Among serious cyclists, power is the key metric by which we measure our performance and gains. It’s easily quantifiable, easy to measure (with power meters getting cheaper by the minute), and easy to see how you’re progressing. But when we hit the weights in the winter, those pound and kilogram numbers force us to measure something else entirely. The new NordicTrack Fusion CST changes all that, providing flywheel-based resistance that shows your output in watts.
I’ve been testing the Fusion CST for a couple months, combining it with body weight movements and some riding (it’s been pretty cold, and without specific goals, it’s hard for me to stay motivated on the trainer). The machine combines strength and cardio training with video-based personal coaching to provide total body conditioning, something many cyclists ignore as they focus purely on on-the-bike speed and endurance.
The flywheel combines with magnetic resistance, letting you change the resistance to match your strength or needs. At the highest setting, 12 full-effort jump squats makes for a great set. Switch to single leg efforts to make it harder. It doesn’t replace a 300lb deadlift (what does, really?), but it’s more than enough to work your muscles over. Stepping further away from the machine makes it harder, and the cables are a very generous 95″ (2.41m) long.
For smaller muscle groups, it’s plenty of resistance. For exercises like rows, pull downs, shoulder press and flys, it’s easy to go from repping it out with what feels like a 5lb dumbbell to slow motion, full strength paddling a webbed glove through cement. The downside is there’s no negative resistance, so all of your workout is coming from the concentric motion.
Three sets of handles offer a variety of angles. The machine comes with a poster showing moves that target every major muscle group, most in several ways. That’s key to hit things from different angles to avoid developing muscular imbalances…which can happen if all you do are pushups, pullups and abs. I speak from experience, and such things take time and work to correct. So I really like the variety the Fusion CST offers. Resistance is changed by pushing a +/- button, so it takes just seconds to switch between moves.
The design also makes it very kid friendly. Because if you have kids, you know they’re going to mess with it. I’ve got my kids actually working out on it and they think it’s fun.
MAKING WORKOUTS EASY. AND FUN.
One of the stumbling blocks for people who have never worked out before is that they don’t know how to workout. If you don’t know where to start when it comes to weight training, the partner app iFit Coach and $15/month subscription service has more than 50 different workouts, with new ones being added regularly. That not only keeps it interesting, but it lets you pick and choose based on your goals. Or pick a training plan and it’ll select the workouts for you each day. Most are 20-30 minutes, with some shorter ones and some longer ones.
The videos show you how to do each exercise in real time. Different coaches have different personalities, but all of the ones I’ve tried seem to do a good job of explaining the movement and offering safe alternatives if they’re too hard or you’re unable to perform them.
Once selected, the included 10″ Portal tablet (which is basically a customized Android tablet on which you can download other normal apps to, too) syncs with the Fusion CST via Bluetooth to control the resistance throughout the workout. As does an included Bluetooth heart rate strap.
The workouts are good. Initially I was not excited about trying them, but after running through a variety of them, I’m a fan. Here’s why: Even though I have some specific workouts and movements I like to do on some days, the videos fill in to keep it fresh on other days. And they force me to work harder, faster and longer than I probably otherwise would. Same for Kristi. Because they move quick, they keep both of us engaged for the duration.
THINGS THAT COULD BE IMPROVED
Overall the equipment is great and I recommend it highly. These are just a few small nitpicks: I wish the resistance could go a little higher. The lack of negative resistance will be a turnoff for body builders, but seriously, who among the cycling crowd is really trying to get huge? The only real drawbacks are with the app’s user interface. During a workout, you can pause it, but there’s no way to rewind it. The instructions move quickly, and it’s easy to miss their tutorial while you’re getting set up. It could also use a search function, making it easier to find, say, all workouts for a certain body part.
Lastly, there’s only one login/account per subscription…which means for a family, you’ll need to pony up for the $39/month family plan if you want to track everybody individually. Personally, I don’t mind if Kristi’s workout data mixes with mine. I know what I did, she knows what she did. But, if you pay up front for a year’s family subscription, you get a free set of NordicTrack Speedweight adjustable dumbbells ($399 MSRP) and iFit Vue activity tracking wearable ($129 MSRP). Individual subscriptions come with only the Vue when paid annually.
PRICING & DELIVERY
Current retail is $1,599 and includes the Fusion CST main unit with built-in tablet holder, a separate freestanding tablet stand, six handles, two ankle straps, the Portal 10″ Android tablet, Bluetooth HR strap, power cord, and workout poster. They offer several financing options that bundle 18 to 36 months of iFit Coach Premium subscription and a 3-year extended warranty into the price.
Base price includes delivery to the curb. They offer in-home delivery for $99 more, and full white glove in-home assembly, set up and packaging removal for $249. They sent it to us with the latter service, which is awesome because it’s big. And super heavy. As in, really, really heavy and you’ll need a hand truck to move it. One caveat: Make sure they get all of the parts out of the box…ours was missing the tablet, which we think was simply overlooked in the unpacking process (they promptly sent a replacement).
A PERFECT COMPLEMENT TO RIDING?
As much as Crossfit might promote muscular endurance, doing jump squats and lunges won’t make up for time on the bike. But, despite using the Fusion a lot and riding less, I did manage to get 3rd, 4th and 5th places in some of my cyclocross races. And I’m feeling stronger on the bike than my riding hours would explain. Building strength means you’re using a smaller percentage of your available output on each pedal stroke, so while my endurance might not match a real racer’s, my max power output isn’t too bad. So I can hang on group rides.
The other benefit to cyclists is that you can add real resistance to non-forward-linear movements. Or work your hamstrings. The Fusion CST makes it easy to do lateral hip work and leg curls, two things that are underworked during cycling. Again, muscular imbalances are bad, m’kay? This fixes them.
While you don’t neeeed the iFit Coach subscription to use the Fusion CST, it really does turn the equipment into a legitimate cross training platform. At $15 per month, this could be your 2nd sub behind Zwift, The Sufferfest or TrainerRoad. If you’re investing in cycling training, it’s worth investing in total body conditioning for you and your family, too, right?
Most of all, what we (as a family) like about the NordicTrack Fusion CST is how quick, easy and fun it makes to get a solid workout. Definitely worth a look if your idea of fitness goes beyond the bike, especially if you really, really don’t want to go to a gym.