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Many of us cooped up at home have health and fitness on the mind, whether we’re telling ourselves we’ll finally get started on that at-home workout routine or eagerly filling up our ClassPass calendar with livestream classes.
There has been a significant increase in people signing up for workout streaming services and purchasing at-home workout equipment while gyms remain closed due to social distancing measures. Peloton sales are up 66% from last year and the company had its largest livestreamed class ever in April, when more than 23,000 members tuned in from home. Many local fitness studios have also been offering virtual classes via Zoom.
Even before social distancing, I preferred at-home workouts. I enjoy doing them first thing in the morning to start my day on a good note. I like the occasional jog to clear my head or a heart-racing HIIT class with a friend, but I tend to prefer Pilates-based sculpting exercises that strengthen and define my existing figure, not melt it away.
Like most women, it has taken me a long time to learn to love my body, so I want workouts that help me stay healthy, feel strong and highlight what I already have. I typically work out at home with Obé Fitness, a 28-minute home workout program, but occasionally find myself scrolling through a variety of HIIT, dance and yoga classes. For equipment, I like to keep it simple: a mat, 2-pound hand and ankle weights and resistance bands.
When I heard about P.volve, the online fitness program that exclusively focuses on strengthening and sculpting the body with resistance-based and low-impact movements, I was intrigued.
I was given a P.volve trial subscription to test out, along with the P.volve Transform Kit, which includes the brand’s most popular equipment to level up your workout.
Read on to find out what I thought when I tried this workout program for myself.
What is P.volve, and what makes it different?
P.volve is a digital full-body workout program that uses resistance-based, high-intensity, low-impact movements to strengthen, sculpt and energize your muscles, much like Pilates. It’s not focused on breaking a sweat or endless reps, but is instead about good form and making precise movements that tone hard-to-reach muscles. Ideally, the end result is a strong core and defined muscles.
It’s a common misconception that you have to sweat to get a good workout and that lifting heavy weights is the only way to build muscle. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that doing more repetitions using lighter weights is just as effective for muscle-building as doing fewer reps with heavier weights, provided you have proper form.
P.volve was based on this premise.
But unlike Pilates or barre, P.volve focuses on enhancing the movements you’re already doing in everyday life, not ones designed for a fancy machine or ballet-inspired choreography. P.volve prioritizes as few repetitions as possible in order to incorporate multiple movements per workout.
A P.volve membership includes a collection of over 200 workout videos, and new classes are added weekly. The classes can be streamed online or through an app. (There are also a few P.volve studios around the country for when you’re allowed to work out in a group class again.)
Every P.volve workout can be done using only your own bodyweight, but the brand does create equipment you can use to get the full benefits of the workouts. The program recommends starting with the p.ball, light ankle weights and 2-pound hand weights. The p.ball, unique to P.volve, is a small inflated workout ball attached to an adjustable elastic band that adds resistance to your inner and outer thighs while elongating the muscles of the legs and glutes.
Each week, the P.volve app curates a list of suggested workouts for you based on your fitness goals. The workouts range from 19 to 60 minutes in length, and they focus on different muscle groups. You can also search for specific workouts by length, body focus and equipment, or start one of P.volve’s series programs like “30-Day Evolution” or “21-Day Butt Lift.” You can use the P.volve app to set goals, get a custom plan, track progress and find nutrition and recipe guides.
P.volve pricing plans start at $19 a month for full access to all of the workouts, personalized workout plans and recipes. There’s also a six-month plan for $102 and a one-year plan for $180. Depending on how often you typically work out, you could save with a subscription — especially if you live somewhere like New York City, where the average workout class costs around $34.
P.volve also offers bundles of equipment and subscriptions, so you can save while you sculpt.
What did I think? My P.volve review:
I started with a few beginner videos and quickly learned that the secret to P.volve lies in the “p.sit,” a pseudo mini-squat that’s a few inches higher than a traditional squat. It supposedly engages the muscles in your lower abdominals and glutes more than a traditional squat does, with less strain on your knees and less focus just going to the thighs.
“I quickly learned that the secret to P.volve lies in the “p.sit,” a pseudo mini-squat that’s a few inches higher than a traditional squat.”
There’s some science to it, too. The squat is widely considered a foundational movement because it strengthens the major muscle groups in the lower extremities, according to Sridhar Yalamanchili, a physical therapist with the Atlantic Spine Center.
There is, however, increased force on the joint between the knee cap and thigh bone as you squat deeper, which can result in pain for some people with knee issues like meniscus tears or cartilage wear and tear.
“Performing the squat in a higher range may help one to focus on activating the lower abdominals more, as this is a stronger and hence easier range to work in,” Yalamanchili told HuffPost. “Deep squats are a good exercise for both the glutes and thigh muscles. For a person with healthy knees there is more to be gained from exercising in the fullest safe squat range possible.”
After setting up my P.volve profile and outlining my fitness goals, the program curated a week of suggested workouts for me. I found that one day it would suggest a 50-minute workout and the next day it might be a 15-minute workout, which might be fine for people who just want to get their fitness in for the day. I prefer to average a 30-minute workout daily, so I would either hit the “change” button and wait for the next recommendation, or I would search for something entirely different by stating my preferred workout time.
I tried classes, like the “Band on Band,” “Squeeze and Shred,” “Gaining Ground” and “Arms All Day,” that worked my entire body ― without breaking a sweat. The focus of all of the workouts was on perfecting small movements (always returning back to that “p.sit”) and making slight adjustments. The workouts were never about pushing my body to the point of pain.
Because of their low impact, my mom joined me for a few of the workouts. She could easily modify any moves that put too much strain on her knees and still get the effects of the workout.
A big benefit of P.volve is that nearly all of the moves can be done without fancy equipment, but the bands are what add resistance and make the difference in targeting those tucked-away muscles. I felt this the most with the p.band, which worked my arms in such a different way and exercised muscles in my back that I didn’t even know I had.
I noticed this two-for-the-price-of-one effect with a lot of the P.volve workouts. When I did variations of leg kicks while having the p.3 trainer attached to my ankle and the other end held by the ball in my hand, I could feel the movements stretching my stomach and abdominal muscles, not just setting my legs and butt on fire the way donkey kicks usually do. The p.ball also worked my lower abs and glutes, with just a squeeze of it between the thighs.
P.volve also forced me to slow down and focus on each of the workout moves I typically burned through without a second thought. If you’ve ever heard a fitness instructor say, “Engage your muscles!” while you struggle from the back of the class and think, “What should this feel like?” you’ll like the structure of P.volve’s lessons. Instructors take turns leading the classes, while fellow instructors do the workouts behind them. This means they can point out what the muscle is supposed to be doing, so you can follow along and try to do the same.
The TL;DR: Is P.volve worth it?
In the end, I would recommend P.volve to two kinds of people: those who are looking for low-impact at-home workouts that aren’t too intense, and those who are short on time and want efficient workout routines that focus on figure and form over pain and sweat.
“I would recommend P.volve to two kinds of people: Those who are looking for low-impact at-home workouts that aren’t too intense, and those who are short on time and want efficient workout routines.”
I will admit that I missed the funky mood lighting and pumping playlists of my usual Obé Fitness classes. I occasionally wished the P.volve instructors showed a bit more of their personality in their workouts. (Maybe the instructors could even share their favorite workout playlists so we can play music in the background once we perfect the P.volve form?)
But I didn’t feel like those were deal breakers — they didn’t hurt the usefulness and effectiveness of the workouts themselves. I will likely continue incorporating P.volve into my regular workout routine alongside my usual 30-minute workouts. If you want a workout that will define your muscles and shape your curves, without forcing you to sweat profusely, P.volve might be for you.