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Apple AirPods Pro 2nd Generation Wireless Headphones Review

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APPLE’S AIRPODS ARE one of the rare premium gadgets that don’t stick to an annual upgrade cycle.

The tech giant, which pumps out new iPhones and Apple Watches on a yearly schedule, has upgraded its true wireless headphones sparingly. AirPods debuted in 2016, and have only received updates in 2019 (a few tweaks to the hardware and charging case) and 2021 (a full design overhaul). AirPods Pro, the premium option with in-ear tips and noise cancellation, were released in 2019 and have stayed the same for the better part of three years.

Read more: Best Workout Headphones

That changed when the next-gen AirPods Pro were announced at Apple’s fall keynote event earlier this month. The new headphones promise to offer better performance, personalized sound, and more, but the design doesn’t look much different to the untrained eye. Two Men’s Health staffers, Gear and Commerce Editor John Thompson and Fitness Editor Brett Williams, NASM, got a few pairs to test to see how the true wireless headphones have improved—and if the improvements make up for the long wait once they drop this Friday .

Apple AirPods Pro (Second Generation) Quick Stats

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation)

AirPods Pro (2nd Generation)

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation)

Credit: Courtesy of Retailer

●Adaptive Transparency mode that adjusts to outside noise

●Upgraded Active Noise Cancellation feature

●Personalized Spatial Audio

●Up to 6 hour battery estimate (with ANC enabled); up to 30 hour estimate per case charge

●MagSafe charging case (now works with Apple Watch chargers), with lanyard attachment and sweat and water resistance

●Built-in speaker (on the case) for precision finding

●New touch control for volume

●New sizes of in-ear silicone tips for improved fit

John’s take: If you take a look at the second gen AirPods Pro, you’ll quickly realize there’s not much difference in design when compared to the previous version. This same styling was maintained on purpose, as Apple believes changing the look and feel of such an iconic earbud would be counterproductive. I agree; now that people are used to seeing those around them walking around with stems hanging out of their ears, it makes sense to keep leaning into the aesthetic.

Instead, Apple’s team redesigned the entire makeup of the tech inside the AirPods Pro. The sharper, more fuller sound is in part thanks to Apple’s new H2 chip, which works in tandem with a custom driver and amplifier to produce the sound with less distortion. The chip’s processing power also enables the Adaptive Transparency mode, a much better level of noise cancellation than the previous gen, and a premium audio quality thanks to a Personalized Spacial Audio—taking advantage of the the iPhone’s TrueDepth front-facing camera to map out your ears, à la FaceID—which customizes sound to your ears to create a tailor-made listening experience.

Read more: Best Running Headphones

I wore my AirPods Pro for everyday use (think commuting, on walks, at home) and to the gym. The two features that stood out the most were the new Touch Control and Adaptive Transparency Mode noise cancellation.



I found the Touch Control feature most useful while working out. Apple says you can lightly swipe at the stem to control the volume, but I found gently tapping in an up or down direction to be better for me (like the previous gen, squeezing and holding the stem switches between Active Noise Cancellation and Adaptive Transparency modes ). It takes a second to get used to incrementally raising the volume, but the logic makes much more sense as opposed to a more fluid volume feature, which could result in you unintentionally maxing out the volume and blasting out your ears without meaning to go so high ). The other (lesser) positive to the Touch Control are the style points since gently swiping on your ear cues to those around that you, in fact, are wearing the newest generation.

The Adaptive Transparency Mode is unreal. I found it most useful when commuting or walking around my neighborhood. This is because earbuds will automatically dampen any loud or harsh noises, so ambulance sirens and loud music coming from cars or retail shops gets brought down to a level that your ears (and brain) will gladly appreciate.

Read more: Best Wireless Earbuds

All-in-all the, the second generation AirPods Pro are a significant upgrade to the first gen. The sound is certainly superior, with noticeably deeper bass when listening to genres like hip-hop and crisper instruments when listening to rock. The battery life is also on par with what Apple claims, and I found that I needed a charge less often than what I was used to with my older gen one pair. So if you’re looking for the latest and greatest of earbud tech, then look no further. If you loved your first pair of AirPods Pro, you’ll definitely want to give these a try.

Brett’s take: Thankfully, John handled the real nitty gritty parts of the wear test. While I also used the new second gen AirPods as my everyday earphone wear in the gym, on commutes, and everywhere in between (verdict: awesome, like he said), I also tested some of the other features that required me to step outside my typical routine.

I took a flight soon after I got the new AirPods Pro, so I got to put the Active Noise Cancellation and Adaptive Transparency modes to the test right away. Once the plane took off, I popped the headphones in and turned on the ANC feature. The droning hum of the plane’s engines totally faded to the background, and all I could hear was my go to sleep on a plane playlist, essentially all soft indie tracks by Sufjan Stevens. Once I closed my eyes, I felt as if I were sealed off into my own space with the quiet, subtle tunes. At one point, I could feel my seat mates shifting around; it was time for a complimentary drink. I popped into Transparency mode. Right away, I was struck by how loud the engines were—but then I was able to hear exactly what the flight attendant was asking me, earphones in and all. I got my ginger ale and went back to the music.

Read more: Best Wireless Headphones

I was able to try out a more extreme test a few days later. I had tickets to see one of my favorite bands, My Chemical Romance, on their long-awaited reunion tour. This was the perfect opportunity to test the Adaptive Transparency mode’s ability to dampen dangerously loud noise. Think of this as a much smarter (and more expensive) ear plug, which some concert attendees swear by to protect their hearing at shows. I popped my AirPods into my ears during the opener’s set, and when I cued up the Noise app on my Apple Watch, I could see exactly how effective the AirPods were at reducing the sound level.

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That’s a 10 decibel swing, and it keeps me out of the danger zone. I didn’t catch other moments on video, but the range was even higher at times. I could still hear Thursday playing “War All the Time” just about as clearly as when I didn’t have the AirPods in (which wasn’t all that great, but more because Brooklyn’s Barclays Center is a bad venue for a rock show, and I was in the nosebleeds). I didn’t put the earbuds in for the headliner, however. I wanted the full experience.

In all other use cases, the AirPods Pro performed as well as could be expected. I took them on a 16-mile run through Brooklyn and Manhattan and had no issues with fit or hearing my audiobook narration, even as I weaved around pedestrians and traffic and switched between ANC and Active Transparency Mode, depending on my surroundings. Yes, I listen to books when I work out. I’m a weirdo.



While I’ve enjoyed using other true wireless earbuds, like the Google Pixel Buds A-Series and Jaybird Vista line, my experience with AirPods has been better. One Pixel bud stopped working after only a few months of use, and the Vista, while sturdy for workouts, start to feel uncomfortable for long wears outside the gym. There are other options out there, too, but at the end of the day, I use an iPhone, and AirPods connect seamlessly to the phone. That’s the Apple advantage.

If you’re on the fence about the new AirPods Pro, consider your use case. If you live in a city and commute using public transit, I would highly recommend them for the ANC alone. If you have the first gen model, you’d be missing out on some performance points, but overall the experience (minus the new volume controls) is similar, so an immediate upgrade to the second gen shouldn’t feel urgent. That said, your buds might be getting a little long in the tooth. In that case, your money would be well spent on an upgrade for the enhanced battery power.

If you don’t often find yourself in noisy public spaces, the Pros aren’t totally necessary. I actually prefer to use the standard third-gen AirPods when I’m kicking around in my apartment, since I’m able to give my inner ears a break from the silicone tips. But make no mistake: the Pros are the cream of the AirPods crop. They’re the best model available—so if you want the best, that’s what you should get.


Brett Williams, a fitness editor at Men’s Health, is a NASM-CPT certified trainer and former pro football player and tech reporter who splits his workout time between strength and conditioning training, martial arts, and running. You can find his work elsewhere at Mashable, Thrillist, and other outlets.

John Thompson is the Gear and Commerce Editor at Men’s Health, where he covers fashion, grooming, gear, and technology. He was previously the Style & Gear Editor at, and a commerce writer for His interests include shopping for rare vintage clothes and following his favorite baseball team, the Kansas City Royals.

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Men’s Health

The Most American Flex Is a Fitness Fad

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As exercise equipment maker Peloton Interactive Inc. struggles to reinvent itself, investors must decide whether it’s worth giving the fallen Wall Street star a second chance. Let history be their guide.

Not just the company’s history. Modern humans’ relationship with physical fitness provides a cautionary tale for future investors in the next big exercise craze — and rest assured, there will be another.

Why do Americans go to such extravagant lengths to stay in shape? The rise of the so-called physical culture movement in the late 1800s, along with its close cousin, “Muscular Christianity,” marked a newfound obsession with fitness in Western nations, particularly the United States.

These movements grew out of a strange amalgam of pseudoscience, theology and anxiety about the future of native-born Whites in late 1800s. Enormous numbers of immigrants were flooding into the US and many of these Whites expressed unease that “Anglo-Saxons,” as they referred to themselves, had become “overcivilized” and soft.

Thus native-born Whites increasingly embraced team sports, outdoor activities and mandatory physical education in public schools. Private groups like the Young Men’s Christian Association, or YMCA, also promoted exercise, opening a network of gyms that mixed religion and fitness.

Still, most Americans had little interest in gyms and regimented exercise. After all, they had limited leisure time in those days and got plenty of exercise in their everyday life by walking or doing manual labor.

Moreover, some figures in the physical culture movement seemed, well, weird. Consider Bernard McFadden, a sickly child who renamed himself Bernarr because it evoked the roar of a lion. He made a fortune promoting a regimen of weight-lifting, calisthenics, restrictive diets and brisk walks. He also published a magazine called Physical Culture that became the unofficial voice of the movement. “Weakness Is a Crime,” it declared to would-be readers. “Are you a criminal?”

The eccentric bodybuilder, who courted controversy by promoting exercise for both men and women, was eventually overshadowed by another fanatic with an exclusively male clientele: the Italian immigrant Angelo Siciliano, better known as Charles Atlas. Both men gained fame and fortune hawking their programs, but they would soon be eclipsed by developments in the post-World War II era, when fitness became an abiding obsession of the White middle class.

The new ethos owed much to the suburban ideal of the 1950s. Initially, everything about the suburbs worked against fitness, from the growing dependence on the automobile, the use of buses to shuttle children to centralized schools and the advent of television. Even the single-story ranch houses that defined the era put an end to the exercise provided by going up and down stairs.

In her insightful account of this shift, historian Shelly McKenzie argues that much of the ensuing debate over fitness was framed by a new problem confronting the White middle class: “How could they enjoy the fruits of post-war affluence while also managing their bodies for optimal health?” The solution, McKenzie observed, was “the invention of exercise.”

The movement arguably began with a report by the US National Institutes of Health in 1952 that called attention to obesity as a serious health problem. A year later, a widely read study found an alarming gap between the levels of fitness in American and European children, with 56% of American children failing a standard set of tests versus only 8% of European kids.

The reason, the author concluded, was simple: European children walked a lot, climbed stairs instead of taking the elevator and spent much of their free time playing outside; Americans did not.

This article eventually came to the attention of Dwight Eisenhower, who responded by forming the President’s Council on Youth Fitness. Its leaders, working with advertising executives and other corporate allies, orchestrated an effective public relations campaign that yoked physical fitness to the imperatives of the Cold War, arguing that American boys and men had to get into fighting shape if they were to defeat the Soviets.

But the campaign targeted girls and mothers as well. One spokesman for the program declared that it not only aimed to produce “healthful, vital, masculine men,” but also “active, healthful, vital, feminine women who can mother a vigorous generation.”

All of this marked a sea change in how many Americans viewed exercise and fitness. What had formerly been a subculture associated with eccentric impresarios like Bernarr MacFadden and Charles Atlas was quickly becoming a mainstream preoccupation.

It was also becoming a big business. One of the first to see the potential was the fitness fanatic Jack LaLanne, who opened his first gym in the 1930s. In the 1950s, LaLanne launched several televised programs in which he would perform exercises — he dubbed them “trimnastics” — with the audience following along.

LaLanne, who wore a form-fitting jumpsuit to show off his sculpted body, worked on a set that resembled a suburban living room, much like those occupied by his overwhelmingly suburban, female audience. He preached the virtues of exercise for maintaining “zest” in the “marital bed.” Long before the “Peloton wife” ad stirred controversy, LaLanne’s exhortations openly connected a woman’s physical condition to her sex appeal.

The 1950s also marked the moment when commercial gyms entered the mainstream. A new generation of entrepreneurs like Vic Tanny opened gleaming temples filled with the latest exercise equipment. Tanny, who believed that “good health can be merchandized just like automobiles,” counted half a million men and women as members by decade’s end.

Other fitness chains sought to overturn the age-old adage, “no pain, no gain.” High-end salons like Slenderella, which counted three million clients in 1956, promised women that their machines, which used vibrations or rollers, held out the promise of what McKenzie, the author and historian, has called “effortless exercise.”

A paradox defined these developments. The ease of suburban life left Americans out of shape. But if modern consumer society caused the problem, it could also solve it. For a price, Americans could buy fitness via gyms, exercise programs and other pursuits.

Some of these began modestly. The jogging craze, which required a relatively minimal investment, quickly grew into an entire industry worth half a billion dollars by the end of the 1970s. Other fitness fads, like the workout program founded by Jane Fonda, wedded celebrity culture to new videotape technology to build a mass following.

The fitness business, which encompassed everything from books, tapes, equipment, apparel and gym memberships, kept growing through the 1970s and beyond. Everything from Jazzercise to Nautilus weight-training machines to Pilates gained a following in subsequent years.

In 2022, the fitness business is bigger than it has ever been. In the US, gyms and fitness clubs generate annual revenue of nearly $40 billion; home fitness equipment makers generate nearly $5 billion more.

Set against this backdrop, Peloton is nothing more than the latest entry in a decades-long quest of affluent Americans to stay fit, no matter the price.

More From Other Writers at Bloomberg Opinion:

Peloton’s New Strategy Spins All Over the Place: Andrea Felsted

Peloton’s Real Rival Is Doing Laps of Central Park: Tim Culpan

Will New York’s Fitness Scene Stay Home?: Tara Lachapelle

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Stephen Mihm, a professor of history at the University of Georgia, is coauthor of “Crisis Economics: A Crash Course in the Future of Finance.”

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Men’s Health

The MGTOW Movement Explained

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The MGTOW Movement Explained

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Men’s Health

3 Heavy Barbell Back Squat Alternative Exercises for Workouts

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We’ll never say barbell back squats are a terrible exercise—especially since some will argue, convincingly, that the movement is the king of all exercises. But for the average gymgoer wants, this heavyweight staple might not be the best move for their training and needs.

It may sound like leg-day lunacy to even question whether we should be squatting, especially considering the multitude of benefits—from building strength and power, burning fat, improving both core strength and posture to name a few. But unless you’re a pro athlete or a powerlifter whose sole pursuit in the weight room is to lift as heavy as possible (specifically in the back squat!), there may not be as much need for you to rely on the back squat as the backbone of your leg day.

You might even be putting yourself at a disadvantage, especially if your physiology isn’t ideal for the movement, or your goals don’t align with exactly what the back squat will do. According to Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, CSCS, and Mathew Forzaglia, NFPT, CPT, founder of Forzag Fitness, there are plenty of effective lower-body exercise options that can provide the same benefits and possibly even do more for you to increase your leg day gains.

“There’s a very, very good chance that for all your leg goals, whether you’re trying to get more athletic, whether you’re trying to get stronger, whether you just want to burn some calories and just want to move a little bit that there are a bunch of exercises aside from the back squats that will be safer than the back squat and still get you all your goals,” Samuel says.

Why Back Squats Might Not Work for You

You Don’t Need to Back Squat if Athletics Isn’t Your Goal

Sorry to break the news to you, but unless it’s your goal to squat religiously like a powerlifter or you’re a top-level professional or amateur athlete who’s training for a particular sport or activity, the back squat don’t necessarily have to be your go to leg exercise. They do it because it’s part of their job or goals. You on the other hand, can benefit from any other variation without having to get too tied down to squat mechanics.

“Very specific athletes learn the back squat because the back squat itself is a combination of two ideas,” Samuel says. “We have the idea of ​​a squat where we’re driving down, but we also have the idea of ​​a hinge where we’re pushing our butt back slightly and you have to understand completely both of those mechanics before you even think about jumping into the back squat that takes time that is not something you do on your first personal training session.”

Back Squats Might Drag Down the Rest of Your Workout

Back squats are hard. Beginning from the setup and holding the bar on your back can be challenging, especially if you have shoulder mobility issues. Stacking a pile of 45s on your back will not only accelerate the discomfort of your shoulders; the stress will target your lower back as well.

“It opens a window for us to shift as we go down into the squat. And when that happens, we start to overload that lower back and it’s not really needed,” Forzaglia says.

Back Squats Are Limited for Athleticism

You may see NFL athletes loading crazy weight to the squat bar for a few reps, but besides these feats meant to test their max strength, their workouts aren’t strictly dictated by back squats. What you won’t see on social media are the specific leg and core movements that promote athleticism—they’re not as visually appealing as a 500-pound squat, but equally as necessary. That’s why when it comes to athleticism, you need more than just back squats for your training.

Try these 3 back squat alternatives

● Goblet Squat

3 to 4 sets of 8 to 10 reps

Holding a dumbbell or kettlebell in front of you forces you to work from a more upright position while also focusing on keeping your core nice and tight. That makes this variation more spine-friendly than loading a bar with heavy weights on your back. At the same time, you’re also able to blast your legs like a heavy back squat day.

Safety bar squat

3 to 4 sets of 5 to 8 reps

This specialty bar, which provides handles to help manage the load, eliminates the potential discomfort you may get from the back squat. The safety bar squat gives you more freedom to move your shoulders while still forcing you to create tons of core tension. And like the back squat, you can pile on the weight without the shoulder stress.

Rear foot elevated split squat

3 to 4 sets of 8 to 10 reps

You might know this move as the Bulgarian split squat. This single-leg exercise is extremely useful for helping to eliminate muscle imbalances. And although a pro career might not be in your future, rear foot elevated split squats can certainly help to improve your everyday athleticism and functional fitness. You can even go heavy with this move as well.

Jeff Tomko is a freelance fitness writer who has written for Muscle and Fitness, Men’s Fitness, and Men’s Health.

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