It’s become a bit of a truism to say of any given task: ‘There’s an app for that.’ These days, there’s always an app for everything. The problem has changed: the issue is no longer about finding an app, it’s about finding the app. Fitness is no different, with an absolutely ludicrous amount of software out there to help you plan, track and chart your workouts. The good news is, we at Primer are here to save you from trawling through page after page on your app store of choice, with our guide to some of the better – but lesser known – fitness apps out there. We’ve all heard of Nike+ and Runkeeper, but here are a few of the alternatives you may not have heard of.
Zombies, Run! is the ideal app for everyone who’s tried to get into fitness, started running and realized how mind-numbingly dull it can be. Instead of leaving you to your own devices while you try to get in shape, the app tells an episodic story with you as the star, as a ‘Runner’ in a post-apocalyptic, zombie-plagued England. You’ll head out on missions to collect supplies, save other humans and, yes, run away from zombies. You’ll be doing that last one a lot.
The app links to music on your device to give you some tunes between bits of story, and currently has more than 160 missions, which should keep you busy for a while. It’s also a fully featured tracker, logging all your workouts, with calorie burn estimates, and you can build up a base and collect achievements as you go.
If you’ve been doing more gaming than running recently and aren’t sure you can brave a half-hour run from the get-go, there’s also an 8-week training app, Zombies 5k, which will get you ready for the main event.
If you’ve ever considered weightlifting but felt overwhelmed by the number of lifting styles and exercises then StrongLifts is where you should start. Based on the StrongLifts 5×5 program, the app guides you through a structured workout regime involving five barbell exercises: squat, bench press, shoulder press, deadlift and row. Each workout you’ll do three of the five exercises, and do five sets of five reps for each one – hence ‘5×5’.
The program is great for beginners, and is designed for you to start most of the exercises off with just the empty barbell. As you work through the program, the app calculates how long you should rest after each set and what weight you should lift, with a simple progression system so that you can see consistent progress. You only have to hit the gym three times a week, which should be pretty doable, and the app will always tell you which workout to do each day.
Other features include both kg and lbs options, a tracker for your own weight and a graph to show your progress in each lift, while there are a number of others available as paid add-ons. The program’s accompanying website also has all the information you’ll need on how to do each exercise, with detailed advice on technique, equipment and how to avoid injury.
StrongLifts is perfect for you if you’ve never lifted weights seriously before and want a system that will tell you exactly what you have to do and when, taking all of the guesswork out.
From the same developer as Zombies, Run!, Superhero Workout takes the same gamification approach to fitness. Here, instead of fleeing the undead, you’re an Iron Man-esque superhero in a battle suit that, due to some baffling design, requires you to perform a series of bodyweight exercises to charge up the power.
Flimsy narrative excuse aside, the app features 20 missions, each with a set workout plan of exercises that require nothing more than yourself, a room and maybe the occasional chair.
Most impressively, the app uses your device’s camera to track your movements and count your reps, so there’s no cheating here. If you’ve got Apple TV or a Chromecast, you can even display the workout on your TV to save you from squinting at your phone or tablet mid-pushup.
Workouts can be as short as seven minutes each, making Superhero Workout ideal if you’re looking for something quick to slot into your day.
While most of the other apps on this list are tied to specific types of exercise, Fitocracy is a bit more general, and it’s the perfect place to collect and track all of your workouts. Part social network, part fitness tracker and part video game, it has a database of exercises vast enough to allow you to log just about anything you could do – even just walking up a flight of stairs.
For every exercise you log, you earn a certain number of points – the tougher the exercise, the more points you earn. As you get points, you level up (there’s that game bit), while there are also achievements to reward your progress and quests to incentivize you to try new workouts and strive for specific goals for bonus points.
Then, when you’re done logging a workout, other users can comment on it and give you ‘Props’, while you can see others’ workouts and follow them to stay up-to-date. There are also plenty of groups where you can join like minded ‘fitocrats’ based on anything from the exercise plan you’re using to your favorite books.
You can do your own workouts or try out their pre-set suggestions, while for a fee you can also connect to personal trainers to get tailored advice and feedback. You can even save your regular routines or build in circuits and supersets.
If you’re looking for a way to track all of your workouts in one place with a few added motivational tools along the way, Fitocracy might be worth a go.
Seven is an app that comes with a challenge: carry out a seven-minute workout every day for seven months. There’s a bit of leeway, but if you miss three workouts in any given month, your progress is set back to zero and you’ve got to begin again.
Thankfully, the app doesn’t ask you to do the same thing everyday for seven months: there are multiple workouts, unlocked as you progress. They each see you exercise for 30-second intervals, with 10 seconds of rest, working through a number of different bodyweight exercises – no equipment needed.
There are the usual achievements and progress tracking features, along with the ability to set reminders to help make sure you get in your workout every day.
There are surprisingly few decent yoga apps compared to other types of exercise, but Pocket Yoga is one of the best. There are detailed voice and video instructions for hundreds of different poses, along with written info on technique and the health benefits of each, including guides to proper breathing.
There are 27 different set routines to work through, split across three different practices, difficulty levels and durations, and all of the routines have been designed by yoga instructors.
You can log all of your sessions in order to track your progress, and as you go you unlock different background designs – though that’s about as gamified as this one gets. You also have the option to either play the app’s default music or put on your own. If you’ve ever wondered what it might be like to do yoga to death metal or dubstep, now’s your chance to find out.