This post is part of our new Future of Health & Fitness series which interviews the leading founders and executives who are on the front lines of the industry to get a better understanding of what problems the industry is facing, what trends are taking place, and what the future looks like.
The following is an interview we recently had with Allen Chen, Co-founder & CEO of Fitbod.
1. What’s the history of Fitbod? Where and how did you begin?
AC: Co-founder & CEO Allen Chen started Fitbod with the vision of bringing authentic fitness coaching to anyone with a smartphone. Shaped by his lifelong strength-training hobby, captainship of the UCLA rugby team and former career as a quant developer on Wall Street, Fitbod is a direct product of Allen’s passion and experience. In fact, instead of selecting the best stocks in a portfolio, Fitbod’s algorithm picks the best exercises to optimize the constraints of an effective exercise plan.
Allen co-founded Fitbod with Jesse Venticinque – an experienced User Experience Designer who spent 5 years as design lead for Linkedin’s and Slideshare’s flagship mobile apps. Jesse and Allen originally met as freshmen engineering students at UCLA.
Fitbod debuted in late 2015. In July of 2016, Apple featured Fitbod under “New Apps we Love” and “Plan & Log” under Health Fitness. In 2017, Fitbod struck its first partnership with a brick and mortar gym. Additionally, in September, Fitbod partnered with Strava as part of their Connected Fitness platform.
2. What specific problem does Fitbod solve? How do you solve it?
AC: While resistance training is one of the most important and effective forms of exercise, it remains a challenge for the average gym-goer to practice effectively – unlike cardio or calisthenics. We experienced this first hand as we struggled with the mental gymnastics of blending past workouts, hundreds of exercises and unique gym idiosyncrasies into a concrete workout plan.
Moreover, effective exercise prescription is highly individualized and requires expert application of exercise science. That’s why professional personal trainers cost $100/hour to continuously adapt workout plans to their client’s capabilities, goals and daily lives. And progressive resistance training is essential for strength gains – which means that the training plan must course-correct over time.
In the face of such a challenging form of exercise, most gym-goers “make it up” when they hit the gym. Fitbod eliminates this guesswork in planning gym sessions.
3. What’s the future of health & fitness?
Prediction #1: In the near-term future, anyone with a smartphone will have access to individualized fitness and nutrition guidance – created without human intervention. We call this “Smart Fitness Guidance”. Fitbod accomplishes this by using machine learning to dynamically construct, improve and personalize workout plans over time. Most “high-tech” solutions to fitness instruction offer fixed exercise plans, compiled by human editors and unaware of the user’s unique needs.
Prediction #2: The Personal Training Industry will be disrupted with clients turning to and using computer-enabled training software. Fortunately, Personal Trainers will be able to leverage this new technology to expand their business (support more clients at a time, support a wide variety of health goals by leverage client health data, and deliver better training with computer assisted software).
Prediction #3: Gym equipment will get be infused with technology to assist in tracking individual workout activity, teaching correct form and personalized configurations. Brick and mortar gyms will leverage computer vision to track user fitness behavior.
4. What are the top 3 technology trends you’re seeing in health & fitness?
Trend #1: Machine learning, predictive analytics, and A.I. to enable personalization in health & fitness.
Trend #2: Increasing popularity with consumers tracking health and fitness data with wearables. With mass consumer successes like Apple Watch and Fitbit, most people will be tracking health data regularly.
Trend #3: Computer and internet-enabled gym equipment.
5. Why is the health & fitness industry ripe for disruption?
AC: Gym patronage and resistance training has exploded over the last decade. Since 2009, gym membership and visits has grown by 22%, with 59 million Americans today owning memberships and visiting the gym twice a week. In addition, 25 million Americans utilize fitness equipment at home, including a mix of weights, suspension (TRX), resistance and cardio machines (Source).
However, consumer fitness tech today is like Google Maps without directions. We have data-rich maps of people’s physical activity, but fail to help them navigate towards real results. Fitbod bridges the gap with new personalization techniques like machine learning and predictive analytics.
And resistance-training is the perfect exercise for this application. The activity naturally produces highly structured data (sets, reps, weight, etc.) and people vary widely in physical capability, making the quality of the recommendations critical to providing value. Today, anyone with a smartphone should have access to individualized fitness and nutrition guidance – created without human intervention.
About Allen Chen
Co-founder & CEO Allen Chen started Fitbod with the vision of bringing authentic fitness coaching to anyone with a smartphone. Shaped by his lifelong strength-training hobby, captainship of the UCLA rugby team and former career as a quantitative engineer on Wall Street, Fitbod is a direct product of Allen’s passion and experience. Allen earned his B.S in Computer Science from UCLA and partially completed his M.A. in Mathematics & Finance at Columbia University before starting Fitbod.