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Checkmylevel review

Richard Easton
28 Nov 2014
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
209
inc VAT exc Delivery

Checkmylevel is a unique fitness recovery tracker with a lot of unfulfilled potential

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Specifications

Warranty: One-year RTB, Details: www.checkmylevel.com, Part code: checkmylevel

The past 18 months has seen an influx of fitness trackers that can measure everything from activity levels and quality of sleep to blood VO2 levels and beyond. However, most of these trackers have been heavily targeted towards cardiovascular exercises like running, swimming and cycling. For strength trainers, there are far fewer gadgets for tracking progress. Checkmylevel fills this gap, as it's equally suited to strength and resistance training as it is for athletes involved in sports that need a combination of speed, strength and coordination. 

We tested the Checkmylevel from a strength trainer’s perspective as our reviewer is an advanced level powerlifter (according to the Strength Standards calculations). Recovery periods at this level become more critical to performance and you can more accurately estimate your own performance levels based on experience.

Checkmylevel is small enough to carry around, although you only need to use it once a day. It’s about twice the length and thickness of your average USB flash drive and works in conjunction with re-usable assessment electrodes that you attach to your wrist. These have a conductive material on the back that is initially cold to the touch but not uncomfortable to use.

Recovery levels can traditionally be discerned from the Orthostatic Heart Rate test, although this might not be as accurate. CheckMyLevel is designed to detect neuromuscular fatigue and recovery levels, giving the user a training readiness level and helping you to adjust the intensity of your training accordingly. This is done by sending a low voltage current to the median nerve in your wrist, which then transports the signal along your peripheral nervous system through your spinal cord to your brain core. This allows the system to analyse your full body fatigue level. The resulting reading gives an indication of how recovered your body is from its previous workout, theoretically letting you know if you should resume training or if additional rest is needed.

The device has a thumb attachment that uses a three-way accelerometer to measure the twitch response that concludes the test. How much current is used and the timed delay in response is then used to generate a readiness level. 

The placement of the electrode is important for an accurate reading. You need to place it on the left side of your left wrist, with about a finger’s width space from the base of your hand. Placing it incorrectly can impact the device’s readings, so we feel there should be clearer guidance on correct placement in the bundled instructions. There are clearer instructions on the website, but essentially if your middle finger twitches, it's a sign that the electrode is in the wrong place.

Checkmylevel says you should get about seven uses from each electrode, with the app letting you know when to replace it, but we found that we were able to use each one up to twice the number of uses. You’ll need to factor in the ongoing cost of electrodes, with replacements costing €16 (about £13) for a month’s supply or €45 (£36) for three months. There are also subscription plans that work out slightly less.

Checkmylevel pairs to your smartphone over Bluetooth with a companion app available on iOS and Android. After each test the user is also asked to provide a score out of five based on how tired they feel and this is designed to be used as a validation method for the device’s findings.

The entire test takes little more than 30 seconds and afterwards the app provides your Training Readiness Index (TRI) as well as a Training Recommendation. The app and included documentation doesn’t make a clear distinction between these two readings and we only found out what each one meant through the website’s Q&A section. TRI is a percentage score and is prone to changing drastically day to day as it’s an instant overview, whereas the recommendation is more of a long term analysis. Without knowing the difference, it’s easy to gravitate towards the TRI percentage score for guidance.

Checkmylevel uses a single AAA battery, which we found needed replacing after less than a week - even though we were only using the device very briefly each day. We discovered that the device continues to drain the battery even when not in use so we needed to remove the battery cover to stop this happening. There’s also no battery level indicator so you only realise it is running low when you begin to have trouble pairing the device with your smartphone.

In testing, we found that results didn’t always correlate with our expectations. On days following a particularly strenuous powerlifting session, readiness levels were sometimes reported much higher than anticipated. Conversely, on certain days when we were feeling reasonably refreshed and energetic, the Checkmylevel gave a very low readiness level and recommended not training. On some days training against the device’s advisement, performance wasn't compromised, but on others performance reflected the readings.

This in part could be due to the deeper influences of strength performance, beyond the peripheral nervous system that the Checkmylevel measures. Psychological preparedness and hormonal response are just as important, and these are elements that the Checkmylevel is unable to analyse or provide recommendations towards. The central nervous system (CNS) also plays an important role for regulating movement by sending impulses to your muscles. CNS fatigue can occur after a heavy compound lifting session (any lift that activates numerous muscles such as the squat or deadlift) or strenuous exercise, and this can adversely affect performance as well as having negative effects on mood and general energy levels.

As it stands, the Checkmylevel feels incomplete. Its readings are potentially useful, but it’s only as strong as its companion app and presently it doesn’t tell you enough beyond your immediate recovery levels. There aren’t any recommendations or advice and the historical data is also very basic. The impetus is on the user to act upon the findings of the sensor, and often they know their own limits better than the readings suggest.

Checkmylevel is expensive for what it currently delivers, and you'll also need to also factor in the additional cost of electrodes and regular replacement batteries. There’s nothing else like it on the market at the moment, and we were told the app is constantly being improved, but right now it feels like a work in progress.

Buying information
Price including VAT£209
WarrantyOne-year RTB
Supplierwww.checkmylevel.com
Detailswww.checkmylevel.com
Part codecheckmylevel

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