Best online personal trainer and fitness apps 2020: bring workout experts to you

The best online personal trainer and fitness apps for every level of exercise

Best online personal trainer and fitness apps
(Image credit: FIIT)

If you want to get fit, stay in shape or workout whenever the mood takes you, the best online personal trainer and fitness apps are a great way to do so. Pre the internet and apps, access to a personal trainer might have seemed like the reserve of the Hollywood A-list or social media glitterati, but it is now easier than ever to make use of this wealth of workout knowledge, thanks to the best online personal trainer and fitness apps.

One of the hardest things about embarking on a new fitness plan is staying motivated, while the plethora of exercise jargon and technical technique descriptions can be enough to commit any good intentions to the dustbin, but it doesn’t need to be this way.

There has been an onslaught of online workout guides of late, some of which offer a personalised workout and diet plan for a membership. Plus, there are plenty of free alternatives that feature handy visual exercise guides, as well as the ability to embark on numerous plans that are specifically designed to improve various facets of fitness.

Of course, there will be a number of readers out there who have a good handle on the whole exercise thing and merely want a few apps to assist in their endeavours. For this reason, we’ve also included some smartphone tools, such as High Intensity Interval Timers, workout logs and form-tweaking technology that will help you take things to the next level.

It's worth noting that most of the paid-for apps here also offer a free trial – or a more basic version of the app – so you can try before you buy.

The best online personal trainer and fitness apps 

1. Fiit

Best personal trainer app

Specifications
Works on: iOS/Android
Cost: £10 per month
Reasons to buy
+Brings the gym to you+Can be 'gameified' with heart rate monitor

If you are the kind of person who likes to have a personal trainer or fitness instructor motivating you through every session, Fiit is the perfect app for your smartphone or tablet. Unlike similar rival apps, Fiit uses real trainers in 40+ group classes scheduled every day – you can also dig into the ever-expanding range of existing workouts. You can try it out for free, although if you get hooked you'll want to subscribe to get the full benefits.

FIIT lets you select between 10, 25 and 40 minute classes that range from a quick cardiovascular sessions to mobility movements/yoga and hardcore strength training. The app is compatible with FIIT's own heart-rate monitor but also devices such as the Apple Watch, and MyZone and Garmin monitors. Once paired up, you can track your heart rate and calorie burn and earn points for every workout, even competing with others. Compatible monitors such as FIIT's own one will even count your reps for you. It’s training that's about as personal as you can get without setting foot inside a gym.

2. Centr

Best app for Hollywood workouts – it's run by Thor, no less

Specifications
Works on: iOS/Android
Cost: £22.99 per month
Reasons to buy
+Some great workouts+Suitable for most fitness levels+Also includes meal plans
Reasons to avoid
-A bit more pricey

Chris Hemsworth – aka Thor from the Avengers movies – is the mastermind behind this app, but rest assured you do not need a Hollywood physique to start uysin Centr. It harnesses the expertise of his ‘team’ of athletes, celebrity chefs, Hollywood trainers and doctors to bring you fresh workout videos on a weekly basis, as well as healthy recipes and bespoke workout and meal plans to help you achieve a variety of goals. You simply pick the required intensity for every workout, most of which can be carried out anywhere, any time and without much equipment. 

Centr might appear to be on the expensive side, but this all-encompassing app is pretty close to having an entire roster of health and well-being experts in your pocket, all telling you how to reach your goals on a daily basis. When you look at it that way, the pricing seems more than reasonable.

3. MyFitnessPal

Best app for calorie counting and nutrition tracking

Specifications
Works on: iOS/Android
Cost: Free
Reasons to buy
+Makes calorie counting as simple as possible+Great nutritional insights
Reasons to avoid
-Some foods are weirdly hard to find in the database

This app has long been the darling of anyone looking to count calories, work out their macronutrients or reduce the amount of unhealthy fats and sugars in their diet. Not only does it help initially input your fitness goals – losing weight, bulking up etc – but it then holds your hand throughout the process. All that’s required of you is to be honest with the daily food intake. 

This is made as easy as humanly possible, especially for ready meals or anything else with a barcode – just scan the barcode, and MyFitnessPal's extensive food library will do the rest. You can also search the same database to reveal every conceivable piece of nutritional information. 

The app then builds a comprehensive picture of your daily calorie intake and breaks down things like sugars, fats, carbohydrates and protein intake, allowing you to stay on track with your goals. The only problems with the app are when trying to count the calories in drinks or produce that doesn't have a barcode, but you should soon develop the knack of estimating the quantity of carrots or cous cous you have on your plate.

4. Seven

Best app for short, sharp workouts

Specifications
Works on: iOS/Android
Cost: £9.99 per month
Reasons to buy
+Workouts for the time poor+Easy to follow animations
Reasons to avoid
-Understandably less in depth than some rivals

Short on time? This app focuses on quick-fire seven-minute workouts that can be selected on a whim or built into a daily workout plan, which is designed to help you achieve things like toning abs of steel, burning fat or getting stronger in a particular area. There is no need for expensive equipment and the app features handy exercise guides in the form of animations to follow. 

It’s perhaps not as detailed as some rivals, as there are no human instructors to talk you through correct form here, but it is a really simple way to stick to an effective exercise plan.

5. Couch to 5K

Best app for those wanting to take up running

Specifications
Works on: iOS/Android
Cost: Free
Reasons to buy
+It just works+Has everything you need to help you hit your goal
Reasons to avoid
-Where do you go after 5K?

Designed by One You and promoted by the NHS, this excellent fitness plan, now in both app and podcast form, really can help complete you get off the sofa and be confidently running 5km without a worry, and probably sooner than you think. The programme can be completed in as little as nine weeks and involves a Tabata-style training technique, fusing periods of walking with running until users are comfortably jogging 5K. 

The app features a choice of five trainers to support and motivate you at every step of the way, telling you when to run and when to walk, from broadcaster and former Olympian Michael Johnson to comedians Sarah Millican and Sanjeev Kohli and BBC presenter Jo Whiley. 

While there is only one goal in mind here, you can also access couch to 5k HealthUnlocked community forums, offering loads of advice, tips and motivations to keep you on your fitness journey.

6. Gymaholic Workout Tracker

Best app for weights training

Specifications
Works on: iOS/Android
Cost: £3.49 per month
Reasons to buy
+A wealth of weights wisdom+Cool AR features
Reasons to avoid
-A bit more full-on than some of the other options here

Perfect for those who like to spend time in the weights room, Gymaholic Workout Tracker helps you build strength routines and with over 600 animated exercises. It's great for checking form, while the extensive list of equipment – and the moves associated with each bit of gear – makes it easy to build daily and weekly workouts based on the way you like to keep fit. 

Perhaps the coolest feature is the app’s augmented reality avatar, which can be created to fit with your body style. It also tracks progress, overlaying the muscles used in any given workout onto your avatar, so you know what areas require rest or need some much-needed attention.

7. Strava

Best app for mapping runs and bike rides

Specifications
Works on: iOS/Android
Cost: £4 per month
Reasons to buy
+Easy to use+A lot of depth below the surface
Reasons to avoid
-The free option lacks most of the cool stuff

As soon as a new fitness regime becomes comfortable, it’s highly likely you are going to want to share your endeavours with the world. Strava, originally designed to track all manner or riding, running and swimming metrics, is really just a slick platform to thrust your personal bests upon the social community. 

The Strava community is great for encouraging users to compete on 'segments' – user generated stretches that challenge you against past efforts and those of other users. It also pumps out a whole host of training metrics and allows runners and riders to discover new routes, anywhere in the world.

8. Interval Timer

Best app for High Intensity Interval Training session

Specifications
Works on: iOS
Cost: Free
Reasons to buy
+Easy to use+A lot of depth below the surface
Reasons to avoid
-The free option lacks most of the cool stuff

You would not believe how hard it is to find a reliable, free interval timer. Or at any rate, one that isn’t flooded with adverts or requires divulging lots of unwanted personal information during the sign up process. But this is just the ticket.

Granted, there are a few pop up adverts here, but the interface is excellent, allowing you to create a variety of interval training timers, rename them and even map individual workouts to a calendar. Choose between simple on/off timers or make things more complex with cycles of high and low intensity. It even offers a warm up and cool down timer for each workout, plus your Spotify playlist will only be interrupted when the alert goes off.