You’ve tried everything; tempo runs, speedwork, 80/20 training. Still, your 5K time won’t budge. If that sounds familiar, it’s time to pound your plateaued PBs into submission with a dose of strength training — and the below best fitness apps are a great way to get started.
Fitness apps make your first foray into strength training (which studies have found can help improve your running economy and prevent injury) a seamless experience. By providing a plethora of on-demand sessions, live classes and workout plans, they can help you build a mobile and bulletproof body.
Do fitness apps work?
Fitness apps can’t force you to do anything. If you decide to snooze through your morning workout or go off-piste with your food choices, chances are you won’t see the results you want.
However, if you follow the guidance of a top-rated app, it can help you boost your strength and endurance levels by providing a structured programme of challenging workouts to follow. They can also aid body recomposition, with strength sessions helping you build muscle, HIIT classes to improve threshold and burn calories and (in some cases) nutritional advice making sure your macros are well-suited to your activity levels.
It’s important to find a fitness app that matches your goals too. Read our reviews below, to work out which one is right for you.
How we test
Our Runner’s World Expert Tested panel signed up to some of the best fitness apps around to see which provided a comprehensive training resource.
Panellists tried a multitude of workouts on each app, getting to grips with the features on offer, before feeding back on their functionality, design, usability and overall performance.
Testers’ feedback was pooled by our Runner’s World Expert Tested team to decide which apps made our top picks.
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Best fitness app
There are thousands of classes available across 10 types of workout — from strength sessions to meditation, with testers saying the impressive depth of the content library meant it was easy to find a class that suited their fitness levels. Knowledgeable (and unwaveringly enthusiastic) coaches provide handy tips on form and technique during follow-along sessions, and a leaderboard showing other users’ scores is a great motivator for anyone with a competitive streak.
There’s no option to rewind classes, and internally motivated types found some instructors a tad too over-eager, but that was the only negative feedback among testers.
Runner-up fitness app
Beachbody On Demand
Price: £39/three months
When you’re looking to switch-up your fitness regime, it can be hard to know where to start. Beachbody On Demand’s range of structured workout and nutrition plans take the guesswork out of training by offering step-by-step guides to improve your fitness, whatever your goal or ability level.
Testers found there was a great range of workout styles on offer, with each class led by motivational coaches who provided handy tips and tricks to optimise our technique. You can link with your smartwatch too to keep tabs on your health metrics and track your progress.
Best fitness app for newcomers to strength training
With its studio covered in multi-colour lights, buzzing instructors bouncing off the walls and bassy tunes accompanying most workouts, Fiit’s infectious feel-good energy is hard to ignore. And, with a massive workout library made up of functional fitness, restorative yoga, cardio, hiit, barre classes and more, our testers said they couldn’t see themselves getting bored any time soon.
It offers on-demand follow-along workouts and live classes, as well as two, four, six or ten-week plans in which a tailored selection of classes is provided to suit your fitness level and goals — a feature that proved popular with our panel.
Some testers found the loud dance music distracting during workouts, but others thrived off the upbeat soundtrack. So, if you like working out in a lively group environment, this fitness app could be the one for you.
Best fitness app for one-off classes
Don’t let stray dumbbells and kettlebells continue to pick up dust at home. Sweat Factor has workouts that incorporate free weights, as well as plenty of bodyweight-only routines, so you can tailor your session to the resources at your disposal. You can also choose a workout based on its duration, with time-savvy “Quick Blasts” helping you get a sweat on in a minimal window.
The on-demand classes are easy to follow, led by engaging instructors who (impressively) do the workout with you while providing useful cues and information. Testers said they would have liked some sort of difficulty indicator on each workout to help them find a suitable class. But, once they had found their favourite coaches, they kept coming back for more.
Best fitness app for inclusivity
The fitness equivalent of an all-you-can-eat buffet, exhausting the wealth of health resources on Les Mills+ would take a very long time. You can choose to work on strength, core, cardio and more through targeted exercise classes. Or, if you’re feeling more adventurous, try something new, with yoga, mindfulness, dance and even martial arts-based sessions available.
On-screen visuals like timers, exercise prompts and countdowns make each session more engaging and easier to follow along to. Our testers also said the instructors, with their seemingly limitless reserves of energy, provided a boost during tasking classes.
The wide variety of workout types, difficulties and durations makes it easy to find something to slip into your everyday routine, no matter how strapped for time you may be, and we were particularly impressed with the inclusion of post-pregnancy workouts.
Best fitness app for ease of use
Cookies at Freeletics.com
Price: £49.99/three months
If it’s no frills fitness you’re after, you’ve come to the right place. Now, we should preface this by saying that this isn’t a bad thing; testers found Freeletics’ simple, monochrome layout was delightfully simple to use.
Instead of the usual follow-along video format, each exercise is demonstrated with a short, silent looped video. Some found this lacked the personality of a live class or instructor-led session, but others appreciated its clarity and accessibility.
The workout plans (repackaged as “Training Journeys”) are great for tracking your progress too. Each one is rated out of three for “Cardio” and “Muscle”, letting you know the emphasis placed on each facet of fitness, and your results from each workout (such as time taken or reps completed) are recorded so you can see how you’ve progressed.
Best fitness app for yoga
Movement For Modern Life Yoga
Okay, so it’s not strength training, but committing to regular yoga sessions can provide a workout for your mind and body. If you’re new to the practice, or want to brush up on your knowledge, Movement For Modern Life Yoga is the fitness app for you, with more than 1,400 classes to sink your proverbial teeth into.
Testers said the instructors made it easy to get started, and their vocal cues were so on the money that users barely had to glance at the screen to know where to place their limbs. There are both slower-paced and strenuous sessions to choose from too, though more experienced yogis said they would have liked a few flows that challenged them further.
Best fitness app for trying something new
TRX Training Club
TRX Training Club offers something a little bit different. With the help of one of the brand’s suspension trainers (a long strap with handles on each end that can be looped around an anchor point) you can test your strength with a host of dynamic new movements, as well as variations of tried and tested favourites like the push-up and plank.
Our panel found the set-up needed more space than other kit-free apps. But, once everything was in place, testers said the app’s straightforward design was easy to navigate and there was an impressive range of workout styles on show. Trainers showed the versatility of the suspension trainer, incorporating it into strength and yoga sessions among others, and provided demos of any new exercises to make sure our form was spot on.
Best fitness app for challenging workouts
Le Sweat TV
Investing in a personal trainer can be pricey. Le Sweat TV was created by New York-based ace trainer Charlee Atkins to remedy this, aiming to provide elite level coaching at home for little over £100 a year.
The bite-size follow-along videos are a quick and easy way to get your fitness fix, and they cover a good range of fitness goals, from HIIT and strength-building to recovery sessions. Our testers said the workouts were quite intense, suggesting Le Sweat TV was best-suited to those with a decent base-level of fitness. Some also found the warm-ups weren’t long enough to prepare them for exercise, so it might be worth getting limbered up before you hit play.
Best fitness app for women
Tone & Sculpt
Tone & Sculpt sets out with the mission statement of offering an all-in-one guide to fitness and nutrition for women. We found there was a focus on HIIT and free weight workouts, but there are still plenty of yoga, cardio and barre sessions to keep you on your toes.
The workout plans (with options for home and gym-based sessions) are great for holding you accountable over time, and our testers loved having the ability to scale the difficulty of each exercise up or down to suit their ability levels. We also found the calendar was handy for seeing what workouts we had coming up, and changing the day of sessions to fit around our lifestyle couldn’t have been easier.
The meal planner section of the app drew rave reviews from our panel too, providing a huge bank of nutritious recipes and adding the ingredients you’ll need to make them to an in-app shopping list.
Best fitness app for variety
Everyone On Demand
Have you ever been frustrated by the sheer number of TV streaming services nowadays? Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+… the list goes on, and it sometimes seems you need all of them to keep up to date with the latest shows.
Now, while Everyone On Demand can’t solve this TV debacle, it does provide a solution when it comes to fitness apps by gathering a cornucopia of wellness content in one place. For a singular monthly subscription fee, it grants you access to classes from Les Mills, cycling site The Ride by Keiser, personal training app Trion and many more.
Our panel said there was something for everyone, and recommended it for anyone wanting to follow a fresh and varied fitness routine (whether that’s in the home or at the gym). The mass of content can be a tad tricky to navigate at first but, when you’re familiar with it, you’ll quickly find the workouts you want.
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