The only fitness apps you actually need

Our smartphones are great tools! They can help us be a lot more efficient in what we're doing but that also means it's important to know that what we're doing is the right thing to do.

This is why I recommend against the knee-jerk reaction of downloading something like Endomondo, Runkeeper, or any of the other thousand glorified GPS applications.

If you want to get strong and fit – get the right tools for the job.

"I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail."
- Abraham Maslow

The only fitness apps you actually need

Here's a list of the apps, and their intended purpose, I propose for a complete fitness toolbox.

Progression for strength training

Progression is a tracker for your training. You either pick from one of the many pre-defined programs or you set up your own, and then you enter the weights, sets and reps as you follow the program.

There are many applications with this functionality but what sets Progression apart for me are two things:

  • It's incredibly well designed. The app basically does all the thinking for you – you just click OK and do what it tells you.

  • As the name reveals, it's very much focused on progression. For every exercise you see what you did previous sessions, so to motivate you to constantly keep improving. This is incredibly important for avoiding the beginner mistake of stalling.

Along with the workout tracker there's now also a body tracker, where you can keep track of your measurements.

My vision with the apps is pretty simple, I want to make people more aware. Aware of their training and now also of their body with the new addition. I dream of a world where everyone reach their full potential, and I believe the road there is through constant endeavour for self-improvement, for progression.
- Zoltan Demant, creator of Progression

I would recommend Progression to anyone who wants to get stronger. I'm using it myself to track my Starting Strength progress.

http://www.progression-app.com/ (Android)

Similar to Progression: Freeletics and StrongLifts.

LifeSum for diet

Only one part of your training is done in the gym. For another very important part – your diet – there's LifeSum to help. It lets you track what you put in your body and helps you understand which nutrients you're getting enough of and which ones you're not.

You'll get the macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fat) for free but in order to break them down, or to change the recommended macro distribution, you'll have to pay for a premium membership.

Sadly, even that won't get you the more interesting micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).

It's a competitive market with a lot of options out there but personally I prefer LifeSum because of how incredibly good looking and well designed it is. Tracking your food is hard and LifeSum makes it as easy as can be done.

I recommend LifeSum to anyone who's serious about their health. The biggest benefit of these apps are that you learn very useful information about the food you eat.

https://lifesum.com/ (Android, iOS)

Similar and popular: MyFitnessPal.

Super detailed contender: CRON-O-Meter

MyTabata for interval training

Cardiovascular training is important even if all you do is lift weights. However, that doesn't mean you need to go running! (Can you tell I hate this activity?)

A better way is to do High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and a good protocol for HIIT is Tabata.

There's loads of Tabata apps but my favorite is My Tabata Timer, simply because of how simple and straight forward it is. For iOS I hear good things about Tabata Stopwatch Pro.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.ellery.mytabata (Android)

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/tabata-stopwatch-pro-interval/id664563975 (iOS)

Headspace for meditation

What, a meditation app in a list for people trying to grow stronger and more fit? Now he's surely gone full hippie vegan!

But again – training is about more than what happens under the barbell. There's exercise, diet, and recovery. Headspace will help you with the latter by mitigating stress.

Less stress, more gains (it's science).

The reason I really like Headspace for this purpose is how uncomplicated they make it. You don't even need incense and tibetan music. Just take a few minutes to sit down – in a regular chair if you want – and follow the instructions.

I recommend Headspace to everyone but especially to anyone who feel they don't have the five minutes it takes to sit down and meditate.

https://www.headspace.com/ (Android, iPhone)

One Rep Max Calculator for testing

There's a difference between training and testing. Training is what you to do elicit a certain response – growing stronger for example. Testing is what you do in a competition.

Sometimes it's very hard to avoid the temptation of testing yourself. Sure the training has worked but just how well? You simply want to know just how goddamn strong you are!

This is when you should use a 1RM calculator.

Tap in your numbers and it'll tell you how much you could max out for one single repetition.

I have no personal favorite but One Rep Max Calculator, and Reps Calculator both look good.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.rogansoft.onerepmaxcalculator (Android)

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/reps-calculator-utility-for/id681279192 (iOS)

QuikCoach for practicing technique

Technique is important for increasing your numbers and doing so with as little risk as possible.

If you don't have a coach at hand to check and correct your form, however, you'll have to take matters into your own hands. This is when video comes in handy.

I record most of my own lifting and I try to follow the triage coaching principle – find the biggest problem, create a cue to fix it and keep at that one thing until it's improved, then rinse and repeat.

QuikCoach is the best for this purpose. So easy to use and it has all the features you need.

http://quikcoach.com/ (Android)

Run with a purpose

For some reason, some people are just hell-bent on running. And I'll admit, as part of a bigger training program it can be a very good exercise to improve your cardiovascular fitness.

So if you really have to hit the trail, here are two suggestions for you.

Charity Miles

For every mile you run, 25¢ gets donated to a charity of choice. They support ASPCA and so you could actually improve yourself while helping animals in need!

http://www.charitymiles.org/ (Android, iOS)

Zombies, Run!

Put on your headphones and be transported to a zombie apocalyptic parallel reality. I think when chased by a zombie horde, even I would run.

https://zombiesrungame.com/ (Android, iOS)


Now over to you! Did I miss anything? Let me know – tweet me at @athlegan or email me at [email protected].