Like it or not, for many of us, getting defined abs is an ongoing goal — right below achieving World Peace and finding the perfect apartment. The newest app in the Runtastic family, aptly named “Six Pack,” is hoping to make that fitness aspiration a bit easier to achieve. The app has a customizable program that assigns a different set of abdominal exercise videos every day for any fitness level. We tested it out to see if it’s user-friendly, functional, and above all, effective.

Photo: Runtastic

What’s the Deal?

This is hardly Runtastic’s first time at the app rodeo. Founded in 2009, the website devoted to fitness tracking and workout-based social media already has a fleet of fitness apps dealing with everything from cycling to bodyweight exercises to nutrition. Most of the apps are available for iOS, Android, and a few are even compatible with BlackBerry.

Like all Runtastic apps, Six Pack is designed to share. It syncs up with so users can track their progress and offer feedback about existing workouts. There’s plenty of opportunity for fitness lovers who like to compete against others — Runtastic apps have been downloaded around 48 million times, and there are currently about 20 million registered users on the site. The new Six Pack app can also connect with MyFitnessPal, a popular calorie and exercise-tracking platform. Plus, after each workout, a pop-up message asks if you’d like to share your results on Facebook or Twitter. It’s definitely a style of fitness tracking designed for the ultra-connected, uber-competitive millennial generation.

Runtastic’s Six Pack Training Plan (which launches on October 11) is basically a collection of video workouts designed to be performed every day (they range from seven minutes to a whopping 34 minutes in length). Users follow along with virtual trainers, who perform the exercises on the smartphone screen. Level 1 (a 10-day program) caps out at two sets of 18 reps for three exercises. Level 2 (which lasts 15 days) gets up to two sets of 23 reps of four moves. Level 3 (a 25-day challenge) features two sets of 40 reps for four exercises.

Users can also choose from a few pre-designed, longer workouts beyond Levels 1-3. Intensely-named examples include “The 7-Minute Workout,” “Six Pack Junkie,” and “Girls on Fire.” The user must download a separate video for each ab exercise. (In total the app includes over 50 videos in six languages.) There are also various playlists and genre music stations available for purchase (each costs $0.99) that can add some spice to a workout in between the brief instructions at the beginning of each set.

The Verdict

After downloading the app with my iPhone and registering, I entered my personal stats and chose to skip ahead to Level 2 (since Level 1 seemed a bit too easy given my fitness level). The “Day 1” moves were pretty basic (probably because I chose Level 2 — the sets get longer and the exercises become more complicated as you progress through the training plan). Virtual trainer “Angie” led me through a short series of videos that included a knees-to-elbows crunch, a bicycle crunch, and a reverse crunch.

The HD videos were crystal-clear (as promised) but not exactly easy to understand. Since the exercises were not explained before the workout began, I had to follow my fitness avatar’s form and hope for the best. There were a few moves where I was pretty sure I wasn’t spot on with form. In that sense, it felt exactly like many group fitness classes I’ve tried.

Although this app is an excellent resource for fitness videos, it has its downsides. Each video is a separate media file that must be individually downloaded to a smartphone, so it can take a while to get going (especially if you’re somewhere with a slow Internet connection). And while the app is convenient and accessible (as promised), downloading a database of exercise videos does not automatically equal a toned core. Without a whole-body approach to fitness and nutrition, spot-training the abs is more likely to give you a sore neck than a ripped midsection.

If the real goal of this app is to get people six-packs, it should also include full-body workouts, diet plans, and instructions about hydration and getting enough sleep. From magazine covers to workout videos to exercise equipment, the fitness industry is constantly trying to convince customers that defined abdominals (the ultimate sign of a great physique, for better or for worse) are easy to attain. Based on its title, the Runtastic Six Pack app is part of that marketing ploy.

If you’re looking for a database of exercises to improve core strength, download away. But if you are serious about pursuing a six-pack, save that hard-earned cash and put it towards a session with a personal trainer and/or nutritionist.

Runtastic’s Six Pack app is available for iOS and Android on October 11. The bare-bones app is free, but users must upgrade (which costs $4.99) in order to access most of the features (including personal music playlists, all three training plan levels, all 50 videos, The 7-Minute Workout, Tips of the Day, etc.)