Will Smith has been making headlines lately — and not for his latest blockbuster film.
Instead, he’s been focused on his health journey, both physical and mental, with a memoir hitting shelves next week and a new YouTube series, "Best Shape of My Life," documenting his journey to lose 20 pounds in 20 weeks.
Fitbit is sponsoring Smith’s book tour this month. He is the fitness tech company’s newest ambassador with the launch of StrongWill, a six-session workout collection, last month on Fitbit Premium. As a fan of the actor and someone who is always looking for something new to keep my fitness routine feeling fresh (see what I did there?), I decided to give the program a try.
Cost and equipment
You need a Fitbit Premium membership to access these videos. The membership is $9.99/month or $79.99 billed annually. You don't need a tracker to access Fitbit Premium, but to get the most out of the experience you may want to invest in one, which start at $99 and run up to $299.
The StrongWill program is bodyweight only and requires no additional equipment. A mat would be useful for comfort and the Bodyweight Strength video does require some sort of an elevated surface (a bench, chair or countertop).
What the program entails
The program consists of six videos — all under 20 minutes — that run the full gamut, from high-intensity cardio to meditation. They are standalone videos so you don’t have to do them in any particular order and can either do one as a quick workout or group a few together for a longer workout.
The current program includes six workouts all taught by a different instructor: Bodyweight Strength, Core Challenge, Find Your Center (meditation), Mobility Flow Yoga, Let’s Go Cardio! and Upper Body HIIT. Fitbit has plans to add more StrongWill collections to the platform in 2022.
I decided to start with the bodyweight strength. The 15-minute workout was basically a pushup bootcamp for beginners. We started with three rounds of modified pushups, elevated on a countertop. The instructor had infectious energy and danced between each set of pushups, which helped break up a pretty monotonous exercise. She then moved on to three more rounds done on a lower bench that were slightly harder, but still modified. We took a break to hear from Smith: Short inspirational videos from him play on a large screen in-studio periodically throughout all of the workouts in the program. We finished up with three sets of seated pushups. She used two yoga blocks and I only had one so I had to improvise and use a foam roller for one side, but she also said you could use a chair with armrests (and even two stacks of books would work).
The workout really focused on form. It was very basic and slow paced and had a little more down time than I would have liked. But over time, I do think this would build strength and help you progress in your pushups. As someone who isn’t able to do very many full pushups, I liked that we never even got to the full move. This routine is really about starting from the beginning with the fundamentals of strength building.
“Be what you are,” Smith said to end the video. “Working out is not trying to be something you’re not. You’re trying to be the best, healthiest, strongest version of what you are.”
I then moved on to the core challenge. There was a long warm up before getting to the meat of the workout, which was two rounds of five exercises, like crab planks, shoulder taps with a hop and hollow holds. This workout was only 6 ½ minutes (with a 5-minute warm up and 5-minute cool down), but it was significantly harder than the first workout I did. The moves were complex and it was fast paced so it was a bit hard to keep up the first time through. I definitely pushed myself; my heart rate was elevated and I finished out of breath, but because the real work was only six minutes long I think this would be better as an addition to a longer workout than as a standalone.
I began to notice just how much focus was put on reframing your mindset and getting your head in the game — both from the instructors and from Smith’s videos. If you’re someone who responds to feel-good workouts like SoulCycle, this has a similar vibe.
I ended this workout session with the 20-minute yoga class. It was an energetic flow, but also got deep into some stretching and flexibility work. We did pretty standard poses you would find in any Vinyasa class, but there were lots of progressions provided, which made it a challenge for anyone regardless of fitness level. I liked the instructor; he was clearly an experienced yogi, but the way he taught was really accessible and down to earth. He said you can use the class as a warm up, cool down or standalone workout, which I agree with depending on your fitness level and the time you have in your schedule to exercise.
I was surprised that I actually found the yoga to be the hardest class of the day. This may have been because it was the longest stretch of activity without interruptions or breaks, but yoga is also always a challenge for me since I do more HIIT and strength work.
With all three workouts strung together, plus a long walk with my dog around the neighborhood, I did feel like I got a solid workout.
The next day my upper back was sore, which I think was a combination of the pushup challenge and all the plank work in the other two videos. I was feeling unmotivated, so I was actually happy that I had these short and sweet options. I can get through anything for 15 minutes right?
I chose the "Let’s Go Cardio!" workout. Believe it or not the instructor talked about staying committed and consistent even when you feel unmotivated. Had she heard me grumbling as I pressed play?
The workout was upbeat and fun. We ran through 10 exercises total, split into two sets of five, which included complex moves that were cardio and bodyweight strength, like drop squats, mountain climbers, high knees and sprawls. It was a high-impact workout with lots of jumping. By the end, my heart rate was elevated and I had worked up a sweat. For me, this was a really good warm up to another cardio exercise. It helped me shake off my mental and physical sluggishness, and afterwards I hopped on my spin bike and took a class.
The next day, I tried the remaining two videos, starting with the 12-minute upper body. It focused on the back, shoulders, chest and core. The warm up for this video was intense. We didn’t waste any time jumping into four complex moves: shoulder tap plank jacks, up-down planks, inchworm pushups and loaded beast hops. Performing 60 seconds of each move was actually challenging. I was a little nervous about what the rest of the workout would entail, but then realized that the workout itself was only four minutes long. We did a series of pushups where the instructor kept providing more difficult variations. There was a lot of instruction and it was kind of hard to keep up. I would need to do this a few times to really get the most out of the workout because I had to keep stopping to watch what she was doing. Even though this was the shortest workout of the series, it felt the hardest and definitely had the most challenging moves. On days when I have very little time, if any, to exercise this would be a good option to knock out quickly.
The last video in the series isn’t a physical workout, but a mental one. I was happy that it just so happened I saved the hardest workout (in my opinion) and the easiest physically for the same day. "Find Your Center" is a 14-minute meditation and deep-breathing routine. We ran through three different breathing exercises. I liked this form of active meditation, which I find much easier to connect to than still meditations. The instructor also took time to bring awareness to the body throughout and help you notice and release tension. We then ended with one of those seated meditations I dread. It was only a few minutes long and was guided by inspirational mantras. I found myself squirming a bit, but it was the perfect length for people who want to dip their toe in meditation without going for a full-on swim.
What I liked
I loved the diversity in all of the trainers, it is a great mix of body types, races and genders. I also liked the set where the videos are filmed, it has an urban rooftop feel with graffiti and cool neon lighting.
In terms of the workouts themselves, they feel like little taste tests of different modalities. If you’re new to fitness or just getting back into it after some quality time with the couch, this would be a fun way to try out a bunch of different workouts to see what you like.
There is a lot of attention paid to the warm ups and cool downs. While this does take up a significant chunk of time of each video, it’s great for beginners and is a smart way to prevent injuries. As someone who is guilty of not cooling down and stretching as much as I should, it was a good reminder.
There is a lot of emphasis on the mental side of fitness, with encouragement to reframe your mindset around exercise and get your head in the game, but also advice on self-love, resilience and mental strength. Given Smith's recent health journey — with such a strong focus on finally addressing his mental health — it’s very on brand. If you’re someone who has a hard time staying motivated to exercise or needs to work on making yourself a priority and putting your health first, this program is for you.
I would personally piece them all together for one long workout. Or use them to supplement other workouts I am doing — like adding the upper body or core to a spin day, or cooling down with the yoga flow after a boxing class.
What I didn’t like
My biggest disappointment with the StrongWill program is that Smith himself never makes an actual appearance. Yes, you get plenty of him in prerecorded videos, working out in his own gym, but an in-person cameo in at least one of the workouts would have been so great.
There also is a little bit of a disconnect between the workouts you see Smith doing and the ones you are doing in the program. Each workout has a description that mentions the role that it played in Smith’s transformation, but in the workout itself there is never any mention of specific exercises he does. My initial expectation was that it would feel more like working out with Smith, or at the very least, doing some of the exercises that helped him get in shape, but he really is there just to offer some words of encouragement.
If you are a Will Smith fan, it is fun to see videos of him and hear his motivating words, with his signature sense of humor. But if your main focus is fitness and you just want to get a good sweat in, I would say other workouts may better for that. If you’re not a beginner, I would consider these videos as bonus add-ons to other workouts. They were a nice way to warm up before a spin class or to bookend a long walk around the block. While some are harder than others, they are all pretty short in length and really aren’t challenging enough as standalones to get you into great shape.
I am fan of Smith and found it entertaining, but I wouldn’t come back again and again for a killer workout with these particular videos. If you are doing this workout, you likely are already a Fitbit member, so this is just fun bonus content to try, which I do think is a nice offering on the platform. However, the program isn’t robust enough that I would purchase a subscription solely for this.
I would recommend this workout to:
- Beginners or people who are just getting back into exercise.
- Current Fitbit users looking to mix it up with something different.
- Anyone who is motivated by inspirational advice during a workout.
- Those looking for add-ons to other workouts.
- People who need some quick-hits to squeeze into a busy schedule.