Sports scientists say this free fitness app is one of the best to help you get stronger — here's what it's like

Nike Training Club

Getting in shape can change your life – it makes you feel better in the short term, improves your long-term physical and mental health, helps fight chronic disease, and more.

Strength training is particularly important, as it’s the best way to delay and even reverse the loss of bone density and muscle mass that come with getting older. (Cardio is great too, for other reasons.)

If you’re looking for a fitness app to help you get stronger, Nike Training Club is one of your best options, and it’s free.

For a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research in 2017, a team of researchers analysed how well 28 different fitness apps matched the exercise guidelines of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

The app that the researchers found met the guidelines best overall was the Johnson & Johnson Official 7-Minute Workout app. But Nike’s app, which came in second on the list, was almost as good – and scored better than the 7-Minute Workout for strength training.

We’ve analysed some of the top apps from that study, and each offers distinct benefits, but Nike’s app was one of our favourites.

The study reviewers said the app includes a great variety of both individual workouts and multiweek training programs. Plus, this app is free, and unlike other “free” apps we’ve tested, there’s no pressure to upgrade to a paid or premium version.

In general, the government’s recommended physical activity guidelines call for healthy adults to do at least two and a half hours of moderate-intensity activity – or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity – weekly, along with muscle-strengthening exercises at least twice a week.

The ACSM takes those guidelines a few steps further, saying that all workout programs should include safety precautions, warm-up, conditioning that includes strengthening, and cool-down. Plus, they say programs should progress at a safe rate for each person, and that workout programs should include components of aerobic fitness, strength and resistance exercise, and flexibility.

Here’s how the Nike Training Club app works.

The first step is to sign up.

Nike Training Club

The first time you open the app, you’ll be prompted to either log in to your Nike Plus account or register for an account.

You can also log in with Facebook if you prefer. If you opt to sign up for emails, you’ll get reminders to work out and offers for Nike products.

You’ll then be prompted to answer a few questions.

Nike Training Club

To get started, the app will have you select your gender and ask how active you are – information that it uses to recommend a few initial workouts.

Within the app, there’s a range of possible activities, with some targeted towards beginners and others designed for people who already work out more regularly.

The first screen you’ll see lets you get started working out right away, if you want.

Nike Training Club

When you open the app, it’s ready for you to start working out.

You’ll see three tabs at the top of the screen that you can use to pick a workout.

You can choose a recommended workout, if you want to get started quickly. You can also scroll through the full list of workouts or set up a training plan.

If you choose to set up a training plan, you’ll have a list of customisable options, depending on your goals.

Nike Training Club

Plans vary depending on how frequently you want to work out, whether you want to include running, and more.

You can also choose between programs that require access to gym equipment or programs that rely solely on body-weight exercises.

If you select a plan, you’ll get access to more information about what that plan includes.

Nike Training Club

The eight-week gym strength-training program shown here, for example, is focused on building strength.

As the app notes, that program requires full gym equipment, and it’s targeted towards people at an intermediate or advanced fitness level.

You’ll provide some more information as you set up a plan.

Nike Training Club

When designing your plan, you choose how often you want to work out. Most experts say you should work out at least three days per week to build strength, though you might make some progress with two days per week at the start of a program.

You’ll also choose whether you want to include running, tell the app how often you normally workout, and you can input height and weight information to track your plan.

Your plan will incorporate some of the many workouts in the app.

Nike Training Club

Before you begin a workout, you’ll see some information about what you’ll be doing that day.

You’ll see the duration intensity, equipment needed, and what this particular workout helps you focus on (like power, leg strength, or sports performance).

In some cases, workouts are designed by various Nike-sponsored athletes.

In the plan overview, you can check out the overall schedule.

Nike Training Club

While you’re training, it’s important to build up to harder things over time, but also to get enough rest.

That’s why after a particularly intense week, your next week might be a bit easier.

If you miss a few days, the app will prompt you to adjust or update your plan.

Each workout is made up of a series of exercises.

Nike Training Club

During the workout, the screen will display a video showing how to do each exercise.

Through your speaker or headphones, a coach will explain how to do each exercise, giving you tips on how to position your body.

For rep-based exercises, you check off exercises within the app after each set of reps to note that you’re ready to proceed to the next set.

If you don’t want to do a full training plan, you can just choose a workout from the recommended list.

Nike Training Club

On this page, you’ll see workouts selected based on the workouts you chosen to do so far.

There’s also a section for new workouts that have been added to the app, and for new workout collections. There is a set of six workouts to help runners improve, for example, and a set of six workouts to teach beginners some fitness basics.

You can also search for a new workout in the workouts tab.

Nike Training Club

Here, you can browse workouts by muscle groups – including abs and core, arms and shoulders, or glutes and legs – or by workout types, like endurance, mobility, strength, or yoga.

You can also filter options by fitness level, workout duration, intensity, and focus. And you can check out workout collections, which include options to train like certain athletes or to focus on something like toning your abs.

You can also seek out workouts that don’t require equipment or are quick and short.

There are more than 200 options.

Nike Training Club

There are more endurance and strength workouts offered in the app than anything else.

If you star your favourites, they will be accessible in the top right of the app at any time.

Browsing other sections of the app offers other options.

Nike Training Club

There’s an option to link up to an Apple watch, beginner meditation tips from Headspace’s Andy Puddicombe, a few “workouts of the week,” and a way to shop for Nike gear.

You can also add friends here if you want to keep each other accountable or compete.

The activity tab brings up what you’ve done so far.

Nike Training Club

You can keep track of everything you’ve done here.

This goes beyond the workouts you do in the app. There’s a section here to add other activities, like a hiking trip or a pick-up soccer game.

Not only does this section track workouts, it also gives you milestones to work towards, include total numbers of minutes spent working out.

From the club section, you can sign up for local Nike or community events.

Nike Training Club

Some of these events might not be easy to access. Nike events in New York City, for example, are limited to an intense (and not free, though reasonably priced) marathon training program for serious athletes.

The community challenge events, however, are open to anyone. You can even tag photos of yourself with Nike hashtags if you want them to show up here.

So go out there and give it a shot.

Nike Training Club

Push yourself hard when you want to go hard, but don’t forget to take easier recovery days too – rest is an essential part of fitness.

But enjoy it.

Exercise is the closest thing to a miracle drug that we have, and if you’re looking for an app to help you incorporate fitness into your routine, it’s worth giving this one a shot.

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