Virtual PTs will soon be everywhere, bringing personalised sessions at a fraction of the price of IRL fitness coaching. We rate the best app offerings to power up your next workout.
There’s no question having a dedicated personal trainer is one of the most practical ways to fast-track your fitness goals. Still, you’d better have a spare 100 bucks-or-so to spend on each session. Raise that to the recommended three workouts a week and you’re bumped up to around $ 300 if they’re all PT-assisted. Sure, your body will love you for it, but your savings account? Probably not.
That’s why personal training is often one of the first things to face the chop when we’re tightening our budget belts (assuming you could afford it in the first place), particularly when the average local 24-hour gym costs a more palatable $ 25 a week.
Enter: the apps. Much as we love PTs (who wouldn’t rather human experts over a robot, right?) access to free – yes free – guided fitness classes on the internet has opened up a whole new appreciation for digital workouts as an affordable option. Little wonder subscription-based workout apps like Centr – founded by Chris Hemsworth and recently sold for US$ 200 million – have soared in popularity.
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Now, in the generation of artificial intelligence, tech giants are spearheading a new age of fitness coaching entirely, adding tailored training programs to the tech-led repertoire.
Lumin Fitness in Las Colinas, Texas, is one of a handful of gyms around the world centred on virtual A.I. trainers with the purpose of bringing personal training expertise to all members. How, exactly? The gym’s lined with tall LED screens with built-in A.I. tech. Sensors help track repetitions completed, and if members are looking to push their training limits week-on-week, A.I makes tweaks to their program to account for progressive overload after each completed session.
“Users can select an avatar trainer of their choice based on their preference and the type of training the coach will help to guide anything from bootcamp to something softer like mobility,” explains Hayden Thin, founder and director of Club Forma in Melbourne. “These A.I. trainers coach users into the exercises, telling them what they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong and they’ll also adopt gamification during sets of exercises to tap into that dopamine feedback system to keep users engaged.”
Sounds a lot like a human personal trainer if you ask us. The catch? These A.I. gyms aren’t yet available in every major city. And if you wanted to buy one of the enormous LED mirrors to bring the A.I. workout to your loungeroom, be sure to bring a fat wallet, because these things still cost a bomb.
But there is good news. The app store’s already bursting with platforms leaning into tech advancements to bring a similar level of service to your home, gym, or even holiday workout.
“Apps with digital PTs consume all relevant user information including personal and physical metrics as well as goals, workout preferences, and even the space and equipment available to conduct the workout,” explains Thin. “It runs this information through data collected from fitness wearables to create a tailored workout program specifically for that user.”
So while we wait for these A.I. screens to hit Aussie shores, here’s our pick of the best digital personal training apps to kick start your summer fitness, no matter where you happen to be.
Best for strength training: Future
Monthly cost: $ 315/month
Want access to personal training wherever and whenever you like? Future connects users to human PTs around the world to help develop personalised plans that cater to all fitness levels and goals. There are video tutorials for each exercise and a timer to track your sets, plus daily check-ins from your coach so you’re always moving towards your fitness goals. Whether you’re just trying to get back in shape, or training for an ultra marathon, this one’s sure to keep your game up to scratch.
Best for the fitness classes: Peloton
Monthly cost: $ 16.99/month
Looking to up your strength, boost your fitness or maybe tap into more Zen? The Peloton app delivers access to thousands of workouts so you can exercise from home, the gym, even on holiday. It features hundreds of live and pre-recorded trainers who specialise in various exercise foundations – from HIIT to Pilates and, of course, spin sessions – so you’re always in good hands. One of the best things about Peloton? Trainers physically do the workout with you, encouraging you along with motivational soundbites and pumping tunes designed to inspire you to the finish line.
Best for the time poor: Apple Fitness+
Monthly cost: $ 14.99/month
If you struggle to find the time to exercise throughout the week, Apple Fitness+ will throw your excuses out the door. With access to 12 different workout types lasting as little as a five-minute sweat sesh up to a 45-minute power burn, it’s never been easier to squeeze movement into your day. The platform has everything you could want from a workout: think HIIT, yoga, kickboxing, meditation, even dance, plus most sessions don’t require equipment, so you can clock the cals wherever you are.
Best for HIIT workouts: Caliber
Monthly cost: $ 140/month for three months then free
If you’re looking for a more tailored approach to your fitness needs, Caliber is the ultimate in-pocket support. Designed on the foundations of science-based training techniques combined with expert human coaching, this clever app provides customised plans that are as close to in-person PT as possible. A membership grants you one-on-one coaching with an accredited trainer who checks in regularly and makes adjustments to your program along the way. Better still, membership includes a customised nutrition plan created by an expert to make healthy eating a no brainer.
Best for running: Joggo
Monthly cost: $ 47/month for two-month plans OR $ 35/ month for four-month plans
Whether you’re completely new to running, or looking to smash your first 10km, Joggo might just be the training app you’ve been looking for. It’s designed to meet each user wherever they’re at in their fitness journey, then help them get to where they want to be, fast. How? It creates a personalised running plan based on your goals and lifestyle, guiding you from warm up to cooldown. There are plans suitable for outdoor running, treadmill sessions, and additional strength training to prevent injury and support your physical health, along with deliciously healthy recipes to fuel your next run.
Won Lotto? Try these luxe options
NordicTrack Vault Complete, from $ 5499, nordictrack.com
Also available without the training accessories (dumbbells, resistance bands, kettlebells and yoga blocks), the Vault is NordicTrack’s foray into smart home equipment. When not in use, the full HD touchscreen is masked by a 6-foot mirror to fit seamlessly into your walk-in wardrobe or bedroom. When on, the tech utilises iFit interactive fitness programming to offer an extensive list of workouts including HIIT, strength and yoga, guiding you through an otherwise normal gym session, sans other sweaty gym-goers.
Echelon Reflect Touch Smart Fitness Mirror, $ 2999, myer.com.au
This is one of the sleeker options among the free-standing tech stations on the market, more like a piece of furniture than a piece of exercise equipment. There are endless live workout classes available for streaming, including meditation, boxing, cardio, strength, barre, and Zumba classes. There’s also a multi-workout offering to challenge your sweat session even further, as well as a beginner section and a one-on-one training option for live sessions with a real PT. Plus, it can be mounted to your wall – the ultimate sleek addition to your home gym.
Proform VUE PF21, $ 2499, rebelsport.com.au
The Proform VUE is on the cheaper side of these high-tech fitness furniture, without flailing on its services. It’s a full length 60-inch mirror with storage pockets on the back to hold equipment so your room feels more like a chic studio than a gym. Similar to The Vault, Proform utilises the iFit programming to bring fitness classes to your home set-up, everything from bootcamp and cardio to recovery sessions – there’s almost no reason to hit up your local gym again.
Lululemon Studio, from $ 1500, lululemon.com
While the Mirror is still making its way to Australia, it’s a cult-favourite among fitspos. The reason so many love it? It looks like an ordinary mirror. That, and the fact that Lululemon have partnered with Peloton, meaning the fitness classes accessible through the screen are limitless. There’s also a competitive function which allows you to go head-to-head with other Lululemon Studio users – nothing like some friendly competition to get your sweat on.
Read related topics:ExerciseRunning