The Apple Watch had been my primary workout companion for the past few years, until a friend recommended that I try the WHOOP strap — a new fitness tracker that’s different from anything I’ve seen before.
I’ve worn WHOOP since January 2019, and the data it has provided has been incredibly insightful.
Here are some of the insights I’ve gained from WHOOP over the past 14 months:
- Stress and other lifestyle factors measurably impact my sleep quality.
- My heart rate variability is a reliable indicator of when I’m about to get sick (and when I recover).
- Alcohol ruins my sleep (no surprise there).
- Reading a book before going to sleep (instead of reading on my iPhone or iPad) helps me sleep better and longer.
- Intermittent fasting dramatically impacts my sleep and recovery.
WHOOP Band 3.0
- Packed with sophisticated sensors that collect five metrics 100x per second
- Provides insight into your daily strain and recovery rate, as well as detailed sleep performance data
- Long battery life
- You can recharge WHOOP without taking the strap off your wrist
- Comfortable to wear 24/7
- No integration with Apple’s HealthKit
- Doesn’t support third-party chest straps (HR monitors)
WHOOP gives you insight into exercise performance, recovery, rest and sleep in a way that no other device can.
As an enthusiastic Crossfit athlete and healthy living advocate, I’m always on the lookout for ways to hack my performance and improve my sleep quality and recovery. That’s one of the reasons I was such a fan of the Apple Watch.
While I appreciate how Apple has turned its wearable into an excellent fitness companion that has already saved numerous lives, it still has many limitations, including:
- No native support for tracking sleep — not even in the Apple Watch
- Third-party sleep tracking apps are inaccurate and gimmicky.
- No useful analysis and reporting around exercise performance and recovery.
However, it’s not only the Apple Watch that struggles with those issues. Other wearables, such as Fitbit and Android-based smartwatches, also suffer from the same shortcomings.
WHOOP founder and CEO Will Ahmed, a Harvard graduate, must have felt similarly when he decided to develop a solution that fills all of the above gaps and more.
WHOOP accurately tracks strain, as well as exercise and sleep performance. It also tells you how well you recovered overnight, and how hard you can push it that day.
The result is WHOOP, a clever combination of wearable technology (the WHOOP band) with a membership* that provides professional-quality analytics of your data, paired with a community of like-minded users that includes professional athletes (e.g., NBA players), coaches, trainers and Fortune 500 CEOs.
WHOOP Band Review
What is WHOOP?
Contrary to what you might think, WHOOP is not just another fitness strap, like Fitbit. It’s also a membership that connects you to a community of like-minded health enthusiasts.
More importantly, it enables you to “unlock the secrets your body is trying to tell you.” What that means is that WHOOP provides insights into your performance, recovery and sleep data that most other consumer-grade trackers can’t give you — not even the Apple Watch.
How Is the WHOOP Band Different?
WHOOP is a high-tech gadget that can guide you through exercise, recovery and sleep. For example, it tells you if your body has recovered sufficiently to push it during your next workout, or if it’s better to take it easy for a day. It also lets you know how much sleep you’ll need tonight, based on your level of activity during the day and any sleep debt you might have incurred.
One of the things I immediately noticed when I put the strap on for the first time was that WHOOP doesn’t have a display or buttons and it can’t even tell you the time. There’s no way to interact with the device, other than double-tapping it to see the remaining battery life via three tiny LEDs on the side.
However, don’t be fooled by WHOOP’s simplicity! The wearable device packs a ton of sophisticated sensors that can measure your heart’s beats per minute, heart rate variability (HRV), electro-dermal activity, ambient temperature and 3D acceleration.
I’ll explain what all that means and why it’s important in a bit, so hang tight!
The key differentiator of WHOOP is that all those sensors collect data 100 times per second (and 24/7), as long as you wear the strap. In comparison, the Apple Watch only collects heart-rate data at a high frequency during workouts. Otherwise, it only samples your heart rate every few minutes.
By collecting such an incredible amount of data, WHOOP can detect minuscule changes in how your body responds to exercise, rest and other stimuli throughout the day and overnight.
Exercise and Fitness Tracking
Since the WHOOP strap doesn’t have any buttons or a display, you can’t tell the device to start an exercise routine. The good news is that you don’t have to. Remember, WHOOP measures your heart rate 100 times per second, all the time. That allows the gadget to detect when you’re working out.
Additionally, WHOOP uses a classic accelerometer to detect movement. That’s helpful for certain types of exercises, like lifting weights, that increase your heart rate only moderately. Alternatively, you can use the WHOOP app on your smartphone to start or log an activity, instead of relying on the tracker’s automatic detection capabilities.
What’s crucial is that WHOOP uses the collected data to calculate your daily strain. In other words, the device can tell you how hard your cardiovascular system worked on a given day. That’s important because it directly influences your recovery and
WHOOP measures your daily accumulated strain score using a scale from 0 to 21:
- 0 – 9.9: Light
- 10 – 13.9: Moderate
- 14 – 17.9: Strenuous
- 18 – 21: All out
Note that WHOOP calculates strain from your max heart rate, which means that score is highly personalized. The same workout, performed by different people (or even pro athletes), might result in different strain scores. So don’t compare your results to someone else’s.
By default, WHOOP detects activities if they last for 15 minutes or longer. So it won’t recognize those 20-seconds sprints on CAR.O.L, the new HIIT bike I’ve been testing as a workout.
However, even strain endured during shorter physical activities — such as carrying heavy grocery bags from the store to your car — adds to your daily strain score.
I’m incredibly competitive (primarily with myself), and I’m in a constant battle with my mind during workouts. For example, if my brain
The issue with such a strategy is that it can take an incredible toll on your body. Sometimes, I feel like although my mind is getting stronger my body isn’t — or at least not at the rate I’m expecting.
I have since realized that there needs to be a balance between strain and recovery. If your body endures too much strain without sufficient opportunity to recover, you end up with what’s called a recovery deficit. The result? You don’t improve, but you do increase your risk of injury.
However, beyond “listening to my body,” I haven’t had a means through which to evaluate how recovered I was on a particular day. That’s where WHOOP can help.
Every morning, the WHOOP application gives me a recovery score, expressed as a percentage (e.g., 75% recovered), based on key metrics from my heart, nervous system and sleep performance. Depending on my recovery, WHOOP suggests how much strain I should take on that day to prevent over-training and to lower the risk of injury.
What’s interesting is that you can use the recovery score for much more than planning your next workout. For example, having a low recovery score for a few days in a row without an obvious reason (i.e., strenuous workout sessions) has been an incredibly reliable indicator that my body is fighting off a virus.
On the flip side, my recovery score improved immediately as soon as I started to feel better.
What I’m trying to say is that you can benefit from the WHOOP strap even if you’re not an athlete!
How Does WHOOP Know How Recovered I Am?
In a nutshell, the WHOOP analysis engine uses three key metrics to measure recovery:
- Resting heart rate (RHR)
- Heart rate variability (HRV)
- Hours of sleep
A high heart rate variability and a low resting heart rate, compared to your baseline, indicate that your body is recovering well. A low HRV and high RHR indicate that the heart is working harder to supply nutrients via the bloodstream. It also means that the nervous system is busy trying to meet the body’s “physiological demands, such as musculoskeletal recovery, stress, illness, and fatigue.”
Of course, your sleep performance also plays a crucial role in recovery. The more quality sleep you get, the quicker you recover.
What’s important to understand is that the recovery score WHOOP calculates is not correlated with the previous day’s strain.
One of the features I was most excited about when I heard about WHOOP was sleep tracking. I had tried various apps and gadgets in the past, such as the now-obsolete Jawbone UP and Sleep++, but none were reliable.
Thanks to the advanced sleep monitoring technology in WHOOP, the device can not only measure how much time I spend in bed, but also how much time it takes me to fall asleep (sleep latency), how long I sleep, and what stage of sleep I’m in.
A typical sleep cycle consists of four stages:
- Slow wave sleep (SWS — also known as deep sleep)
- REM sleep
- Light sleep
WHOOP uses its sensors to detect changes in my heart rate, the ambient temperature, and movement patterns.
Every morning, I get a detailed report telling me how much time I spent in bed, how long it took me to fall asleep, how long I spent in each stage of sleep, and how many times my sleep was disturbed.
Additionally, you can also check your respiratory rate (how many breaths you take per minute). That number should be relatively stable from night to night. If you see significant changes, it could indicate an underlying issue, such as an infection with the new coronavirus.
How Accurately Does WHOOP Track Sleep?
According to WHOOP, their sleep tracking is 95% accurate compared to the calibration tests the company has done in sleep labs. The University of Arizona recently published a study on sleep trackers and called WHOOP “highly accurate.”
I have read numerous studies suggesting a relationship between an increase in electrodermal activity and skin temperature during slow-wave sleep. I found another study that outlined the accuracy of various monitoring devices, including electroencephalography (EEG), skin conductance (SC), skin temperature (ST), and accelerometers (ACC).
You can see the results below:
- EEG showed 91% accuracy
- EEG plus other features boosted the accuracy to 95% (EEG + SC + ACC)
- EEG + ACC + SC + ST boosted the accuracy to 96%
It shouldn’t be surprising that EEG-based monitoring is relatively accurate, especially when paired with additional (wrist-worn) sensors.
However, even without an EEG, scientists have confirmed the relatively high accuracy of wrist-worn devices:
- ACC + SC + ST showed 86% accuracy
- SC + ST or ACC + ST showed 84% accuracy
So, based on those findings, I expect the WHOOP strap to be about 86% accurate. From an observational perspective, I woke up feeling groggy a few times lately, and I always suspected that I must have been in the middle or at the end of a deep-sleep cycle.
The other day, I woke up in the middle of a dream — or at least, that’s how it felt. More than that, I felt like I was dreaming the whole night and I have vivid recollections of my dreams from that night.
After each of those events, I compared my suspicions with WHOOP’s sleep performance report and it was always spot on.
In February of 2019, WHOOP launched a new sleep-related metric called Sleep Efficiency.
Sleep Efficiency is therefore a measure of sleep quality, and when considered alongside the rest of the WHOOP Sleep Pillar metrics, provides actionable insight into where your sleep could improve.WHOOP
In addition to my sleep performance report, WHOOP offers a sleep coach via its mobile app that suggests when I should go to bed based on my level of expected athletic performance the next day, the accumulated strain, any sleep debt I might have incurred, and how long it usually takes me to fall asleep.
The WHOOP application is a treasure trove of information, and you might find it intimidating at first. Besides the hamburger menu in the upper-left corner, you can navigate through the app by swiping left/right and up/down.
If you look at the bottom of the screen, you’ll see five little dots indicating the screen you’re on. If the screen offers additional information, you’ll see a down-facing arrow and you can access that information by swiping up.
But that’s not all. Some screens, like Sleep Performance, offer additional analytics via button-like controls that are marked by rectangles with rounded corners. For example, you can click on the number above the “HOURS OF SLEEP” label to get to your detailed sleep stage analysis.
Using the general menu, you can cycle between the home screen (athlete profile), start/add an activity, sleep coach, your weekly performance assessment, strap status, settings and help.
Strain Coach (WHOOP 3.0)
Strain Coach provides you with live data — including your strain, heart rate and calories burned — that you can leverage during a workout. That way, you can make instant adjustments to your workout activity, based on your recovery.
When WHOOP first launched the Strain Coach, I thought it was a gimmick that I wouldn’t have use for. A few days ago, I woke up with a low recovery score and decided to give it a try.
I started my WOD with Strain Coach enabled and made sure I wouldn’t overreach. While I ended up with a slightly higher strain than Strain Coach suggested, the feature helped me to improve my recovery.
Some reviewers are under the impression that the Strain Coach can or should replace a real coach. Obviously, that’s an unrealistic expectation — much like it’s unrealistic for a Tesla to operate entirely autonomously. Maybe we’ll get there at some point, but we aren’t there yet as of this writing.
So if WHOOP’s Strain Coach suggests that you push it hard during a workout on a given day, but you know that you have a race coming up, maybe don’t follow the recommendation and use your brain instead.
The sleep coach feature of the WHOOP app gives you personalized recommendations on how to leverage sleep to increase your performance.
To get started, you can tell the sleep coach what level of performance you’re aiming for, including “peak,” “perform,” or “get by.” I always go for “peak” performance!
Additionally, you can tell the app what your desired wakeup time is. In my case, that’s 5:15 a.m. From there, the sleep coach tells you when you should go to bed and how many hours of sleep you’ll need.
Regardless of your desired wakeup time, Sleep Coach also tells you when you should go to bed and when you should wake up for maximal sleep consistency and to achieve 100% of your sleep needs.
When I first installed the app, I didn’t know that I could choose my desired performance level and wakeup time, and was surprised when the sleep coach suggested a bedtime that was much later than I was used to.
Some people get discouraged when WHOOP suggests earlier-than-expected bedtimes or a much higher-than-anticipated sleep need.
Based on everything I know about how WHOOP calculates your sleep need (and based on my personal experience), I think you should follow WHOOP’s recommendations. In many cases, extensive strain and sleep debt cause a much higher sleep need than you might like.
However, it’s important to reduce your sleep debt by sleeping longer — otherwise, you’ll never reduce it.
Weekly/Monthly/Annual Performance Assessment (P.A.)
Once you’ve worn your WHOOP band for 28 consecutive days, you’ll get a weekly performance assessment. The report visualizes your current training state based on your daily strain, your rate of recovery, and your sleep performance. You’ll also get an indication of how you compare to other members of the WHOOP community.
My first weekly P.A. report told me that both my training state and sleep performance were optimal. However, my daily strain was 8% lower than the average male WHOOP user in the 35-50 age bracket. I guess that means I’m either not pushing it hard enough or that I’m incredibly fit. :-)
In addition to the weekly performance assessment, WHOOP also offers a monthly and even a yearly report that turns a huge volume of data into actionable insights.
The reason the regular performance assessments are so useful is that they give you an indication of what lifestyle factors have impacted your recovery and sleep scores.
For example, by answering a few simple questions every day, WHOOP can tell you how alcohol use impacts your sleep performance and/or resting heart rate.
However, until recently, the WHOOP app wasn’t incredibly granular in collecting that important information from you. But with the latest update, you can not only select the questions you want the app to ask you, but you can also tell the app exactly how much alcohol you had (and when you had it).
Overall, the app knows over 40 behaviors — from CBD use to the consumption of your last paleo meal to air travel.
I absolutely love the granularity and I can’t wait to see the results as part of my next performance assessment.
Home Screens and Today View
The “today view” is what you see after launching the app or by clicking on
Additional screens include Day Strain, Recovery, and Sleep Performance. On each of those screens (except for the athlete profile page) you can swipe up to get a graphical representation of your data that spans multiple days.
Additionally, each screen allows you to take a photo with the key metrics of the screen you’re on superimposed. So if you met your sleep goals for the first time in forever and wanted to share it with the world, you can take a selfie and post it on Instagram.
According to WHOOP, the battery of the WHOOP Strap 2.0 should last for approximately 30 hours. The WHOOP Strap 3.0 features and extended battery life of up to five days.
In my tests, WHOOP 2.0 lasted for over 56 hours (as demonstrated by the timestamps below).
- 1/23 at 9:52 a.m.: 100% battery charge
- 1/24 at 5:47 a.m.: 49% battery charge
- 1/25 at 6:02 a.m.: 10% battery charge
While the WHOOP app gives you an exact indication of how much juice you have left, you can also double-tap the device and get a visual indication via three LEDs:
- Three solid white LEDs indicates a full charge.
- Two solid LEDs indicates a battery between 60% and 79%.
- One solid LED indicates a battery between 20% and 39%.
The device also uses flashing lights to give you a more precise readout of your remaining battery life. For example, two solid lights and one flashing light indicates a charge between 80% and 99%.
You can find more information about battery life on WHOOP’s support page.
With every other fitness strap I’ve used, including the Apple Watch, I had to take the device off for charging. WHOOP has figured out a way to recharge its strap without having to remove it from the wrist.
WHOOP comes with a small battery pack that you can slide on top of your strap to charge it. A complete charge takes somewhere between 90 and 120 minutes. After charging the strap, you have to charge the battery pack using a Micro USB cable.
I’ve gotten into the habit of cycling through this charging routine every four to five days, or when my strap reaches 20% remaining battery charge.
Note that while the WHOOP band is waterproof, the battery pack is not. So don’t forget to remove it before taking a shower.
Design and Comfort
The WHOOP strap is incredibly thin, lightweight, and comfortable to wear 24/7. The first review unit I received came with two bands, the Tecnica and the Hydroband. The Tecnica is incredibly soft and elastic (similar to Apple’s
The Hydroband doesn’t stretch, and I don’t like it very much for two reasons. It’s less comfortable and I can’t quickly move it out of the way when a workout calls for gloves or grips.
One thing I noticed when putting on WHOOP with the Tecnica strap was that the band was a bit too long. As a result, it would tangle on my wrist and drive me nuts. To fix the issue (and because I don’t expect my wrist to grow in diameter) I shortened it by cutting a piece off.
While the Tecnica strap is incredibly comfortable overall, I do have to tighten the elastic band every few days to ensure the unit maintains close contact with my skin.
When I was using WHOOP 2.0, I switched to the Hydroband (and later to the Liteweave band) because it allowed the WHOOP to stay in better contact with my skin during intense workouts.
When I got the WHOOP 3.0, I started using the new ProKnit strap and fell in love with it. The ProKnit strap offers the perfect compromise between comfort and function. In other words, it allows the WHOOP’s sensors to remain in constant contact with the skin without feeling too tight or uncomfortable.
While the ProKnit strap was initially only available when you ordered WHOOP 3.0, you can now get it from the WHOOP online store and use it with your 2.0 sensor. So if you still use the older 2.0 sensor, I highly recommend getting the ProKnit strap!
How Much Does WHOOP Cost?
When the device first launched, it had a hefty $500 price tag. While that’s in line with what I paid for my Apple Watch Series 4, it’s still a lot of money.
These days, you don’t have to pay for the hardware upfront. Instead, you can sign up for a membership for as little as $18 per month.
- 6-month membership: $30 per month ($180 in total)
- 12-month membership: $24 per month ($288 in total)
- 18-month membership: $18 per month ($324 in total)
- Lifetime membership: $399 one-time payment (only available to founding members)
If you’d like to give WHOOP a try, you can use the link below to get $30 off your membership fee. If you’re already a WHOOP member and would like to upgrade to the WHOOP Strap 3.0, simply renew your membership.
In addition to various strap designs and colors, WHOOP also sells a bicep sleeve. That’s useful for exercises that make it difficult to wear something around your wrists, such as boxing or other forms of martial arts. Other examples include NFL players who might be prohibited from wearing a wrist strap for safety reasons.
I recently had the chance to try the bicep band, which I find incredibly useful for certain CrossFit workouts that include dumbbells, kettlebells or bear grips (workout gloves). The only downside to using the bicep band is that it takes a few seconds to put it on (because you have to take off the wrist strap first).
I wouldn’t want to do that five times a week for every workout. But I do it on days that I wear workout gloves.
WHOOP doesn’t offer a chest strap, which I think would be a convenient wearing method for runners who are used to wearing heart rate monitors around their chest.
What’s New in WHOOP Strap 3.0?
In May 2019, WHOOP released version 3.0 of its strap. The new model features updated hardware and additional functionality via the app. Here are the highlights of the new release.
- Extended five-day battery life
- Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) compatible
- New stretchy and sturdy ProKnit bands
- New band colors (arctic, carbide and onyx)
- Better clasp that doesn’t accidentally open
- Better build quality
I had no complaints about the battery life of the old strap, but getting five days of battery life with the new WHOOP Strap 3.0 is an awesome upgrade.
The new straps, which WHOOP made out of high-tenancy yarn and a rubber grip, look incredibly similar to the Sport Loop I have on my Apple Watch. Color-wise, I thought I was going with carbide, which looks super slick. However, WHOOP sent me Arctic White — which I also think looks super slick!
WHOOP also confirmed that all 2.0 bands and clasps work on the new 3.0 strap.
- Strain Coach
- WHOOP Snap+ to film your workouts
- Heart rate broadcast
With the new Strain Coach feature in the WHOOP app, you can start a workout and the app will tell you in real-time if you’re hitting your strain goals (or if you should push harder or dial it back).
With WHOOP Snap+ you can film your workout and overlay live data, including heart rate strain and calories burned.
I’ll definitely try Snap+ to share some of my workout highlights on Instagram.
Heart rate broadcast allows you to livestream your heart rate to third-party apps and devices. Examples of such third-party integrations include Strava and Peloton.
Getting Started with WHOOP
Even before I received my review unit, WHOOP told me that some users might find the initial process of pairing the band with their smartphone confusing. I tend to agree with that assessment, because even though I was expecting some hurdles, I got immediately stuck when trying to connect the strap to my iPhone XS.
Like most users, I don’t read the documentation before trying out new gadgets. If I had, I would have known that I needed to tap on the strap to activate Bluetooth pairing mode. Once I figured that out, I downloaded the WHOOP app and was prompted to create an account.
I usually create a unique, random and complex password for every account I sign up for by using Apple’s Keychain and 1Password. Unfortunately, the app does not integrate with any of the password management features in iOS 12. So I decided to use Safari on my iMac Pro instead, which allowed me to generate and securely store my new password automatically.
Note that by the time you’re reading this, WHOOP has likely smoothed out all of these rough edges in their app!
However, after clicking on the “Create Account” link on whoop.com, I was asked for an invitation code that I didn’t have. So I went back to the mobile app, which offered an option to sign up as an individual, rather than as a gym or an organization (which requires an invitation code).
I copy/pasted the password from my password manager, but the app gave me no indication of whether what I entered met the app’s password policy in terms of length and complexity. I also noticed that when I typed my name, the app did not automatically capitalize it (which any modern app should). That’s a minor and cosmetic issue, but input validation is essential for improving data quality.
Last but not least, I ran into an issue when entering my credit card information to pay for my membership. As you might know, American Express uses four-digit CVC codes, instead of the three digits MasterCard and Visa use. The WHOOP app did not seem to be aware of that and refused to accept my four-digit code. As a result, I had to use a Visa card.
However, once I got past all those hurdles, I was good to go. I have not run into any other issues with the app or the platform.
WHOOP vs. Apple Watch
Considering that I’m a die-hard Apple (Watch) fan, you might wonder if I’ll continue wearing the WHOOP band.
The short answer is: YES, I absolutely will. Over the past one and a half years or so, I have gotten used to wearing the WHOOP strap on the right while I continued wearing my Apple Watch on the left.
In my opinion, both devices fulfill a purpose by bridging the other gadget’s gaps. Besides the obvious differences between these two wearables, below is a list of areas where both devices either overlap or where one gadget provides functionality that the other one doesn’t.
Both Apple Watch and WHOOP can detect when I’m working out using their built-in photoplethysmography-based heart rate sensor and accelerometer. However, what I like about the Apple Watch is that I can check my workout metrics, such as heart rate and time, by glancing at the screen.
The Apple Watch also records my heart rate variability and tells me how quickly my heart rate drops after a workout. Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t provide any meaningful way of interpreting that data — an area where WHOOP shines.
WHOOP uses the recorded metrics to calculate my day strain, sleep needs and recovery rate. In case you’re wondering, it also tells you the total calories you’ve burned throughout the day.
To learn more about how accurately WHOOP tracks strain, recovery and sleep, check out this in-depth article.
I have written about my experience with sleep tracking using the Apple Watch in the past. In a nutshell, it doesn’t work (reliably). However, in 2017 Apple acquired Beddit, a company that sells sleep-tracking technology. So I assume that Apple is working on bringing that capability to either the Apple Watch or an additional piece of hardware.
In fact, Apple just announced at its annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) that sleep tracking will come to watchOS 7 in the fall of 2020. However, based on the preliminary information shared at the event, the Apple Watch will only get very basic sleep tracking.
Of course, we don’t know yet if the yet-to-be-announced Apple Watch Series 6 will offer an improved battery life and more sensors to catch up with WHOOP.
In the meantime, I use WHOOP because it not only provides accurate and detailed sleep tracking, but also because it brings sleep performance into the context of strain and recovery. In other words, it provides actionable intel on my sleep performance.
Recovery tracking is one of the most useful features of WHOOP. Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t offer anything in this area at all.
Since I began wearing WHOOP, I have started paying close attention to my recovery rate. As a result, I no longer push myself to my limit during every workout. Instead, I make sure that I stay within my optimal training zone.
Analysis and Reporting
Even if other fitness trackers could record all the metrics the WHOOP strap does, the recordings would be virtually useless without a method for interpreting the data. Without proper analysis and reporting, you can’t identify trends and take corrective action.
That’s what I like so much about WHOOP: it makes sense of my data, it keeps learning and calibrating, it helps me understand what all of that information means, and it shows me what I can do to improve.
As of iOS 12, Apple only offers me a list of my workouts, calories burned, miles ran, etc. The good news is that all the data my Apple Watch collects is available in my Health app and ready for analysis when Apple decides to enable that capability. Until then, I rely on WHOOP to give me the intel I need to improve my performance, recovery and sleep.
WHOOP promises up to five days of battery life, while Apple claims the Apple Watch lasts for up to 18 hours on a single charge.
In my experience, both brands deliver on their promised battery performance claims.
However, there is a significant difference between these two devices as far as workouts are concerned. As you might remember, the WHOOP band constantly measures your heart rate. As a result, working out doesn’t significantly impact the strap’s battery life.
The heart rate sensor of the Apple Watch, on the other hand, only stays on continuously during workouts. As a result, the longer or more frequently you work out, the quicker the battery drains.
Practically speaking, that means you can start a workout with the WHOOP band at 20% battery charge without having to worry that it’ll run out of juice halfway through. I would never do that with an Apple Watch because it would likely die.
The Apple Watch has implemented step counting using a pedometer. WHOOP doesn’t do that. Instead, the company uses an accelerometer to detect all motion — not just the motion associated with walking.
I don’t really care about knowing how many steps I took on a given day, but I appreciate that some users find that an exciting metric to keep tabs on.
While WHOOP offers a couple of different bands and mounting mechanisms, the accessory market for Apple gadgets is much larger. There are tons of Apple-made and third-party workout bands available for the Apple Watch, some of which I reviewed here.
Other Notable Differences
You have probably realized by now that the WHOOP band has significant advantages over the Apple Watch in many areas.
However, I should point out that the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approved Apple’s heart rate sensor as a medical device, which speaks to its accuracy. The WHOOP band doesn’t have such an FDA certification, and the company currently has no plans to try and obtain one.
The Future of the Apple Watch
Tim Cook recently announced that health will be Apple’s most significant contribution to humankind. As a result, I fully expect Apple to make significant improvements to the Apple Watch and HealthKit in the future. However, I have been following Apple long enough to know better than to hold my breath on things I expect the company to do.
WHOOP vs. Biostrap
Much like WHOOP, the goal of Biostrap is to measurably improve your sleep, recovery and performance.
But despite their similarities, there are plenty of differences between those two wearable fitness trackers. To learn all about how these two devices are different, check out my in-depth review and comparison of Biostrap vs. WHOOP.
If you don’t have time to read the full comparison article, below is an overview of the major differences:
- Biostrap’s battery lasts less than two days and you can’t recharge the device without taking it off.
- WHOOP’s recovery and sleep tracking is more accurate and WHOOP correlated lifestyle factors with your daily scores.
- I found WHOOP’s ProKnit strap to be more effective and comfortable at keeping the sensor in close contact with my skin.
- Biostrap uses a pulse oximeter (red light) which allows for additional data capturing but it prone to interference.
Overall, I can say that Biostrap has a couple of interesting features, such as blood oxygen monitoring but I found the sleep tracking to be super inaccurate. For example, Biostrap thought that I was sleeping while watching TV on multiple occasions.
As a result, I’ll be returning Biostrap and continue wearing WHOOP.
WHOOP vs. Oura Ring
The Oura ring is a fascinating device that packs numerous wearable technologies into a tiny form factor.
Oura’s goal is to provide you with daily feedback you can use to improve your health. Specifically, Oura analyzes your biometrical data to calculate a sleep score, activity score and readiness.
The latter is similar to WHOOP’s recovery feature, taking into account such parameters as:
- Previous night’s sleep score
- Sleep balance over the past two weeks
- Activity and strain on the previous day
- Activity balance over the past five days
- Body temperature
- Resting heart rate (RHR)
- Heart rate variability
How Oura Works
Oura relies on the same technology as WHOOP and the Apple Watch, including a body temperature sensor, infrared LEDs to measure blood volume and heart rate, and a 3D accelerometer and gyroscope to detect movement.
Oura’s infrared LEDs capture 250 samples per second, which means the device captures biometrics at twice the rate of WHOOP.
Oura Activity Tracking
What I like about Oura is that the product accumulates all movements it detects throughout the day, including light housework (such as vacuuming). WHOOP only detects actual workouts that last 15 minutes or longer.
Oura also reminds you if you’ve been sitting for too long — much like the Apple Watch’s stand reminders.
Oura Sleep Tracking
The sleep tracking features in Oura are pretty much in-line with WHOOP. That means Oura offers bedtime guidance/sleep coaching, delivers reporting on sleep quality, and tracks the sleep stages (including REM, deep and light).
Recovery and Readiness
In terms of recovery optimization, I think Oura has a leg up over WHOOP because the ring also gives you insights into your body temperature and respiratory rate.
Update: The latest WHOOP app also shows your respiratory rate as part of the sleep analysis.
The former can help you identify early signs of impending sickness, the need to rest, and detect menstrual cycle stages.
Oura Battery Life
Despite its tiny form factor, Oura offers a battery life of up to one week. That’s similar to the WHOOP 3.0.
It takes about 80 minutes on the included wireless charger to charge Oura fully. That means you have to take off the ring to charge it.
The other interesting thing is the design of the charging disc. Each charger is specific to the size of the ring it came with. That means if you have a US6 size ring, you can only use a US6 size charger.
For most users, that might not be an issue. However, if you and your partner both have an Oura ring, you might end up traveling with two separate chargers that fit your ring sizes.
My Take on Oura vs. WHOOP
I like the idea behind Oura but during my testing, I noticed several issues with the accuracy of the ring’s sleep tracking feature.
Speaking of testing —I recently had a chance to wear the Oura Ring 2.0 for 30 days and I captured my feedback in this in-depth review comparison.
WHOOP vs. Fitbit
Fitbit offers numerous fitness straps and smartwatches. Not all of them use the same technology to track activity and sleep, and it’s difficult to compare apples to oranges.
So instead of trying to compare the WHOOP strap to a particular Fitbit model, I decided to compare the underlying technologies. That’s the same approach I took in my review and comparison of the best sleep trackers.
The top-of-the-line Fitbit straps, such as the Fitbit Versa 2 and the Fitbit Ionic watch, include the following (fitness or sleep-related) sensors:
- 3-axis accelerometer
- 3-axis gyroscope
- Optical heart rate monitor
That’s pretty standard and, assuming a correct fit of the strap, good enough to monitor heart rate and track physical activity (in particular, arm movements).
As a result, I’d argue that Fitbit can keep relatively accurate tabs on calories burned and other standard metrics.
Fitbit Sleep Tracking
However, considering the lack of advanced sensors to measure skin conductance, there’s no way the Fitbit can accurately detect sleep phases. I talked about those technical limitations in my article about sleep trackers, so check that out if you want to learn more.
Fitbit Fitness Tracking
From a fitness tracking perspective, it’s great to know how long you were active, how many steps you took, and how high your heart rate went. But unless you have a way to interpret that data and make it actionable, those metrics are fun to know but irrelevant.
I need to understand how my daily activity, in and out of the gym, impacts my strain and recovery. And I want to know what lifestyle factors positively or negatively impact the quality of my sleep. Fitbit can’t deliver any of that — which is why you can’t really compare it to WHOOP.
My Take on Fitbit vs. WHOOP
From a pure fitness tracking perspective, Fitbit is like my Apple Watch. Both provide some value. But if it wasn’t for things like notifications, timekeeping and Apple Pay, I wouldn’t be wearing it. Instead, I would use the WHOOP exclusively.
WHOOP adds real value by giving you insights into what your body is trying to tell you. That’s valuable, regardless of whether you’re an athlete or just someone who wants to perform better at the gym, at work, or in generally in life.
Frequently Asked Questions
Based on the independent validation studies I referenced throughout this article, WHOOP is one of the most accurate fitness and sleep trackers on the market.
Remember the electro-dermal activity sensor I mentioned before? The WHOOP strap uses that sensor to detect if the unit has good contact with the skin.
Electro-dermal activity “refers to the variation of the electrical properties of the skin in response to sweat secretion.”
That’s an ingenious way of ensuring the device is receiving accurate data. However, it’s important to understand that the accuracy of any wrist-worn heart rate sensor is limited by how well it maintains contact with your skin.
As a result, such sensors are often more reliable when you’re stationary, as opposed to during high-intensity exercise routines such as CrossFit. If you suspect your heart rate readings are off during workouts, consider covering the sensor with a sleeve to keep it more securely in place.
To learn more about WHOOP’s accuracy as a fitness, recovery and sleep tracker, check out this article.
HRV is a highly-personalized metric and depends on numerous factors, including “fitness, age, gender, genetics, health, and environmental conditions.” As a result, it doesn’t make sense to compare your HRV with someone else’s. Instead, it’s more useful to understand the trend of your HRV compared to previous periods.
However, since we all like to share and compare, over the past month my HRV has been bouncing between 26 and 74.
The WHOOP band can store up to three days worth of data before it starts overwriting the oldest entries. However, every time the band establishes a Bluetooth connection with your smartphone, it uploads all its data to the application, which in turn sends it to the cloud.
You certainly can, without having to worry about airplane mode. As it turns out, the whole “electronic devices can negatively influence a plane’s navigational systems” was a big old lie. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth operate on an entirely different frequency than the critical systems of an airplane.
Proper positioning of the strap is crucial for the accuracy of the signal the sensors receive. If the strap is too loose or too tight, the sensors will either receive a lot of “noise” or no signal at all.
WHOOP recommends positioning the strap on your dominant hand, about one inch from your wrist bone. The strap should be tight enough so that it’s difficult to stick your pinky between the strap and your wrist.
If you’re having issues with your strap — especially if you were an early adopter of WHOOP 3.0 — you might have a defective unit.
A few months ago, I listened to the WHOOP podcast in which John Capodilupo, WHOOP’s CTO, explained that some users got 3.0 straps with faulty electronics. If that’s the case for you, reach out to WHOOP support via the mobile app to get your strap replaced for free.
Note that it’s normal for WHOOP to disconnect from your phone if you move out of Bluetooth range (about 30 feet). Sometimes the strap automatically reconnects when you get back in range, but often it doesn’t. As a result, you might see a notification informing you that the app hasn’t received any data from the strap in more than three hours.
To fix the issue, just open the WHOOP app and follow the on-screen instructions to reconnect the strap. Once reconnected, the app will fetch the missing data from the strap and sync it to the cloud. You won’t lose any data as a result of this process.
If you experience frequent Bluetooth disconnections, the issue could be related to the aggressive memory management of iOS 13. With the release of iOS 13 and the launch of the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro, Apple doubled down on extending the battery life of its devices. One way the company accomplished that was by limiting how much memory background processes can consume.
If an app exceeds the allotted memory, iOS kills it. Over the past few months, that has impacted numerous apps and developers. As a result, Apple has released updates to dial back some of that aggressive resource management in later versions of iOS 13.x.
Unfortunately, some apps that require a permanent background process, like WHOOP’s data sync agent, are still affected.
To find out if iOS is the culprit for the frequent disconnections you’re experiencing, open the WHOOP app and go to Menu > Strap Settings > Advanced Settings.
Click on “Email Diagnostic Data” and enter your email address to receive the logs. When you receive the email with the log data, extract the zip file and open the log. If you see a lot of lines containing the words “MEMORY WARNING,” you know that iOS is causing the disconnections.
To temporarily work around the issue, force close some of your other apps or reboot your phone.
Most of the fitness and sleep trackers on the market use the same optical heart rate monitor technology and the same open-source algorithms to interpret the signal from the sensors.
The secret sauce of each company, including WHOOP, is the algorithm that interprets the raw heart rate data. That’s where I think WHOOP has a leg up, and independent validation studies (such as this one) confirm that belief.
Unfortunately not! Without an active membership, the strap is worthless. I assume that’s the reason you don’t pay for the hardware, only the membership.
WHOOP is an advanced fitness and sleep tracker that provides actionable data about your daily strain, recovery and quality of sleep.
That depends a little bit on your definition of “good.” What I can tell you is that WHOOP is incredibly reliable and accurate — see above.
Yes, the WHOOP strap measures your ambient skin temperature, which is an important parameter for ensuring accurate sleep tracking. However, WHOOP doesn’t expose the measurements via its app, so you can’t use WHOOP to actively measure your body temperature.
Yes, you certainly can. However, keep in mind that WHOOP needs good contact with the skin to accurately measure your heart rate. So make sure you use a strap that provides a solid fit. My recommendation would be the ProKnit strap that WHOOP 3.0 ships with.
Definitely! Stress, and chronic stress in particular, can have a huge impact on HRV and overall cardiovascular health. Check out this study on the subject for more information.
I have woken up several times with a high recovery score while feeling sore or even completely unmotivated to work out.
The interesting thing is that how we feel doesn’t always reflect how our body is doing. WHOOP’s recovery score is influenced by the presence of inflammation, not necessarily soreness.
So if your body is managing post-workout stress and inflammation well, your HRV might be virtually unaffected. If so, you’ll see higher-than-expected recovery scores.
Sleep performance is only one of three factors that influence your recovery score. The two others are resting heart rate (RHR) and heart rate variability (HRV).
So if your body is struggling with inflammation from a workout, sickness or other factors, your RHR and HRV might both be high. That’s then reflected in your lower-than-expected recovery score.
WHOOP measures strain based on cardiovascular output. In other words, the more time you spend in high heart rate zones, the more strain you accumulate with WHOOP.
On the flip side, if you do a workout consisting of single repetitions — for example, if you’re trying to beat your back squat 1 rep max — your heart rate will not stay elevated long enough to cause any cardiovascular strain.
However, if your weightlifting session causes muscle damage (which is normal) and inflammation, you’ll see that reflected in a lower HRV, and thus, in your recovery score.
Additionally, muscle fatigue might cause a higher strain the following day because your system is working hard to recover.
Because your cardiovascular system is working and your body is burning calories, even while you’re asleep. Being able to keep tabs on your body 24/7 is one of the advantages of using WHOOP.
Absolutely! Being able to understand how your body is doing, how recovered you are, and what lifestyle factors influence your overall performance and recovery is important — regardless of whether you’re an elite athlete, a fitness enthusiast or someone who doesn’t work out at all.
For example, if your body is run down, maybe it’s not a great idea to start skydiving. Or if you work on a construction site and wake up poorly recovered, maybe you should take it a bit slower to reduce your risk of injury.
Frankly, I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t benefit from WHOOP.
The WHOOP team constantly adds new activities the strap can track. As of this writing, WHOOP can track the following: Australian football, baseball, basketball, boxing, caddying, climbing, coaching, commuting, cross country skiing, cycling, dancing, diving, duathlon, elliptical, fencing, field hockey, football, functional fitness (i.e., CrossFit), gaming, golf, gymnastics, hiking/rucking, horseback riding, ice bath, ice hockey, jumping rope, kayaking, lacrosse, martial arts, meditation, motocross, motor racing, mounting biking, obstacle course racing, paddle boarding, pilates, powerlifting, rock climbing, rowing, rugby, running, sailing, skateboarding, skiing, snowboarding, soccer, softball, squash, stair climbing, surfing, swimming, tennis, track and field, triathlon, ultimate Frisbee, volleyball, walking, water polo, weightlifting, wrestling and yoga.
You can also pick “other” if none of the above match the activity you’d like to track.
You can use the carrying case to securely store the battery pack and charging cable, thus reducing the risk of losing either one.
WHOOP’s Strain Coach feature can’t replace a real coach. If WHOOP suggests a high strain goal on a given day, it does so simply based on your current recovery score.
If you have a race or competition coming up, you might have to take it easy and conserve energy, despite WHOOP’s recommendation.
WHOOP uses a logarithmic algorithm to calculate your strain score. For example, if your current strain score is 5.0 and then you go for a run that clocks in at 10.0, your total strain score is likely lower than the sum of both (15.0).
WHOOP does that so it can top out at 21 — the maximum strain you can achieve.
Consequently, increasing your strain from 10 to 11 is much easier than from 11 to 12.
Yes, WHOOP recently announced an integration with Strava, a popular app and social platform for bikers and runners.
The integration enables athletes to track running/biking routes in Strain Coach and to upload your WHOOP data and GPS route to Strava automatically.
Yes, you can use WHOOP for swimming or triathlons but I recommend getting the Hydrosleeve to prevent water from getting between the sensor and the skin and to ensure that the sensor remains in tight contact with the skin. See https://shop.whoop.com/products/hydrosleeve
WHOOP Band Review – Final Words
I have become a huge fan of WHOOP, and I’m thankful to the folks at CrossFit Alpharetta who introduced me to the platform. However, there is one thing I’d like WHOOP to fix: the lack of integration with Apple’s HealthKit, which is the central hub for all my fitness and health data.
By having a copy of all my data in HealthKit — which third-party devices and apps can feed into — it’ll be much easier in the future to make it available to doctors and other care providers.
I know that Apple is already working with medical facilities to enable them to get secure access to your medical records via HealthKit. So I’m hoping WHOOP will enable that integration with a future software update.
Do you use WHOOP? If so, I’d love to hear your experience with it. So leave me a comment below, regardless of whether you’re a health-conscious consumer or one of the many elite athletes using the strap.