This quick review of the Kelsey Wells’ PWR workout program and the Sweat app is just that, a quick review — I didn’t do the full 12-week program, nor did I follow the nutrition guidelines, but I wanted to share what I learned from spending a few weeks using the Sweat app, because I know a lot of you are interested in learning more.
I bet you guys have heard of Kayla Itsines BBG or Bikini Body Guide. I’d say it is one of the most popular home workout programs for women around. If you search any of the BBG hashtags on Instagram, you will see before and after photos of women in sports bras, lots of chatter and a huge community of people sweating and sharing. It’s pretty cool it was all started by a young Australian-based female trainer.
Yet, this post isn’t just about Kayla Itsines and her popular BBG workout, it’s also about Kelsey Wells, who is one of the three Sweat app trainers, and Wells has her own newer program, called PWR. (She also has a postpartum workout program, as she’s a mom of one, but I didn’t try that.)
I was interested in testing out the Sweat app and PWR specifically, so I decided to do the free month of the app. I have since cancelled it, but may go back and repurchase for a few months — I’m just not sure yet.
Review of Kelsey Wells’ PWR workout program and the Sweat app
How did I find out about Kelsey Wells and her PWR program? A Facebook ad of all things. I feel like out of nowhere she just kept showing up, and she’s got an impressive physique — like really impressive. I often found myself watching the entire workout clips she was sharing and figured maybe I’d like to give it a go, as the moves seemed pretty smart when paired with her activation exercises.
I also liked that Wells is a mom to a boy and shares that fitness really changed her life, as she wasn’t always into it. Me too!
I’ve never been drawn to trying Kayla Itsines signature BBG program, because it’s all bodyweight exercises with a lot of jumping and crunches (from what I hear and can tell via watching Kayla’s workouts online), and that’s just not my preference. I like using weights and being in a group fitness class or at the gym. However, it seems to work for a lot of people. More on that below.
What is the PWR workout program?
PWR is the most advanced of the programs in the Sweat app, from what I can tell. It’s basically taking your strength to a new level.
PWR is a 12-week weightlifting program designed to be done in the gym. There is no home version, whereas all the BBG workouts are designed for the home. PWR requires a lot of equipment and a lot of machines — so unless you have a huge home gym with a Smith machine and cable machine, etc. — you won’t be able to do the workouts. Most hotel or apartment gyms wouldn’t suffice either, quite frankly.
The workouts are set up with activation exercises for a short duration of time, which get your muscles primed for the movements of the day and get your body warm, followed up by heavy weightlifting pyramids (the chunk of the workout), short supersets of paired moves for a short duration of time, then a stretch/cool-down. That formula and template is repeated for each workout that you do.
PWR calls for three resistance sessions per week split up by muscle group, which may change as you get further along, but in the first series, it’s (1) Back and Shoulders, (2) Legs and Abs and (3) Chest and Triceps. You can do them in any order during the week that you want.
There are built-in rest periods, which the app counts for you, and there are also demos for each exercise with written descriptions and videos.
Basically, when you show up to the gym, you pull out your earphones, open up the app and then all you have to do is follow along — all of the planning and timing is done for you. You will, however, have to count your reps. No cheating! 🙂
What is the Sweat app like?
As I mentioned, PWR is part of the Sweat app — one of the most popular fitness apps ever.
The Sweat app is a high-quality app. You can tell that the Sweat company has put a ton of time into creating an app that is easy to follow, easy to use and makes you want to come back for more. When you pay the $19.99 per month (which is discounted pretty significantly at 50 percent off when you purchase an annual membership), you have access to a lot — like way more than just a few workouts.
With the app, you can choose to try out the following …
- BBG workouts (all bodyweight, done at home and 28 minutes in length) by Kayla Itsines
- BBG Stronger workouts (same thing as BBG but with more emphasis on weights, also 28 minutes and done at home) by Kayla Itsines
- PWR program by Kelsey Wells
- Post-pregnancy program by Kelsey Wells
- BAM or body and mind yoga program (also 28 minutes, I believe), which is run by a third trainer, named Sjana Elise Earp — I tried one of these yoga sessions and didn’t enjoy how it was laid out, I definitely prefer to do yoga in a real class or with a flow-like video, it seemed choppy in this setting
The app makes it easy for you to track your progress during your workouts, track how much water you are drinking, print shopping lists for a weekly meal plan and much more. However, I didn’t use any of these features so can’t speak to them. I tend to think that mass-created meal plans are not the best idea, but perhaps these are well done.
Now, let’s get back to the PWR program specifically …
More info and thoughts on the PWR program
I probably did 10 full PWR workouts over the course of a month and reviewed a few more than that. I felt very worked at the end of each workout (as long as I made the right weight selection for the heavier pyramid portion). All of them took me a full hour or slightly more.
You need a LOT of equipment.
I found that it was challenging to get the equipment that I needed during each workout, because I go to a fairly busy gym. Oftentimes the Smith machine (a machine that guides the barbell up and down safely), squat rack and leg press machine were almost always full, which messed up my flow. There weren’t always modifications or alternative moves, so I had to wait and/or come up with my own alternative.
I found that the demos and descriptions and form cues in the app were helpful. I found that the timing and rest block countdowns were helpful.
I enjoyed the workout progressions and thought all seemed very well thought out.
The moves are simple and effective.
The moves were NOT complex at all, which is a great thing when you are using machines. Squats, chest presses, leg presses, lat pull-downs, rows, etc. These are all compound simple moves that everyone can benefit from. There were a few isolated moves in the shorter paired supersets at the end of each workout, and these seemed more like burn-out or finishing moves. I did several Legs and Abs workouts and found that nearly all the abs portion included a ton of crunches and sit-ups, which I didn’t love. I happen to think planks, hovers and other moves work the core in a more friendly manner.
The activation exercises at the beginning of each workout were my favorite. On leg day, burpees, mountain climbers, reverse lunges and sumo squats would be on the agenda. On chest day, easy cable flyes, push-ups and mountain climbers would be on the agenda, etc.
I found that a lot of the activation exercises repeated, which is fine by me — you’d see mountain climbers and burpees in most workouts — mostly because those moves get your whole body ready to work.
I didn’t do enough of the PWR workouts to complete the program and take any before and after pictures, although I feel like my leg strength certainly improved over a short amount of time due to the challenge of the leg press, hamstring curl and squats. I needed the extra push to use those machines and do those moves, and PWR made me do it. Thanks!
Is it safe for beginners?
Yet, I must say, this program is not easy. Because you need to use so much equipment you REALLY need at least some familiarity with weightlifting, how to use machines and the gym floor for sure. I would not recommend this for a beginner. I would recommend this program for a woman who has some experience with weights, has done at least one personal trainer session before and is ready to really increase her lean muscle mass and/or strength. I would NOT recommend this for someone newly postpartum too. I started the program at 10-months postpartum with a good fitness baseline, and I think that was fine. If you are less than maybe 6- or 7-months postpartum, I’d start with something less intense — perhaps BBG, but skipping all of the crunches for more belly-safe core work.
(Side note: Remember that muscle is a lot hungrier than fat, so you will need to feed your muscles MORE as they grow, focus on post-workout nutrition, drink a lot of water and seek the help of a registered dietitian if you can to make sure you’ve got your bases covered.)
The benefits of the PWR program
- A plan. Guidance and a progressive plan that keeps getting more challenging — the plan is KEY — everybody can benefit from working off of a plan, and I’m guilty of not doing that either.
- Activating. The activation exercises are beneficial for everyone and are very smart, setting your body up to safely and effectively do the workout of the day.
- Simple moves. The moves are SIMPLE, but very effective compound moves.
- Hitting all the muscles. The program employs split muscle-group days, so that you hit most of the major groups by the end of one week, including three resistance sessions.
- Variety. The program calls for some cardio and stretching as well, reminding you that every day should not be a tough workout day.
- Easy to use app. The app is easy to use and gives you everything you need for your workout, so you don’t have to do too much thinking outside of counting reps.
- Advanced. It’s pretty advanced, which is cool because it’s for women, and gets us out on the weight-room floor using the big machines.
The cons of the PWR program
- Equipment. Lots of equipment needed — you definitely cannot do this program at home, as you’ll need a squat rack, bench, cable machine and much more, as well as a big variety of dumbbells and barbells — it would be hard to do these workouts while traveling too, because most hotel gyms won’t have what you need.
- Duration. The workouts take a little longer than an hour, and if you are crunched for time, you won’t get through all the sets — I like to have my solo weights workouts done in 45 minutes and sticking around that extra 25 minutes or so seemed like forever.
- No weight selection. There is no guidance on weight selection, which is a big part of a workout — this is a major downfall of the program and one I hope is addressed somewhere that I just don’t know about, but I did some research and couldn’t find it.
- Few modifications. There aren’t many modifications, hardly any, if you have injuries, you may just have to skip exercises, which doesn’t make you feel successful.
- Crunching. From what I gather, PWR takes after BBG in that a lot of crunching exercises are used. This is not my favorite, and I’d like to see less emphasis on this movement pattern.
- Not beginner friendly. It’s not for beginners, but doesn’t seem to remind people that anywhere — you’d definitely need at least some experience weightlifting and have a good idea of form to start it.
- One size fits all. It’s not tailored to your personal needs and movement patterns, so just know that going in. Everybody and everyone is different.
Tips for using the Sweat app (and any workout app)
- Video yourself doing the moves and play those videos back to check if you are doing the right form, also check to make sure you have correct posture and are breathing the entire time too.
- Keep your phone at eye level when watching the move demos, don’t strain your neck to look down or up — and definitely don’t look side to side while performing the exercises, as you’ll risk injuring yourself.
- Do the moves in front of a mirror to watch your form, much like tip one about videoing yourself — form is everything and it’s hard to get it right without the help of a trainer watching your every move.
- Wear supportive sneakers and sports bras for all the jumping, keep your hair back and out of your face and have a sweat towel on the ready.
- If a move doesn’t feel right, skip it! Don’t force yourself into anything that causes pain or discomfort.
- Drink LOTS of water.
- Don’t skip the cool-down and stretch after your workouts.
- Always take a full rest day each week off of exercise to let your body rebuild.
Overall thoughts on the Sweat app and PWR
Overall, I’m ALLLLL for following a workout plan, and I love that the Sweat app offers BBG, BBG Stronger (once again, weights based, but still 28-minute workouts done at home) and PWR and that these programs lay everything out for you, and even tell you how much cardio to do and give you a place to keep track of your water intake.
The Sweat app is really well done, and I’d recommend it to anyone who has a little it of fitness knowledge and is comfortable following workouts without a trainer to assist with form.
While I can only speak to the PWR workouts, I will say that it’s probably not a good program for beginners and would suggest perhaps trying the beginner series of BBG or BBG Stronger to build up your strength, knowledge and confidence before heading out into the gym to conquer the long PWR workouts.
I liked what I saw from PWR and Sweat and am happy to see this affordable resource out there for the women of the world.
Thanks for reading! Check out more of my fitness reviews here.
You may also like:
- 15 things you should know about working out when you’re pregnant
- Gym inspo: A selection of short resistance workouts that I’ve been doing
Questions of the day
Have you used the Sweat app or tried any of the BBG workouts?
Do you work out at home or at the gym?
Do you follow a program or do your own thing?