FitNotes Workout App: Independent Review & Alternative

Exercise scientist's honest review of FitNotes: screenshots, pros & cons, and more

FitNotes Workout App: Independent Review & Alternative

FitNotes is one of the more popular fitness trackers.

It bases it's reputation in simplicity and efficiency. No fluff. No flash. No gimmicks.

Just what you need to effectively track your workouts in a straight forward manner.

So much that they claim to be "Like Paper. Only Better."

What are they talking about and is that a good thing? How can paper help you build muscle?

Well, I've done the research and the answer may surprise you. This article will break it all down for you as I'll give you my personal review of FitNotes.

I'll tell you if I believe it's worth the download as well as people who I think it would may be beneficial for. At the same time, I'll also provide an alternative of FitNotes for those who I think would benefit from something else.

Why this review is different

Unlike other reviews which look at how well FitNotes does at tracking workouts, I'm going to look at FitNotes through a different lens; how well does it work at helping someone gain strength and adding muscle.  

The reason being is that at the end of the day, that's what the majority of lifters care; will this app help add pounds of lean mass to my frame?

In addition, many people will search "fitness apps" and just assume that the results will be for an all inclusive workout app. As we'll see, this confusion can cause the purchase of an app that won't actually be designed for the intended purchase.

As we'll see, this puts FitNotes in a conundrum as it does do a good job at what's supposed to; however, that's not necessarily adding numbers to your lifts.

If that's your goal, I believe other apps to be superior (like Dr. Muscle).

Who am I to say this?

My name is Garett Reid and I have been in this industry for over well over 10 years. I have earned my Masters in Exercise Science as well as hold several high level certifications such as NSCA CSCS and my CISSN. Further, I’m also an Executive Council Member of the NSCA Strongman SIG. To be clear, I’ve been around a lot and I’ve seen a lot. As a result, I can easily distinguish between a plan developed by an educated individual and one who’s trying to look like an educated individual.

FitNotes Review & Alternatives For 2023: In A Nutshell. FitNotes describes itself as "just like paper, but better" and I can't think of a better way to sum it up. Comparing FitNotes to full workout apps is akin to comparing apples to oranges. FitNotes isn't so much a workout "app" but rather a workout "tracker". It's purpose it to allow you to input your workout with your desired rep scheme and weights and then track your performance while you lift. To be clear, it offers no advice on exercise selection, rep scheme or any other variables, similar to paper. If this is all you need then FitNotes does a great job. However, if you're looking for an app that will advise you throughout the entire process, you're much better off with an app such as Dr. Muscle.

FitNotes: A Brief Review

Like paper. Only better.

As mentioned, this is one of the taglines for Fitnotes and to be honest; it's pretty accurate. This is where the primary issue lays with FitNotes. In reality, FitNotes shouldn't be described as a fitness app but rather a fitness tracker.

Designed around 2017, FitNotes was designed to be a better alternative to your pen and paper. It's made to be a very simple and basic tool to help you track your workouts and store your stats. And that's about it.

FitNotes does have some other cool features that you can't get on pen and paper. For example, FitNotes will track your lifts and workload to formulate the data on graphs. It also has a limited exercise database but it's minimum. Further, there seems to be two workouts but they seem incomplete as if they're a demo.

Regardless, FitNotes isn't going to offer much more than what you can get with pen and paper. As mentioned above, if you think you're downloading a "workout app", you'll be sorely disappointed if you think you're expecting more instruction. To be fair, they don't claim to be anything else and they actually do have really good reviews for what they are, a workout tracker.

Drawbacks And Issues With FitNotes

FitNotes is a great fitness tracker that can help experienced lifters get organized. However, it does have a lot of issues, especially when compared to an app like Dr. Muscle which is designed to guide you through the whole process of building muscle. Here are a few of them.

You Must Create Your Own Workouts

The hardest thing to do when you first start going to the gym is knowing what to do. Unfortunately, FitNotes doesn't do anything to help you on that front.

You see, Fitnotes is merely a tracker. By that, I mean that you can go input your workout program, track your weights and track progress. However, you must already know what you are going to do.

As of now, there are no type of pre-programmed workouts nor is there a questionnaire to help generate personalized plans. All it gives you is the ability to write in your own programs and track your workouts. I do want to say that as far as that's concerned, it does seem to get high ratings for it's features.

You Must Know How To Progress

Once you have your exercises figured out, you're still not ready. Rather, you'll need to know what to do every session in terms of adding weight. This illustrates a major mistake among newer lifters which is not knowing how to properly progress in a program.

Even if they know how to perform exercises, improving is a concept that's lost. The concept of progressive overload is the fundamental rule in improving fitness and it must be present if you want to succeed.

Many fitness apps will help you with this on some level. However, this feature is absent on a fitness tracker such as FitNotes. FitNotes will give you zero guidance on how to properly progress; this means it's entirely up to you to know what to do.

No Exercise Suggestion

Just as that notebook you brought to the gym doesn't have a library of exercises in the back cover, neither does FitNotes. Downloading FitNotes on your phone will provide zero exercises or how-to guides. Therefore, beginners will have zero help on choosing exercises and more experienced lifters have zero help learning new exercises.

FitNotes For Bodybuilding

Are you wondering if FitNotes will be good for bodybuilding? That depends; does a pen and notebook help you? If all you need is help tracking weights, then yes, FitNotes could be a great companion to a bodybuilder's regime. Tracking the total volume performed is the key component of building muscle mass and can easily be done with FitNotes (Schoenfeld et al, 2018).

However, if having pen and paper won't provide you any benefit, neither will FitNotes. You will need to know what exercises to do, how you should track them, the optimal rep scheme and how to order your exercises. Therefore, if you need help with this, FitNotes won't help you build any muscle.

Verified Reviews For FitNotes

Why Dr. Muscle Is The Better App For Building Muscle And Strength

Unlike FitNotes, Dr. Muscle requires little of you except the desire to get fit. You don't need to know how to program your workout or what exercises to do. Nor do you need to know the proper rep scheme to use or when to change routines.

Dr. Muscle requires very little of you in the same way that a personal trainer requires little of you; they're both going to guide you through the entire process of bodybuilding. And that's why I say that Dr. Muscle is like a "trainer in your pocket"

Here are some more specific reasons I favor Dr. Muscle for someone wanting a great app to help build strength and muscle.

Delivers You A Personalized Plan

Similar to the way you may experience a basic intake the first time you meet with a personal trainer, Dr. Muscle runs you through a series of questions upon download. Your answers are then ran through an algorithm which forms a personalized workout plan for you.

Now, what I find amazing is that the programs which Dr. Muscle develops are extremely similar to something I would write. I would even change the answers to see how it adapts and Dr. Muscle would create a new program that addresses the changes.

To summarize, Dr. Muscle will provide a true, personalized plan based on the questions you provide. No cookie cutter programs here.

Dr.Muscle Guides You The Whole Way

All this to say, even if you have never been into a gym, you can train like a pro using Dr. Muscle. Dr. Muscle is going to guide you through the whole process, from the minute you download the app to every rep you complete and even after.

Dr. Muscle isn't merely just an app for beginners or intermediate lifters nor is it just for a certain time period. Rather, Dr. Muscle is for anybody to use at any point in their life for however long they want; even life. This is because this is the very purpose Dr. Muscle was designed for.

Dr. Muscle will constantly adapt to your training and needs so even when you get in a slump, Dr. Muscle will help you get out. Need a new exercise? Dr. Muscle will help find you one.

Uses Superior Methods For Bodybuilding And Strength Training

Dr. Muscle was created by legitimate sports scientists, particularly Dr. Carl Juneau. As such, it was created only using science backed methods. In addition, being that the creators are on the cutting edge of sports research, Dr. Muscle uses superior methods for training.

For example, Dr. Muscle has opted to use a system of load management called Rate of Perceived Exertion or RPE. In a nutshell, RPE allows a trainer to lift weight based on how stressful or easy the weight feels on that particular day. RPE considers all of the daily factors that influence our fatigue such as;

  • Quality of sleep
  • Stress at work
  • Illness
  • Mental state

Some days the weight feels light and we can do more work. Then on other days when the the weight feels heavy, and RPE allows us to dial it back some. This has been shown to be an effective method for lifters to manage their fatigue by themselves (Impellizzeri, 2004). Further, lifters generally report more enjoyable sessions.

Another method I wanted to point out is a form of periodization known as Daily Undulating Periodization (DUP). This is a form of peridoization in which you alter the volume and load every session. For example, you may have a light, moderate and heavy training day in the same week.

Studies have shown this may be a superior method to elicit adaptations in the muscle (Zourdos, et al. 2016). In addition, lifters tend to find this style of training more enjoyable due to the constant variation.

Will Last A Lifetime

One thing about Dr. Muscle which makes it stand out from just about every other app I've used, including FitNotes, is that it's designed to be used for a lifetime. Dr. Muscle is not a cookie cutter program and will adapt to the needs of the lifter; even in real time!

You can alter your needs or training variables whenever you want and Dr. Muscle will make the necessary changes in your program. As a result, there's really no reason you'd ever need another app as you can simply tell Dr. Muscle what you need and it will deliver.

FitNotes Vs. Dr. Muscle: Side-By-Side Comparison

Chart 1- Comparison of Dr. Muscle and FitNotes
Dr. Muscle FitNotes
Exercise demos? Yes No
Who is it designed for? Trainees who are looking for a quality program that they can follow to build muscle and strength while improving body composition Trainees who need a simple way to record their lifts
Set-Up Time Simple and straightforward that takes less than 5 minutes. Simplistic goal specific design. Very quick due to it's simple design.
Program Design AI designed by leading muscle building researchers creates a baseline program from your information including training experience.

Monitor each exercise using your effort and ‘reps in reserve’ to adjust loads depending on actual performance.

Suggests adjustments and rest ‘de-loads’ based on your individual progress.

Can run forever
A simple workout planner and tracker that's like electronic pen and paper.
Home workouts available? Yes No

Drawback to Dr. Muscle: Price Compared To FitNotes

As with many other apps, the price is one factor that many people point out. However, I'm a firm believer in the phrase "you get what you pay for". FitNotes is great if you just want to track your lifts but you can't expect to give legitimate guidance in building a better body. It takes years of experience and education to develop an app like Dr. Muscle as it's a professional field.

Further, it's not for those who aren't totally serious about lifting so the price my turn those off. However, for people who are tired of the other apps, Dr. Muscle is totally worth it in my opinion.

Verified Reviews For Dr. Muscle

Now let's see what real, verified users are saying!

For more reviews and videos, check out customer feedback.

FAQ: Free trial, cancel anytime & more

Is FitNotes free?

Yes, there is a free version of FitNotes. In addition, you can purchase FitNotes Pro for $2.99/month.

How much does the Dr. Muscle workout app cost?

Learn more on the app’s free trial page.

Can I cancel anytime?

Yes, there is no contract so you can cancel whenever you want.

Is there a free trial?

Absolutely, Dr. Muscle comes with a 2-week free trial that gives you full access to all of it’s features

Summary of FitNotes vs. Dr. Muscle

One common trait of both FitNotes and Dr. Muscle is that they're both exactly what they say are. FitNotes is a great fitness tracker while Dr. Muscle is an advanced, AI-driven workout app that's "like a trainer in your pocket". On this front, I can honestly say it's pretty awesome to see two products that are exactly what they say they are.

Unfortunately that's about where their similarities end. Comparing FitNotes with Dr. Muscle directly is a bit unfair as they are two different products. It would be like comparing a plastic hot-wheels bike to a full-carbon triathlon bike. They both get people around using cycling yet are made for very different purposes; you can't compare them.

Therefore, the only way to do a meaningful review of the two is to pose a question; which one will help build muscle? The answer to this is Dr. Muscle all the way.

The only way that FitNotes will help you build muscle is if you already know exactly what to do. Still, the only way it actually helps in muscle growth is by keeping your program organized. You're able to track the exercises you're doing as well as the progress of each lift.  This in itself can be a very useful tool but it has more to do with being efficient in the gym rather than having a direct role in your success.

Now compare this to Dr. Muscle which will tell you exactly what to do. And it's not just for a workout. Dr. Muscle will tell you what exercises to do and what reps to for as long as you continue to use it.

Not only will it tell you what to do, it tells you how to do it. Dr.Muscle comes with an extensive exercise library with instructions allowing a true beginner to use. A true beginner using FitNotes would be just as lost as they were before downloading it.

To be clear, I don't think FitNotes is a bad app.  In fact I think it could be useful for those with a lot of experience and know how to train properly. However, Dr. Muscle is definitely the superior app for a beginner or even an intermediate lifter. If you don't feel comfortable going to the gym and following your own program, Dr. Muscle is the app to get.

My Take On FitNotes

There's a a saying that says "you don't judge a fish by how well it climbs trees". Basically, this means that you can't fairly judge a person in an environment that's not made for them. In our case we're talking about as a fitness tracker.

For this reason, this review was tough to do as I felt it could be a great app for those looking for a basic fitness tracker. However, I wanted to judge it through the lens of a fitness app; how well does it work on put on muscle. In this viewpoint, FitNotes is only as effective as the person using it.

As said before, FitNotes is like paper, only better. While it does have a bunch of useful little widgets, none of them are useful unless you know how to use them. For example, progress graphs and percentage calculators are for sure helpful. However, they're meaningless if you don't know what exercises to use or when to add weight.

FitNotes is an awesome fitness tracker for an expert who only needs help with organization. However, FitNotes is of little use for beginners or anyone who is looking for any sort of guidance. On the other hand, Dr. Muscle could be used by anyone and I'm confident they will see results. In other words, if you want to improve, I highly recommend Dr. Muscle.