Getting in the best shape of your life doesn’t necessarily mean splashing out on a top-dollar personal trainer. Because as the 21st century saying goes, “There’s an app for that”.
Whatever your fitness goals – big arms, a 5K personal best, abs you can grate cheese on, swapping the Big Macs for something healthier, or even a more scenic cycle route – there really is an app to help you absolutely smash it.
And the technology is better than ever, with apps getting increasingly smart and tailored to customising workouts. The best fitness apps are also multi-functional – instructional guides, workout and dietary planners, hardcore stat crunchers, and scientifically-proven motivation tools all at once. Essential stuff, whether you’re a workout addict and hitting the weights every day, or a time-strapped family man who has to snatch the odd few minutes of exercise in your own home.
But with so many apps to choose from, it’s hard to know where to start. So we’ve done the research for you. Here some of the very best workout and fitness apps available.
Apps For Calorie Counting
All the apps in the world won’t help you out-train a bad diet. That’s why you need one of the world’s top nutrition and calorie counting apps – one of several apps dedicated to various areas of fitness and health from Under Armour (you can try MapMyRide, MapMyRun, and MapMyHike for cycling, running, and, well, hiking).
MyFitnessPal offers a weight and progress management system by tracking your meals. You tap in or scan the barcode of everything (and that means everything) and it subtracts them from your daily total. Exercise adds back onto your total.
It has a database of over 11 million foods, including pretty much all branded food, so you receive instant calorie and nutrition info. And you’ll be surprised at how calorific your current diet is. It’s scientifically proven that diet tracking helps you lose weight by motivating you to balance the numbers by putting in extra effort to exercise or have some self-restraint at the deli counter.
You don’t need a fitness watch to enjoy the benefits of FitBit. Its phone app offers the standard FitBit activity and sleep tracking but the app’s best feature is the one thing that the wearable doesn’t track – your diet.
You can pair with the Aria WiFi smartscale to upload (or manually add) your weight stats and keep tabs on caloric intake by barcode scanning whatever you eat while The Calorie Coach feature tracks calories in versus calories out. But it’s not necessarily about losing weight – the app can also help you work towards maintaining or gaining weight if that’s your goal. You can measure your hydration levels too by tracking water intake before workouts and throughout the day.
Apps For Running And Cycling
Probably the world’s most popular running and cycling app. Strava measures all the usual metrics – elevation, speed, timing, and heartrate, with audio feedback as you go – and also uses a feature called Suffer Score, which measures time, distance, and effort exerted to rate how hardcore your sesh has been.
But more than just an app, Strava is a social network for runners and cyclists. You don’t just track performance and progress, you share it too. Strava ranks your performance in its built-in social community and also a “beacon” feature that allows others to see exactly where you are in real time. And with millions of athletes on its network, it also has the world’s biggest resource of trails and tracks recorded into its database – or you can add your own.
My Virtual Mission
For map routing and general stats, Strava or MapMyRide are your standard choices. But My Virtual Mission gives you something a bit different – a motivational tool that helps you (sort of) meet big cycling goals. So if you’ve ever wanted to cycle from Land’s End to John o’Groats, it will create a map of that exact journey – and checks off the equivalent distance every time you go out for a cycle, until you’ve eventually covered the whole distance of your dream mission. Having a visual representation of your progress – even something as crazy as trying to cycle the entire length of the country – is surprisingly motivating.
Nike Run Club
For a solid running app, who better to trust than the people who’ve kitted out most of the world’s serious runners? This isn’t just an app, it’s a training partner. It sounds like one for pros, but it’s great for beginners too. Included among its features are “guided runs”, with audio coaching and downloadable instructions, designed to improve strength, speed, endurance, and technique – designed for new or out-of-practice runners.
Its “My Coach” feature gives you ongoing training plans to reach certain goals, while other features help you discover new routes, pace better, take on challenges, and record data. It’s also available on Apple Watch and syncs with a number of other smartwatches. Just, er, do it.
Apps For Personal Training
This app is essentially a digital personal trainer for your pocket. It has over 900 workout variations, based on HIIT, bodyweight sessions for building muscle and losing weight. There’s no gym equipment needed, so you can bash out a routine from your own “custom training journey” any place and any time.
The Freeletics approach is designed to push you. Just because there isn’t an actual PT stood behind you and barking orders, don’t expect to be let off easily. It gives you tough challenges (50 burpees in a row, anyone?) and there’s an instructional video for each exercise. It also has a premium coach option which uses an algorithim to create a super-customised plan and crush increasing fitness goals.
For overall health and wellness, this influencer’s favourite promises to put fitness and nutrition experts at your fingertips. You tell the app your wellness goal, measure your fitness level, and record dietary preferences. The app will then give you custom-built daily workouts tailored to your strengths and weaknesses – including muscle-building HIIT and fat-burning exercises – plus balanced and nutritious weekly meal plans based on 800+ recipes for fat loss and carb control. Instead of a tracker, 8fit focuses on instructional guidelines and interactive videos to ensure you’re doing exercises correctly and help you progress.
This app is for busy people who want to squeeze quality workouts around their jam-packed schedules – because we all know it’s easy to let exercise fall by the wayside in day-to-day life. There are hundreds of workouts to choose from, all divided into four categories – strength, cardio, yoga, and stretching. Depending on your schedule, you can create your own custom workout plan – even if you’ve only got five minutes to do a quick office workout when your boss isn’t looking. The app even allows you to speak to a real personal trainer for advice.
Apps For Strength Training
Jefit offers detailed workout programs and progress tracking. But the big sell is its extensive library of exercises, broken down into all the key body areas. Whether you’re working on the chest, forearms, biceps, abs, or calves (or anywhere else that might need pumping up), Jefit has hundreds of live action instructional videos on specific exercises – so no more embarrassing moments asking the gym staff what the hell you’re supposed to be doing with the equipment. It helps create a customised plan and also offers thousands of weekly plans and workout routines put together by experts. And with its progress tracking feature, Jefit puts the emphasis on stat-driven training and analysis.
FitBod is geared towards weight and strength training and promises to leave no muscle group unattended to. It takes various personal factors – such as experience, training style, and available equipment – and creates a workout plan in real time. Between sessions its artificial intelligence learns your strength-training ability and adapts your plan to vary weights and reps/sets to boost your fitness gains and hit your strength, bodybuilding, or muscle tone goals. FitBod is only available on iOS at the moment but will be on Android later this year.
Free on iOS