Friday, May 21, 2010

Gymboss Review


Gymboss Interval Timer

What is this?

The Gymboss is a small, easy-to-use, dual-mode, interval timer.

What do I use it for?

It can be used for a large variety of training protocols where time is an important variable. I've tested it for HIIT and weight training.

Test number one: HIIT: 15 s sprint/45 s walking x 10.

For this protocol, I set the first timer to 15 seconds and the other one to 45 seconds. Once the timers reaches zero, the device either vibrates or beeps. I prefer to set it to vibrate since I have my earphones on during training. I set it to be repeated ten times. 15 sec, buzz, 45 sec, buzz, and repeat.

Test number two: 4 x 4 squats (6RM), 55 s per set/4 min rest x 4.

I calculated 55 seconds per set: 10 s for getting ready and unracking, 10 s per repetition (3:2 tempo and 5 s rest between reps), and 5 s for racking the weight. Repeated four times.

For both of these setups, the device worked splendidly. When you feel the buzz, or hear the beep, you'll know when it's time to start sprinting or initiate the set.

I wear it like this and it's covered under my tank top during the workout. If you set it to vibrate, you can also put it in your pocket. If you want your workouts to be become a little more interesting, try putting it in your underwear (just a thought...).

Strong points

* Very useful.

* Easy to use.

* Very affordable ($19.95), but surprisingly high quality nonetheless.

* Not specifically related to the product, but the company ships fast (~3 days to Europe) and worldwide at a very low shipping cost ($2.99).

Weak points

* None that I can think of.


The Gymboss interval timer is an easy-to-use, cheap and high quality product that can benefit your training in a concrete way. Like I wrote about in this post, studies suggest greater strength gains with longer rest periods in between sets during weight training. Greater strength gains likely equal greater muscle gains.

In the training routines I design for my clients I typically advise 3 mins rest minimum in between sets and up to 5 mins rest in between and after sets for movements that are particularly draining, such as the deadlift. Here's an example that I copy-pasted from one recent routine:

Deadlift 2 x 4-5 (5 mins rest in between sets).

5 mins rest or walk on treadmill 3-5 mins.

Weighted Chins 2 x 4-6 (3 mins rest minimum in between sets).

So rather than having someone rushing through the workout doing tons of work on foo-foo-movements, I go with quality over quantity and make sure to emphasize the importance of rest periods. Perhaps that's part of the reason why my clients end up stronger and leaner.

Personally though, I'm a bit impatient at the gym, so I might cut the rest periods short unless I'm keeping tabs on time. That's where I find much use in this product, though it works very well for HIIT as well - especially if you train outside and don't have the treadmill display to keep track of time. Other areas of use include CrossFit, circuit-training, and just about any other form of training where time intervals are used.


Wilmar said...

sweet. this sure beats stealing lab timers from work lol.

mamaelvis said...

This is a great tool for people to own if you are serious about tracking real performance & work per period if you are into periodization at any level.

I never really see this tyoe of device mentioned except on running sites.

In my garage I use Metronome(applescriptable for mac geeks) in conjunction with Flextime to set many varying intervals.

Flextime will also output a mp3 file with your decided upon intervals called out.

mamaelvis said...

One more thing. If you use a journal with this type of device you will instantly see when you have a performance drop off.

Anonymous said...

I have this and it's awesome. Agree 100% with everything in your review (good review btw).

Alexis said...

Hi Martin, I jump the rope for ten minutes in a row, then rest 3 o for minutes and then i do another set of 10 minutes. This can be considered as hiit, would you modify something of my cardio workout?

Justin B said...

I own one in black. Worth every penny. Makes the various interval work I do easy. Just clip it on and get to work. It will take care of notifying you when to rest, work or switch exercises in a no rest sequence.

Manveet said...

I purchased a pink one about a year and half ago after reading a recommendation by Ross over at

Worth every penny. Makes it easier to program interval work and it also allows me to keep tabs on my rest periods during my workouts. Indispensable, really.

seand said...

I just don't know what to do with myself for 5 minute rest... What to do?!

Currently I will do a different, less intense exercise in between sets.

For example:

squats x 5
rack all the weights
weighted pullups, but easy x 10
rack 'em
load up weight on squats
squat x 5

This is the only way I can seem to get the necessary rest between heavy exercises without going crazy feeling like I am wasting my time... Is this sufficient?

If not please help me brainstorm a way to make efficient use of time!

Anonymous said...

Hi Martin, not exactly related to Gymboss but just wondering: I remember you recommended a minimum of 2mins rest between sets when I did a short stint with you - do you now recommend to increase the rest to 3mins minimum when doing your fat loss training routine?

Martin Berkhan said...

I'm glad to hear that some readers have found this product useful.


'I just don't know what to do with myself for 5 minute rest... What to do?!'

I know what you mean. I typically do about 3 mins between most sets and movements, but for others (deads, squats) I do 5 mins+. If the treadmill is free I'll walk for 5 mins and read a magazine.


Yes, 3 mins is preferable.

Giorgio said...

I have a gymboss too, it's a great little device that does exactly what is says, no more no less andsometimes being only good at one thing is a feature itself!

Only concern for me was to have another extra device to take everywhere on travel... So I created an application for android phones call HIIT that works the same way, only easier to program with a touch screen.

Here's the homepage for those interested:

Andrew said...

useful product

for anyone with an iPhone, there is a free GymBoss app that has all the timers, and they're editable too

while listening to music on your iPhone it will let you know by beeping

quite handy and free :)

only thing is that it doesn't have vibrate or rather, I haven't found the option yet maybe.. however the beeping works fine since I listen to my music on the iphone anyway

gbloomer said...

That's a fair price for something of that good quality. Regarding the iPhone, if you want the best app out there for this type of product then try 'ULTRATRAINER'. You have to pay a few pennies for it but worth every one.

Steven Sashen said...

I've wanted to bring up for a while, not here, per se, but anywhere I see someone mentioning the work/rest times for sprint intervals.

Let's use the 15/45x10 that you mention, Martin (though it's just as true for 10/10x12, or 60/120x8, or almost every one I've ever seen recommended).

Speaking as a sprinter, I'm trying to figure out what you're actually doing during the sprint phase, because if you REALLY go all out for those times, there's not a human being on the planet who can recover during the rest phase, let alone repeat the whole cycle 8-15 times.

Watch a track meet and see how the sprinters are still totally winded for 2 or 3 minutes after 1 60m or 100m sprint.

When Tabata described his 20/10x8 protocol, he mentioned that almost none of the Olympic bicyclists he wast testing could actually complete the workout.

I know for me, if I do an actual 10 second sprint (which would be about 80-85m), I need at least 90 seconds to recover for the first 4, and 120 for the next 4, and 180 for any after that, IF I have enough in me for more than 8 reps.

So, I'm not sure what people are doing when they say they're sprinting for these short-rest intervals (oh, and there's no way to *sprint* for 60 or 120, which I've seen recommended by some as the sprint phase), but it's not sprinting.

Steven Sashen said...

Oh, and if I'm *really* training for speed, I, like all sprinters, need 5-10 minutes between each sprint to actually recover and replenish the ATP stores.

Anonymous said...

Good point, Steven. I do some interval training too but when I look on some sites I am wondering how they can do those with the minimal rest they talk about ... I usually sprint for 20 seconds, as hard as I can and then I walk fast for about 70-80 seconds (My heart rate is still around 125-130 after that 70-80 sec. rest !) then I start sprinting again. I repeat this 8 to 12 times depending how long I am working out that day. I also do this using my stationary bicycle sometimes instead of sprinting.

Anonymous said...

You mentioned that you
calculated 55 seconds per set: 10 s for getting ready and unracking, 10 s per repetition (3:2 tempo and 5 s rest between reps), and 5 s for racking the weight. Repeated four times.

Do you guess when 10 sec have past when getting ready or your 5sec rest between reps? or does it beep/vibrate for all of these 4 moments in the 55sec curve?

Really nice tip anyway. Havn't seen anything like this before.

Thanks Martin.

Tom said...

I got one too, it's great.

Anonymous said...

Steven, Intervals arn't designed to improve speed. So you need to stop thinking in terms of that.
They're to improve fitness, and in some cases aid in mobilizing stubborn bodyfat. Each 'sprint' means just pushing as hard as you can for those 15sec...theyre not a 100m sprint to get the best time.
Of course each subsequent effort will be less, but its the RPE that counts, not the time taken to cover a distance.

Also, thats bull that the olympians couldnt complete the tabata protocol. Plenty of people can and do.

Linda said...

Have one in pink. Love it!

Steven Sashen said...

To the last Anonymous,

I'm not talking about building speed. I'm saying that if you actually "push as hard as you can" for 15 seconds, there's no way you'll recover enough in 45 seconds of rest.

Okay, sure, maybe once or twice. But not 10 times.

I train with a half a dozen world champion runners (I was 20th in the 100m at the last Masters outdoor world championships). And not one of us could go all out for 15 seconds and recover in 45 for 8-10 rounds.

Have you ever seen a sprinter being interviewed after a 10-12 second race? They can't even talk, let alone run again, for MINUTES.

Hell, I know some people who say you should do intervals with 10 seconds of effort followed by 10 seconds of recovery! What cracks me up about that idea is that after 10 seconds of effort, I'm not even breathing hard... UNTIL 10 seconds later, when my body catches up with the anaerobic effort and nearly doubles me over.

Again, could I run another 10 seconds "all out?" Sure, maybe twice, tops.

Your comment about Tabata is interesting. I'm reporting what Tabata said so I don't know why you would argue with his observation. And, again, it matches my experience: If you go ALL OUT for 10-20 seconds, you won't be able to do that 10+ times with such short recovery.

Or, let me say it differently: If you can run for 15 seconds, and then recover enough to do that again within 45, and repeat that 10 times... then I don't know what you're doing, but you're not "pushing as hard as you can."

Hence my original question.

Anonymous said...

The whole point is that you won't be 100% recovered between bouts.. if you were then that would be speed training not conditioning. An rpe of 10(ie. all out/max effort) will be reached at lower and lower performance levels as each interval goes on, i think that much is obvious. There's no reason why someone cant push themselves to an rpe of 10 each interval with 15sec of work, 45sec rest.
To put it another way: your performance each time (measured by speed, distance covered) will decrease each round but you can still hit a 10rpe. You can still push yourself to your limit, which will be decreased given the fatigued state.

As for the tabata's, perhaps im wrong. But going off this study: "Tabata I. et. al. Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max. Med Sci Sports Exerc. (1996) 28(10):1327-30."
the students used in this were able to complete a tabata protocol.. so why not olympians?

Simon said...

What exactly are you "conditioning" then?

If your workout is "push yourself to your limit, which will be decreased given the fatigued state"
then it sounds to me like you are not bothered about the quality of your performance; all you are doing is making yourself tired

In Tabata's original protocol the object is to STOP when you can't maintain a specific level of intensity.

Anonymous said...

You can set a lower limit of quality you want to work above sure.. but trying to keep the quality too high is shooting yourself in the foot.

a few practical examples that might help you see where im coming from:
boxing: round12, both guys are still pushing their hardest but will their performance be the same as when fresh? will some of their punches be considered bad quality?
after a 2hr mountain climb, the guys sprint for the finish over a few hundred meters, will that sprint be nearly as fast as if they were fresh? will their quality of performance be decreased by fatigue?
extra time, 110-120th minute. Both teams/players might be trying their hardest but its obvious that they will be slower, movements not as high quality as when fresh.

Steven Sashen said...

Okay, this is my last attempt:

I'm a well-trained sprinter.

If I "push as hard as I can" for 15 seconds (which would be about 120-130m), and "recover" for 45... I'll have about 3 reps in me until the best I can do is a wheezing crawl.

And I simply can't imagine that anyone who CAN do 15/45 sprints for 8-10 reps is really "pushing as hard as they can."

Simon said...

Oh OK, I get it Anonymous, you are trying to condition yourself to be able to produce an effort, any effort, when you are tired. Got it.

This is completely different from the original intention of Tabata's work; what you're referring to is High Intensity Training (HIT), but with the intensity taken out :) I see what you are training for now. Good job.

I think where there is some confusion going on in the thread is this "intensity" thing and Steven's point remains valid - you CANNOT work at the intensity Tabata "prescribes" and do massive numbers of repetitions. As Steven suggests, World-class athletes of ANY discipline can't do it - it's physically impossible. It IS possible when the intensity drops.

You may think that a subjective RPE of 10 ("extrenely hard") means you are pushing as hard as you can, but you aren't - your brain is switching you off (see Noakes' research among others) to stop you killing yourself! Personally I don;t thnk it is a very good measure of effort.

I think Steven referred to Tabata's remarks about Olympic cyclists not being able to complete one of his workouts; I haven't found that quote, but there's an article by Matt Fitzgerald here (, where he says:

"Specifically, it consists of six to eight maximum-intensity sprints lasting 20 seconds apiece, with mere 10-second passive recovery periods between them. The session is so challenging and painful that most of the world-class speed skaters who were lucky enough to be the first to try it were totally exhausted after seven intervals. Only a handful could do eight."

Of course, they COULD have completed it if they dropped the intensity, or as you describe it "quality", but that actiually isn't the point of the exercise.

It isn't shooting yourself in the foot to keep the intensity up; that is the whole point of the exercise, as developed by Tabata, as it stimulates a specific type of physiological development that these guys were after.

Obviously that's not the effect you are looking for.

Wil said...

Glad to hear you've discovered the GymBoss... i've been using one with my kettlebell training for almost 2 years now, and I've never looked back. Great tool!

Martin Berkhan said...


'I'm not talking about building speed. I'm saying that if you actually "push as hard as you can" for 15 seconds, there's no way you'll recover enough in 45 seconds of rest. '

You're right. A 15 s all out sprint is comparable to squatting your 3RM in terms of phosphocreatine degradation. There is no way ATP synthesis will catch up enough to allow peak performance again in 45 s. That's not even up for discussion.

But I don't see how you can argue against the possibility of doing a 15:45 s HIIT protocol x 10, if we judge sprints by RPE. Even if I am sprinting at a gradually impaired performance/with a lower power output, you could still do repeated sprints with an RPE of 10.

Anonymous said...

Thankyou martin. That sums up what I was trying to say nicely.

Sam said...

Excellent device. At 20 bucks its a steal.

Johnny at The Lean Saloon said...

When I was training for my Olmpic-style weightlifting meet a few years ago, I used the Gymboss to time my recovery periods.

My problem was insufficient rest between sets of 2 or 3. Oddly, when I did max or PRs, I tended to rest for too long, walking to the chalk bowl several times and by the waiting bar several more.

The Gymboss definitely put time back into perspective for more specific training.


Ruben said...

Bought one after reading this review. Best decision this year! Simple, effective, cheap. Beats a Timex Ironman watch (what I used in the past) hands down.

Anonymous said...

Bought on a few months ago. It's already broken. Cheap nonetheless.

Steven Sashen said...

Martin, Even though this thread is LONG dead, I only just saw your response to me and figured I'd breathe another breath into it.

I'm still contending that for a "true sprinter" the 15:45x10 protocol builds up so much oxygen debt that after 3-5 rounds, an RPE of 10 would be accomplished by crawling for 5 meters.

I'm training with 2 world champions at the moment. They're in better shape than me. After 6 11 second all-out efforts (100m) with 90 seconds of rest in between, they're lying on the ground barely able to suck in air for the next 3-5 minutes.

I'm totally drained after 4.

It's not that we could get up and do an RPE of 10 by walking or jogging. It's that we can't even get onto our feet. We're done. Toast. Cooked. Wasted. Over.

Now, that said, I have a friend who's a world champion distance runner. He can go all-out, wait 20 seconds, and repeat... all day long.

But he also can't generate the kind of power or speed that we do.

My point is that for different types of people, the metabolic effects of "all-out" are DRAMATICALLY different. And for those of us who are on the edge of the curve in terms of producing power in a short amount of time, those HIIT recommendations are simply useless.

And, in a way, my other point is: if you're not one of those speed freak outliers, you have no idea what it's like to be one ;-)

My name is Martin Berkhan and I work as a nutritional consultant, magazine writer and personal trainer.

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