Skip to content

Replacing the gym – four great apps for home exercise

Fancy getting a bit fitter within the comfort of your own home? Then try these apps

Gyms are expensive and full of people. Depending on your current circumstances – and those of the world – neither of those things might currently appeal. But your iPhone can largely replace the gym – all you need is the right apps.

For this roundup, we’re focusing purely on apps that give you a kind of ‘gym at home’ experience – so no outdoor running apps. And we think such apps need to be approachable. This is why our choices tend towards apps that make no assumptions about your capabilities, and in most cases afford you a certain amount of flexibility regarding the exercises you do.

Finally, given that a gym membership can leave your bank account breathless, we didn’t want that to be the case here. So none of our selected apps require you to splash out on IAP nor subscriptions. Instead, for a total outlay of just 12 bucks, you can set yourself on the way to a fitter, healthier you.

Streaks Workout

$4/£4 • v4.2.6 • 294 MB • By Crunchy Bagel

Gyms can be intimidating. Streaks Workout tries to be anything but, in giving you plenty of options regarding how you go about exercising. It also sets the bar low in terms of equipment and space – you need none of the former and only a little of the latter.

You can optionally link the app to Health (to record your workouts), Music (for automated song playback while you huff and puff), and Siri (for starting workouts with your voice). After that, you select a workout type (there are four, of varying lengths), whereupon Streaks Workout will randomly run through a list of exercises.

A timer ring is provided for each one, inside of which a little animation plays to show you what to do. Once you’re finished, your efforts are recorded to an in-app calendar, so you can keep track of your progress.

If that was all Streaks Workout had to offer, that would be impressive enough. But the app is also configurable. Tap the exercises button to disable exercises you don’t want during routines – or to add your own. And in the custom workouts section, you can define set routines if you’re not a fan of randomness.

In all, Streaks Workout cleverly manages to be immediate and friendly enough for newcomers, but deep enough to be a constant companion for anyone who wants to work up a sweat in their own home.

Download Streaks Workout

Carrot Fit

$5/£5 • v4.1.2 • 41.9 MB • By Grailr LLC

You might have heard of the seven-minute workout. The idea is to run through a set of aerobic exercises at speed, thereby working all your major muscle groups, improving fitness and building strength. The time required means most people can fit at least one circuit into a daily routine. The snag: most apps of this ilk are scammy, crude, and not much fun. Carrot Fit bucks the trend.

The app’s by the brains behind Carrot Weather. Here, the infamous malevolent Carrot AI takes a brief break from meteorology to break you through the medium of exercise. Said exercises are bodyweight-based, using your own bulk to – in Carrot’s words – “transform your flabby carcass into a Grade A specimen of the human race.”

Along with offering snark and occasional threats, Carrot Fit plays fast and loose with the exercises themselves. What you do will be broadly recognizable. But what they’re called won’t be – you’ll be trained in the likes of ‘Celebrity Face Punches,’ ’Territory Markers,’ and ‘Dragon Mating Dances.’

If you’re the type of person who wants everything strait-laced, perhaps steer clear of this app, then. But if you like the idea of infusing a daily exercise routine with a bit of fun, silliness, and color, you won’t find a better download on the App Store.

Download Carrot Fit

Note: Carrot Fit has one entirely optional IAP: an exercise pack that unlocks basic customization, so you can choose from a small selection of exercises for each step.

Nike Training Club

Free • v6.13.0 • 177.8 MB • By Nike, Inc

There are many guided workout apps for iPhone, but most demand subscription payments. Nike’s is a rarity. Although it won’t allow entry until you sign up (and the app annoyingly eschews Apple’s low-friction Sign in with Apple), once you have done so you immediately gain access to a huge range of exercise routines – entirely for free.

The app attempts to pick good options for you, based on your data, but you can easily enough browse everything that’s on offer. Each exercise has an entry page that outlines its length, intensity, recommended level, what it’s good for, and any equipment you’ll need.

Clarity is the cornerstone of the routines themselves. Looping videos show what to do, and a gentle voiceover provides further instruction (including, helpfully, saying “don’t forget to breathe”). This works best with your iPhone propped up in front of you, but the app smartly works in landscape as well as portrait. You can also tap to skip anything you’re not keen on.

Records are available in-app, and there are achievements to keep you going. You can also opt to link your efforts to Apple’s Health. Perhaps surprisingly, given that it’s free, the app isn’t heavy on advertising. Sure, demonstrators wear Nike kit, and there’s a Shop tab where you can peruse new footwear. Otherwise, Nike’s commercial arm doesn’t impact on the app at all; so despite being free, Nike Training Club feels every inch the premium product.

Download Nike Training Club

Pocket Yoga

$3/£3 • v9.0.5 • 357 MB • By Rainfrog, LLC

Yoga is another pursuit where iPhone apps veer towards the exploitative – or at least the expensive. It’s hard to achieve inner calm while your bank account is being raided. Pocket Yoga, though, is a bargain: for three bucks, you get a book of yoga poses, and 27 sessions of varying length and difficulty.

If you’re new to yoga, it’s first worth familiarizing yourself with some poses. You’re not going to swallow all 300, but checking some out helps you understand the kind of thing you’ll do during sessions. Each pose is clearly illustrated, and has a description, along with a list of benefits.

Practices are selected from the main screen. Each offers an explanation, along with difficulty and duration settings. Note that yoga should not be rushed – you must set aside at least half an hour for any of the first three of Pocket Yoga’s practices. The two Sun Salutation options are briefer, clocking in at around five minutes each.

When a session’s in progress, an illustration shows what to do, and a voiceover provides further assistance. Again, having your iPhone in a stand helps. Use the app enough and you’ll unlock new environments for your virtual partner.

Session customization regarding poses would be a nice addition; but as it stands, Pocket Yoga proves to be an effective, affordable yoga entry point – and a useful means of quickly setting up sessions at home for existing practitioners.

Download Pocket Yoga