The trend for making previously dumb contraptions smarter shows no signs of abating. Now in the wake of smart kettles that can tell you when it is time for tea, there are these 'smart' kettlebells from JaxJox. Thanks to them, with their awful name and clever tech, you can now get an innovative kettlebell unit that sits on an electronic weights base, which allows you to adjust the mass of the bell at the touch of a button. A kettlebell with a spread of 5kg to 19kg is effectively condensed into one unit.
You can also swing this be-handled hunk of heavy plastic and get instant updates on form, reps and power output directly to your phone.
In short, the JaxJox KettlebellConnect aims to offer a complete, all-over workout that can be performed in the comfort of your own home by everyone, from complete amateurs to professional swingers (not that kind).
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JaxJox KettlebellConnect: the design
Unsheathe the JaxJox from its relatively large box and the first thing to hit you is its size. Anyone who spends any time in the gym will know that the majority of kettlebells are fashioned from cast iron or something equally brutish, but they come in a spread if shapes and sizes.
Not the KettlebellConnect, as this monster has to be large enough to house the special 'bullet' stacking system that allows the contraption to cleverly select a weight at the press of a button.
The unit itself sits on an electronic base with simple plus and minus buttons for adjusting the amount of weight secured inside the exterior shell. This unit has to be plugged into the wall but when fully charged, it last around 14 hours without a power source.
But as previously mentioned, the fact the outer unit houses the internal weights, the kettlebell itself is a bulky old thing. Some entry-level kettlebell users might find it a bit large and unwieldy to begin with and that large aperture handle makes it tricky to get comfortable when pressing overhead.
Regardless, it is constructed from some fairly solid materials and, just like its cast iron counterparts, we'd strongly suggest not dropping this on your toes.
JaxJox KettlebellConnect: the tech
Kettlebell fans can simply use the JaxJox creation as a bog standard kettlebell, adjusting the weight on the fly to make the exercise easier or harder, but it comes to life with the connected app.
Available for Apple and Android, the free app collects user data over the weeks via things like heart rate monitors, FitBits and other fitness trackers and then builds a fairly comprehensive picture of health.
If you don't have any other kind of fitness sensor, fret not, because built-in sensors take care of the rep and set counting, while also keeping track of weight used, minutes exercised and average power.
Pul the thing apart and you'll find a family of motion sensors, with a three-axis gyroscope and a three-axis accelerometer taking care of things.
Unfortunately, that's sort of where the experience stops, as it is up to the user to watch one of the many Vimeo-based workout videos (that often didn't work for us when used within the app) and kettlebell along with a guy in a strange orange room.
There's no digital assistant to tell you if you've nailed the form or doing it completely wrong and there's no one to sound an alarm when you're about to put your back out with an unwieldy swinging technique.
Although rumour has it that JaxJox plans to take the route of Peloton etc. and open up a subscription-based workout channel that could see you swinging along to a live instructor in the future.
But for now, it counts and collect reps, sets, weight used time spent exercising over a week and encourages you to do a bit more.
Arguably the best feature is the KettlebellConnect's ability to workout the average power of each workout (a bit like a power meter does on a bicycle), which helps users to increase the intensity over time.
JaxJox KettlebellConnect: the experience
Despite the rise in popularity of gym class experiences in the home, I find the whole business of working out in a bedroom or living room a bit weird. Having to shift a coffee table to bound around in front of the TV or sweating all over a rug in the hallway is just odd. But hey, it's cheaper than a gym membership, so I get it.
The non-slip base of the JaxJox Connect ensures there's a nice, solid foundation from which to pick up and put down the system when flicking between weights but I found it difficult to get used to the shape.
The bottom half of the kettlebell itself is elongated to house such a spread of weights, which makes it feel unbalanced and the internal weight plates rattle around a fair bit when in use.
I'm no professional kettlebell athlete but I'd wager good money anyone seriously into their classes would agree that the JaxJox unit just doesn't feel quite right.
However, the numerous workout videos do highlight just how versatile the thing is, with everything from rapid ten minute abs workouts to full-on 45-minute lung busters already live in the app.
It's enough to have even the most experience gym-goer sweating and we doubt anyone would be able to get through one of the longer workouts at maximum 19kg weight selection without keeling over.
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JaxJox KettlebellConnect: the verdict
There's no ignoring the dollar here, because the £299 sticker price would see most people in a well-equipped gym for a year or more, but this feels like a product that will last longer than a January guilt subscription.
It is well built, the sensors and app work effortlessly together and it is easy enough to follow along with one of the heavily stylised videos that are currently on offer. Plus, there's the added bonus of data collection and visualisation, which we all know helps coax us into training that bit harder.
However, its size and dimensions will likely deter those who are seriously into their kettlebell classes and I wasn't convinced about the way it handled when performing an overhead press or anything that required the kettlebell resting on the forearm - it just wasn't comfortable.
Finally, and slightly nannying-ly, a kettlebell isn't like a treadmill or an exercise bike, where the risk of injury among the uninitiated is fairly low. Here, you're literally swinging 19kg of metal between your legs and it's very easy to get things wrong. Call me a traditionalist but for that reason alone, I'd strongly suggest trying a good ol' fashioned, face-to-face class with a trained instructor before delving into the realm of JaxJox…