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Dec 23

These Fitness Coaching Apps Can Help You Stay Fit With Your Phone –

For years, your phone was more a gym distraction than a gym tool, a gateway to texting rabbit holes and fantasy-football check-ins and the occasional #gains selfie. But now that touch display is ready to be something else. Now your phone is ready to push you to sweat more and build muscle faster.

Why? Because the pandemic hit the light-speed button on the development of fitness apps. The new ones do more than make you sweat; these apps deliver motivation, inspiration, and accountability. All of this progress was much needed this year, since fitness mainstays were again in flux. Gyms struggled to stay open (again), and critical gym gear was in short supply (again). For much of the year, you could count on just a few sweat options: yourself and the right app (and Mens Health, of course).

The best fitness apps are now optimized for our pending post-pandemic lifestyle, letting you replicate the gym experience youve always wanted, no matter your equipment or your location. A decade ago, a fitness app was just a collection of move names, sets, and reps. But todays best virtual platforms also feature in-depth coaching, bringing a trainer or group-class atmosphere into your living room.

Thats why even gym chains, which once viewed virtual fitness as a rival, are getting in on the action. Life Time started offering virtual training sessions over Zoom and FaceTime earlier this year, and it has more than 150 on-demand workouts on its app. And trainers like celeb muscle sculptor Don Saladino and the no-nonsense Bobby Maximus have found new life on apps.

For a long time, I stayed away from a lot of apps, says Maximus. The biggest reason I decided to do an app was it gave me the ability to reach the most people. In real life, Im not scalable. An app helps.

An app is also with you constantlyeven when youre not in the gym. It can assist you with everything from diet to sleep to mental focus. So it can help keep you on track when temptation strikes, whether youre loitering in the cookie aisle or binge-watching Yellowstone, says nutritionist and trainer Angelo Poli. Training in person, people think its all about the workout, says Poli, who sold his gym last year to focus on coachinghis clients through his own app, MetPro.The app tells them its equally about everything theyre doing outside the gym:food, sleep, stress.

Its encouragement, instruction, and inspiration, all at the press of a button. But to get the most out of these fitness apps, youll want to check out these tips.

Apps still struggle to replicate a sense of community, leaving you with no one to commiserate with after a brutal WOD. Build your own virtual community with this advice from Peloton instructor Adrian Williams.

Chat Away - Apps like Ladder and AppleFitness+ have chat functions. Use them, says Williams: There is a way to support individuals there for the same purpose as you.

Be Honest - The gym struggle is real. Dont be afraid to say it. Williams recalls a user saving a tough pushup till next week. Those comments make me smile, he says.

Actively Recruit - Cant make virtual friends? Ask longtime training buddies to join your app. Tell your friends and start doing it together! says Williams. Nothing feels better.

Virtual workouts can bring a trainer into your living room, but that trainer still needs plenty of help. I can only see what you let me see on the screen, says MH fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. Get around that challenge (and others) with these tips.

Create a "Gym Space"

Don't train in the same space that you work or relax in, says veteran trainer Lauren Kanski, NASM. Set a corner apart in your room (a yoga mat could do the trick), so your training space feels unique. Itll help you mentally escape, says Kanski.

Headphone It In

Whenever possible, wear Bluetooth headphones, says Daniel Giordano, C.S.C.S., head physical therapist at Bespoke Treatments. This lets you move around during your session, and even if you move far from your screen, youll always hear your trainers cues.

Skip Your Close-Up

Your trainer will want a full-body view of each exercise; that cant happen if you place your phone on the ground. Buy a cheap tripod, says Don Saladino, whos virtually trained Ryan Reynolds and Billy Crudup, or lay your laptop or phone on a table or chair.

Bring the Gym Home

If you're investing in an app subscription, invest in basic gym tools, too. This will keep the workouts fun. It wont be motivating to stick to a plan with a makeshift broomstick, says Kanski. Start with a pair of 20-pound dumbbells or a medium-strength resistance band.

Follow these two rules to transform IG, which is full of workouts, into a free fitness app.

Focus On Initials

A host of trainers regularly post free workouts on Instagram. But many of the workouts in your IG feed wont truly help you build muscle or strength. Theres so much free content, says Samuel, but free and good arent the same. Separate influencers from trainers by looking for certifications. Stick with trainers who have C.S.C.S., NASM, or NSCA-CPT after their names.

Build a Plan With Saves

Many gymgoers choose a different workout every day. Instagram is packed with variety, says Samuel, so you might think every workout needs to include new exercises. Instead of picking random workouts, make use of Instagrams underutilized save icon.

Choose three to five workouts at a time, and hit the save icon on the bottom right of the post. For four to six weeks, do those workouts exclusively. This will allow you to progress in those workouts, says Samuel, instead of trying too many new moves. Yes, this may seem repetitive. Its also a surefire path to strength.

2021s app explosion has yielded a multitude of choices. Not sure which ones for you? Start with these four categories of apps, each of which is designed for a different training goal.

The fitness app experience used to be solitaryjust you and your phone. But a handful of apps let you work out alongside friends, enticing group fitness fans.

Best Option: Apple Fitness+

You can now call a bunch of friends (up to 32) on FaceTime (or in a group chat), then immediately jump into any Apple workout or meditation session. Fitness+ replicates group fitness competitive-ness, too: When somebody closes an Activity ring, youll get a notification.

Price: $10 per month, or $80 per year

Sure, you could do the same workout as everyone else. But if you have a nuanced fitness goal (think: mastering a pullup), youll need more one-on-one attention.

Best Option: Future

Future lends an Apple Watch to every member for easy metrics tracking and connects you to a trainer who sends you custom workouts, complete with videos for each move. Do the workout, then check in with your trainer, whos available to talk about everything from workouts to nutrition to why you didnt feel yesterdays biceps curl.

Price: $149 per month

From Richard Simmons to Tae Bo, classic follow-along videos defined 1990s home fitness. Three decades later, the format still delivers fat-blasting goodness on a host of platforms.

Best Option: All Out Studio

The best part about All Out Studio isnt that its our own app (although that never hurts). The more important thing is how it evolves follow-along videos, organizing workouts from the likes of Don Saladino, kettlebell master Eric Leija, and MH fitness director Ebenezer Samuel into programs built for your long-term fitness goals.

Price: $15 per month

The issue with most apps: Nobodys actually watching your form. So you can round your back on your deadlifts or rush through your childs pose cool down.

Best Option: FlexIt

FlexIt connects you directly to a trainer for a live one-on-one session. This means you have somebody watching your every move via a FaceTime-like interface thats tailored for training. And when your form is off, your trainer can screenshot a frame of your move and telestrate the corrections to you instantly.

Price: From $75 per workout session

A version of this story originally appears in the December 2021 issue of Men's Health, with the title "APPSOLUTE MUSCLE".

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