The fitness app industry is apparently big money for developers and a niche that is constantly growing. People want to get into good shape more than ever before and for that they need to work out regularly. Apps can provide the inspiration and guidance they need to come up with continually challenging routines, while at the same time letting them track progress for motivation and so they can see how far they’ve come.
Unfortunately, not every ‘workout tracker’ is great at doing this job. Many are fiddly and hard to navigate, while others just don’t provide the depth or number of functions that you may be looking for. Here we will look at some of the very best and most popular workout trackers, and then we’ll examine what they’re missing and how they might be improved in a perfect world…
JEFIT: JEFIT is one of the most popular workout trackers and designers on the market and is the one that most people will recommend if you ask them. The main thing that JEFIT has going for it is just how comprehensive its database of workouts and exercises is. It lets you easily create workouts and log them for future reference and it includes numerous features such as 1 rep max calculators, BMI calculators and the option to record muscle measurements.
The app does have some downsides though. For starters it’s not the most visually pleasing app with really no consistency in its design (it’s made of up floating buttons on top of random images). This lack of design language also makes it somewhat difficult to navigate, so creating a new workout isn’t quite the quick and seamless experience that it should be. It’s also somewhat tailored towards the more ‘casual’ fitness market, and more advanced workouts will require a paid subscription.
Great if you’re willing to invest some time and money then, but a little fiddly and flawed and not perfect if you just want a quick workout.
7 Minute Workout: There are so many ‘7 minute’ apps now that it’s hard to find which one started the whole thing. Nevertheless, this is a simple idea that has taken off in a big way and seen a large number of downloads as a result. Essentially this is the antithesis of something like JEFIT and simply provides you with a short workout that you can do anywhere. It only has one button – Start – and a great design with circular timers.
The strength of these apps is that they give you quick access to inventive workouts, but on the downside they are also incredibly limited and get stale very quickly. You can’t use this app for tracking your own workouts, for creating new ones, or for scaling up your training in any way.
Navy SEAL Fitness: Navy SEAL Fitness is a workout app that offers you specific workouts designed for elite navy SEALs. This won’t be for everyone and unlike JEFIT it’s not a ‘complete’ package in that way. However, what this one does offer is something a little different and definitely an interesting challenge. If your workouts have grown boring then this is a great way to mix things up and learn something along the way. It’s perhaps not the most complete workout app or the most aesthetically pleasing, but it’s a useful way to rejuvenate a workout that’s getting stale.
StrongLifts5x5: Stronglifts5x5 is a workout routine and an app that’s designed to focus only on a few compound exercises… five of them in fact. These are the squat, bench press, overhead press, barbell row and deadlift. The name comes from the fact that you’re doing five sets of five repetitions with the same weight (excluding one set of warm up sets), which will increase each time you hit the gym.
Again, the strength of StrongLifts5x5 lies in its simplicity which makes it simple and easy to pick up and stick with. The app is attractively designed, and the central concept is good: compound lifts are brilliant for developing functional strength, for encouraging hormone response and for building muscle. Likewise though, this is also where the limitations of the app come from: it doesn’t have anything for training at home and eventually you’ll outgrow it.
Workout Trainer: Workout Trainer is essentially the poor man’s JEFIT. Like JEFIT, it contains hundreds of workouts, a social element and a pay-wall for certain more interesting workouts and the ability to track your stats and progress. Also like JEFIT though, it’s lengthy to set up, it’s fiddly to find what you want and it’s not the most attractively designed app.
Bodybuilding.com: Bodybuilding.com is an app with a huge index of exercises and information. Again it’s quite fiddly to use though, and it actually lacks a lot of features that JEFIT or Workout Trainer include (such as the ability to track your progress or view complete, themed workouts). This is a little disappointing bearing in mind the size of the website.
BodySpace: BodySpace is an app that’s also from Bodybuilding.com and that will let you update your stats, post comments, share pictures and generally engage in a social network consisting entirely of like-minded bodybuilders and fitness fanatics. This app is actually just a ‘front’ for a much more feature-rich social network you can access through your browser. Again, what’s odd is that it’s lacking so many features present in the main site. It’s again unintuitive to use too making it something of a disappointment. Useful for those who are already fans of BodySpace, but not particularly appealing for anyone else sadly.
Fitocracy App: Fitocracy is another social network for bodybuilders much like BodySpace, but this time you get a better imagined app that’s easier and more fun to use. Here you can easily log workouts, see your friends and get ‘props’ from those contacts. You can also log your stats and view your progress – even on specific exercises (your max number of pull ups for instance). Perhaps Fitocracy’s strongest feature though, is its focus on ‘gamification’. In short, Fitocracy uses various methods to make working out feel like a game – such as challenging you to complete ‘quests’ (such as squatting or deadlifting certain amounts) and awarding ‘trophies’ like you might get when playing an Xbox game.
In short, Fitocracy is probably the best workout tracking app, though not the very best when it comes to finding new inspiration for workouts and still not the most ‘pick up and play’ of the bunch.
The Ideal Workout App
So what would the ideal workout app look like?
Well for starters, it should be quick and easy to use and set-up. Something that would be intuitive to use and that wouldn’t take hours to get used to would draw in more users and be less frustrating when regularly updating and logging your training. An attractive aesthetic should also be a priority.
At the same time though, a good workout app/tracker should also let you go as deep as you want to go. It should offer multiple layers and keep your training exciting by giving you new challenges and incentives as you go. Social elements are a plus too if they can be integrated.
So far Fitocracy is probably the best option we have, but the market is definitely still wide open for someone to come along and make the perfect app for the gym.