Kinesiology courses get a lift from alumnus’ fitness app

University of Massachusetts Kinesiology major Regan Bristol and lecturer Judi LaBranche demonstrate the LIFT app

From left: Kinesiology lecturer Judi LaBranche and
undergraduate major Regan Bristol demonstrate the LIFT app

March 21, 2017

By Emily Johnson '17

Emily Johnson is a senior majoring in journalism.

On the edge of campus, the student-run Body Shop Fitness Center opens for business at 7 a.m. at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. A trainer starts a live video training session and plays a high knees exercise tutorial video for a client in California. The student draws a line on the screen to show the client how high their knees should raise. The client’s knees rise accordingly and the exercise is kicked off by a timer on the side of the screen. Albeit miles apart, the two are digitally together for a morning workout. While kinesiology students learn in traditional classrooms in Totman, one of the older buildings on campus, they are also at the vanguard of using modern methods to train clients and manage a gym.

Judi LaBranche is one of the faculty members in UMass Amherst’s Kinesiology Department employing technology – a computer App known as LIFT session. She uses the fitness app developed by UMass Amherst alumnus Chris Blyth ’96 in her Fitness Management and Exercise Testing and Programming courses. Her 100 students in two courses are now exposed to the new method for teaching fitness.

LIFT allows a trainer to work with a client off-site through an iPad or computer. By using live video demonstrations, trainers are challenged to teach through their explanations rather than simply correcting position. For students interested in a career in fitness, the program is an effective teaching tool that takes book-knowledge from UMass’s competitive Kinesiology Department and applies it in a practical way. It is believed no other university has implemented LIFT in its classroom curriculum.

Senior Kinesiology student Regan Bristol, who plans to attend graduate physical therapy school, says LIFT has enhanced her understanding of fitness training, as it has encouraged collaboration among her peers. LaBranche also added that the use of technology has helped students engage more deeply with the material and offers them the skills they will need for careers in the fitness field, which is moving toward including more technology.

LIFT is also beneficial for the client. In using the program, Bristol says she “would be able to do therapeutic exercises with my patients at home if they were unable to go to a facility.” In addition to being an innovative concept, the program “instills motivation in the person doing the workouts,” Bristol added.

LIFT was first developed with clients’ needs in mind. Blyth conceived of the idea for LIFT when he was the general manager of a high-end health club, where Blyth’s trainers would lose clients to summer vacations and holidays. His answer to the problem arrived in the form of a question: “Why can’t we take a fitness DVD and move it into the 21st century?” Blyth found the fitness industry to be archaic in comparison to retail and travel industries, which have much more technological advances. So LIFT was launched as a digital fitness club, providing live one-on-one training and small group training with fitness professionals. For those with gym anxiety, a lack of time, financial concerns, LIFT minimizes the possibility of each of these issues. “Anyone anywhere can have access to top-level coaching live in the comfort of their own home for an incredible value,” said Blyth. LIFT offers a complimentary session to anyone who wants to try (either 1-1 or group training). All one must do is go to, sign up for a group session or request a 1-1 session and show up in front of their laptop.

Blyth was first exposed to the science of exercise in an introductory course at UMass Amherst that led him to an unconventional transition from a degree in history to a career in fitness. A lifelong athlete, Blyth was not aware of the career opportunities in the fitness industry until he began taking courses at UMass. His education allowed him to realize he “could actually go out do something and build a career with my passion.”

The department’s passion for students’ learning is quite apparent. Bristol had known she wanted to study kinesiology, but “this department made me realize how much I love what I do,” she says. Blyth hopes that in implementing LIFT into Kinesiology students’ curriculum, students learn that they can create their own opportunities. He added, “It’s not just going to work in a gym, becoming a coach or trainer. With technology, there is creating businesses and changing the world in different ways.”

LIFT has created a special offer for the UMass Amherst community: 50% off the first month of group training. Simply go to, sign up for the first free session and then if interested in trying it for a month, sign up using promo code: UMASS2017