December 4, 2022

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If consistent, IRL personal training simplyisn't your thing or isn't possible (thanks, hectic work schedules!), online personal training platforms can be an approachable, accessible substitute.
For starters, they allow for flexibility and give you the ability to exercise wherever you feel most comfortable — whether it be at home, in a local park, or at the gym — while still providing guidance from a trained fitness expert. Just like in-person trainers, online training platforms offer personalized exercise programs. But virtual versions have a leg up when it comes to the variety of workouts available, as the pros can upload everything from HIIT sessions and strength training plans to mobility work onto their websites.
So, which online personal training companies are actually worth subscribing to? Here, you'll find a round-up of the best online personal training platforms based on cost, availability, platforms used, and certifications held by the fitness experts.
Key Specs
Why We Chose It
Ultimate Performance Fitness helps people reach their fitness goals by addressing not only your current exercise program but also your sleep, stress levels, and dietary preferences. All of these are taken into consideration when coming up with a training program and diet plan for you.
Pros & Cons
Pros
Cons
Overview
Exercising regularly is one thing, but if your goal is to improve your health holistically, a whole slew of other factors — including nutrition, sleep, and stress levels — must be considered. That’s why Ultimate Performance Fitness provides clients with what the company calls a “full audit of your lifestyle.” This includes an analysis of more than 50 data points, such as sleep quality, stress levels, health status, exercise history, and nutritional needs to create a personalized health and fitness plan.
Through the app, you’ll be matched with a personal trainer who will lead you through one-on-one sessions and conduct weekly check-ins via email or video chat. You can also send them photos of yourself to show your progress, but it’s not a requirement.
In addition to a weight lifting plan, you’ll recieve a nutrition plan, which includes supplement recommendations, based on your suggested macronutrient intake. (Just know that this macro calculation may not be totally accurate, so take it with a grain of salt. Instead, meet with a registered dietitian to find a macro intake helps you meet your health and fitness goals.)
What’s more, the Ultimate Performance app allows you to track a variety of health metrics, including body weight, body fat, hormone markers, blood pressure, and hunger, sleep, and energy levels. You can also access recipes and other workouts via the app.
The downside: The app could leave you feeling overwhelmed by all the metrics. So if trying to manage multiple health factors at once is intimidating, this fitness approach might not be the right fit for you.
Key Specs
Why We Chose It
Forge stands out for its custom meal plans, which are available with all three of its program packages. The recipes are provided by a registered dietitian, and there are even options for lactose-free, gluten-free, and vegetarian eaters.
Pros & Cons
Pros
Cons
Overview
Forge believes that nutrition plays a key role in your journey to healthy living. The company has a registered dietitian on staff who will create your custom meal plan that’s either “balanced” (which incorporates a healthy blend of most food groups), lactose-free, gluten-free, or vegetarian.
“You cannot outwork poor nutrition with exercise,” says Michael S. Parker, C.P.T., F.M.S., the founder of Forge. “It is critical you discover your daily needs and construct a system for planning, shopping, preparing, and storing meals in a reasonable manner.
Compared to other personalized online training programs featuring a designated personal trainer for each client, Forge’s programs are considerably cheaper. Its basic program costs $125 per month and includes one live video chat or phone call monthly. Still, all programs give you access to video sessions and unlimited in-app messaging to your trainer, who is fully certified through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), American Council on Exercise (ACE), or the National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association (NESTA). The trainer may recommend you use props such as resistance bands and stability balls, so have those on hand before you get started.
It was easy to find answers to common questions on the company’s extensive FAQs section. However, one downside is you can’t pick your trainer; you’re matched with one based on a questionnaire you fill out when you first sign up. So if you’re particular about whom you’d mesh with, that may be a deal-breaker.
Key Specs
Why We Chose It
The Transform App has both nutrition and fitness offerings for those who are looking to transform their health. The app is inexpensive for the features it provides, and it was created by TV personalities and celebrity trainers Chris and Heidi Powell.
Pros & Cons
Pros
Cons
Overview
For those on a budget, Transform provides guidance on both nutrition and exercise for just $15 per month. The program includes a customizable workout plan featuring more than 1,500 total exercises that are suitable for all fitness levels, and it provides modification suggestions for each exercise.
Plus, there are a variety of workout types to choose from, including at-home, gym-based, dance, and cross-training sessions. You’ll also find workouts from celebrity trainers Chris and Heidi Powell, who have engaging personalities and years of experience helping people hit their fitness goals. The built-in timer helps you stay on track with your workout, especially since Transform doesn’t provide a designated trainer to work with you. This means you don’t get access to a coach, virtual sessions, or in-app messaging, which are some of the cons.
Regarding nutrition, the app’s recipe database and weekly grocery shopping list can be helpful for meal planning. You can also track your daily food intake and view how many macros and calories you consume each day — if you want. While there are educational nutrition videos available, there isn’t an expert on-hand to guide you.
The site can feel a bit spammy and busy (there’s a ton of graphics to take in on the homepage alone), making it difficult navigate. However, once you get your bearings, it does include helpful information about the program’s offerings, which overall makes for a well-rounded and affordable approach to getting healthy.
Key Specs
Why We Chose It
Non Gendered Fitness is a trans-friendly virtual gym that’s owned and operated by gender-diverse individuals Bowie Stover, Zay Canters, and Jodie Nagyivan. It’s focused on helping members of the LGBTQIA+ community get fit, healthy, and build confidence. The program is relatively inexpensive, making the owner’s inclusivity intentions seem even more authentic.
Pros & Cons
Pros
Cons
Overview
From the moment you arrive at Non Gendered Fitness‘s homepage, it’s clear the program has a genuine goal: providing fitness and health coaching for the LGBTQIA+ community. The owners give off a warm, welcoming vibe in their bios on the About page and offer in-app online training sessions, which allow you to decide the pace of your workouts. If you’re not so comfortable with meeting one-on-one with a personal trainer but want all the benefits of having a pro on your side, this might just be the program for you.
The company offers a free seven- or 14-day trial, so you can see if you like the workout style before fully committing. The beginner-friendly home training program is $13 per week and focused on moving and loosening up joints. And its workouts are designed to be completed one to four days per week, with the intensity progressing over time.
To make matters easy, you’ll log into your training sessions, follow along to video exercise demonstrations, and track your progress all in the app. However, it’s a pre-built, self-paced program, so you won’t have a live trainer for one-on-one support. (BTW, you can contact one if needed.)
The app also gives you the option to record yourself performing an exercise next to the video demonstration, so you can look back at it and see if your form matches the demo. Plus, your coach will also get a copy of the video and send you feedback. If you’re looking for some healthy eating tips, you’ll find nutrition coaching available in the app.
If you care about credentials from personal training certification organizations in the U.S., Non Gendered Fitness might not satisfy. The owners are based in Victoria, Australia, and don’t hold credentials from NASM, ACE, or NESTA. However, Stovers holds a fitness certificate from FitNation and is a Russian Kettlebell Challenge Instructor, while Canters holds a Precision Nutrition Coaching Certification, according to the company website.
Key Specs
Why We Chose It
Lauren Leavell Fitness is owned by NASM-certified personal trainer Lauren Leavell, who embraces body positivity and welcomes people of all sizes, shapes, and backgrounds who desire to make positive changes through exercise.
Pros & Cons
Pros
Cons
Overview
Lauren Leavell Fitness is all about embracing your body and getting moving, no matter your shape or size. In fact, owner Leavell says on the company’s website that “all bodies are welcome.”
On the website, you’ll find a demonstration video that shows you how to navigate its app-based program, including how to view members’ notes, access recorded and upcoming class schedules based on workout type, and sign up for workouts. Classes offered include barre, boot camp, and HIIT. Members can communicate easily with each other in the app and earn a Gold Star statuson their profile once they invite others to join a class, which Leavell calls an ambassador program.
Leavell also offers a sliding-scale pricing model. The Sustainer membership costs $40 per month and includes four live workouts a week and recordings, access to recordings with special guest instructors and educators, and community connection to other folks in the class. By choosing the $60-per-month Builder membership, you’ll get everything you get with the Sustainer membership, plus you’ll help fund scholarships for those who need assistance and make space for more people to join the community.
If you like to work with a variety of trainers, this may not be the best program for you, as Leavell is the sole fitness expert. Since all the workouts are pre-recorded, there isn’t much of a personal touch, either.
Key Specs
Why We Chose It
Exercising as you grow older can be intimidating, especially if you’re dealing with a chronic condition or pain. The Perfect Workout is geared toward folks 55 years old and older who may need to make more modifications and take things a bit slower.
Pros & Cons
Pros
Cons
Overview
The Perfect Workout began as one studio in San Diego and now has more than 60 locations throughout California, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Washington D.C., and Philadelphia. It offers one-on-one virtual sessions with a fitness professional who is trained specifically in Slow-Motion Strength Training, which involves slower repetitions to fatigue your muscles faster. However, they may not hold fitness certifications through NASM, ACE, or NESTA.
The program consists of one to two live personal training sessions a week, with each of the workouts lasting 20 minutes. The cost depends on whether you sign up for a short- or long-term program. And though it’s more expensive than other online training programs, if you’re looking for workouts tailored to older adults and that don’t require a big time commitment, this company may be the perfect fit.
The workout program was created to address osteoporosis or osteopenia and developed to be safe enough for people who have low bone density. “[That] methodology is what’s key and unique to us,” says Kaila Grabot, a member support coordinator at The Perfect Workout. “It’s a high-intensity, low-impact style of training, so it focuses on building lean muscle and helps keep your bones and joints safe as you’re doing the exercises.” The workouts are also highly modifiable, so it’s a good option for folks dealing with injuries or pain, adds Grabot.
Additionally, the site offers an education hub with articles written by staff that are geared toward seniors, including topics like how to stay healthy after menopause, how to breathe properly during workouts, how to create healthy habits, and more.
If you’re looking to switch up your exercise program and diet with the help of pros, try Ultimate Performance Fitness for its well-rounded guidance on how to improve your diet and engage in a regular exercise program. The app keeps you accountable by providing in-depth methods to track your progress and educational information about nutrition, plus access to healthy recipes.
If a full audit of your lifestyle, diet, and exercise feels like way too much too soon, ease into your fitness journey with a budget-friendly option such as Transform. The Transform app program is inexpensive, coming in at $15a month, and offers all the same benefits of having a virtual personal trainer and nutritionist at your fingertips. Even though you are not able to talk with celebrity trainers Chris and Heidi Powell live, their motivating videos and weekly grocery lists will give you everything you need to ease into your new, healthier lifestyle.
Choosing an online personal trainer involves weighing your personal preferences for several factors, some of which you may not have considered if you’re new to personal training. Here, Parker suggests the following tips for finding a good fit.
Generally speaking, you'll want to seek out trainers who hold well-respected credentials (think: certified personal trainers, certified strength and conditioning specialists, functional movement specialists). Make sure they have been certified through accredited fitness trainer organizations such as NASM, ACE, NESTA, the American College of Sports Medicine, the National Council on Strength and Fitness, the National Federation of Professional Trainers, and the National Strenght and Conditioning Association, and the International Sports Sciences Association. "Ask about their education, certifications, and experience as it relates to your condition level and goal" adds Parker. "It's not recommended to hire uncertified 'trainers' or hobby fitness enthusiasts on social media." While certifications don't guarantee a trainer is the right fit for you and your goals, they are a good starting point.
Rather than picking a trainer based on before and after photos of clients, Parker suggests reading testimonials and even asking to chat with a former client. "Avoid online companies that exploit their clients by posting these pictures; look instead for written or video testimonials about the experience," says Parker. "Your results are your own."
Think about the fitness journey you'd like to take. If you want to start jogging for the first time, find a coach who specializes in running and has certifications to back it up. Or, look for a strength-focused coach if you're looking to gain muscle. And if you prefer a specific type of workouts, such as yoga or HIIT, ask trainers if they are experienced in those areas.
Before searching for a trainer, decide how much you can spend per month on your workouts and how much time you can dedicate to your fitness per week. This might help narrow your choices of trainers down to those who fit your budget and schedule.
Online personal training works much like in-person training, but you connect with your trainer via phone, video, or other online formats. You might follow workouts that the trainer pre-records or complete sessions with them live. Many online trainers and programs develop an exercise regimen specifically for you, as well as provide guidance with a meal plan. The big perk? You can get your workouts in on your own time and at your place of choice.
Most trainers facilitate their sessions through an app where you can connect virtually, track your progress, and access recipes and other educational information. Many allow you to message your trainer through their app, as well.
Yes, depending on what you're looking for. If you want the help of a professional but can't get to a gym and prefer to engage in workouts on your own time in a location you choose (e.g., at your home, office, or hotel), then an online trainer may be worth it. You can even pick a program or trainer that allows you to stop their program at any time, so you're not locked into a contract if you change your mind. You can also look for programs that provide a free trial before committing.
Program cost varies depending on what they offer. For instance, some provide access to their app for as low as $10 per month, while other programs with one-on-one training and other personalized benefits range from $15 to $450 per month.
For some programs, you won’t need any equipment, and many will work with what you have already, such as resistance bands and free weights. You can also work out at a gym and virtually connect with your trainer while you’re there.
Shape looked into 13 online personal trainers and programs and reviewed each based on its cost, reputation of its founders, and the trainers' qualifications, experience, and variety of skill sets. Shape also considered the options available for users to communicate directly with trainers. Other offerings that were considered were app utility, nutrition guidance, programs that focused on body acceptance, and those designed for underserved groups, such as seniors and the LGBTQIA+ community.
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