EMS, which stands for Electro Muscle Stimulation, has been used in the beauty and rehab sectors for a long time. These days, it is a regular form of exercise and was made famous by super-athletes like Usain Bolt. It works by stimulating the muscles via an electrical pulse with special equipment. EMS promises to cut down on your exercise time, be kinder to your joints than other forms of exercise and give you the same result as an intense full-body weights session in the gym.
BEFORE THE EMS WORKOUT
I visited BODYTEC, a specialised EMS studio, a few months ago. I had heard that EMS could help strengthen my legs and make me a better cyclist. Sceptical about whether it was safe to have electric current run through my body, I went for a consultation and bought a ten-session package to try it out.
BODYTEC imports its EMS equipment from Germany (the same kit that the Bayern Munich football team uses). Their trainers are well-versed in the technology and are great at explaining what you can expect, why it works and the impact it has on your body.
At BODYTEC one can either buy or rent special clothing that you wear during the session. The kit comprises of tight-fitting shorts to the knee, and a shirt (no bra girls, you don’t want any metal on your body). Your personal trainer then helps you “suit up” with a vest which looks like a lifejacket with lots of electrodes and some pads for your biceps and for your butt that are attached via adjustable velcro straps.
THE EMS WORKOUT
The sessions are very well monitored with only two clients in a session with a single trainer. Each tailored session is 20 minutes long (which doesn’t sound long but believe me you’ll be sweating and aching by the end of it) and is completed only once, or at most twice, a week.
The electrical impulses come in waves of four seconds i.e. 4 seconds of contraction followed by four seconds of rest. Your trainer gives you a number of slow-motion “Thai chi – like” movements that are designed to help you activate the right muscles during the contraction. It is very important to tense the muscles and breathe out during the contraction. If you don’t, you feel almost winded and the electrical pulse feels more intense. They claim that you activate 90% of your muscles during the 20 minutes workout.
BODYTEC had convenient shower facilities at their studio so one can shower and head to work if necessary.
Does it work? For me, yes it worked. I started seeing results after four or five sessions. As a cyclist, my climbing strength increased dramatically. The fat deposits at the folds of my arms (which I despise) decreased, my tummy was flatter and my butt seemed lifted. My bodyfat percentage reduced by 2% in ten sessions. My husband benefitted from a toned and flatter stomach and improved explosive strength on the bike.
Does it hurt? Kind of. First, the contraction is intense, and second, the electric stimulus is uncomfortable. The intensity can however be adjusted up or down if necessary. You get used to the sensation after a few sessions.
PLEASE NOTE, this is no quick fix. One session of EMS a week will not help you miraculously lose weight. It works best in conjunction with a carefully planned diet and some other form of exercise like walking, running or cycling. Remember that one can build beautiful muscles, but if they are covered under a layer of fat no one can see them.
THE DOWNSIDE OF EMS
There are some people who I spoke to that felt it didn’t work as well for them, so it seems that opinions vary on the effectiveness. There is reference to various effectiveness studies on the BODYTEC website if you fancy extra reading.
It is very expensive. My primary reason for not returning was that a membership at both a gym and BODYTEC costs too much. Depending on which package you choose, you’re looking at about R1 000 per month at BODYTEC, other studios may differ.
It’s less social than other forms of exercise. My favourite part of running or cycling is that I can chat to my friends. One can’t really talk during EMS, but I suppose it’s only 20 minutes long.
Generally, I was extremely stiff after an EMS session. This inhibited my cycling training for a few days and was quite uncomfortable.
I would try EMS again. Especially if I need to get toned for a beach holiday or get strong for a sports event. Remember that twenty minutes of EMS once a week will not give you a perfect body in ten sessions. You need to combine it with other forms of exercise and a well-planned diet or you’ll be wasting your money.
If you have a medical condition or have a pacemaker, check with your doctor before trying EMS.
*This is not a sponsored post. Equilibrio’s opinions are purely our own.
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