There are many fitness and nutrition apps to choose from.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been good for the personal trainer app business. With gyms, rec leagues and other fitness opportunities scuttled by the pandemic, people all over the world are finding new ways to exercise at home.
There are, roughly, 18 gazillion fitness apps — by unofficial estimates, of course — available to download. Some stream workouts of every variety, from low-intensity yoga to high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, and everything in between. Other apps help you track nutrition and daily food intake. But which are the best?
Professional trainers have their favorites. “There are a lot of individual training apps available — full disclosure, I have one — that trainers will use to deliver access to workouts and semi-customize, where a trainer will talk with a client, create the workout and the client does it on their own,” says Nick Clayton, a certified personal trainer and strength and conditioning specialist and owner of Claytonfit.com.
Here are top recommendations from two personal trainers.
MyFitnessPal is a smartphone app and web platform that allows users to track their eating and exercise habits. It counts calories, tracks nutrients, includes workouts that calculate how many calories you are burning and offers both game-style motivations and feedback on your progress.
This is one of the most popular nutrition-tracking apps, and Clayton says it’s “really simple and provides good recommendations. The videos are well done and the workouts are easy to follow, but there isn’t much in terms of how to perform the exercises or how to modify to fit specific needs.”
Still Clayton calls it a “really good one-stop shop with workouts and nutrition tracking.” He personally uses MyFitnessPal for nutrition tracking with his online coaching clients: “They can share their food diary with me, and I can provide feedback through the app.”
MyFitnessPal is free at the basic level, with a premium tier for $9.99 a month or $49.99 a year.
FlexIt offers pay-as-you-go access to gyms and fitness centers across the country. Use the app to search for fitness locations you’d like to visit, then check in with the app when you get there. When you leave, you check out and the app charges you for the time you were there.
It also includes at-home, live personal training. Studio classes are fixed rates by the class, and you can find the rate for each gym in the app. “Rates vary across chains, and within chains, but our goal is to provide our users with the lowest possible rates for every gym,” the company claims on its website.
“FlexIt is the newest best-kept secret for training,” says David Otey, a personal trainer and owner of David Scott Performance Training in West Orange, New Jersey. “FlexIt tapped Ebenezer Samuel, fitness director for Men’s Health, to head up their programming innovation. Anything from strength training to cardio-centric sessions can be found in this diverse platform.”
This app allows you to build a customized exercise program chosen from a variety of workouts, including bodyweight training, weightlifting, cardio or a combination of all three.
Fitbod employs artificial intelligence and machine-learning algorithms to read your workout history and suggest ways to improve your workout plan with different exercises and reps.
Clayton calls FitBod a “great looking app that’s simple to use. It has a number of programs and it’s easy to replace an exercise — let’s say you can’t do it, don’t have the equipment, etc. It does a good job of providing exercise technique instruction as well.”
Prices are $9.99 a month or $59.99 a year, with a 30-day free trial.
The Ladder Teams app lets you participate in workouts led by renowned trainers, such as:
— The functional full-body “J Method” program from former senior Peloton instructor Jennifer Jacobs.
— Lauren Kanski’s and Meghan Hayden’s “Body & Bell” kettlebell-focused strength and cardio training.
— Treigning Day by Reinhard (Reign) Nel.
— Sam Tooley’s “Project Alpha” running speed, strength and endurance workouts.
There are also prenatal and postnatal workouts, flexibility and strength-building classes, HIIT classes and more.
After a free seven-day trial, the membership fee is $59 per month.
This app offers “programming built for anyone to follow, whether starting your first fitness routine or a seasoned veteran to the gym,” Otey says. “You’ll find top-level coaching met with a perfect at-home format.”
Fiit, called “the Netflix of fitness” by some exercise wags, is indeed an on-demand streaming service offering more than 600 recorded fitness classes led by experts. You can watch the classes on any mobile device or TV that has streaming capability.
It includes a wearable tracking device and digitized fitness mat for tracking progress during the workout, and feeds your “stats” on to the screen so you can compete against yourself — or others in group classes — for a better workout.
Fiit comes from Great Britain, and after your free 14-day trial, you can join for the dollar equivalent of 10 pounds a month for 12 months, 15 pounds a month for three months and 20 pounds for monthly membership.
“This is a solid app for a variety of workouts that are instructor-led,” Clayton says. It’s “a good option for clients who are already working out and looking for a convenient way to add workouts at home.”
Silo lets you access trainer-led workouts starting at just $1.39 per workout. You can buy one at a time or an entire week or month of workouts. You can also subscribe to a favorite trainer, get access to all their workouts and receive a notification when a new workout is published. The app also creates a social network where you can ask a favorite trainer for personal training or nutrition advice, and share your workouts with your friends.
“For the money, Silo is one of the best options for people looking to pay as they go. With the option to subscribe to your favorite trainers or buy sessions for as little as $1.39, it’s the bargain option to train with some of the top trainers in the industry,” Otey says.
Nike Training Club
This is one of Clayton’s favorite apps. Free to download for Android and iOS, Nike Training Club offers a basic version with more than 100 yoga, strength, cardio and other workout videos. The premium version gives access to multiweek training programs, streaming workouts, health tips and mindfulness techniques. Until recently the price tag for the premium edition was $14.95 a month, but Nike announced last year that it was giving it away free to help people stay fit during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It provides a variety of group and circuit-style workouts in addition to strength training, Clayton says. “While you can’t build your own workout or switch out exercises, the app does a great job of providing exercise variations, allowing you to somewhat modify the difficulty to match your fitness level and skill,” he says.
The app also has a strength program that Clayton calls “really well done — the workout is solid and instruction is great. Outside of that one strength program, however, most of it is fitness-related,” meaning it’s geared more toward aerobic conditioning and flexibility.
Choosing a fitness app
There are any number of good training apps. Which is the best? “The one that works for you,” Clayton says.
To determine that, he suggests you consider:
— Your goals and what you enjoy. Are you looking to have an app that will track your runs, do you want more circuit-style workouts or are you looking to get stronger? “Answering this question will help you pick the most appropriate option,” Clayton says.
— Your injury history. Where are your aches and pains? “if you have old injuries or achy joints, I’d recommend going to a physical therapist or qualified trainer to teach you what to avoid and how to modify exercises for your specific situation. You’re not likely to find that in any app,” Clayton says.
— Your exercise knowledge and experience. “A lot of the apps do a good job of listing workouts as beginner, intermediate or advanced. Make sure you select the version that fits not only how hard you want to work, but also how much experience you have,” Clayton advises. “For example, a kettlebell swing is an advanced exercise, and it’s fantastic for so many reasons. But, like many exercises, if you don’t have the proper exercise technique it can increase injury risk.” For someone in this position, as an example, he would recommend learning how to perform hip bridges first, then progressing to deadlifts, “and only then start adding in more advanced moves like the swing.”
These are seven top trainer-recommended apps.
— FlexIt Fitness.
— Ladder Teams.
— Nike Training Club.
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