A Bluetooth controlled device that fits in the palm of your hand and has the power to help you recover faster, prevent muscle atrophy and even work out your muscles for you? We found it a bit hard to believe that such a thing exists. The PowerDot Uno is a wireless, FDA-cleared, lightweight device that massages practically every muscle in your body through electric stimulation. The technology gently contracts your muscles the same way physical therapists or doctors can with more extensive tools — all from the comfort of your home. But is it worth the price?

The Good: The PowerDot took all of five minutes to set up and use. The app is incredibly straightforward and walks you through everything you need to know. The stimulation programs include light, active, extended recovery, massage and warm up — and an additional five workouts: muscle or strength endurance, resistance, strength or explosive strength. Alternatively, you can focus on a specific complaint like ankle pain or a tight back. The PowerDot hooks up to two electrodes via a cable and then is attached to your leg, arm, back, torso, etc. via sticky pads. The app makes electronic stimulation accessible to everyone, and the entire device fits in a box no larger than an over-ear headphone case, so it’s easy to carry.

Who It’s For: Serious athletes will enjoy the PowderDot as a recovery and supplemental exercise tool, but everyday athletes will see benefits as well. The accessibility is part of what makes the PowerDot a great for everyone.

Watch Out For: If you’re not going to use a tool like this every day or are intimidated by it (I was, too!) the $249 price is pretty high. If you want to work both sides of your body at once, you’ll need to purchase the Duo (two PowerDots), which will run you $449. While the company offers a monthly payment plan, it’s still pricey.

The place where I am most sore is usually my upper back or traps, and with the PowerDot it was tough to reach those spots. While the images in the app are helpful to see exactly where to apply the electrodes, I still found myself double (and triple) checking the placement in the mirror to have it match the image.

Alternatives: There aren’t many app-based muscle stimulation systems out there. Other electrical stimulation units exist, like the TENS Unit and Muscle Stimulator ($500) or Compex Sport Elite Muscle Stimulator ($650), but none are as portable as the PowerDot.

The Review: Initially, I was attracted to the PowerDot because of its recovery benefits. Electronic muscle stimulation can potentially help increase strength, reduce recovery time and muscle soreness. While I workout seven days a week, if I go hard at a track workout on a Tuesday, it’s possible for me to still be sore on Thursday, which can slow down my other workouts.

Downloading the PowerDot app was painless, and connecting the two sensors (I tested the Duo) was a breeze. After politely reading through (read: zooming) 20-plus warning labels asking me everything about my medical history (do you have cancerous lesions, bad circulation, are you pregnant?), I finally arrived at the menu. Before starting any program, you should check with your doctor, especially with something like this — even though the PowerDot does a sufficient job raising any risks it poses. In the app, I promised never to get it wet, use it while sleeping, or use it stupidly, like on either side of my body at the same time (like a defibrillator).

Next, I told the app what I wanted to focus on — increase strength and improve flexibility — plus how often I exercise, and what prevents me from working out (with options ranging from a lack of motivation to muscle fatigue). Then I immediately jumped into a massage session.
After an intense run, I was particularly sore in my calves, so I immediately snapped the two PowerDots onto the rectangular sticky pads and plugged in the two electrodes. The pads are neoprene-like in their flexibility and continued to stick after two full weeks of use. Following the instructions on the app, I placed the pads on the back of my calves and waited for the electrode cables to connect via Bluetooth — then hit start.

Intensity wise, the electrodes start at 0.0 and go up to 100. I never ventured higher than 15. The app tells you to stop increasing the intensity when you can see your muscles moving, so I would set it and let it work through the 20 to 30-minute session. As for how it feels, it’s like a slight pinprick at first, nothing intense, just small little shocks. But as I upped the intensity, I felt a tingling sensation that became more powerful. While I’m not ticklish, I’ve heard that it can feel that way as well. I toyed around with the intensity: on my quads, calves and hamstrings, 10 or above was tolerable, but on my forearms and biceps, nine was too grueling.

After a handful of sessions, I was able to set up the PowerDot and proceed to do other things at the same time — everything from brushing my teeth to washing dishes. While the PowerDot app encourages users to sit and relax, I found it hard to sit still and focus solely on recovery.

While I did try the resistance training, it was frustrating that I couldn’t move during the ‘workout.’ I’d rather get up and lift weights than sit still and have my muscles stimulated. Plus, you do not break a sweat while the electrodes are working. I’ll stick with hitting the gym or treadmill for my workouts, but I’ve started packing this little machine in my bag to take with me everywhere. It’s always a good time for a massage, right?

The Verdict: I was very skeptical of the PowerDot at first and was a bit nervous to use it. I’ve never worked with a physical therapist that uses something like this, so I didn’t know what to expect. While I didn’t think the machine was going to hurt, I wasn’t quite sure how it was going to feel. After using it for a little over two weeks, I now throw it in my gym bag and use when I can. I also love showing others how to use it. It’s a bit unusual and not something people see every day, so it’s a fun tool to bring along. I’m comfortable with it and plan on reaching for it after a long week of workouts to prevent soreness and help my legs and arms stay fresh.

What Others Are Saying:

• “PowerDot is an FDA approved, app-based muscle stimulation system that helps give you results you actually need when whittling away at your gut: active recovery and muscle stimulation. PowerDot works by gently contracting your muscles with the same electronic stimulation (EMS) technology used by physical therapists and doctors today. It’s portable, lightweight and can be used any time, any place when you just choose your recovery mode and push ‘”play” on the app.” — Lauren Steele, Men’s Health

• “With limited mobility, though, you’re probably short on exercise options. I spent the last week using the PowerDot, an FDA-approved electric muscle stimulator. You attach the electrode pads to the area you’d like to stimulate, and then use an app on your phone to select a predefined program. It’s small enough to fit in a jacket pocket. You can manually adjust the intensity along the way. Basically, you can stimulate your muscles and potentially speed your recovery process without moving your arm at all.” — Brent Rose, Wired

Key Specs
Battery Life: 3 hours, rechargeable