Includes meal plans
Wide range of workouts
Includes meditation/relaxation tips
Can’t use your own music
Chris Hemsworth not always featured
What is Centr?
I tried Centr during our test of workout apps, which pitted it against options like Nike Training Club, Peloton, and Aaptiv. Its higher-than-most price cost—$29.99 a month, compared to $14.99 a month or $99.99 a year for Aaptiv and free for Nike—kept it from cracking the top spot, but there’s a lot to gain from using it.
The app’s content is divided into three main categories: Train (workouts), Eat (meal plans and recipes), and Live (mindfulness guides). Hemsworth’s star power probably draws most people, but once you get into the app, there are a lot of wellness experts involved who do most of the heavy lifting. A team of trainers lead workouts—which include HIIT, HIRT (high-intensity resistance training), boxing, strength training, MMA, yoga, pilates, and stretching—while chefs and dietitians team up to create recipes and spiritual guides lead meditations and pre-sleep visualizations. Centr also encourages you to join its Facebook group, where members swap tips, discuss workouts, and act as an additional support system. The idea is that you’ll attain a healthier way of being by following its three foundational principles as closely as possible.
I spent a lot of time on Chris Hemsworth’s Instagram while working on this review—research purposes, of course—and was able to confirm that he is, in fact, extremely ripped. That I or anyone else could get to this point simply by following some recipes and doing exercises using my bodyweight plus the small dumbbells I happen to have—and not, say, working one-on-one with an expensive personal trainer and nutritionist to determine my exact caloric input and output needs down to the macro—seems a little unrealistic. But, to be fair, Centr doesn’t really promise this. (Though anyone would be forgiven for projecting this desire onto the app.) Instead, it pitches a holistic lifestyle adjustment, in which you combine a workout plan with a diet based on your needs and goals for tangible, realistic changes, which are often touted on Centr’s Instagram.
How does Centr work?
When you sign up for Centr, you take a brief quiz that asks your general body stats like height and weight, fitness level (beginner, intermediate, advanced), goals (“lose weight,” “build muscle,” or “get fit and toned”), and dietary preferences (meat-eater, pescatarian, vegetarian, or vegan). From there, it provides you with a calendar that shows you one workout, one meditation session, and three meals to eat each day. Usually, you also get a suggested podcast episode or supplemental article.
For my plan, I went with “intermediate,” “vegetarian,” and “get fit and toned,” options, but I switched them around after my plan had been set to make sure I could—and to make sure that there actually was a difference in the workouts for building muscle, losing weight, and getting fit and toned for different fitness levels. (I changed the meal plans, too, just to see what was available, but serving up the same recipes to meat-eaters and vegans is a little harder to fake.) I was happy to see that the calendar was pretty sensitive to my selections—depending on which options I switched, the workouts and meals on my calendar shifted.
What is it like to work out with Centr?
Centr’s workouts come in two formats. “Coached” are classic workout video-type classes that are great if you want to see an instructor demonstrate and explain a move. “Self-guided” are audio-based workouts that show brief videos or photos of each move that are a good option if you are comfortable with exercising and want some more flexibility with your workout.
Workouts are scheduled on your app calendar—for me, it was a pretty even split between coached and self-guided workouts—and are usually between 25 minutes and one hour long. “Bonus” workouts, which may be served up to you on your calendar to add onto a workout, are usually about 10 minutes long. The calendar doesn’t give you any days off (or, at least, it didn’t for me), so it’s up to you to remember to take breaks when you need them.
If you’re not feeling your workout of the day, you can search for one on demand. The filters allow you to choose if you want a coached or self-guided workout. Then, you can filter by workout style—whether it’s HIIT, HIRT, MMA, pilates, yoga, or whatever—equipment, and target area, such as core, glutes, arms, and so on.
You can also follow an even more targeted program. These workouts don’t differ too much from the ones that are served up to you or you search for, as far as I can tell. The only difference is that they have a more concentrated in their goals and in type of exercise you’re doing—you can choose a set of bodyweight-only workouts for beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels, for example—and instead of doing the workouts on the calendar, you pick the one that’s next up in your program schedule. This, presumably, can give users more of a feeling of advancement and continuity from one day to the next.
I ended up joining the Centr 6 II program, a six-week program in which you do six sets of six movements for six days of each week, which amounts to about a 30-minute workout each day. I liked it quite a lot. That said, I think you’d get a good fitness plan no matter how you choose to use the app.
What is good about working out with Centr?
Centr calls its users “legends,” and I really felt that I had accomplished something after I finished my workouts. During most of them, I felt challenged, sweat a lot, and felt like I was getting stronger the more I used it. Also, I found Centr’s instructors personable, charismatic, and generally fun. This is possibly because a lot of the teachers have an Aussie lilt in their voice, and I share the bias that many Americans have that predisposes me to assume anything said with an Australian accent is automatically more laid-back and enjoyable. No matter what the reason was, I thought the workouts were easy to follow and seemed to go by quickly, even when they were actually on the longer side.
I also liked the flexibility of the app. It was nice to be able to have a suggested workout each day and also the ability to find one on your own or follow a program. Once I understood that the calendar isn’t a full mandate, and I remembered to take rest days when I needed them, it was a great, easy system.
What’s not so good about working out with Centr?
Centr’s drawbacks are relatively minor. The first is that there are no live classes, which doesn’t impact the quality of the workouts, but may dissuade some people who like getting the occasional first-name shoutout from an instructor during a class. It’s also difficult to listen to music on the same device you’re using the app if you’re doing coached workouts—something other apps allow and that I enjoy. These workouts play a light, tinkly, Muzak-style music in the background that doesn’t go away unless you mute everything, instructions included. Depending on the workout you pick, you usually can play your own music, but it’s very faint and overlaid by the built-in background music. Other workouts don’t let you play music at all. This is pretty easily rectified by using a different device to play music, and I found the instructors so engaging that I didn’t feel like I needed the distraction of music all that much. Centr also doesn’t keep track of the workouts you’ve already done—something I didn’t realize I appreciated about other apps until I noticed its lack in this one.
My final complaint is less about the app itself and more about the levying of expectations. Chris Hemsworth doesn’t appear in Centr’s workouts all that much. This is fine—he is a busy man and not a certified personal trainer himself, as far as I know—and he does pop up in a few videos alongside other trainers. But if you are thinking of getting the app with the expectation of exercising with Chris Hemsworth, don’t. Instead, you can expect to work out with a team of qualified, certified fitness experts (including Hemsworth’s own personal trainer, Luke Zocchi)—which is probably better, fitness-wise, anyway.
What are Centr’s meal plan and meditation features like?
For the purposes of this review, I mainly focused on the exercise portion of the app, rather than the full-on diet and lifestyle sections. (Part of my tests happened during my birthday week and I wanted to eat cake.) But I did make a some of the recipes and found a few keepers—such as a tofu banh mi bowl with brown rice and veggies that I intend to make part of my meal rotation moving forward—and a few duds, like zucchini and haloumi fritters that were great in theory but a little too soggy in practice. (Possibly due to user error.)
Overall, though, the meal plans seemed healthy, hearty, and not too difficult to maintain. You’re allowed to swap out the recipes, too, if you get served one you don’t think you’d like or don’t have the ingredients for. Also, Centr has a “shopping list” section, and each recipe has a tool that allows you to send ingredients there, so you don’t have to write down each item yourself.
It only gives you three meals per day, but it also provides a “snacks” tab. There, you can rifle through recipes sorted into categories like “everyday” for healthy fare such as broccoli guacamole (“broccamole”) and “treat” for things like chocolate-hazelnut protein balls, to use as a supplement if you get peckish between meals, or just want some dessert. I would caution against using the meal plan as the end-all be-all of your personal wellness, however. The meals are developed by chefs and dietitians, so they're generally healthy and tasty, but they’re served up to users via an algorithm—not someone who knows your precise goals and health history—so it may not work for someone with certain intolerances or allergies.
I also tried a few meditation sessions. I am very much not a meditative person—getting my inner voice to shut up is, um, a challenge for me—but I found them relatively soothing. I especially enjoyed the pre-sleep visualizations, which helped me relax and maybe fall asleep a little quicker than I would have otherwise. But it’s an extra feature of the app, with about 20 offerings, and not a main component—if you’re looking for a meditation app, we like Headspace.
Is Centr worth it?
Centr is $29.99 a month, which makes it the priciest fitness app I’ve tested. But you also get quite a bit of stuff along with that cost. And, as with most apps, you can also get it at a reduced rate if you commit to a longer time. Three months is $59.99 (about $20 a month) and a full year is $119.99 (about $10 a month). Compared to a similarly priced app like Obé—which offers live classes, but not recipes or meal plans—it’s arguably a better deal.
If you are looking for a long-ish term health investment, and feel relatively confident that you will use more than one of its components, Centr is worth it—especially if you sign up for one of its extended plans. If you’re just interested in adding more movement to your daily routine and aren’t totally sure how long or how often you’re going to do it, something like Nike Training Club (free) or Aaptiv or Peloton ($14.99 and $12.99 a month, respectively) are probably better options. And if you’re just looking for a regular Hemsworth fix, I’d direct you to his IMDb page and play his movies in the background as you exercise.
Should you get Centr?
As far as comprehensive lifestyle apps that feature a well-known Hollywood actor go, you can’t do much better than Centr. There are cheaper (even free) exercise apps out there, but if you don’t mind spending a little more money and committing to the program, you’ll get what you pay fo.
For those unsure about the price and time commitment, Centr is offering a six-week free trial for a limited time. If you’re on the fence, give it a try to see if you like working out, eating, and getting zen with this star-studded dream team.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
Meet the tester
Sara Hendricks is an editor with Reviewed covering health and fitness.
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