The Best Workout Apps: Sweatin’ to the Smartphone
Smartphone, Gym Phone
You use it for messaging, checking emails, updating your Facebook status, and posting all sorts of photos to Instagram, but your smartphone can be so much more than a passive social media device.
It’s actually a highly effective workout companion!
There are all sorts of apps out there to help you run better, ride better, lift better, and improve your overall fitness, workouts and training levels.
The best part of using your smartphone as a workout device? You’ve already paid for it, and many of the apps are either free or available for just a few quid!
Those prices definitely beat gym memberships, paying a personal trainer, or even buying workout DVDs (does anyone do that anymore?).
You’ve got a lot of choices when it comes to workout apps, and here are the ones we like best.
Running and Cardio Workout Apps
Whether you’re going for a jog or exercising at home, you’ve probably got your smartphone with you. Outside the house, it’s your music player, and inside the house, it’s typically within arm’s reach.
Installing one or more of these apps will turn your phone into a route tracking, heart accelerating workout machine.
1. iSmoothRun Pro
This running app offers some really fantastic features. Of course it tracks distance, time, splits, and elevation, among other things, but you can exercise based on goals for almost all of those metrics.
An interval editor lets you customise your warm ups, sprints, coasts, and cool downs, and a run/walk feature lets you set up a session where audio cues tell you when it’s time to run and time to walk.
If you want to run according to strides per minute, there’s a metronome, and if you want to beat personal bests, you can use the ghost run feature.
You can even keep track of which shoes you’re wearing (or which bike you’re riding) so you know how many miles you’ve got on them and when they’ll need to be replaced. An auto pause feature stops your tracking when you stop running, then picks up again when you do.
The iSmoothRun Pro app works with your iTunes playlists. Plus, you can export your run info and all sorts of other data (like weather and how you feel) to just about any social media outlet and most workout apps.
It’s an incredibly sophisticated app for just £4. The non-Pro free version is obviously limited, but it’s good to test before shelling out four quid for the full version.
It’s an incredibly sophisticated app for just £4.
Runtastic is extremely popular, and for good reason. Not only is the running app one of over a dozen Runtastic health and fitness apps, but it’s perfect for the average runner who’s more interested in staying fit than competing online with every Facebook friend and in person at every 10k.
If you run a few times each week and are fairly casual about it, this is a great app to have.
Runtastic lets you know your time and distance as it charts your overall performance for each run (or walk — it tracks that too). The graphics are clear and easy to read, so you don’t need a degree in advanced maths to figure out what’s going on.
The standard version is free and is available for both iOS and Android. If you’re interested in more sophisticated features, the Pro version costs £3.30 and has an audio coach, routes, heart rate monitoring, interval training, and a handful of other premium extras.
There are a few big selling points on this (ironically) free app. First, it’s fantastic for running, but really, it’s great for any activity. Cycling, skiing, kite surfing, workouts — really, any activity. Next, it’s full of fun features, like challenges to compete with friends and routes you can save for future workouts.
Finally, what sets Endomondo apart from other running and workout apps is its compatibility with many other devices and apps.
It plays well with Pebble, Garmin, the new Apple Watch, My Fitness Pal, and many more. It’s available for iOS and Android, and again, it’s free. Or, a premium subscriptions will run you a few pounds per month, and you’ll get access to things like training plans, statistics, heart rate monitoring (with a compatible monitor), and many more, all with no ads.
high compatibility with many other devices and apps.
What sets RunKeeper apart from the other running apps out there is its focus on goal setting and breaking your own records. It really pushes you to improve, as it shows you how each individual workout falls as compared to others you’ve done.
Helpful charts show you how your fitness ebbs and flows, and you can join challenges to really push yourself.
Yes, there’s a social component, but the main focus is on you. The regular version of the app is free for both iOS and Android, but there’s also an Elite version.
It runs £6.60 per month or £26.40 per year, and offers routes, premium training plans, additional visualisations, and more.
5. Strava Run
The best part of Strava is its accuracy, especially on iOS devices. If you’ve ever used a running app and been a bit disappointed at your sluggishness of your phone’s GPS, give Strava a try. It uses the iPhone’s motion coprocessor for precision, which really helps with distance tracking.
You can also use Strava in conjunction with a heart rate monitor and foot pod for full heart and cadence data; it’s awesome for zone training and improving your form. The community facet of the app is helpful for checkout out routes that others have used, as well as for challenging other runners to go further and farther.
Strava also tracks cycling, and the standard version of the app is free. For access to things like a personal heat map, a power analysis, training videos, and more, you can sign up for a premium membership. It costs £4 per month or £40 per year.
challenge other runners to go further and farther.
6. Johnson & Johnson Official 7 Minute Workout
We all have our excuses for not working out. Maybe you have no time, maybe you have no equipment, or maybe you can’t afford a gym membership. To all of those excuses, we say this: no worries! The Johnson & Johnson Official 7 Minute Workout app takes (wait for it) just seven minutes, and all you need is yourself and a chair.
There’s been a lot of buzz about the benefits of the seven minute workout in health magazines and on TV shows, and this free app lets you try it out for yourself. It’s a series of aerobic and resistance exercises, all done in quick succession and all designed by health and fitness experts. The focus muscle group changes with each exercise, you’ll never overwork any one part of your body repeatedly.
The app includes 36 different exercises for different fitness levels, and there are some helpful customisation features so you’re never stuck doing the same workout over and over. It’s a free download for both iOS and Android. Banish your excuses and give it a try.
7. Fitstar Personal Trainer and Yoga Apps
These two Fitstar apps are each like a personal trainer to help you get a workout in anywhere you are. The exercises are designed and approved by fitness experts, and routines can be customised to your fitness level. Choose the exercises you want to do, choose how much time you’ve got, and this workout app handles the rest.
The Personal Trainer app gives you a workout that never has to be the same twice, and the routines grow with you; as you do more, the intensity levels get bumped up. Just answer a few questions after each session, and the app will make sure you’re challenged next time.
If you’re more into yoga, Fitstar’s yoga app works in much the same way. You can string together the poses you want to do and create your own routine. Routines evolve to include more difficult poses as you master easier ones. You can also mix up sequences.
The social components of these two apps, can help to keep you interested and motivated. They’re an awesome workout option for people on the go, people with limited time, or for people who want to exercise in the comfort of home and without any expensive equipment.
It’s free and for iOS only, though an Android version may be in the works. If you want even more content, there are in-app purchases available.
the routines grow with you; as you do more, the intensity levels get bumped up.
8. Nike+ Training Club
With everything that the Nike+ Training Club Workout app can do, it’s amazing that it’s free. Here’s how it works. You indicate whether you want to get lean, strong, toned or focused. Then, you tell it how much time you have to devote to training.
Finally, you put in your fitness level: beginner, intermediate, or advanced. Based on this, the app prescribes a strategy for you to meet your goal.
The workouts it contains are designed by Nike master trainers, and since Nike is an internationally recognised fitness brand, you can feel confident that the exercise plans (over 100 of them) will be effective. There’s a nice social component as well. It’s available for both iOS and Android, and again, it’s free! What have you got to lose, besides some extra weight?
Strength training is a great workout, but only if you’re doing it right. These two apps can help you learn proper forms and get you working on your targeted areas with efficiency and precision. They can also take the place of those worn out workout charts you carry around the weight room to log your reps.
This app-based personal trainer has over 1300 gym weight exercises programmed in, all divided by body part so they’re easy to find.
It keeps full logs of your reps, and it has a timer to let you know how fast you’re going. It also helps you customise days and keep track of them so you don’t accidentally do leg day two days a in a row.
JEFIT gives you charts and graphs to see visuals of your progress and help you set realistic goals. It also automatically backs up your data to your computer, allowing you to access your information any time; even if your phone gets lost, you’ll still have all of your data and logs.
There’s a community for motivation, if that helps you. It’s for Android and iOS, and it comes in several tiers of usefulness: a free basic workout app, a Pro workout app for £3.30, and an Elite membership for £3.30 per month or £26.40 per year.
There’s a community for motivation.
10. Fitness Buddy
Another personal trainer in app form, Fitness Buddy is perfect for anyone who lifts. It’s good for free weights or machines, and also for kettlebells and exercises that don’t require any special equipment, like sit ups and push ups.
There’s detailed information for over 1700 exercises, including over 100 videos so you can make sure you’re doing everything properly. If you’re looking for a specific routine, there are over 75 included, all based on your goal and the equipment you have access to.
Fitness Buddy offers progress tracking as well. It’s a full and useful app that isn’t overwhelming, and it costs just £1.
Apps that Make Workouts a Game
Everything’s a game to some people. For them, running’s OK, but it’s a lot more fun (and, frankly, more motivating) to turn it into a joke and pretend the stakes are a lot higher than they really are.
If you’re one of those people, check out one of these apps.
11. Zombies, Run!
Escape a zombie attack! Rescue survivors before the zombies get them! Get the supplies everyone needs! Be a hero! OK, not really, but the audio cues on this workout game push you to run faster, farther, and with more intensity.
Whatever it takes, right?
For the £2.60 download price, you get over 150 zombie-related missions, all of which will get you moving and get you fit. These include interval training sessions and all sorts of scenarios to keep you interested. Plus, you can listen to your own music. If you need to be entertained while you run, Zombies, Run! is a ton of fun.
This free little app for iOS and Android is easy to use, though you’ll need a good imagination to play along. Basically, you pick a virtual adventure, invite friends to come along, and get started.
Each adventure takes just a few minutes. They can all be done anywhere, as long as you’ve got your smartphone with you, and beginners are more than welcome. You just follow along with the directions as you pretend to climb Mount Everest or explore the Amazon, and by the time you’re done, you’ll have gotten a workout in.
Teemo lets you track your own fitness improvement as well as the progress of your friends. It’s a bit goofy, but it’s fun, and it really does encourage you to get active during the day.
13. 7 Minute Superhero Workout
This one is a lot like the seven minute workout app described above, except here, you’re in training as a hero pilot to save Earth from alien invasion. There are over 20 workouts — err, missions — to keep things interesting.
What’s most cool about the Superhero Workout is that it uses your phone’s camera as a sensor to count reps and confirm that you’re actually working toward superhero status. And, if you’ve got Apple TV or a Chromecast, you can port the animation from your phone to your big screen.
The app charts your progress and lets you know when you’ve earned the right to be called a hero. It’s available for iOS and Android, and costs just £2.
There are over 20 workouts — err, missions — to keep things interesting.
How Will You Exercise Today?
Whether you’re going for a run, riding your bicycle, pumping iron, or wanting to pretend you’re back in grade school PE, there’s no need to spend big money on a fitness tracker or fancy sports watch.
Your smartphone can be the only tool you need to exercise. It’s got built in GPS for tracking, other sensors to keep tabs on your activity, and your playlists are already on it.
The best part of these workout apps is that you don’t need to spend lots of money to get a quality workout. Many are free, and the rest are just a few pounds each. There’s no equipment needed, and in many cases, you don’t even need to leave your home.
Download one or more today, and get moving! It’s time for a workout.