Since the late ‘00s in Europe and more so around the world in the past 10 years or so with the improvements to technology, Electro Muscle Stimulation workouts have been the new thing in gym and home training for one very obvious reason: Basically, with EMS, you hook yourself up to some electricity zapping machine and it blasts your fat and stimulates your muscles and metabolism like a million times more efficiently than normal exercise...
...and you don't even really have to do anything!
That's a really big generalization but that's the dream; getting the six-pack abs and / or buns of steel without having to put in the hours and hours in the gym to achieve it the other way.
Previously, for an earlier article with this website getting me to do embarrassing things, I had my abs blasted by an EMS machine. But that was lying down in a nice, delightful spa en route to a really fantastic, life-affirming facial. This time we're trying out a full-body EMS suit workout session at the for-real really nice hotel The Middle House. Today, we're at Impulse Fitness, Shanghai's only gym platform that offers EMS-suit training.
The dream is still there. If you can get me like a Thor body in half an hour and I don't really have to do anything, I'm really down for that.
Electric shocks? Psshaw, I can do that.
To take a step back a bit, if you've never heard of EMS, it stands for, as mentioned, "Electro Muscle Stimulation", and it's exactly what it sounds like. An electric current is sent into a given muscle group — abs, glutes, what have you — and it forces the muscle to contract on its own. It mimics the signal from the brain sending a command to flex but it's coming from external stimulation. The idea is that more muscle fibers are reached and a deeper, more complete contraction (90% vs. 60%) is achieved. With deeper muscle stimulation, a 30-minute EMS workout is the equivalent of a four-hour conventional training session. That's the selling point.
So, here it is. A full EMS suit. Stimulation points on the chest, abs, biceps, thighs, and assssss!
Electricity is in the air! Feel the burn.
My research online consisted of looking at short clips of gorgeous and impossible Scandinavians wearing the suit, smiling deeply, and doing lunges in a gym in a ski lodge somewhere, with some serene and pristine mountains in the background. Sold. Instantly sold.
Impulse Fitness offers three methods to do their EMS suit-based training: One-on-one with a personal trainer, couples classes, and small group classes that max out at five people. Their workout space is on the gym level of The Middle House. Act like you're going to Frasca for their excellent pasta and then make a right instead and go down the stairs.
We opted for the one-on-one training session because group classes were too daunting a prospect, especially when you're going to be blasting me right in the glutes with a bunch of electricity. There's only so much public trauma one can withstand, like c'mon now.
This is Abel, one of the IMPULSE certified trainers at Impulse Fitness. His key strengths as a trainer: correctly reading the fear in my eyes, suitably lowering his expectations, and reassuring me that I would not, in fact, die in the basement of this very nice boutique hotel.
After putting on the suit, and with the electric stimulators in place, Abel runs me through the various workout options. There are a bunch of different programs depending on what you want to work on. This being a trial class we just stuck it on "Continuous" and turned on the juice.
Via a tablet, your personal trainer controls the number of jolts in the suit, stimulating certain areas as needed and amping up the power as requested. The actual gym workout session is mat and weight exercises --planks, squats and yoga / pilates-type movements.
Getting started already with a sweet textbook lunge. Visions of Norwegian mountains in my eyes.
Don't really know what this is. Kinda like a side-to-side thing.
More textbook form on this picture perfect squat.
Got well defeated by this pushup. Yeah. Such is life.
But see the empathy on Abel's face here. We're gonna figure this out.
This one was alright because it was 90% lying on my back and I correctly chose the lightest weights.
So yeah. As we ran through the exercises, Abel would stimulate the corresponding muscle zone on the suit, like ZZZZZAAAAP.
...a weird, pulsing sensation.
It doesn't hurt but it feels like some force is reaching into your body and flexing your muscles against your will. Which is funny but creepy but a little exciting. It takes a bit of getting used to. When he was jolting me in the ass I kept looking behind myself because I thought that I was getting a playful, little waaasssup on the butt from a sexy ghost or something.
But, yeah, your trainer is right there with you, and it's real easy to lower the power or tap out completely if you need to. The scale of jolts goes from zero to 100. I made it to about 40 in each of my muscle groups.
I asked Abel what people usually do. He said most people go the distance to 100.
As far as gym programs go, although they offer a free trial session, it's not the cheapest option out there but you wouldn't really expect it to be. So, you should do your own research and see if this would complement your existing program, maybe adding a few classes a week at Impulse. The suit, of course, is not the deus ex machina solution to getting the abs of your dreams, but would definitely compliment a fitness regimen wherein your diet and your active lifestyle outside of the gym are already considered. I didn't turn into Thor after 30 minutes but yeah, my god, my muscles were definitely Frankenstein'ed into life like, whoa!
Something to look into if you've: 1) got the money; 2) are looking for an intense gym workout that won't take up time; 3) are looking for more interaction with professional personal trainers; 4) are looking for a final definition and tone on problems areas; 5) have problems with joints and want an intense, low-impact gym program; 6) want to wear a full-on suit of electricity like a super villain?
(Sounds pretty neat-o, right?)
More information on Impulse's prices, programs, and special deals at their Facebook page and WeChat account. Search out "Impulse Fitness" on WeChat.