You want to get in great shape, but maybe you can’t always make it to the gym, or say a personal trainer just isn’t in your budget. What if your smartphone could help you reach your fitness goals? With the help of certified personal trainer Corey Galusha, we put three apps that turn your smartphone into a virtual trainer to the test.
Nike Training Club
Bottom line: Great app for building cardiovascular endurance, completing cardio and strength training in one workout, and just plain getting sweaty and burning calories. It was one also of the Huffington Post’s Best Fitness Apps of 2012.
Nike Training Club features over 90 comprehensive and custom-built workouts, and it’s totally free. Select your goal (Get Lean, Get Toned, Get Strong, or Get Focused), and your fitness level (beginner, intermediate, advanced), then the app creates several 30-45-minute full-length workout options.
The graphics are excellent. Once you pick a workout, the app displays HD photos of each exercise, then simply swipe through photos with step-by-step instructions or click to see a video.
The timed, drill-based workouts utilize circuit training, meaning you move quickly from one exercise to the next. This is a great way to burn more calories in less time, perfect for anyone with a busy schedule. And let’s be honest, that’s just about everyone.
Play music from your playlist in the background, and audio cues remind you about your form and alert you to move to the next exercise. You can also unlock professional athlete designed “bonus workouts,” meaning you get to sweat it out with a Hope Solo- or Maria Sharapova-approved workout!
Since photos and videos feature only females, some might conclude Nike Training Club is designed specifically for women. Think again - this app creates some tough workouts with exercises both men and women will enjoy.
Trainer Corey Galusha agrees. “Once guys start doing it and they start breaking a sweat and realizing what a great workout it is, they’ll realize it’s not just for women,” he said.
Nike Training Club is free. It’s available for the iPhone in the iTunes Store and Android from Google Play.
Bottom line: GAINFitness is one of Galusha’s favorite apps and comes the closest to his style of training. If you want to build muscle and you enjoy metrics and customization options, this is the app for you.
After struggling to stay in shape due to intense and irregular work hours at Google, former college football player and current GAINFitness CEO Nick Gammel created the GAINFitness app. The app is new to the scene, and Gammel’s mission is to rid the world of exercise excuses with highly customizable workouts built for each user’s specific needs.
Start with your goal (health, fat loss, muscle gain), location (home or the gym), duration, session type (full body, upper body, lower body, abs) and muscle focus. Pick the equipment you have to work with, like a chair, study table, dumbbells or resistance bands, and GAINFitness uses a proprietary algorithm to design your workout.
GAIN’s endless combinations and huge variety of workouts based on your preferences ensure you will never get bored. The app offers numerous free workouts, but in app purchase “Packs” feature fun options like basketball training, yoga or circus strength.
GAIN records actual trainers’ voices for the audio cues, resulting in an experience that gets you as close to a personal trainer as possible. Follow along with animated HD photos and videos as a trainers voice explains each exercise, counts down reps and even encourages you throughout the workout.
This techno workout also includes a customizable workout calendar that counts your “workout streak” and sends push notifications if you miss a scheduled workout. This feels a lot like something an actual trainer would do. The app even keeps track your performance history and calories burned.
GAINFitness is free and available for the iPhone in the iTunes Store. In-app purchases range from $3 up to $30. Unfortunately GAIN is not yet available for the Android platform.
Bottom Line: If you want to build muscle and enjoy strength workouts, you are going to love Fitness Buddy. Gizmodo called it “one of the best apps ever,” while Lifehacker gave the app high ratings as “a comprehensive exercise planner.”
For only 99 cents, Fitness Buddy features over 1,700 exercises, over 1,000 HD photos and videos, an exercise by muscles feature, a muscles map and over 45 full-length workouts. The paid version also allows you to listen to music while you workout.
There is a free version as well with 300 exercises and dozens of full-length workouts giving users an opportunity to try before they buy.
It’s one of the only apps, especially in this price range, with workouts utilizing gym equipment like cable machines and barbells, kettlebells and resistance bands. Plus, you can choose from sports conditioning workouts like baseball, hockey and tennis, or create you own workout using the library of exercises.
Fitness Buddy breaks down each exercise with a series of photos (HD and retina display resolution) and very good instructions, making it great for strength training exercises. It’s not going to get your heart rate up with cardio, but you will build muscle with workouts like the “Ripped Back Program”. It’s an excellent app for strength training, especially if you want to build a program to take to the gym.
Input your body weight, reps and the weight you used for each exercise, and the app allows you to track and graph your progress. There is even an option for keeping track of your blood pressure.
Fitness Buddy offers both a 99-cent and free versions. Both are available for the iPhone in the iTunes Store and Android from Google Play.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when picking a virtual training app:
- Exercise photos and videos: Look for an app with quality images that depict the entire exercise from start to finish. Make sure you can see each exercise’s full range of motion, and videos of the exercises are even better.
- Music option: I’m one of those people who need music in order to workout, so I recommend an app that allows you to listen to your playlist in the background.
- Audio cues: Audio cues that count your reps and alert you to change exercises are also great. If you like to keep your phone on an armband these audio cues are key.
- Program options: Make sure the app offers a variety of different workouts to keep your mind and body guessing, plus workouts for different fitness levels. That way you’ll continue to see results and do more workouts!