As I finished my last homerun with a round of Russian Twists, my trainer cheered me through the final reps. He had been on my case the entire workout, acting as a hybrid instructor and rowdy man on the thunderous hip-hop soundtrack.
But we weren’t in a fancy, dimly lit studio for a group fitness class – it was just me in my regular gym. The coach himself was nowhere to be found. He only existed in my headphones, his voice guiding me through the workout through Aaptiv, an audio-centric subscription app.
Aaptiv, which costs $ 14.99 per month or $ 99 per year, hopes to give its users the same experience as expensive in-store fitness classes on demand, for a fraction of the price. The app fulfills its potential, to some extent, but if you’re looking for an intense, in-depth workout via a smartphone, you might not find it here.
Aaptiv What you get
Aaptiv allows its users to access more than 2,500 courses. The company has up to 15 active fitness pros, adding at least 30 new sessions to the platform every week. The trainers themselves come from diverse backgrounds in the United States and are described with a single descriptor on the app. My man, Sultan, for example, is “ambitious”.
Scroll down the app’s landing page to see a range of 14 disciplines, from guided running and elliptical workouts to strength training and yoga. Aspiring runners can train for specific events with tailor-made programs, from 5K to full marathon. You can sweat it out with a partner who is facing one of the challenges, or embark on a longer, multi-day program once you get tired of choosing a la carte options.
Once you’ve chosen a discipline, you have even more options. You can filter the available workouts by duration, music genre (each session is set to a selected playlist), trainer and difficulty (beginner, intermediate and advanced).
The variety of programs available is actually impressive – I feel like I have a whole world of workouts waiting for me. Since it’s as easy to get into one as it is to play on headphones and press the Play button, Aaptiv is infinitely more accessible than reserving a spot in a studio.
So far, so good. But how does it actually work?
I tested Aaptiv with an open mind. Usually I’m not the type to go to fitness classes, but I prefer to get up on my own and work out somewhere else, but I was willing to let his trainers put me to work.
I went through a few advanced level workouts. The sessions were short (around 30 minutes) and targeted several areas of the body. All of my workouts ended up being dumbbell circuits punctuated with rest intervals.
Which raised my first concern about Aaptiv for weightlifters: you won’t be making any gains here. There is nothing wrong with diversifying your workout, but if you are trying to build mass and lift heavy weights, Aaptiv is not for you.
The trainers I have tried did an amazing job of explaining the workouts and individual moves. There were times when I was totally in the zone and wouldn’t have been surprised if I looked up to see the pro demonstrating the progression on a stage in front of me. However, my second qualm with Aaptiv is specifically provided with its audio-centered format. This is what the phone screen looks like when you exercise:
There is no visual reference at all. If you don’t understand what you are doing from the instructions, you’re out of luck. You can go back to replay the instructions, but without prior training knowledge, additional research may be required to know exactly how to perform a move. Granted, I took the advanced level training so they can assume that users have certain prowess, but the problem remains. I imagine other visual learners might agree that this is a problem.
Overall I had a great time using Aaptiv. It prompted me to break out of my regular routine while keeping myself in the weight room, and the sheer number of programs it offers is a tantalizing selling point. For traveling exercise enthusiasts looking to tweak their workout plans on a whim or minimalists keen to recreate a classroom experience at home, the app particularly shines.
I don’t see myself using the app just as a supplement to my own routine, given its shortcomings in strength training. The lack of video guidance is disappointing when programs like ClassPass Live are available and you can find great free workouts on YouTube if you watch enough.
Aaptiv is a good deal if you can imagine yourself in the audience for an expensive group training session, as these classes can cost over US $ 35. If you need to see what you’re doing, or just want to get up, you better stick with real life schedules.