‘Vitruvian’ might not be a name that you’re familiar. It’s adopted from Vitruvian Man, the famous drawing by Leonardo da Vinci of a naked man, arms outstretched in a circle and square. It represents da Vinci’s concept of the ideal human form. The aim of Vitruvian’s connected strength trainer, the V-Form Trainer, then, is to help you achieve your ideal physical fitness goals.
What is the V-Form Trainer?
Vitruvian describes its connected strength trainer as a “…smart resistance training system”. As such, the focus is resistance training rather than cardio, such as a treadmill or exercise bike. It’s meant to be used for lifting weights, so to speak. What makes the V-Form Trainer truely unique is that it provides a home gym experience without many of the downsides. You don’t need to have every weight on hand, you can lift heavy without a spotter, and it can maximise your results with the help of advanced training modes and specialised instructors.
Until I used the V-Form Trainer, my home gym setup consisted of a rabble of kettle bells, rusting dumbbells and frayed elastic resistance bands. I didn’t always have the weights I needed, and, thanks to the pandemic, buying new iron is literally the cost of gold. I was limited in terms of how hard I could push, both in terms of the weights as well as safety. While I watched YouTube for training advice, this could be hit-or-miss.
On first looks, the V-Form is fairly straightforward. It consists of a sturdy carbon-fibre platform that houses two resistance cables. Inside the machine, there are two rotary drums controlled by electro-magnetic resistance, allowing variable torque and tension to be applied to the cables. Each cable is rated at 90 kilograms, enabling a total of 180 kilograms of resistance.
When switched on, the V-Form’s bright LED bars light up and the motors whirr into life. The LEDs depict different states of exercise. For example, it will flash when moving the cables or glow red if you stop a set before hitting your target repetitions.
The sound it makes is difficult to describe, sort of a whirring and high-pitched drone. Not unpleasant, but it did make a little more noise than expected. Also, before you start any workout, you’ll need to pair the machine to the app by scanning the QR code on the side of the unit. It would be nice to only need to do this once but the connection only takes a couple of seconds to establish.
To perform a range of exercises, you stand, sit, kneel or lie on the trainer and pull the cables. There are many different exercises to choose from, such as deadlifts, benchpresses, flys, lunges, rows, curls, etc. You can hit most muscle groups, however, as the cables are positioned beneath your feet, some overhead exercises like lat pulldowns can’t be reproduced. But more on that later.
‘Algorithmic’ training benefits
While pulling cables may seem straight forward, it may not be what you’d expect compared to other cable machines or elastic resistance bands. Vitruvian’s patent-pending adaptive technology is designed for ‘algorithmic’ training. This means cable tension isn’t linear, as it adapts to the person using it, as well as the training mode you select. It will add weight when you are doing well, and take it off when you are not.
Unlike gym-based lifting, where you commit to a weight in your hand, the V-Form will dynamically adjust the resistance during every rep, depending on your performance. You can set a maximum weight that you want to hit, however, if you are getting weaker, it will back off just enough to let you get to the end of the movement. In a gym, this would be similar to doing ‘drop sets’ where you’d need to have a range of weights available. You’d probably need a spotter too, only, with the Vitruvian your spotter has the reflexes and memory of a computer (and doesn’t get distracted by their phone or the attractive person on the treadmill.)
Another benefit of algorithmic training is accessing different lifting modalities from a single place. For example, Vitruvian has made eccentric training on your own possible. ‘Eccentric’ refers to the second negative phase of an exercise movement, where your muscle is lengthening. The ‘concentric’ part is the lifting, or upwards, move. So, for a bicep curl, the concentric part is lifting the weight, while the eccentric is lowering it back down. Generally, we are stronger in the eccentric phase of our movement but it’s difficult to load the weight up for this phase without a spotter. Without sufficient weight on the eccentric phase, it’s essentially wasted time and energy. Training on the V-Form, you’re going to get eccentric training in a few of the modes, where the system assists you during the concentric part, and adds even more weight on the eccentric phase to maximise time under tension and create a really efficient workout.
The Vitruvian’s training modes include Focused, which has balanced concentric and eccentric phases, Progression, which adds 1kg to each rep up to a desired target, and Pump, which is cardio focused and adds weight the faster you go. Then there’s Old School mode, which behaves much like lifting static weights in the gym, a pure Eccentric mode that only loads weight on the eccentric phase, and Beast mode, which progresses you by adding 3kg per rep up to your target.
For each exercise, the V-Form Trainer requires you to do 3 reps to measure your range of motion. The app will display an exercise range meter for each cable, so you can track your movement to ensure that the start and end points of the exercise are defined, and you are working to the full range originally set.
Depending on the exercise mode, you can reduce the weight if you pause at the end of a movement, and load on more weight if you pause before the eccentric phase. For example, if you are doing a squat in Focus Mode, once you stand up, if you pause for a second or two, it will load more weight to your desired maximum. You’ll really feel it pulling you back down during the eccentric phase until you reach the bottom. You can push back up with this added weight, or pause when in your squat to take some weight back off. All up, it takes a bit of getting used to, however, it’s a great way to amp the intensity, without stopping and adjusting the resistance.
The Vitruvian app
The Vitruvian app is your interface with the machine, where you can track your activity, create workouts, take classes check the leaderboard and enter settings.
The app includes an activity summary page where you can see your workout history and metrics. Lots of data is captured per exercise including force, position and velocity, along with number of reps, peak weight and energy used. There’s also a scoring system that awards points for your exertions, and these can be compared with others, should you want to compete.
The Classes section includes daily class recommendations and you can search for a class that you want using the filters or scroll through the categories. There are warm ups, beginner classes, tutorials, HIIT, booty-blasting, cooldowns and more.
The next section is the workouts area where you can find over 100 different exercises. Each comes with a demo video showing you how to do it, usually from 3 different angles. The handy search filter lets you choose an exercise by muscle group as well as equipment needed, such as a bench, cable or bar. This is handy if you have purchased accessories and want to see which exercises are available using the rope, for example.
The Profile section displays a summary of your points, workouts and total weight lifted, plus a handy pie graph of the different muscle groups trained. This is a handy way to highlight areas that might need more attention – mine was core, which only made up 4% of my total workouts.There’s a leaderboard here too, showing who’s topping the charts in terms of accumulated points.
The Device menu lets you choose from 6 different LED colours for the Vitruvian’s light bars, establish a connection and select Private Mode for not sharing your score with the public leaderboard.
Exercising with the Vitruvian
There are a few different ways to train with the Vitruvian. Through the app, you can access a variety of classes that target specific muscle groups, such as glutes, legs, chest or back. You can also choose combined workouts such as push, pull, beach body, lower body, ‘Thor’ or ‘Arnold’ workouts. Classes can be surprisingly short thanks to the efficiencies of eccentric lifting, with many lasting around 10-15 minutes. Workouts are accompanies by a Vitruvian instructor who takes you through the exercises in real time, and your machine will set up for the demonstrated exercise, so you’ll need to keep up. Simply hit ‘pause’ for a rest if you are falling behind. You can watch the class on your phone, however, the best way is to mirror it on a TV with using Apple’s Airplay.
Alternatively, you can create your own workouts by selecting and grouping exercises. Simply choose an exercise, set the weight and reps, and how much rest time until the next set. It does take some time to set workouts up initially, and it would be easier if you could simply press a button to copy the previous rep. Once done, however, you can save as many custom workouts as you want and jump in quickly. I currently have one for chest and back and rely on classes for other muscle groups.
It should be noted that the Vitruvian has safety measures in place to prevent overpowering you and causing injury. In essence, you need to prove that you can work at a specific weight level in order to unlock heavier weights. This is a good practice, however, on the downside it means that it can take a while to prove your limits to the machine.
According to Vitruvian, there was a ‘pure adaptive’ mode, which removes all weight limits, allowing the system to determine your maximum strength per exercise. We’re told that this was switched off to prevent mishaps, but may come back once the company analyses enough usage data to decide if it’s safe to do so.
So, when it comes to doing a class or creating a custom workout, it will take time for you to prove that you can handle the current max weight setting per exercise before. This can complicate classes, as every time you do one, you’ll need to review each exercise and increase the weight target before you start. If you get half way through and find the max weight target to be too low, you can’t change it mid-session. It also doesn’t appear to remember what your last weight settings were, and is frustrating to remember and re-enter each time.
What’s in the box?
The Vitruvian Trainer costs $2,950, and the basic package includes the trainer platform, basic handles and ankle straps. Then, there are accessories kits for adding more exercises to the mix. The entry accessory kit ($268) includes a workout mat, bar, rope and heavier duty (premium) handles. The pro accessory kit ($536) adds a bench and belt to the items in the entry kit. All items are well built, and the bench is very useful for opening up more exercise options. The bar is great for heavier lifts, and the rope comes in handy for tricep work.
While it isn’t cheap, there’s no apparent cost cutting either. The machine is rock solid and made from high-quality carbon fibre. It looks good, and there are no creaks or groans when you stand or jump on it. The cables are thick and robust too, and the Vitruvian feels like professional gear found in gyms, not lightweight mail-order junk.
To access all of its features, you need to pay a subscription fee of $49 per month. This is similar to Peloton, iFit (NordicTrack) and others. Given the purchase price of the machine, you should be able to do a fair amount without a subscription, and Vitruvian seems to have the balance right. Without it, you are able to perform individual exercises, create and save custom workouts (but not share) and use all training modes. The membership adds the classes and extensive data tracking including per-workout stats, personal bests, activity score and leaderboards, plus all hardware features.
Is it right for me?
There are a few things to consider when deciding if Vetruvian is right for you:
First, using the V-Form Trainer is no joke – it really pushes hard and does not let you simply go through the motions. While it looks intuitive with just two cables, there is a learning curve for making the most of the exercise modes, loading and unloading the tension, etc. Experienced lifters will get the hang of it quickly, and it’s great that Vitruvian offers a free live session with one of its expert trainers to get you started.
The training modes, especially Eccentric and Focused, are great for efficient, high impact workouts and there are so many variations to try. One limitation is over-the-head pulling motions, so you may need a pull-up bar to round out your training. Also, the minimum weight is a little heavy at about 7kg for some movements like shoulder raises, and if you are training through injury.
Having an app to track your data, teach you technique and monitor your progress is valuable, and the classes are housed here too. The app could use some tweaks such as changing weights mid-class, clearing the search field and duplicating (and re-ordering) reps in bulk when making your own workouts. As you’ll need to unlock training sessions with the QR code, you can’t use the V-Form Trainer without your phone nearby.
We’d love to see more classes added regularly, but there are plenty to get you started. If you like classes, these are a great way to learn about the machine and workout modes too.
The device itself is quite low profile at 11.5 cm high, so you can roll it beneath a sofa or bed when not using it. You will need to plug it in, so a power plug should be nearby, and it isn’t weather proof. Keep in mind that it’s not a light unit, at 38kg, so will take some muscle to pull it out.
The accessory kits are also highly recommended to maximise the range of exercises, and it would be great to see more included as standard. Be sure to factor accessories into your budget.
Vitruvian Trainer+ and other improvements
When speaking to Vitruvian, there are a number of upgrades in the pipeline for the Trainer+ model, which is due out before the end of the year. This includes wall mounts and rails to position the cables higher up, and a lighter-weight carbon fibre shell. The cable mechanisms will have less friction, slack and greater responsiveness, enabling a lower minimum weight to around 2-3kg and a 200kg maximum weight. While we didn’t have any major issues, this will improve the ‘feel’ of weight and tension.
On the app side, new features in the pipeline include a native Apple TV app (not just screen mirroring via AirPlay2) and an Android TV app. As it currently stands, you can only mirror the Vitruvian’s classes and exercises on your TV, so a dedicated app will deliver more data including a live range of motion overlay while working out. Apple Health integration is also planned so Apple users can centralise their data with other activities.
All up, the Vitruvian V-Form Trainer is a fantastic option for those who want to do resistance training at home. It has many benefits including cutting-edge workouts, impressive build quality, compact size, and built-in data tracking. Vitruvian really is the pinnacle of smart resistance training at home – and there’s nothing quite like it. It can complement any workout regime, even if you have a gym membership but want a convenient home workout option, and don’t have the weights. There are cardio benefits too – just try a Pump or HIIT class! Yes, there are limitations in terms of exercises and some quirks to learning how to use it.
At nearly $3K, it’s not a cheap machine, however, the build quality is high and comes with a 3-year warranty. Vitruvian have also recently introduced a 30-day home trial period, with all products refundable bar the return shipping price.
Resistance training is an important part of staying healthy, with many benefits as we age including posture, bone density and strength, and the Vitruvian Trainer eliminates most of the pain points of a traditional home gym, while adding a science-backed approach to your workouts.