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Unpacking AI in Fitness: Promise, Pitfalls, and Personalization

Unpacking AI in Fitness: Promise, Pitfalls, and Personalization

Welcome to week 6 of our 10-part journey on using generative AI for fitness! Last week, we saw how AI can be used to gamify workouts. This week, we're shifting our focus towards evaluating the effectiveness of AI in designing workout plans.

Before we dive into the topic, however, let's bear in mind that as this article will explain, AI chatbots like ChatGPT are not a one-stop solution for all our fitness needs.

Fitness is a highly personal journey, with each individual having unique goals, capabilities, and preferences. One-size-fits-all workout plans often fall short in catering to these diverse needs. AI promises to bridge this gap by offering customized workout plans based on a wealth of personal data.

But despite the allure of tailored workouts at a tap, AI-designed plans aren't without their limitations. Ranging from potential inaccuracies to straight up harmful information, it's important to navigate this space with an understanding of both the benefits and the pitfalls.

In this article, rather than presenting AI as the ultimate solution for creating foolproof workout plans, we'll explore it as a tool that can provide us with personalized suggestions and ideas. It's about supplementing, not replacing human intuition and expertise.

The Prompt + the Plan

I used this prompt on to create a workout plan that is tailored to one's specific needs.

The prompt description:

Just enter your key details such as age, gender, your current exercise routine (enter none if you’re just starting out), the muscle mass you want to gain, and the time period into the designated fields and ChatGPT will generate a workout plan based on these inputs.

Let's say, for instance, we input an age of 19, identify as male, currently engage in a push-pull and legs routine three times a week, and aim to gain 6 kg of muscle in 8 weeks (remember, a beginner may not have a sense of a feasible goal)

Here is the output:

Sure! Based on your goals, I can provide you with a structured workout plan that targets all major muscle groups. However, it's important to note that gaining 6 kg of muscle in 8 weeks is an ambitious goal. It typically takes longer to build muscle mass, so it's important to maintain realistic expectations.
Here's an 8-week workout plan that you can follow:
Push Day:
1. Barbell Bench Press - 3 sets of 8-10 reps
2. Dumbbell Shoulder Press - 3 sets of 8-10 reps
3. Incline Dumbbell Bench Press - 3 sets of 8-10 reps
4. Triceps Dips - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
5. Lateral Raises - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
6. Triceps Pushdowns - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
7. Push-ups - 3 sets to failure
Pull Day:
1. Deadlifts - 3 sets of 6-8 reps
2. Pull-ups or Lat Pulldowns - 3 sets of 8-10 reps
3. Barbell Rows - 3 sets of 8-10 reps
4. Dumbbell Bicep Curls - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
5. Hammer Curls - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
6. Face Pulls - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
Leg Day:
1. Squats - 3 sets of 8-10 reps
2. Romanian Deadlifts - 3 sets of 8-10 reps
3. Leg Press - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
4. Lunges - 3 sets of 10-12 reps per leg
5. Leg Extensions - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
6. Seated or Standing Calf Raises - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
Note: Remember to warm up before each workout and cool down with some stretching afterwards. Also, progressively increase the weights over time as you get stronger to ensure continued muscle growth. It's essential to have proper form and technique to prevent injuries, so consider working with a qualified trainer if needed.
In addition to your workout routine, pay attention to your nutrition. To support muscle growth, ensure you're consuming enough calories and eating a balanced diet that includes lean protein sources, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Stay consistent with your workouts and be patient with your progress, as building muscle takes time.

Evaluating the AI workout plan

Let's take a close look at the output ChatGPT has given us. At first glance, it has all the basics right. It's giving us a pretty classic push-pull-legs routine that targets all major muscle groups, with a good range of exercises in each. For a beginner looking to gain muscle, this kind of program is a strong foundation.

However, if we get into the nitty-gritty, there are a few potential stumbling blocks. First and foremost, while our AI pal correctly notes that gaining 6 kg of muscle in 8 weeks is ambitious, it doesn't quite drive home how challenging this would actually be, particularly for a beginner. Muscle growth is a slow process, and expectations should be tempered to avoid discouragement or risk of injury from overtraining.

It's also essential to keep in mind the feasibility of the plan. For instance, the prescription of three sets to failure on push-ups after a series of challenging upper body exercises could be a bit much for a beginner. Starting off with a set amount of push-ups and then gradually increasing the number would be a more manageable and safer approach.

The workout plan could have benefited from some variation. The same exercises for each push, pull, and leg day might get monotonous over the weeks and may not provide enough stimulus for continued muscle growth. A bit of variation in the exercises, perhaps a plan for the next eight weeks with different exercises would help keep motivation high and muscles challenged.

What stands out, though, is the lack of specificity in progression. "Progressively increase the weights over time as you get stronger" is sound advice, but the output doesn't offer any concrete guidance on how to do this. A bit more detail on progressive overload - when to add weight, how much, and what to do if you hit a plateau - would have been beneficial.

So, there you have it. AI and fitness, an exciting blend indeed. ChatGPT certainly offers a reasonable starting point for someone looking to start their fitness journey. Yet, it's also clear that human expertise is far from redundant. The ability to adjust on the fly, take into account the individual's day-to-day variations, and offer emotional support is still squarely in the human domain. And remember, even the best workout plan is only as good as the consistency with which it's followed and the nutrition that supports it.

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