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Calling all athletes and gym enthusiasts — it may be time to put your ice packs away and cancel your massage appointments. There’s a new player in the recovery game.
Hyperice’s Normatec systems use dynamic air compression to massage your legs, hips, and/or arms. While Normatec started as a recovery system designed for professional athletes, it’s made its way into the mainstream, and people everywhere are now all about these space suit-esque outfits.
But is the hype real or just a bunch of hot air? Below is everything you need to know about Hyperice’s Normatec recovery systems to decide if one of them could be the right recovery tool for you.
- No pain, more gain. The full line of Normatec products uses dynamic air compression designed to reduce muscle fatigue and soreness so you can recover faster and get back in the game.
- Set it and forget it. The systems come preprogrammed with a massage made for recovery. Your only decisions are the length of time and intensity level.
- Recovery on the go. All Normatec products are lightweight and TSA-approved for carry-on.
- $$$$. These systems aren’t something you can casually buy on the fly, because they are PRICEY.
- One massage for all. Other systems come with more options that allow you to truly customize your air massage experience.
- Not the doctors’ orders. While customers are all about Normatec products, clinical evidence that pneumatic compression systems actually work is lacking.
Normatec is a pneumatic compression system, which means it inflates with air to tighten around your arms or legs (like a giant blood pressure cuff). Much like a pair of compression socks or leggings, the system is designed to improve your circulation and therefore help your body recover faster from any kind of intense exercise.
But how does it work? Depending on which Normatec product you get, you simply place your arms or legs in the sleeve- or pant-like attachments (get ready to look like you’re going for a space walk) and choose the intensity level and length of your massage. Then just sit back and relax as it gets to work.
Normatec currently offers two product lines — the 2.0 and 2.0 Pro Systems. Here are the deets on each.
Normatec 2.0 Systems
Leg System, Lower Body System, and Full Body System
- Price: $995–$1,895
The 2.0 System is the cheaper of the two product lines (though certainly not cheap) but still comes with some pretty compelling specs:
- preprogrammed massage optimized for recovery
- Normatec app that connects via Bluetooth
- at least seven intensity levels
- choice of massage length
- ability to add more pressure or time to an area of your leg that needs more attention (aka ZoneBoost)
- rechargeable battery
- compact, lightweight design that’s TSA-approved for carry-on
You can choose from the Leg System, the Lower Body System, and the Full Body System.
- The Leg System looks a lot like a pair of hockey goalie pads. It envelops your entire leg — from your entire foot to the top of your hip — to massage different zones using dynamic (or pulsing) compression.
- The Lower Body System is like the Leg System plus a set of shorts-like sleeves designed to massage your hips.
- The Full Body System includes everything from the Lower Body System plus two sleeves for a nice arm massage.
Normatec 2.0 Pro Systems
Leg System, Lower Body System, and Full Body System
- Price: $1,495–$2,395
The 2.0 Pro System has all the same specs as its older sib, but with some extra bells and whistles. As with the 2.0 System, you can choose from among a Leg System, Lower Body System, and Full Body System. But upgrading to the 2.0 Pro means you get a touch-screen display panel, 10 intensity levels, and more massage modes (like “Recovery Flush,” “Rehab,” and custom options).
Hyperice doesn’t have a free shipping policy, so get ready to pony up for its pony express.
Your Normatec system will ship via FedEx or UPS, and the company says it could take 8 to 12 business days to arrive. But customers complain that the shipping process is much longer and it’s hard to get any clear answers from customer service.
You can return your Pulse 2.0 System for a refund or exchange within 30 days of receiving it. But be sure to read the fine print. Some customers are unpleasantly surprised to learn that the company doesn’t refund any shipping costs and charges a 10 percent restocking fee for returned items.
The system comes with a 1-year warranty. If something goes wrong because of an issue with how it was made, Hyperice will send someone to repair it (free of charge) or replace it.
Keep in mind that the warranty doesn’t cover wear and tear, cosmetic damage, or problems caused by incorrect use. You’ll also need the serial number or some proof of purchase, like the original receipt. And you may have to pay for shipping to return your defective item.
The company states that the fundamental benefit of the Normatec pneumatic compression system is increased circulation. More blood flow means more oxygen and nutrients get to your muscles, helping them move better and recover faster.
But the medical community has yet to jump on board. Some studies have suggested that pneumatic compression can help reduce muscle fatigue after intense activity, but there’s no evidence of long-term benefits for recovery or enhanced performance.
There’s also other research that doesn’t back up the claims that it helps increase circulation or reduce exercise-induced muscle damage.
Despite the mixed results from the medical community, reviewers love the Normatec 2.0 Pulse system and say it absolutely makes their legs feel rested, rejuvenated, and ready to get back after it. Customers praise the quality of the unit and say it’s worth every penny.
Our verdict on Normatec
We wanted to know if Normatec was legit, so we got in touch with Hyperice about testing it for real. They sent us the Normatec 2.0 Leg Recovery System, so we took it for a spin.
When I first opened it, my first thought was, admittedly, “Where TF am I going to store all this?!” Even the Leg System, which has the fewest parts, still has a lot of parts. You’ll need a dedicated space for this thing to live in your home if you plan to use it often.
After I pushed through the stress of my limited apartment storage problem, I plugged in the control unit, hooked up all the hoses, and laid everything out on my couch to prepare for my squeezy sesh. I then climbed over my setup so I could sit on the couch and stick my legs in the sleeves. Once I got comfortable, I zipped them up all the way to the top of my hips. (TBH, I probably made the setup harder than it had to be the first time. Whoops.)
The experience of actually using it was pretty luxurious. I tried it after a full day of work and a HIIT legs workout, so I was pretty tired and my legs def needed some love. The massage felt amazing, especially on my quads and feet. I let it run through the entire 20-minute session (while watching “The Handmaid’s Tale”… def a weird combo), and when it was over, I took a walking lap around my apartment.
I know more studies are needed to truly say whether pneumatic compression helps with recovery, but I definitely felt refreshed. Not only were my legs feeling rejuvenated, but I even felt like the entire system helped pump blood back into my brain…? I can’t explain that — you’re just going to have to experience it for yourself.
I can see this device being an amazing addition to a serious athlete’s recovery routine. Again, even if more studies are needed to determine whether these kinds of devices help you recover faster, the massage itself was a delightful way to wind down after a tough workout.
I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for moderately active folks, though — it’s a bit too expensive. I consider myself very active (but def not a marathoner by any means), and I don’t really see myself using this on the regular. But if you’re training for marathons, triathlons, etc., one of the Normatec systems could be your new main squeeze.
—Ruby Thompson, Market Editor
The Hyperice Normatec systems aren’t your only option for an air compression leg massage. Here are some alternatives to consider:
- The Rapid Reboot Boots Package comes with two control unit options and a 2-year warranty.
- The Air Relax Leg Recovery System features four different massage modes.
- The Speed Hound Properformance Recovery Boots System is customizable and has a 45-day return policy without a restocking fee.
The Normatec 2.0 Pulse system is a cool, space-age at-home compression system for anyone looking to give their arms, legs, or hips some relief after a grueling workout. It’s designed to stimulate circulation using dynamic air compression. Clinical studies aren’t backing the technology quite yet, but reviewers stand by it.
Our verdict: If you’re tired of tired limbs holding you back, then one of Normatec’s systems is worth a try.