5 Best Bodybuilding Apps for Muscle Hypertrophy in 2024 [In-Depth Comparison]

Expert review by former competitive natural bodybuilder and trainer of physique athletes with a PhD in exercise physiology

Simi leanest competitors NPC Jr. Bikini Nationals
My client Simi was one of the leanest competitors at the NPC Jr. Bikini Nationals

As a trainer of physique athletes with a PhD in exercise physiology, you may think I’m in a good position to help you choose the best bodybuilding app.

After all, I’m a former competitive natural bodybuilder myself. I spent years studying bodybuilding, periodization, and hypertrophy science. I have also been training clients for 14 years—helping them get bigger, leaner, and stronger. But I have a confession to make: I have never used a bodybuilding app.

So, when Dr. Carl Juneau (the owner of this blog) asked me to write a review of the best bodybuilding apps, I told him: “It’s outside my wheel-house, as I’m usually the last of my peers to use and/or download apps.” I was just being honest.

On the other hand, I’ve conducted many scientific studies on muscle hypertrophy and strength. To give you an example, in one my studies, 20 women gained 3.3 lbs of muscle and lost 1.3% of their body fat in 2 months, on average (Cholewa et al. 2018). And recently, a client of mine (Simi) was one of the leanest competitors at the NPC Jr. Nationals bikini (see photo). So if that’s the kind of results you’re after, I can confirm you need an effective, appropriate training plan.

But here’s the problem with bodybuilding apps:

A lot of websites will give you a list of “the X best bodybuilding apps”. But these lists often focus on secondary characteristics (in my opinion). Like the apps’ design or social sharing features. What about their workout plans? How good or bad are these apps are at building muscle? These lists often won’t tell you. If you want to build a decent amount of muscle, this is what you really should care about.

So, I decided it was worth a shot. Keep in mind: I’m coming at this with no experience using any bodybuilding app. You may think of this as an advantage actually, as I’m not biased for having used a favorite for a long time.

Speaking of bias, full disclosure: the team behind this blog paid me to write this review. They also develop the smart bodybuilding app Dr. Muscle. So, their app is included here, alongside other popular apps. But I can confirm my ratings were posted as is, and that no one at Dr. Muscle tried to influence them.

We’ll begin with a quick review of what actually works to build muscle. We’ll list the main variables in program design for hypertrophy (like reps, sets, intensity, and exercise selection). Then, we’ll see how to make progress in bodybuilding over time (with proper periodization, fatigue management, and progressive overload). And finally, we’ll rate the top 5 apps across these variables to find out which really is the best bodybuilding app.


In case you’re in a hurry, are the highlights of our findings. The top 3 apps were:

  1. Dr. Muscle
  2. Strong Lifts 5×5
  3. JEFIT

Apps were rated across 10 variables on a 1 to 5 scale. The maximum score was 50. Of the 5 apps reviewed, the Dr. Muscle app followed scientific principles of training to build muscle the most, earning a score of 48 out of 50 (jump to review).

How to build muscle

Before we review the top bodybuilding apps, we need to be clear on what builds muscle.

If you new to building muscle and you want the full story, you can check out my Definitive Guide to Muscle Hypertrophy Workout for Beginners. I’ll simplify here.

In short, there are a few well-known training principles you should keep in mind. And that need to be considered when formulating a sound training plan for hypertrophy. By understanding these principles, we can tell how well these bodybuilding apps will help you build muscle.

They can be grouped into:

  • Periodization variables: those are related to long term planning and building more and more muscle over time
  • Prescription variables: those cover the programming of daily and weekly workouts

See Table 1 (below) for more details.

Table 1—Hypertrophy training variables

Periodization Variables
Progressive overload For a tissue to adapt it must be presented with a stimulus that meets the threshold for adaptation. When this occurs consistently with a progressively increasing stimulus, hypertrophy will occur.
Variation The cellular and molecular pathways responsible for adaptation are still subject to negative feedback loops. Even with progressive overload, performing the same exercises, reps, and sets will eventually lead to diminishing returns and an increased risk of injury.
Fatigue management Fatigue accumulates with consistent intense training, and leads to tissue damage and substrate depletion.
Individual specificity Trainees with greater experience and more muscular development require greater volumes to achieve a smaller degree of hypertrophy than trainees with little experience and low muscle hypertrophy.
Prescription Variables
Exercise specificity The exercises selected to work target muscle groups
Volume The quantity of work performed. Technically, this is defined as sets x reps x load x distance. However, for hypertrophy purposes it will be defined as the number of sets performed at a high intensity of effort.
Relative intensity The percentage of the 1 repetition maximum
Intensity of effort Proximity to failure in which a set is to be concluded. Generally, repetitions in reserve (RIR) is used to measure this variable.
Frequency How many times per week a muscle group is trained.

Table 2 (below) summarizes how to apply these principles to create an effective hypertrophy training plan.

Table 2—Appropriate application of the hypertrophy training variables

Periodization Variables
Progressive overload One or more of the following are increased every 1 to 3 weeks: the load by 1-3% the 1RM, the number of repetitions per set by 1 to 2, or the number of sets performed by 1.
Variation The set and rep scheme are varied every 4-8 weeks.
Exercise selection is varied every 4-10 weeks.
Fatigue management Weekly: At least a day of rest is provided before training the same muscle group
Monthly: A week of low-effort workouts (deload) once every 4-10 weeks
Individual specificity Beginners: 3-6 sets per muscle group per week
Intermediate: 6-12 sets per muscle group per week
Advanced: 9-20 sets per muscle group per week
Prescription Variables
Exercise specificity Movements are prescribed that load all the major muscle groups: quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, calves, pecs, deltoids, traps, lats, biceps and triceps
Larger muscle groups are loaded with more volume than smaller muscle groups
Sets The number of sets should be appropriate to both the individual and exercise specificity
Repetitions 5 to 30 repetitions per set, with appropriate set and load prescriptions
Relative intensity Between 30 to 85% of the 1 RM. Most efficient growth (hypertrophy relative to volume) appears to occur around 55-75% 1 RM
Intensity of effort Most sets should be performed at an RIR of 1-4, with 0 occasionally used or as part of higher repetition sets
Frequency Each muscle group should be loaded 1-3 times per week, with twice weekly appearing most conducive for hypertrophy

Rating the best bodybuilding apps

To systematically evaluate each app, I describe the following procedures:

  1. Opening the app
  2. Selecting a workout
  3. Tracking the workout within the app
  4. Any progressions provided by the app over time

I’ll tell you right away:

Of the 5 apps reviewed, the Dr. Muscle app was the most evidence based, earning a score of 48 out of 50. Jump ahead to learn more.

Apps were quantitatively rated based upon each variable with a 1 to 5 scale, with 50 maximal points possible (see Table 3).

Table 3—Rating system for the variables of hypertrophy exercise programming

Rating Explanation
1 The variable is missing or ignored
2 The variable is grossly misapplied or defined
3 The variable is applied but with serious errors
4 The variable is appropriately applied with minor errors
5 The variable is appropriately applied

Following the quantitative evaluation, a qualitative evaluation of pros, cons, and overall impressions are given for each app.

Dr. Muscle by Dr. Carl Juneau, PhD—Workout Planner: Gain Muscle & Strength

Opening the app sets you with a virtual initial consult. The app collects information regarding training your:

  • Training experience
  • Age
  • Weight
  • Preferred set scheme (i.e.: normal sets, rest pause, or pyramids)
  • Goals (muscle hypertrophy, fat loss, health, and sex-drive)
  • Training equipment available
  • Increments available for progressing the load
  • Body part prioritization
  • Cardio
  • Available days and times to train

The app will then suggest a program (full body or upper/lower split) and one of seven levels to begin at. Each level appears to be approximately 6-10 weeks in length. Within the program, feedback from the user is prompted and used to calculate the recommended load for each exercise.

I went through and configured the settings for a variety of experience levels and training preferences.

Table 4—Ratings for Dr. Muscle

Periodization Variables
Variable Rating Comments
Progressive overload 5 Overload is progressed by increases in volume and load. The load used is progressed based upon each previous workout.
Variation 3.5 Intermediate and advanced levels in programming use a daily undulating periodization scheme to vary intensity and volume. The exercises progress from beginner to intermediate level, but exercise variation does not occur from level to level in the advanced programming. This means movement variation may not occur for durations greater than 10-12 weeks. It is up to the user to manually apply variation of movement.
Fatigue management 5 There are planned light days at the start of all the intermediate and advanced levels, and the algorithm will plan deloads according to progress (or lack thereof).
Individual specificity 5 Volume, frequency and complexity are appropriately different based upon experience. The user can also seamlessly swap movements based on preference or individual needs.
Prescription Variables
Variable Rating Comments
Exercise specificity 5 All major muscle groups are trained with an appropriate volume distribution.
Sets 5
Repetitions 4.5 Reps are all within appropriate range for hypertrophy. However, in some levels the high repetition sets are applied to movements where lower repetitions are more appropriate (there was a period where sets of 17-23 repetitions are prescribed for the deadlift).
Relative intensity 5
Intensity of effort 5 Loads are programmed according to user feedback. The algorithm prescribes loads that promote a 1-3 RIR with lower rep sets and 0-2 RIR with lighter loads.
Frequency 5
Total Rating 48

Pros of the Dr. Muscle app: The app uses an evidence-based algorithm to prescribe training based upon a logical variety of user data. The training programs prescribed are relatively well tailored to individual needs and goals. The app prescribes loads for each set of each exercise based off user feedback, and uses an algorithm that appropriately progresses or regresses the load based upon both objective and subjective measures. The app does a very good job of progressing the overload and volume/intensity variation level by level, in addition to autoregulating fatigue. The app provides flexibility for the user to swap exercises (i.e.: bench press for dumbbell press) to cater to individual needs or allow the user to apply variation of movement. Finally, the tracking software provides useful information related to progress that can promote adherence and consistency, and syncs with your calendar to notify you of upcoming training sessions.

Cons of the Dr. Muscle app: After the 3rd level, movement variation in both the full body and upper/lower split templates does not occur unless the user manually swaps movements. Daily undulating periodization is used in most templates, and while DUP appears more efficacious for hypertrophy versus a non-periodized plan, the algorithm needs to do a better job of matching movements to repetition scheme. For example, closed kinetic chain bilateral barbell movements like the deadlift and squat are more prone to problematic or risky breakdowns in technique as a result of high repetition fatigue than open kinetic chain movements like hip thrusts or leg press. Finally, the body part prioritization is only offered for the chest, biceps, and abdominals.

Overall assessment of the Dr. Muscle app: Of the five apps reviewed, the Dr. Muscle app programs training most in accord with the fundamental training principals and variables necessary to maximize hypertrophy outcomes. This is the most appropriate app for the user who is looking to remove the guess work out of programming and progressions for muscular development. This is also a great app for the user who wishes to customize the movement/exercise prescription, but take advantage of AI to quantify adaptations, apply progressive overload, and autoregulate fatigue.

Dr. Muscle ranked #1 best bodybuilding app—try it free

BodyFit by Bodybuilding.com—Gym Workouts & Strength Training Plans

I selected the objective specifically for “muscle building”. The app then gave me several options for programs, ranked as beginner, intermediate, and advanced.

The plans I could choose from ranged from 8 to 20 weeks in length. I reviewed one of each category:

  • Jim Stopanni’s beginner 12-week “Shortcut to size”
  • Steve Cook’s 8-week intermediate “Modern Physique”
  • Jake Wilson’s 16-week advanced plan “Project Mass”

Table 5—Ratings for BodyFit by Bodybuilding.com

Periodization Variables
Variable Rating Comments
Progressive overload 3.5 Programs progressed overload with volume, but loads were all prescribed as repetition maximums, leaving little room to structure a progressive increase in load from session to session.
Variation 5 Both volume and movements are appropriately varied
Fatigue management 2.5 Appropriate weekly rest days are provided, but lighter weeks, recovery and/or deload weeks are not used
Individual specificity 2 The user is required to select from a variety of workout programs offered. There is little distinction in volume between beginner, intermediate, and advanced plans.
Prescription Variables
Variable Rating Comments
Exercise specificity 4 Exercise prescription in the intermediate and advanced programs was appropriate. However, the beginner program contained an excessive amount of volume dedicated to small muscle groups compared to larger muscle groups. This is more appropriate for an individual who is relatively well developed and looking to bring up lagging body parts.
Sets 5
Repetitions 5
Relative intensity 5 Instructions to go to failure on each set would place most of the work done in the 55-75% 1rm range.
Intensity of effort 2 All sets in all programs were to be performed to muscular failure at all times, even in supposed recovery weeks.
Frequency 4.5 The beginner program loaded the lower body once weekly but upper body thrice weekly
Total Rating 38.5

Pros of the Bodybuilding.com app: Each program contains an answer to the following questions: who is this meant for, what equipment do I need, what is the weekly training schedule, and what should I do after I complete it? There are training guidelines that describe how to warm up, select loads, and what (if any) cardio to do. Finally, the schedule is broken down week by week, and further day by day, and relatively easy to view and navigate.

Cons of the Bodybuilding.com app: While programs are separated by goals, it is up to the user to click and review each program to find the version most suitable to their individual needs. Though programs are ranked according to level (i.e.: beginner, intermediate, advanced), the distinction is rather arbitrary when one considers the periodization and programming principals. Most plans are five days a week, and there are no options to customize to fit an individual’s personal schedule.

Overall assessment of the Bodybuilding.com app: The app provides a variety of novel programs with exciting names, but varying degrees of efficacy. Most of the programs listed under “muscle building” will induce some degree of muscle hypertrophy. However, the app is missing an algorithm to fit the most appropriate program to the individual. Because they are rigid programs, the app also restricts the necessity to specify the program to individual needs, or adapt the program based upon progress. Finally, all of programs reviewed require the user to take all sets to failure, and none of the programs account for chronic fatigue, which collectively increases the risk of overuse and acute injuries.

Fitness On Demand by Mark Lauren—Your Are Your Own Gym

A “start here” video instructs the user where to begin. For unfit individuals, it is a 7-month training program beginning with:

  • The “Prep Program”, progressing to
  • “Bodyweight 2.0”, and culminating in
  • The “90 Day Challenge”

Table 6—Ratings for Mark Lauren

Periodization Variables
Variable Rating Comments
Progressive overload 2 The overload is technically progressed, but progresses via range of motion and isometric time under tensions, this maximizes mobility and isometric strength, but limits hypertrophic adaptations.
Variation 3 Variation of movement is applied. But, at some point, unloaded movements (i.e.: body weight) will need to progress to loaded to stimulate hypertrophy.
Fatigue management 5
Individual specificity 3.5 Users are instructed where to start based on subjective fitness level. Instructions are also provided to regress or progress certain exercises. However, volume and intensity in intermediate and advanced programs are not high enough to induce hypertrophy.
Prescription Variables
Variable Rating Comments
Exercise specificity 3 Major and minor muscle groups of the posterior kinetic chain (i.e.: hamstrings, glutes, back) are not adequately loaded during the beginner and intermediate program.
Sets 2 Inadequate hard sets in all phases of programming to induce hypertrophy.
Repetitions 2 Because of low relative intensity, sets must be taken to muscular failure at > 20 reps, however, most sets are comprised of 4-8 reps.
Relative intensity 2 Bodyweight and low load exercises will induce hypertrophy in the untrained, but greater development will require greater relative intensities for hypertrophy to continue.
Intensity of effort 2 With bodyweight and low load, sets need to be taken to failure, but this is not prescribed.
Frequency 3.5 Upper body posterior kinetic chain muscles are not trained with an optimal frequency in beginner and intermediate programs.
Total Rating 28

Pros of the Mark Lauren app: The app does a good job explaining where to start. Each program contains a schedule of what workouts will occur on which days. Each day has a full-length video that guides you through the exercises rep by rep (similar to a Peloton class), explains and demonstrates correct technique, and demonstrates how to regress or progress the movements to individual needs.

Cons of the Mark Lauren app: To complete the work out you must play the entire video as there is no written plan. Because of this, the user does not know how many sets or reps to do with each exercise until the exercise is underway. The beginner program contains almost no pulling movements, and these movements in the intermediate program are minimal. As a result, strength and hypertrophy adaptations in the upper back muscles are limited.

Overall assessment of the Mark Lauren app: In previously sedentary and overweight individuals, the programs in this app may induce some hypertrophy and increases in strength during the first one to two months. However, these adaptations will not consistently occur due to the lack of hypertrophy specific overload. This is an appropriate program if one’s goal is to improve range of motion, kinesthetic awareness, and isometric muscular endurance. Many of the workouts contained in this program could be very useful during periods where access to equipment is unavailable, or the individual wishes to take a prolonged period away from loading due to injuries, over training or other illness-related reasons. It is not an optimal program to build robust muscular development or strength.

JEFIT by JEFIT Inc.—Workout Tracker, Weight Lifting, Gym Log App

Opening the app for the first time took me through a questionnaire that collected:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Height
  • Weight
  • Experience
  • Number of days per week available to train
  • Goals

Once in the app, I filtered based upon level, goals (I selected “bulking”), and days of per week. This loaded a variety of program options. Some cover all body parts, while others are focused on a single body part (i.e.: “build bigger arms”).

I focused only on those that trained all body parts. I reviewed the general beginner program, an 8-week intermediate program, and a 20-week advanced program.

Table 7—Ratings for JEFIT

Periodization Variables
Variable Rating Comments
Progressive overload 3.5 Minimal instruction of load selection was given for any program. The beginner program did not progress volume or reps for the 6-week suggested duration. Intermediate program used a linear inverse loading scheme (reps down, sets up) from week to week. Advanced used a non-linear change in reps every 4 weeks.
Variation 3.5 Variation is overdosed in the intermediate program with exercises changing weekly, but appropriate in the advanced program. Variation of reps/sets is missing in the beginner program, though variation of movement is not needed for a 6-week duration.
Fatigue management 3 Appropriate weekly rest days are provided, but recovery and/or deload weeks are not used. This is a major concern for the intermediate/advanced programs that contain very high volumes.
Individual specificity 4 Unclear difference in volume and complexity between intermediate and advanced programming. Options exist for user to customize exercise selection to individual needs.
Prescription Variables
Variable Rating Comments
Exercise specificity 5 All major muscle groups are trained with an appropriate volume distribution.
Sets 4.5 The advanced program likely overdoses volume in the final month, requiring the user to perform > 50 sets per body part weekly.
Repetitions 5
Relative intensity 5 Instructions imply (but do not exclusively state) going to failure on each set, which would place most of the work done in the 55-75% 1rm range.
Intensity of effort 2 Minimal instructions for how to structure load, which is especially concerning for training sessions comprised of 10 sets of 10 reps for multiple movements.
Frequency 5
Total Rating 40.5

Pros of the JEFIT app: The app makes it easy to filter for programs based off of experience, goals, and availability. There is a large library of instructions and demonstrations for nearly every resistance training movement. There are options to adapt plans, for example, you can swap exercises (say a barbell press for a machine press) in the program or adjust the sets or reps. Finally, the tracking software and ability for it to sync to your calendar with reminders are all useful features that can promote adherence and consistency.

Cons of the JEFIT app: There is little difference in volume, frequency, and complexity between some of the intermediate and advanced plans. Many of the plans over 8 weeks in length contained no fluctuation in sets or reps over the duration of the plan, and no instructions for how to advance when the program was completed. The lack of fatigue management is likely to result in burnout, especially in the advanced plan, where some muscle groups receive over 100 sets of volume per week for four consecutive weeks. The most glaring downside is the lack of instructions for load selection and progressive overload.

Overall assessment of the JEFIT app: The JEFIT app is relatively easy to use and provides a large selection of novel programs. All of the programs listed under bulking are likely to induce some degree of hypertrophy in just about anyone. But, just like the Bodybuilding.com app, the quality of programming between plans is highly variable. For the user who is looking for an app that will program appropriately for their needs and goals, and advance the program as necessary to induce continuous adaptations, this is not the right app for them. However, for someone who is comfortable or wishing to program for themselves, the ability to customize and create your own program, adapt and progress the variables on your own, and the tools available to track progress could be quite valuable.

Strong Lifts 5×5 by Mehdi—Weight Lifting & Gym Workout Log

Opening the app, I was given the goal options of build muscle, get stronger, and lose fat. I selected build muscle.

Next, I selected 4 days per week as my availability to lift, and barbells, dumbbells, and machines from available equipment. The app then asked for: gender, age, heigh, weight.

Experience was quantified as maximal back squat relative to body mass. Squatting less than body mass qualified as new to lifting; beginner was 1-1.5x body mass; intermediate was 1.5 – 2x body mass; and, advanced was > 2x body mass. I went through and had programs set up for all four classifications. All programs were comprised of the same 5 exercises:

  • Squat
  • Deadlift
  • Bent-over Row
  • Bench Press
  • Overhead press

Table 8—Ratings for Strong Lifts 5×5

Periodization Variables
Variable Rating Comments
Progressive overload 5 Progressive overload is applied via increasing load on a session by session basis. The user can also manually adjust the scale of load increase.
Variation 2 Five total exercises and a 5×5 (set x rep) scheme comprise the base program for all users. Neither exercises nor volume schemes are planned to vary. Both are up to the user to manually adjust, and instructions or suggestions for adjustments are not provided.
Fatigue management 5 Planned deloads are not used, however, an algorithm will suggest deloads based upon lack of progression.
Individual specificity 3.5 Volume (sets) is identical regardless of level. Starting loads for all five exercises are all based upon squat 1 RM. I was unable to find a way to enter my 1 RM for each movement for the app to accurately calculate starting load. As a positive, the app progresses or regresses load for each exercise individually based on the performance of each previous workout.
Prescription Variables
Variable Rating Comments
Exercise specificity 3.5 Basic programming does not directly load all major muscle groups. For example, there is inadequate loading of the lats and hamstrings. It is up to the user to manually add in additional exercises to adequately load all major muscle groups.
Sets 3.5 With the exception of squats, each movement is trained once every 3-5 days. This means weekly volume in sets will not always be optimal for larger muscle groups.
Repetitions 5
Relative intensity 4.5 The relative intensity begins low (at about 50% 1RM, which is more appropriate for 15-25 rep sets), but rises weekly until it reaches an appropriate level.
Intensity of effort 5 The intensity of effort begins low (about 10+ repetitions in reserve), but rises weekly until it reaches an appropriate level.
Frequency 5
Total Rating 42

Pros Strong Lifts 5×5: The app provides a user-friendly, valid method for categorizing users based upon training status. The app prescribes loads for each workout, and uses an algorithm that appropriately progresses (or regresses) the load based upon past performance. The algorithm helps the user autoregulate, and prescribes deload weeks when plateaus occur. The user is able to manually adjust load, set and schemes, and the user is also able add assistance movements. Finally, the tracking software provides useful information that can promote adherence and consistency.

Cons Strong Lifts 5×5: There is no difference in volume or complexity based on training status. The program relies on increasing load to progress the overload, but does not progress the overload via increases in volume, which appear equally important to promote hypertrophy. Loads for all movements are prescribed based upon squat 1 RM, which for strong squatters, bench press loads may be too high, and vice versa. There does not appear to be an option to enter in current 1RMs for the other staple movements for more accurate load prescriptions. The exercise selection is limited to five movements, and with the exception of the quadriceps, does not provide adequate volume to maximize hypertrophy in more trained individuals. Variation in the set and rep schematic and exercise selection is not present, which increases the risk of physical accommodation and mental stagnation.

Overall assessment Strong Lifts 5×5: The Strong Lifts 5×5 app contains a number of useful features to help one individualize the programming and autoregulate. Of the 5 Apps reviewed this was only one of two to automate load progressions and deloads. The base-program is sufficient to induce muscle hypertrophy, but due to less-than-optimal exercise specificity, volume, and variation, will likely not maximize hypertrophy outcomes. In fairness, the app does state it is not a bodybuilding app, and is designed for strength gains. For the user who is looking for a product that will remove all guess work out of programming and provide a best-practice hypertrophy program, this is not an appropriate app. On the other hand, this is a great app for the user who is comfortable adjusting the base-programming to a hypertrophy model, and is looking for an app that will help them track progress and use AI to progress overload and autoregulate fatigue.

And the winner is…

The winner is the Dr. Muscle app. It is the most evidence based of the 5 apps reviewed, with a score of 48 out of 50.

It automates training volume and progressive overload, arguably the most important variables related to muscle hypertrophy.

  • For volume, the Dr. Muscle app applies an appropriate amount based upon the individual’s training status
  • For progressive overload, AI is used to properly progress according to the individual’s unique progress.

For a quick preview, you can watch this video:

You can try Dr. Muscle for free or read its customer reviews.

Summary of ratings for the 5 bodybuilding apps

Looking at all the apps, ratings ranged from 28 to 48 (see Table 9). In terms of variables, reps and frequency were applied well most consistently across apps. In contrast, intensity of effort was most often mismanaged.

Table 9—Summary of ratings for the top 5 best bodybuilding apps

Variable Dr. Muscle Strong Lifts 5×5 JEFIT Mark Lauren bb.com
Progressive overload 5 5 3.5 2 3.5
Variation 3.5 2 3.5 3 5
Fatigue management 5 5 3 5 2.5
Individual specificity 5 3.5 4 3.5 2
Exercise specificity 5 3.5 5 3 4
Sets 5 3.5 4.5 2 5
Repetitions 4.5 5 5 2 5
Relative intensity 5 4.5 5 2 5
Intensity of effort 5 5 2 2 2
Frequency 5 5 5 3.5 4.5
Total Rating 48 42 40.5 28 38.5

King and queen of large, sustainable muscle gains

Bodybuilding programs have come a long way, and at the same time, have not since I was first on bodybuilding.com as a teenager back in 1999 looking for a “routine”.

Science has rapidly provided a lot of evidence in the past decade that what we see in gyms and done by many bodybuilders can “work” just about as well as the traditional view of hypertrophy programming (3-5 sets of 8-12 reps). Supersets, very high reps and lower weights (or the converse, heavy weights and less reps), long and short rest periods, etc. They all can work.

But consistency and progressive overload are still king and queen. Collectively, a mesh of what the individual enjoys with some periodization will produce large, sustainable results in most of the population. The AI I’ve seen in some of the apps (like Dr. Muscle) has the potential to help the vast majority of the population access these training principles and make gains.

Dr. Muscle ranked #1 best bodybuilding app—try it free


Best free bodybuilding app

Looking for the best free option? Of the 5 apps reviewed here, Dr. Muscle was the best free bodybuilding app (it scored 48/50).

This means you're more likely to build muscle fast with Dr. Muscle, as it closely follows scientific principles of hypertrophy.

You can try it free with all features unlocked. On a budget? Stick with the free plan afterwards. While the free plan has some limits, you still get more features for free than with the other apps we've reviewed.

For a detailed review, see our guide 7 Best Free Bodybuilding Apps to Build Muscle on a Budget.

What about the new RP hypertrophy app?

We looked at comments from early adopters. They say the app has its strengths, like a focus on hypertrophy and individualized adjustments. But it also has its weaknesses, like offline usage and cost. It might be good for pure hypertrophy, but it might not be the best fit for everyone's budget or training preference. Learn more in our independent RP Hypertrophy App Review.

Best bodybuilding app for beginners

Dr. Muscle is probably the best bodybuilding app for beginners. In this review, it scored 5/5 for both individual specificity and 5/5 for progressive overload, arguably two of the most important variables for beginners. Learn more in our Definitive Guide to Muscle Hypertrophy Workout for Beginners.

Best bodybuilding app at home

If you work out at home, Dr. Muscle may be the best bodybuilding app for you. You can enter your equipment and get workouts customized to what you have. For home workouts, you can choose among programs for all levels, including full-body, upper/lower, and push/pull/legs splits.

Best app to track progressive overload

Progressive overload is one of the most important variable for building muscle. Dr. Muscle and StrongLift 5x5 both scored 5/5 on this variable. Learn more in our guide: A Progressive Overload App to Build Muscle & Strength On Autopilot.