Whoop’s Wristband has always been a wearable device marketed for the toughest of athletes. It’s been seen on the wrists of athletes in the NBA and other professional sports leagues, which is fitting, as it’s designed to maximize training. Personally, I’ve always been obsessed with one thing: I don’t want to wear something on my wrist that doesn’t even tell me the time of day. Call me old-fashioned, but it’s true. But Whoop’s Wristband just released the fourth generation of their popular wristband, which is 33% smaller than its predecessor and also has more sensors, so I thought it was finally time to give it a boost. It turns out that many things are correct.
Whoop’s Wristband; No screen, just a band
Whoop’s Wristband has always been unique in the world of wearables. For starters, it’s not something you can buy. Instead, it’s a service you pay: $30 a month, though it could be as cheap as $18 a month if you buy in 18-month increments, and the company ships you the band for free. . This means that if you’ve been using Whoop for years, they’ll simply send you a 4.0 band to replace your 3.0, and the new band costs no more than the old one.
Whoop has always been unique in the world of wearables. For starters, it’s not something you can buy. Instead, it’s a service you pay: $30 a month, though it could be as cheap as $18 a month if you buy in 18-month increments, and the company ships you the band for free. . This means that if you’ve been using Whoop for years, they’ll simply send you a 4.0 band to replace your 3.0, and the new band costs no more than the old one.
The Whoop’s Wristband is usually worn on the wrist like a watch, but there is now a clothing line called Whoop Body. It is a collection of shirts, shorts, bras, underwear, and bands that allow you to wear the sensor anywhere else on your body. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to try them out, so the Whoop 4.0 sat on my wrist for a month and found it comfortable overall. It’s fairly low-profile, so it didn’t catch on my sleeves very often, and the knit, stretchy band feels soft to the touch, though it took a while to dry, causing wet wrists.
What’s next Whoop
The band doesn’t have an accelerometer to count your steps or an altimeter to count the stairs you climb each day. Whoop neither knows nor cares about these meaningless frivolities! However, pay close attention to your heart. The 4.0 strip now has five LEDs (three green, one red, and one infrared) compared to two on the previous generation, and now has four photodiodes, compared to one.
Using all the data from these sensors, the Whoop’s Wristband platform really only cares about two things: your level of exertion and your level of recovery (and your sleep, but that’s actually part of your recovery). Your stress score is essentially how hard your heart had to work. When you’re exercising, manual labor, or anything that gets your heart racing, the band tracks your pulse.
You’ll then see a stress score for that specific activity in the app. This is all cumulative, and you also get a fatigue score for the entire day, which is on a scale from zero to 21, for whatever reason. Each day when you wake up, the app gives you a recommended amount of effort to aim for based on how well you recovered from your last effort.
Recovery is the other big thing Whoop’s Wristband looks at, and look at how much rest you get after exertion. Unsurprisingly, the main way to recover is to sleep. Every night Whoop’s Wristband notifies you how much sleep you need to fully rest and get a recovery score of 100. (Yes fatigue score is 0-21 and recovery is 0-100 and no I don’t know why ). The band calculates when you’ve fallen asleep and when you wake up, and it does so with very solid accuracy, in my experience.
While you sleep, it monitors your pulse, as well as heart rate variability (HRV), breathing rate, and blood oxygen levels. When you wake up, it gives you a sleep score and tells you how well you recovered or how well it thinks you recovered, anyway.
Not quite right
Over the years, various friends and colleagues have become a bit obsessed with their Whoop scores, so I was excited to try it out for myself. The results were interesting, but left me disappointed. I found Whoop’s stress metric to be somewhat inconsistent. You start with a zero when you wake up, but I’ve found that many mornings it gives me a score of 4 before I’ve done anything more than make myself breakfast (which definitely didn’t get my heart rate up).
It seemed to work pretty well for cardio, and my tension score increased as expected on longer/harder runs, but Whoop’s Wristband isn’t quite sure what to make of strength training. Doing bodyweight exercises and lifting weights is an important part of training for many people, but it barely registers on the Whoop’s Wristband because it doesn’t get your heart rate up like longer-duration cardio does. This could leave you with tight, tired muscles, but still a very low fatigue score.
I tested the Whoop’s Wristband with a chest strap heart rate monitor and other wearable devices and the heart rate was generally accurate, although there were instances where my reading stopped unexpectedly, as you can see from these random sharp valleys on this run, I logged .
Basically, I’d put it on par with other high-end wearables from companies like Polar, Suunto and Garmin, but not above it.
I also had issues with the way Whoop’s Wristband rates sleep and recovery. Sometimes my recovery score was what I felt like in the morning, I mean, the band was giving me a 75, and subjectively, yes, I felt like I was around 75%. Other times it was inexplicably far away and could go in any direction. After a very poor night’s sleep, she informed me that I was well into my 80s in recovery and ready for a stress-filled day. I was exhausted and felt like a shell of myself.
On another occasion he rated my recovery as very low in the 50’s, but I felt great and was ready to work. I did some research and I think the issue may be that Whoop’s Wristband weighs much more heavily on your heart rate variability than the actual duration or quality of your sleep. HRV is definitely an important metric, but fit people generally have higher HRV rates (which is a good thing), and I think that can skew the numbers.
Go against Garmin!
It’s also worth noting that while Whoop may have been the first to truly focus on recovery, it’s not the only handheld to do so now. Garmin, for example, has a metric called Body Battery, which is basically the same as the Whoop Recovery Score, and I found that to be a bit more accurate than I really felt, subjectively.
Whether I want to know the time and date of the flip, or the battery level of my body, or the number of calories I burned today, it’s all there. Several weeks of autonomy? That too. Now the Enduro isn’t a cheap watch, it’s around $800, but Garmin makes much cheaper multisport watches that basically do all of that and those watches are likely to last you for many years. Although I really liked the Whoop (and sometimes did), I still wish I had the Garmin for almost every activity I did, and wearing two pieces of clothing the size of a watch is just a start for me.
Is Whoop’s Wristband is worth buying?
The Whoop’s Wristband 4.0 isn’t “bad”, it’s just limited. It’s good to see it evolve and do things that 3.0 couldn’t do. For example, if your blood oxygen level suddenly drops below safe levels (which could be a sign of a real health problem, like a covid-19 infection), this can alert you. When I received my Moderna booster, I woke up the next day with an alert that my HRV had dropped, my skin temperature was above average, and my recovery was very poor.
Yeah, I felt like shit for a day. Also new to 4.0 is a vibrating motor that you can use to set a silent alarm. I don’t recommend the latter as it woke me up an hour earlier than expected and I was still completely exhausted.
Whoop’s Wristband lenses themselves are good. The idea of calculating stress and recovery (and sleep) so you know how hard you should push yourself on any given day makes sense. The problem is that Whoop’s Wristband 4.0 absolutely fails to do this, and since that’s really all it does, it must be perfect. In contrast, there are tons of sports watches out there that solve the effort/recovery equation just as well, but also do so much more. A good multisport watch makes more sense for almost everyone.