I’ve tried a ton of workout apps over the last 5 years; in that time, I’ve used some awesome workout apps— and tried some other clunky apps too. Here’s a list of the best free workout apps by category that I personally would recommend to a friend.

My decisions were strongly based on simplicity and workout reliability, that is— does this app rarely crash and lose my progress during a workout? I know some people prioritize an app that looks pretty, minimal with slick animations. I think a clear user interface is super important, but I personally would only use an app if I was confident that I could use it long term.

My 5 best free workout apps are based on the following categories:

  1. Tracking Runs
  2. Gym Tracker
  3. Ideal for Beginners
  4. Guided Workouts
  5. Strength Training

1. Best App for Tracking Runs: Strava

Best App for tracking your run

Pros

I like Strava because tracking distance points is their bread and butter. Unlike Nike, Asics or Under Armour, Strava is not a sports apparel sneaker company that built or acquire a fitness app to sell its own merchandise. Strava is a massive company that’s going to be around for a while, and its app tracks cycling, running and swim workouts.

Sidenote: I only “like” the Strava app because, admittedly, I mainly use the default “Workouts” app on my Apple Watch. As soon as I start my run, my watch detects whether I’m start a workout, then prompt me to continue tracking. It’s an unfair advantage by Apple but -shrugs-. I also personally don’t need the advanced metrics like elevation gain, heart rate and effort analysis. I just want my average pace, a map summary of my run, and my mile splits.

Cons

My only gripe with Strava happens to be the company’s biggest strength: data collection. Strava collects a ton of data from riders all over the world. In fact, they have so much data that a core piece of their business is selling aggregated user data to “cities, departments of transportation, and not-for-profits” to supposedly improve urban planning of cities and development of spaces.

2. Best Gym Workout Tracker App: Strong (iOS)

strong ios workout app

Anyone who wants to digitize their pen and paper workout plan should try Strong out. This app is really simple to use and a modern spreadsheet alternative for people who already know what they plan on working out in the gym. Strong tracks your reps, weight and duration, depending on what the exercise is, and the app has a giant preset of exercises in their library; of course, you can add your own exercises to Strong’s library.

Pros

While Strong is essentially a workout spreadsheet alternative with several bells and whistles in their premium plan, I think their pricing is extremely fair. You can unlock their premium features through a $30 annual subscription ($2.50 a month), or a one-time $100 for those that don’t want another recurring thing to manage.

Cons

If you’re looking for an app that provides a dedicated catalog of training plans that suit your goals with video demos and instruction, Strong might not be what you’re looking for, but if you already have a workout gameplan and don’t need help from others, check our Strong’s free app.

2. Best App for Beginners: Nike Training Club app (NTC)

nike training club workout app

Earlier, I knocked apparel-backed fitness apps because I feel their main interests are not in app users’ athletic improvement. Despite my hesitations, I still think Nike’s fitness app is the best free app out there for someone with no experience working out.

Yes— I am aware of the dozens of 7-minute, HIIT-like (high intensity interval training) workout apps like Streaks and Seven. They are really good apps and so simple, but for beginners, I think high-intensity workouts, even with just bodyweight, can be harmful for beginners with lesser-than-average strength & coordination. NTC has a big catalog of free workouts ranging from beginner to advanced levels.

Pros

I really like NTC’s beginner workouts because its exercises focus on mobility, proper breathing and correct form. No plyometrics or high-intensity bouts one after another, Nike really leans on the side of caution like a pro trainer should with a beginner!

A video demo in NTC
A video demo in NTC app.

I also recommend NTC for their video demos by real humans — not stick figures or animated human renderings (though some are pretty impressive).

It might not make a difference to some— but I truly believe that beginners need as much ‘densely quick’ information as possible when learning to do an exercise right through video. All of the videos on NTC are crystal clear; you can see the exercise tempo, the subject’s postural position, breathing pattern, arm placement, all that stuff.

Cons

You cant change the actual exercise input value with NTC. That is, if the app instructs a Front Plank for 45 seconds, but you only did 30 seconds, you can’t save what you actually completed. This is a feature the Strong app shines in; because Strong is similar to a workout spreadsheet for your iPhone, you can save and change just about any detail of your workout.

With NTC, their workouts and plans have a “what you see is what you get” approach. Your only option is following NTC’s exercises from start to finish. I know I listed this constraint as a ‘con’, but it’s also a reason why I view NTC as the best workout app for beginners. Beginners should focus less on customizing workouts, and more on performing exercises safely, having fun, and just building a weekly habit of completing workouts.

4. Best App for Guided Workouts: Peloton [Not Free]

peloton digital workout app

I know this post is about best free workout apps, but I could not leave Peloton out this category. This steal the show with guided live streaming and audio workouts.

If you never heard of Peloton, it’s a company originally known for its indoor cycling bikes you could stream live classes with. As a pioneer in subscription live-streaming classes since 2012, Peloton has exploded in growth and have expanded beyond bikes and into live streamed classes for strength training, yoga, running and even meditation.

If you’re someone not looking to create a workout plan of your own and you want a more social and personal experience without having to book a personal trainer, look into Peloton’s mobile app.

Pros

No one executes a live workout class like Peloton can. Peloton’s trainers are not only engaging and fit, they workout live with you. Peloton streams its workouts with multiple cameras, proper lighting and audio, so it feels like you’re getting coached in-person.

Cons

Expensive. If you know Peloton, you know that its bikes are not cheap. We shouldn’t expect any less from its workout streaming subscription, which is $19.49/month. You can always give their app a try for 14 days if you download the app and start a workout.

Side Note:
I live in New York and occasionally take their live spin and treadmill classes. The classes are challenging and I get to sit front and center when Peloton streams its workouts. I have a ton of respect for Peloton pulling off its live classes because… it’s live. Their coaches are all amazing and if you’re in New York on a weekday morning/afternoon, you can actually drop in one of their live 30 minute spin classes for free (first come first serve). Check their schedule on Peloton’s website and search for the “30 Walk-In-Free” classes.

5. Best App for Strength Training: SuperFit

Best Free Workout App for Strength Training

There aren’t many strength training apps that blow me away, (maybe 5×5 for its sheer simplicity). Soooo, I don’t feel as guilty for having my own app on this list 😎.

Personally, I find that most strength training apps are good at two things: storing exercise set progress (reps, weight, duration) and having a humongous library of exercises for you to build a custom workout from.

I think a strength training app’s main job is firstly to teach users how to safely workout at home, and secondly, to help users reach a personal strength goal as a beginner or experienced athlete.

Pros

SuperFit is great for beginners in the weight room because the app provides exercise prompts that you would expect from a real person. Instead of a spreadsheet-like interface that you check off during your workout like “8 x 135, 8 x 135”, SuperFit moves one exercise at a time, presenting a cue, “Do 8x with a 135 lb Barbell”. I’ve found that the sentence-like instructions are friendlier for beginners starting out with strength training.

Other great features of SuperFit:

  • tracks your workout progress like the Strong app. Unlike NTC, SuperFit tracks your reps and weight so you can know if you improved since last week
  • each exercise has a goal and difficulty rating(‘easy’, ‘very hard’, ‘max effort’). This guidance lets users know if they’re feeling how the coach wants them to feel
  • a certified coach or health practitioner created every featured plan on the app
  • not only meant to be about strength training. There are basketball drills, soccer drills and running exercises in plans too.

Cons

  • currently a one person band; I cannot release new quality content nearly as fast as Nike or Peloton.
  • content is based on training plans, not individual workouts. Many people I know prefer finding a fun different workout each time they enter the gym. Those users should definitely not use this app. SuperFit requires a bit more commitment to completing a weekly plan that may last 6+ weeks. The upside: you focus more on a specific goal, rather than a new high-intensity burn whenever you train.

Conclusion

Those are my top five workout app recommendations for anyone tracking a run, tracking a gym lift, starting a workout habit, following workouts live, or learning to strength train. If you have any suggestions or enjoyed this review, let me know in the comments below!

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Posted by:Leo

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