitness app for medical advice, do you? I chose to make different recipes, instead.
The ultimate litmus test of the food was my father in law, who was fuming at the idea of me cooking meal plan food for 3 months but actually loved most of the meals I made and often went for seconds! Big win.
5. It’s a great option to keep a healthy fitness and food routine
So all in all, The Body Coach app is perfect for fans of Joe who want to keep fit with his method year-round – with bags of workouts, lots of food ideas, and it’s really easy to use. Just pick and choose the bits of the app that work for you. I’ve kept on using it and am now on Cycle 5 – so it’s one lockdown fitness habit that’s definitely going to stick.
Looking for more from the nation’s PE teacher? Here are 53 Joe Wicks recipes to try at home or a 2-week Body Coach HIIT Plan to get you started. Have at it.
*The Body Coach App costs £14.99 monthly, £37.99 quarterly or £89.99 yearly.
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