The Apple Watch had been my primary workout companion for a number of years, until a friend recommended that I try the WHOOP Strap — a high-tech fitness tracker that was different from anything I had 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 few years:
- 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.
Based on feedback from my readers, I’ve also taken a closer look at Biostrap, Fitbit and Oura. Scroll down to learn how those popular fitness trackers stack up against WHOOP, or use the links above to read my in-depth comparison articles.
WHOOP just introduced the new WHOOP 4.0, and you can learn what’s new and how to upgrade your WHOOP 3.0 strap below. Once the new strap ships and I’ve had time to test it, I’ll update this entire article. The good news is that most of the content in this post still applies to WHOOP 4.0 and should help you decide whether or not WHOOP is right for you.
WHOOP Strap 4.0
WHOOP gives you insight into exercise performance, recovery, rest and sleep in a way that no other device can. I’ve worn WHOOP since January 2019, and the data it has provided has been incredibly insightful.
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:
- It provides no native support for detailed sleep tracking (not even in the Apple Watch
- Its third-party sleep tracking apps are inaccurate and gimmicky.
- It offers no useful analysis and reporting around exercise performance and recovery.
However, it’s not just 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 Strap) 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 Strap Review
- Packed with sophisticated sensors that collect five health metrics 100 times per second.
- Accurate sleep and HRV tracking.
- 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).
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 go way beyond what most consumer-grade fitness trackers offer.
How Is the WHOOP Strap 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 accrued.
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. In fact, 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.
But 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. The same is true for most of the other fitness trackers I’ve reviewed, including the Fitbit Versa and Biostrap.
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.
WHOOP can automatically detect over 80 types of exercises that last longer than 15 minutes or result in a strain score of eight or higher.
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-second 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.
Low Strain Scores
Some people, including my wife and I, often see less that optimal strain scores reported by WHOOP — even after intense types of workouts such as CrossFit.
There are a couple of reasons why you might see lower strain scores than anticipated, including:
- A loose-fitting strap that prevents the sensor from maintaining good contact with the skin.
- Physical activity that didn’t increase your heart rate (long) enough.
The first issue can be easily fixed by either making sure your WHOOP Strap is tight enough, by moving the strap farther away from your wrist bone, or by wearing WHOOP on your bicep using the bicep strap or armband.
The second issue is usually influenced by the type of activity you perform. For example, endurance training — such as running, biking or swimming — often causes your heart rate to stay elevated for extended periods. That makes it easier for WHOOP (and other wrist-worn devices) to capture your HR readings.
But high-intensity workouts like CrossFit often cause massive HR fluctuations (combined with wrist movements) that can make it difficult for any wrist-worn device to get a good reading. As a result, you can expect lower strain scores for these types of workouts.
Additionally, some HIIT workouts are relatively short. The ones I do are often in the 10-20 minute range, and while they might be exhausting they don’t cause my heart rate to be elevated for extended periods. That’s a crucial factor because WHOOP tracks strain based on how long your HR remains elevated above your “baseline.”
WHOOP starts accumulating strain when you reach 30% of your HR reserve, which is calculated based on the following formula: Max HR – Resting HR = HR Reserve. So if your max HR is 200 bpm and your resting HR is 50 bpm, then your HR reserve is 150 bpm. As a result, WHOOP would start tracking strain when your HR reaches 95 bpm (50 + 0.3 * (200-50)).
The problem is that strength training and shorter CrossFit-type workouts usually don’t cause a lot of (cardiovascular) strain (they might cause muscular strain instead) and thus you won’t see a high strain score in the WHOOP app.
For reference, I usually accumulate a strain of 8 to 12 during CrossFit workouts. But building a chicken coop for our Homestead caused a massive 20.2 strain — the highest I’ve ever recorded.
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 come to realize 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.
But aside from “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 app 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:
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, which is 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 metrics are 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.
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.
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 accrued, and how long it usually takes me to fall asleep.
The WHOOP app 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 wake-up 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 wake-up 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 wake-up time, and was surprised when 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 Strap 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. 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 dozens of 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 3.0 should last for approximately five days.
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, Oura Ring, Fitbit Versa and Biostrap — 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 charger in the form of 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 fitness 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 certain workout routines.
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 the WHOOP Membership 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, 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 commitment: $30 per month ($180 in total).
- 12-month commitment: $24 per month ($288 in total).
- 18-month commitment: $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 case you’re wondering, the WHOOP wristband is not available on Amazon.
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.
WHOOP Strap 3.0 vs. 2.0
In May 2019, WHOOP released version 3.0 of its Strap. The current 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.
What’s New in WHOOP 4.0
WHOOP 4.0 is an exciting upgrade from the previous generation WHOOP 3.0 and features the following enhancements:
- An improved heart rate sensor featuring five LEDs (green and red) and four photodiodes. The red LEDs make blood oxygen monitoring possible.
- Ability to track and report skin temperature changes. (WHOOP had that before, but never exposed the readings in the app.)
- Health insights to monitor key metrics including heart rate variability, resting heart rate, skin temperature, blood oxygen levels and respiratory rate. You’ll also be able to export and share these insights with anyone, including health care professionals.
- Haptic alarm to silently wake you up at a certain time, when you’ve slept enough or when you’re in the green.
- The battery pack is now waterproof.
- A smaller form factor that people with small wrists (including my wife) will appreciate.
- An updated slide-and-click mechanism will make it easier to change straps.
WHOOP also launched a new clothing line to enable you to wear the sensor pretty much anywhere (not just on your wrist or biceps).
I’m super excited about WHOOP 4.0 and can’t wait to get my hands on the new strap. Based on their rollout plans, I should have my strap and (hopefully) some of the new apparel in October and will completely update this article.
What WHOOP 4.0 Doesn’t Have
While I’m excited about all the new features coming with WHOOP 4.0, I didn’t hear anything about support for third-party chest straps (HR monitors) or Apple Health. So, I assume that WHOOP 4.0 won’t support either, and that’s a bummer. I was really hoping to be able to connect WHOOP with my chest strap for even more accurate HR monitoring during CrossFit workouts.
Additionally, WHOOP didn’t announce any of the other features I had on my wishlist, including:
How to Upgrade from WHOOP 3.0 to WHOOP 4.0
If you’re an existing WHOOP member and have more than six months remaining on your current subscription, you can get WHOOP 4.0 for free without having to make any changes to your subscription.
WHOOP vs. Other Popular Fitness Trackers
Over the past few years, I’ve had a chance to test and review other popular fitness trackers and compare them to WHOOP. The table below gives you an overview of how the WHOOP Strap compares to the Apple Watch, Biostrap, Fitbit Sense and Oura Ring.
Below the table you’ll find links to in-depth comparison articles and YouTube videos I recorded along the way.
|Heart rate tracking||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Automatic workout detection||✓||✘||✓||✘||✓|
|Support for chest straps (HR)||✓||✓||✘||✘||✘|
|Guided workouts||✓||✘||With subscription||✘||✘|
|Sleep stage analysis||✘||✓||With subscription||✓||✓|
|Sleep quality score||✘||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Recovery score||✘||✓||With subscription||✓||✓|
|Battery life||16 to 28 hours||1 to 2 days||2 to 6 days||4 to 7 days||5 days|
|Pricing||$399 to $799||$249 – $329*||$299.95 + $9.99 (optional premium subscription)*||$299 – $399||$18 to $30 per month*|
WHOOP vs. Apple Watch
Considering that I’m a die-hard Apple fan and love my Apple Watch, I wasn’t sure if I would continue wearing the WHOOP Strap after I was done testing it for this review. But a couple of weeks with the device had me hooked, and I haven’t looked back since. Today, I wear both devices.
In my opinion, each one fulfills a purpose by bridging the other gadget’s gaps — although there are a few areas in which their features overlap.
I use my Apple Watch primarily as a time-keeping device, as a notification center, to send and receive messages, and to interact with Siri and HomeKit-enabled devices. I also use it to track most of my workouts, because I have other apps that integrate with Apple’s Health app to correlate the data with my blood glucose levels and other biometrics.
What I don’t use the Apple Watch for is sleep, HRV and recovery tracking, because the features either don’t exist or are too rudimentary to be useful.
Check out my in-depth comparison of the differences between WHOOP and the Apple Watch to learn more.
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 these two wearable fitness trackers. To learn all about how these 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.
- I really like Biostrap’s support for chest strap HR monitors and the shoe pod to capture leg movement (especially while sleeping).
- 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 is prone to interference.
Overall, I can say that Biostrap has a couple of interesting features, such as blood oxygen monitoring support for chest straps. What’s missing from Biostrap is recovery tracking and the actionable insights I get from WHOOP.
That said, I’m currently testing the Biostrap Evo, which came out after I published my initial WHOOP vs. Biostrap review. So stay tuned for updates over the next few weeks.
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 (especially arm movements).
As a result, I’d argue that Fitbit can keep relatively accurate tabs on calories burned and other standard metrics.
Note: After this review was published, I decided to write a detailed comparison of WHOOP and Fitbit’s flagship smartwatch, the Fitbit sense. The article covers how the two devices stack up and takes a deep dive into Fitbit’s fitness tracking platform.
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 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 generally in life.
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 biometric data to calculate a sleep score, activity score and readiness score.
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.
I really like the form-factor of Oura Ring and the data it provides, even though its sleep tracking appeared to be less accurate in my tests compared to WHOOP.
Check out my in-depth comparison article to learn more about how the Oura Ring stacks up against WHOOP.
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.
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 your fitness level. In other words, it doesn’t matter 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.
Yes, I think WHOOP is worth every penny because of the insights it has been providing me over the years. These insights have helped me make better lifestyle choices, fine-tune my workout routine and training load, and keep an eye on my respiratory rate and HRV during the pandemic.
The WHOOP team constantly adds new activities the strap can track. As of this writing, WHOOP can track the following: Australian football, barre, baseball, basketball, boxing, caddying, climbing, coaching, commuting, cricket, cross country skiing, CrossFit training, cycling, dancing, diving, duathlon, elliptical, fencing, field hockey, football, functional fitness, gaming, golf, gymnastics, hiking/rucking, horseback riding, ice bath, ice hockey, inline skating, jiu jitsu, jumping rope, kayaking, lacrosse, manual labor, martial arts, meditation, motocross, motor racing, mounting biking, obstacle course racing, operations – – flying, operations – medical, operations – tactical, operations – water, paddle tennis, paddle boarding, pickleball, pilates, powerlifting, rock climbing, rowing, rugby, running, sailing, skateboarding, skiing, snowboarding, soccer, softball, spikeball, spinning, squash, stair climbing, surfing, swimming, tennis, track and field, triathlon, ultimate Frisbee, volleyball, walking, water polo, weightlifting, wheelchair pushing, 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
While WHOOP doesn’t have a dedicated upgrade program, the company has offered discounts and incentives to get members to upgrade to the latest version. I don’t recall the details of those incentives from when I upgraded from the WHOOP Strap 2.0 to 3.0, but I remember it was pretty much a no-brainer.
When I asked, WHOOP didn’t provide any details on what the upgrade pricing might look like for the next generation of the WHOOP fitness tracker, so we’ll have to wait and see.
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.
You can increase your HRV by adopting certain lifestyle changes, including avoiding alcohol, exposing yourself to sunlight, protecting your circadian rhythm and others. For more information, check out my YouTube video about the 10 hacks I’ve implemented to increase my HRV.
WHOOP offers a special algorithm that can be enabled to provide accurate sleep and HRV tracking for people who have irregular heart beats. Once you’ve signed up for WHOOP and notice issues, reach out to membership services immediately to get on the new algorithm. If that doesn’t work, you can always cancel (within the first month).
WHOOP 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.
I’m a healthy living and technology enthusiast.
On this blog, I share in-depth product reviews, actionable information and solutions to complex problems in plain and easy-to-understand language.
The Ultimate WHOOP Strap 4.0 Review (After 2 Years of Using WHOOP) is written by Michael Kummer for michaelkummer.com