The global fitness industry might be worth some $94 billion, but there’s one thing you can’t put a price on: an exercise app that actually keeps you accountable.

Like the rest of the country, I traded in my boutique fitness studio memberships in favor of sweating it out at home lately. Luckily, there’s excellent app offerings for every type of exercise modality these days, but it wasn’t until I came across the AI-powered app Onyx that I realized how much of a game changer it is compared to others on the market.

As with so many of the 250,000+ exercise apps competing for our attention, Onyx is billed as “the world’s smartest digital trainer.” But with personalization at the forefront, and the ability to see yourself while working out as a virtual fitness pro offers feedback, Onyx actually delivers on the promise — and you can get a lifetime subscription for $79.99.

How it works

Onyx helps you correct your form in real time
Onyx helps you correct your form in real time PHOTO: Freya Drohan/CNN

While no one usually enjoys getting called out for their shortcomings, there’s one exception to the rule — and that’s in the gym. Ego bruising though it may be, it’s for your own good when a trainer corrects your form.

Similarly, the motivation of a fitness professional is worth its weight in gold when you think you’ve no more energy left to give.

After you position your phone on the floor and prop it up against the wall, Onyx utilizes your camera to capture your position. While you watch the instructor explain and perform the move (think: pushups, planks, lunges, etc.) on the screen, your own image will appear in the upper left hand corner.

The app’s software analyzes your movement and the trainer explains if there’s something you can correct. Take, for example, when I was panting my way through commandos and shoulder taps — something that always manages to challenge my upper body strength — the instructor gave me helpful pointers such as lowering my hips more to protect my back.

The only thing I found slightly irritating was the amount of times the voice kept telling me to move further away from the camera so she could see me better. I guess no one told the trainer how spatially limited New York City apartment bedrooms are. Nonetheless, a bit of a furniture rejig happened and we quickly made up.

I’ve used my fair share of workout streaming platforms and after a while they can feel pretty unappealing and the workouts quickly feel repetitive and uninspiring. And honestly, can’t we all tend to slack a little bit when no one is in the room to bark at us? Another major draw of Onyx is that the app will only count down your reps when it sees you performing them. In all honesty, I was a little embarrassed when the trainer’s voice acknowledged that I was taking a breather before finishing my last pushup rep at one stage.

The workouts

Choose from over 250,000 workouts
Choose from over 250,000 workouts

One thing that seems pretty integral to the ethos of this app is keeping people accountable, no matter if they’re a fitness rookie or a bona fide pro. Therefore it’s no surprise that there’s a series of real time challenges incorporated into the mix of workouts offered.

When I first downloaded the app, I completed a survey explaining what I was hoping to achieve and what I wanted to focus on, so the challenges presented to me include things like Max Pushup Challenge and a 21-day toning program to target legs and glutes. You can also see the stats of other people taking part, invite friends and, in some cases, the app will donate $1 to charity when you share your challenge highlights with them.

Beyond challenges, the workouts are separated into traditional categories like Cardio, Full Body, Legs & Glutes, and Upper Body. Within each section, they’ll be further broken down into options like Chest Toner, Sun’s Out/Guns Out, and so on.

The best bit? They’re super short, but definitely not easy. An eight-minute Core Coordination session (categorized as advanced, in fairness) had me virtually wiped out. According to the app, I’m ranked 176th out of 309 people on the leaderboard. Nothing like some friendly competition to go back for more punishment, am I right?

Incentives

As well as the challenges and the short-but-sweaty workouts, there are also multiple programs available within the app. My recommended programs, with names like Tush Toner, Metabolic Kick, and Sweat Off the Pounds, range from two to three weeks in duration.

Once you pick a program to follow, it will recommend an exercise session to complete each day or every other day. And again, the workouts themselves might only be a few minutes each, but they certainly feel fire-emoji effective. The more you huff and puff your way through them, more and more encouraging trophies and badges will appear on your personal leaderboard.

The verdict

Track your progress right on the app
Track your progress right on the app

Convenient at-home fitness is certainly the future, but many of us mere mortals can’t afford the likes of Mirror or Peloton, which add an extra level of personalization and luxe to the experience.

Onyx takes the cliché “personal trainer in your pocket” trope and actually delivers on the promise: ensuring you literally do show up for yourself and your virtual coach.

Note: The prices above reflect the retailer’s listed price at the time of publication.