In 2017, a reported 197 billion apps were downloaded.
With that kind of reach, it’s hardly surprising that there is an app for everything you can think of.
From “Cuddlr”, an app which helps you find people in your local area to cuddle – kind of creepy, to “Demotivational Pics”, which shows you just how bad things could be.
But we’re not here to talk cuddles or curious pics.
Today we’re talking phone apps to help you get (or stay) fit and strong all day long. These are my top 3 picks to download today.
I’ll also be throwing in some useful (I think) top tips along the way to help you maximise your fitness from your phone. Who says phones are all bad.
App #1 – Couch to 5K
• Best for: Beginners
• Useful for: Those new to running or who haven’t exercised in a long time
• Result: Will improve your fitness and build confidence to exercise for longer
• Cost: Free
A lot of people would like to run but just don’t get around to it. The thought of running can seem a little overwhelming if you’re not used to it. With Couch to 5K, your next run is never more than 1 tap away.
Built by the team at BBC Inspired, this app gives you a choice of 4 celebrities to coach you from (yes, you guessed it) your couch to running 5km without stopping.
Aimed at beginners, this really makes running easier for those new to it or those who would like to get their fitness back.
The instructions are simple, easy to understand and start off relatively easy. You’ll be doing a mixture of walking and running. The aim being to build up to 30 minutes constant running (approximately 5km) within 9 weeks, doing just 3 sessions per week.
You’ll be coached through each step of the journey by your virtual celebrity coach. You can listen to your own music and their voice will tell you when it’s time to run, rest and walk.
Top Tip: Sign up to a Park Run in your local area (it’s free) for a date in 10 weeks time. This will give you a deadline to work towards with your running. Without that deadline, it’s easy to skip sessions.
Personal Trainer’s Opinion
I really like this app because it makes running more accessible and game like. You check each run off as you do it, building your way up to 30 minutes.
The gradual increase from walking to more running makes it ideal for new runners of those with lower levels of fitness.
It also shows that a little time goes a long way. You can easily do this at lunchtime with work colleagues or in the evenings and weekends with friends.
If you’re already able to run 5km, check out this training guide on how to improve your 5km run time.
Top Tip: Get a good friend to agree to do it with you. You’ll be more motivated and less likely to skip sessions.
App #2 – Body Weight FreeLetics
• Best for: Intermediate to advanced level
• Useful for: Those who want to work out at home without a gym or equipment
• Result: Will develop strength, fitness and help you learn more exercises
• Cost: Free (optional coaching upgrade in app)
For those looking for a higher intensity workout, and definitely less running, the body weight workout program FreeLetics is a great option.
Delivering clear, easy to follow body weight only workouts, you don’t need any equipment or space. These workouts can be done at home or even in your bedroom or living room.
They are all relatively short but work the whole body. The app has a massive catalogue of exercises to complete, and best of all it organises them into workouts for you. All you have to do is put in a few details about your goal and fitness level and away you go.
Simply follow along with the trainer in the app and complete each exercise. If you are unsure how to complete a move, there are instructional videos showing you the key points to keep you safe.
Keeping it fresh
A neat feature is the Newsfeed where you can see new challenges that come up. For example, you can track how long it takes you to do 50 lunges. You get points for completing the challenge which unlocks other workouts.
You can comment and interact with other users on the app to make things way more social and engaging.
Top Tip: Invite your friends to do the workouts from within the app. If you’re competitive, you can see who’s the fastest.
If you’re not feeling the workouts in the app, you can find a range of HIIT YouTube video workouts which are free and easy to follow along with.
Upgrade to Coaching
As you’d expect from such a slick app, there is a paid version which can help you with both training and nutrition or just training.
The paid version is approximately £9 for just training and £13 for training and nutrition coaching per month.
Personal Trainer’s Opinion
A highly professional app which delivers huge value for free. Even without the paid version you can get great results if you complete the workouts regularly.
FreeLetics have a large number of users and a big community which makes it easier to stay motivated and allows you to interact with other members easily.
You still need a certain level of motivation to keep it up consistently, so that’s the only downside. But for free, it’s definitely worth a go to see if you like it.
App #3 – 5×5 Strong Lifts
• Best for: Intermediate to Advanced
• Useful for: Those who already lift weights and understand the techniques
• Result: Will develop full body strength
• Cost: Free (optional upgrade in app)
This app is specifically for those who want to lift weights, build strength and muscle. There are only 5 exercises you need to do.
You complete three of them per workout, and train 3 times per week. For each exercise you do 5 reps per set and 5 sets in total.
Top Tip: This should only be used by people who know what they are doing. It’s very easy to injure yourself lifting heavy weights incorrectly.
For example, you might do a squat using 30kg. You’d do 5 repetitions. Rest. Then repeat that 5 times. For a complete example and more details see their website.
The 5 core moves are:
• Bench press
• Overhead press
• Barbell row
At each workout the moves change and the idea is that you increase your weight regularly in order to see improvements in muscle size and strength. The ideal being to increase 2.5kg per week per exercise.
Top Tip: I’m a believer in quality over quantity, so try to avoid the temptation to always lift heavier. Using a lighter weight but with better technique will give you the desired results without the possibility of a bad back or injury.
Personal Trainer’s Opinion
A great app for those who want to keep it simple and short while adding muscle and getting stronger.
The 5 moves used will work every muscle in your body, building them stronger. This is more targeted towards men who want to get more muscular, but it’s good for women to use too.
Weight lifting is an ideal way for anyone to get in better shape, burn fat and get stronger. Not only will it build your muscles, but lifting weights also helps build stronger bones, ligaments and tendons. All of which can start to deteriorate as we get older.
To finish off
The above 3 apps are all excellent examples of effective ways to get people more active using their mobile phones. Although very different, each one offers many benefits when using it regularly.
Each one will be of use in a different situation, depending on your goal.
What is your goal? Do you want to get started with running? Fancy a shorter, high intensity workout? Or want to build muscle in an efficient way?
Choose your weapon wisely and keep it up consistently. Or, you could always use all three at the same time to become a super hero. Results not guaranteed…
About the author
Rob Jackson, of Minimal FiT, is a personal trainer in London. He specialises in body transformation programs for time-poor working professionals. While working in an office for 7 years he developed a range of time efficient yet effective training and meal plan strategies to get and stay in great shape. Check out his website for more information.