The Agile DMT by Smooth Fitness is one of the new types of aerobic cross-trainers that we at SNEWS have dubbed “A-Trainers” because the movement can be altered in so many ways. The “A” stands for anything from “alternative” to “ascent.” Basically, these machines are a relatively new type of elliptical trainer, which is now a decade+ old, that allows users to define their motion, height of climb, stride length, resistance and the like.
The feel is much like an elliptical but depending on how a user adjusts the resistance and other functions, it can also feel like a hike on a climber with big step-ups to a run or a trot down a slope. Stride length varies from 19-39 inches. Sort of “have it your way” in training.
The Smooth Agile came onto the market in late 2007 and is considered a home piece of workout equipment but is sturdy enough, the company says, to be used in light commercial situations, such as hospitals and rehab centers, where it may get used a bit more than the normal home situation.
SNEWS acquired an Agile and placed it in a regional personal training studio for nearly three months to let clients, trainers and the experienced studio owners (plus of course SNEWS staff) use the piece and give us their feedback. This means that users ran the range from highly experienced with all kinds of equipment and/or highly fit to total beginners with equipment and/or totally out-of-shape “normal” consumers of all types of sizes and shapes. On an occasional big day, it was used up to two hours but on most days it did not exceed about an hour or so, so it received the kind of use it would in a home where users were devout exercise enthusiasts or several family members used it regularly.
On forms that users were asked to fill out one word came up frequently in describing the experience: “smooth.” And indeed it was – no clunky steps, no lugging motion, no bumps or grinds, just a smooth-feeling run, hike or climb. “Very smooth,” wrote one. “Very nice to work out on.”
It also offers a full range of 20 workout levels, which meant beginning to advanced users ranging from 110 to 365 pounds in the SNEWS test unanimously told us they were able to get the workout they wanted.
Like with ellipticals, however, whether someone likes the gait or feel is very personal so although this could indeed be individualized nicely and did fit many body shapes and types, some still said they didn’t like the gait or it felt short (or long), or that the arms were either well-positioned (or not), or the handgrips were too small.
The finger-tip controls on the arms for incline and resistance meant a user could easily and quickly with a touch of the fingertip change the settings, although it was pointed out in testing that the control could be a bit jumpy and change when you didn’t want it to change.
When users were asked if they would recommend it for use, the answers were mostly an exuberant “yes,” but when they were asked if they’d want one in their own homes, the answers were mostly an overwhelming “no.” Why? Because it was called too big and/or expensive – it is a little more than 6 feet long and just under 3 feet wide when set up. And it weighs 390 pounds. Its MSRP is $4,999 (although its normal price was quoted to us as $3,999).
On the durability side, there are certainly questions. During the three months of active testing, various pieces and parts broke -- four separate pieces in four separate incidents, in fact. Granted, only one left it unusable (a foot platform cracked) but the other incidents (a cover on a joint, a toe bumper, and another foot platform problem) left studio clients questioning whether it was really ready: “I think some of the kinks need to be worked out and the quality of construction and materials and construction need to be improved,” wrote one user.
Another wrote he or she would consider a purchase but “as soon as a newer model comes out.”
Most interesting were the comments about simple features that are all about creature comforts during a workout. They may seem simple but they come up time and time again and are not something to be ignored: “Needs a place for a towel,” “add iPod dock,” “need much larger water bottle holder.” More and more people are using larger 32-ounce bottles and not typical bike bottles and nothing other than a normal bike squeeze bottle would fit in the holder. And some users need or want pagers or cell phones at hand during a workout so slots and cups are important too.
There are a range of programs from intervals to “endurance” to target heart rate and target calories. SNEWS and others tried them all. The controls aren’t entirely intuitive for setting up the programs but luckily there is a quick start so someone can hop aboard and go if he or she doesn’t want to take the time to push arrows to change numbers, enter, push arrows to change data, enter, scroll through choices and choose, enter....
Although very “smooth” and adaptable, its “kinks” (considering breakage) as well as its size dropped its rating overall. We’d like to see if the company can bring out a second generation that solves those issues. If it can, with its smooth feel, the Agile could become a solid player in an increasingly competitive A-trainer category.
SNEWS® Rating: 3.5 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $3,999