The Whoop Strap 3.0 is the third generation of a wearable that seeks to go beyond what your typical fitness tracker or sports watch is capable of.
It wants to hone in on tracking recovery periods in your training or workouts. By doing that, it hopes to help maximise performance for your next big session.
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The Whoop has been seen on the wrists of professional athletes from across the sporting spectrum. Golfers, CrossFit athletes, swimmers and the NBA’s finest. Pretty much anyone who needs their body to be in peak performance at all times and less susceptible to injury.
With the latest iteration of the Strap, Whoop brings new improvements including a Strain Coach to help you train smarter according to your recovery level and goal. You can now also overlay your performance metrics over videos you record in the Whoop app. Battery life has also been improved to up to a rated five days from three on the Whoop Strap 2.0.
While the Whoop Strap 2.0 originally came with a lofty $500 price tag, it’s now only available through a subscription model. It’s a $30 a month subscription (with a six month commitment), bringing the cost of the wearable down substantially. Longer fixed term contracts bring the monthly outlay as low as $18 a month still with no cost for the Whoop Strap 3.0 itself.
We were fans of the last generation Strap, so do the latest improvements make it a great wearable option for training like a pro? I’ve been living with the Whoop Strap 3.0 for over a month to find out. Here’s my comprehensive verdict.
Whoop Strap 3.0: Design and comfort
Not a great deal has changed between the Whoop Strap 2.0 and 3.0 in terms of look and feel. Itâs still a relatively discreet wrist-worn wearable, especially as thereâs no screen on it to view data. The Whoop Strap 3.0 has a range of different color and strap options, ranging from the plain black we were sent to more eye-catching white, green, orange and blue bands.
You can also customise your Whoop Strap 3.0 further with premium band and clasp combinations, as well as different material bands.
Thereâs also a new ProKnit band as standard, which has a decent amount of stretch to it. The underside has textured patterning designed to stop the Whoop Strap from sliding around your wrist. If thereâs one knock against the ProKnit though, itâs that it is pretty slow to dry if you get it wet.
Whoop Strap 3.0 next to a Fitbit Charge 3
Considering the Whoop Strap 3.0 is water resistant, youâre able to keep it on in the shower or for a swim, but it can be a bit uncomfortable when itâs still dripping wet. There is an optional Hydroband strap thatâs designed to dry faster.
The Whoop Strap 3.0 can also be worn further up your arm, either on your forearm or on your triceps, similar to the Polar OH1+ heart rate monitor. For anyone whose workouts require wrist wraps, like CrossFitters, this is a useful option. There are also optional arm and bicep sleeves, or longer bicep bands.
While the regular band being too small to fit over my bicep was a nice ego boost, wearing the Whoop Strap 3.0 in an upper arm sleeve is a much better option. You simply remove the strap and slide the Whoop Strap inside the sleeve. It then sits comfortably and securely against your tricep.
The sleeve also has some padding around the Whoop Strapâs pod, providing a little bit of protection if youâre partaking in a contact sport.
Getting consistent readings is key to the Whoop doing its thing, so itâs worth experimenting with different positions depending on the workout. Anything that requires a lot of wrist flexion might mean youâre better off taking a reading from your upper arm instead.
I got really inconsistent readings during deadlifts from my forearm, which were much improved from my triceps, for example.
The Whoop is meant to be worn relatively tight so that the heart rate sensor maintains constant skin contact. As such, the Whoop Strap sits considerably more flush than a device like the Fitbit Charge 3 I also wore during testing.
Not having external light impacting the Whoop Strapâs sensor is important for it to get more accurate readings, so you want it tight enough that itâs hard to get your pinky finger underneath the band.
Whoop Strap 3.0: How it works
The central concept behind the Whoop system is using your heart rate and heart rate variability to monitor the âStrainâ you accrue, both during a workout and throughout the day. It also monitors recovery levels by monitoring your sleep overnight and naps during the day.
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By factoring in your strain versus your recovery, youâre better able to make an informed decision on the intensity of your next workout. That’s the idea anyway.
Strain is a measure of the load on your cardiovascular system and Whoop measures this on a 21 point scale. A light workout is anything between 0 to 9.9, and an intense workout is anything between 18 to 21 on Whoopâs Strain scale. Whoop admits that going to a 21 scale was basically an arbitrary decision (think Spinal Tap) and you wonât ever actually hit a 21 score.
Fundamentally, the Whoop system is looking at your cardiovascular exertion, so its benefit is largest for cardio-based workouts. During testing I wore it for 5-a-side football, where an hour of activity would amount to around a 17-18 Strain score, as well as running. The scores here felt appropriate for how hard I pushed myself.
But contrast that with a 2-hour powerlifting weights session, where I might hit close to a 1 rep maximum high exertion lift, followed by lots of accessory resistance training. Many of these would barely hit a 10 score on the Strain scale but would still feel just as intense and draining as football or running, if not more so.
But because my time spent in elevated HR zones was much lower, it gets assigned a much lower Strain score. It leaves you feeling a little hard done by, especially as weight training will have just as much impact on your muscle soreness, and other factors like central nervous system (CNS) fatigue.
After a workout, you fill out a brief survey detailing your Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE), your performance level and whether you were able to complete your intended workout. The Whoop system will use your answers to determine its recommendations for your next workout and Recovery readings.
Whoop says that if your reported RPE is consistently different from your Strain score, it will decide if it should reevaluate. After five weeks of use, I havenât really noticed any big adjustments in Strain score from similar powerlifting workouts, however.
Itâs perhaps good that Whoop isnât too quick to adjust because studies have shown that athletes have a tendency to over-report their RPE after a workout. But I imagine if youâre consistent in your rating, it can lead to a more personalised Strain score if it is ultimately adjusted.
Whoop Strap 3.0: Whoop Live
A new addition for Whoop Strap 3.0 is Whoop Live. This lets you use the app on your smartphone to record video of your workout and your heart rate information from the wearable is superimposed over your video.
Depending on what youâre doing, this can be a useful tool to see if your form breaks down and if this correlates with your heart rate and fatigue. Otherwise, itâs just a cool video to share on social media.
Even failing a deadlift takes a big toll on your heart rate
Strain isnât only built up during a workout, however. Youâre meant to wear the Whoop Strap 3.0 constantly outside of the gym or track. Itâs then taking measurements while you go for a walk, play with your kids, or carry the shopping.
It will also detect when you have an elevated heart rate due to stress or other external influences. In my case, watching football leaves me with a higher than normal heart rate for 90 minutes.
These all additionally take a toll on your cardiovascular system that you might not otherwise consider, and need to be factored into your Day Strain score.
Whoop Strap 3.0: Recovery and sleep tracking accuracy
Measuring your effort levels during a workout using your heart rate isnât too dissimilar to whatâs done we found wearing a MyZone MZ-3 chest strap, but that was only worn during exercise. The Whoop deviates further through its use of heart rate variability for recovery tracking.
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Between workouts, the Whoop system uses heart rate variability – the variation in time between each heart beat – alongside your resting heart rate. Essentially, a higher heart rate variability is considered an indicator of higher recovery and a decreasing resting heart rate shows a more efficient cardiovascular system – a sign youâre getting fitter.
These two heart rate metrics are used alongside the Whoopâs sleep tracking, as this is the period when your body recovers from the intensities of exercise. Youâre assigned a sleep quality score based on the duration of your sleep measured against your prescribed âsleep needâ, as well as your time spent in the various sleep stages such as REM and Slow Wave Sleep (often referred to as âDeepâ sleep).
Each morning, youâre given a survey asking about your energy level, soreness and other factors. Youâll also be asked about your sleep conditions, such as whether you had any caffeinated or alcoholic drinks, worked on a screened device or shared your bed.
All of these things can have an impact on your sleep quality, and Whoop says its users have a significant reduction in alcohol consumption. The survey and sleep tracking does make you more accountable and itâs now part of my routine after waking up.
A sleep coach feature also lets you decide what days you want to have peak performance or simply to get by. The Whoop app will then send you an evening notification letting you know how much sleep youâll need to hit your goal for the following day.
If you donât hit your prescribed sleep need, this is added to your sleep debt. You can top this up by napping during the day, but unless youâre a full time athlete this might not be a realistic way to catch up. Youâre given a Sleep Performance percentage score based on your actual hours of sleep – duration of sleep, minus time awake – versus your sleep need.
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As for the accuracy of the Whoop Strap 3.0âs tracking, I wore a Fitbit Charge 3 alongside the Whoop Strap 3.0 during testing and found generally both trackers garnered similar sleep results in terms of automatically detecting my sleep duration.
There was an occasional deviation in terms of time spent in different stages, however. I typically found the Fitbit Charge 3 reported more periods âAwakeâ.
By combining your heart rate variability, resting heart rate and sleep metrics, youâre given a âRecoveryâ percentage, informing you of the preparedness of your body to take on Strain in your next workout.
From here you can then decide the intensity of your next workout or whether you should dial back and have a rest day. If you have a high recovery score, it could be time to go for a PB, whereas a low score could mean youâre on the way to an injury.
Considering overtraining syndrome is one of the biggest fears of any athlete, I feel like there could be more information discerned from the daily survey. Studies have shown that there’s a correlation between mood and underperformance when it comes to overtraining syndrome.
An extra question simply asking how you feel that day could be beneficial for gathering data, as would further questions around nutrition. Re-fuelling between workouts is also important alongside sleep, and a reduction in appetite has also been associated with overtraining syndrome.
Those extra data points alongside all of the other information captured from Whoop users could bring up some interesting insights.
Overall, this emphasis on sleep for recovery has made me pay much more attention to my sleep quality. Itâs rarely the training itself that pushes you past functional overreaching, but rather the stresses outside like not enough sleep.
Whoop Strap 3.0: Strain Coach
The Strain Coach feature lets you see in real time how you accumulate Strain during a workout through the app. You also get a live view of your heart rate, which is something I found useful to monitor my rest periods between powerlifting sets.
Based on your Recovery level, the Strain Coach will give you an optimal strain level for that workout. Optimal range is considered enough intensity without the risk of burning out. Anything below is considered restorative and will speed up your recovery. Higher Strain levels are considered overreaching.
Functional overreaching can be useful in improving your overall fitness and performance but is not something you want to undertake regularly and can lead to the dreaded overtraining syndrome.
Even if you donât manually start a workout using the Strain Coach, the Whoop Strap 3.0 will automatically detect exercise by extended periods with elevated heart rate. You can then assign a workout type afterwards. The workout types are really just labels for the activity and thereâs an extensive list of options.
Whoop Strap 3.0: Battery life
Whoop rates the battery life as an improved five days, up from three days on the Whoop Strap 2.0. In testing, however, I found it typically lasted closer to four days. Thatâs still a respectable amount of time for a wearable youâre never meant to take off
The Whoopâs strength lies in its tracking in between workouts after all. Better yet, you donât have to take it off even to charge. Thatâs thanks to a separate battery you charge over Micro USB. You can then attach this to your Whoop Strap 3.0, almost like a battery backpack, so you can carry on wearing it while it charges without any holes in your tracking history.
Iâm guilty of taking off other fitness trackers to charge and forgetting to put it back on. So this is an elegant solution and something I wish other wearables would adopt. It takes about 90 minutes to get you to a full charge.
Note that the battery charger is not water-resistant, so you need to remember to take it off before jumping in the shower. I was very close to making this mistake a few times.
You can double tap the Whoop Strap 3.0 to light up the battery indicator LED on the side, otherwise the app is good at pushing a notification to let you know you need to top up.
Whoop Strap 3.0: Does it work?
I think the most succinct testimonial to the Whoop Strap 3.0âs effectiveness is that I fully intend to carry on wearing it well beyond writing this review.
It has made me more aware of how important recovery is to my performance and how improving my sleep is so critical.
I make a concerted effort to get more sleep by going to bed earlier, but also to aim for better quality sleep because not only has that resulted in better recovery as shown in the Whoop app, but it correlates with how I feel. On days I feel sluggish, I can see my HRV is lower than usual and my Recovery score invariably suffers.
Granted, my primary training is around strength and powerlifting, and it hasnât necessarily translated into me hitting new PBs, but it has regardless made me train smarter and more conscientiously.
The app and desktop dashboard both provide a really useful way of presenting all of the information so you can draw parallels between your Strain, Recovery and Sleep Performance.
The new subscription model also brings the cost down massively, making it an option for far more people.
The Whoop Strap 3.0 makes it clear how important sleep is to your recovery. It records a massive amount of data around your workout intensity and sleep, and makes you more accountable for your performance. With the reliability of that data tracking and some nice new software features, owners of the previous generation Whoop Strap may well be convinced to make that upgrade. If you’re looking for a wrist-worn wearable to help take your training to the next level and you’re willing to commit to that subscription, this is one for you.
- Comfortable design
- Rich data insights
- Accurate HR and sleep tracking
- Expensive accessories
- Could record more user input
- Need to experiment to improve accuracy