Vitruvian Trainer+ review: A good compact home gym system

There’s no doubt that the pandemic has changed the way we work out. And with so many of us switching to exercising using home gym equipment, one frustrating aspect has been finding the space to correctly strength train. Traditionally, weight lifting has required bulky squat racks or shelves full of free weights — two factors that limit what you can do to make gains outside of a gym. Not anymore.

The Vitruvian Trainer+ (starting at $2,890) is the latest in a new breed of smart strength systems that pack a slew of training options into a compact footprint. Hidden inside a carbon fiber shell is electromagnetic technology that can generate up to 440 pounds of resistance. Paired with smart algorithms and app-based coaching, it takes the guesswork out of strength training on your own.

I spent a week testing the Vitruvian Trainer+, and here’s what you need to know.

The Vitruvian Trainer+ is a good pick for folks with limited space who are willing to invest in a compact home gym system that offers tons of different strength training workouts within an easily stowable frame.

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Ashley Mateo/CNN

I live in a one-bedroom condo, and I have limited floor and wall space I’m willing to dedicate to fitness equipment. The Vitruvian Trainer+ is just 46 inches by 20.5 inches by 4.5 inches — and, at 80 pounds, basically an aerobic step on steroids — with recessed wheels for maneuverability. This means I’m able to stash it out of sight under my couch and easily pull it out when it’s time to lift.

The Trainer+ comes with basic handles and ankle straps, but you’d be best served by purchasing the Entry Kit, which includes premium handles, a long bar, a tricep rope, a workout mat and safety cables, for an additional $237. The Pro Kit is also something to consider, as it includes all of the above, plus a short bar, bench and belt, for an additional $450. Without at least the Entry Kit, you’ll only be able to do a fraction of the 200-plus exercises the machine supports.

The Vitruvian Trainer+ uses artificial intelligence to learn from your short- and long-term workout behavior and adjust the weight accordingly. In the initial, 15-minute Strength Assessment, I set benchmarks for moves like deadlifts and squats. Then, when I did my first workout — a full-body class using the long bar — the machine used those benchmarks to program the weights I would need to perform at 50% to 60% on my max for each exercise. (Say your one-rep max for a back squat is 100 pounds; the app would automatically program 50 to 60 pounds for a back squat in this class.)

The first three reps of any exercise in each class are meant to be warm-up reps that measure your range of motion without weight. The point of this is to determine where you’re at in any given moment so the machine can decrease the weight if you’re struggling to reach an exercise’s full range of motion, or increase it if you’re crushing reps too easily. You can also manually adjust the difficulty of an entire class or specific exercises within that class — and if you’ve used the app to create custom workouts, you can scale the weight based on your gains when you repeat that workout in the future.

On the fourth rep, the weight loads. I did find this to be a little jerky at times — during one Sumo Squat set, the machine momentarily added another 15 pounds and caught me off guard — and it does take a few classes to learn how the weight loads and unloads during exercises and sets .

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Ashley Mateo/CNN

The Vitruvian Trainer+’s algorithm syncs with the Vitruvian App for iOS and Android to deliver a customized workout performance, and within the app is a library of 200-plus classes and over 20 strength training programs. But that’s a small library compared to other pieces of smart fitness equipment that offer live classes daily and regularly deliver new on-demand workouts.

Still, I liked that I could choose between short (many of the workouts are less than 30 minutes) full-body options — like Full Body Progression as well as the bar class mentioned above — and target workouts like “Build Your Back and Biceps” and “Lower Body Bulk.” And I did find it helpful that the instructors cued instructions on swapping out the required attachments in each class.

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Ashley Mateo/CNN

There’s also no screen embedded in the device (naturally, since you’re standing on it), and it can be difficult to follow along with the video demos on a smartphone (and I currently have the supersized iPhone 14 Pro Max). Vitruvian recommends casting or streaming classes from the app to your TV using an Apple TV or Chromecast for the best experience. I would agree that that made the classes much more enjoyable, but it did require some creativity in setting up my workout space so I wasn’t a foot from my TV.

The Vitruvian Trainer+ is similar to at-home strength training devices like the Tonal ($3,495), Tempo Studio (starting at $2,495) and Arena Platform ($2,495). Arena is the most similar, generating up to 200 pounds of resistance for 300-plus workouts and programs created by top coaches and making adjustments in real time. But Tonal, a wall-mounted system that generates up to 200 pounds of resistance, and Tempo, which uses a motion capture camera to analyze moves done with free weights, offers the added benefit of real-time form feedback and community engagement through live classes.

Smart fitness equipment is always going to be an investment, but for anyone who’s familiar with strength training and looking for a way to lift weights at home without littering your floor with dumbbells and kettlebells or dedicating an entire room to a squat rack, the Vitruvian Trainer+ is a great way to make gains at home.

I loved that I could stash it out of sight under my coach instead of mounting it on my wall, and that I could program custom workouts from my strength training coach into the app to use alongside the preprogrammed classes. From both a storage and educational perspective, the compact machine makes strength training more accessible.

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