Electro Muscle Stimulation training is making waves for being the swiftest of workout options. But does it work?
The technology of deep electrical muscle stimulation itself isn’t new – physiotherapists have used it for decades to tackle sports injuries and in aiding rehabilitation - but it’s becoming more widely used as a way to build strength, lose weight and increase fitness.
I was made aware of the EMS studio, Bodystreet by an avid fitness fanatic after complaining, like so many of us, that I just couldn’t find time for the gym. He confessed that he was hardly stepping foot in a gym these days but managed to stay in shape by going for regular 20 minute personal training sessions at his local EMS studio. Only 20 minutes a week! That l could I find time for!
Having booked my initial consultation, I was warmly welcomed by Diana and Charlie at their Worthing Bodystreet branch. An informative body scan to determine factors such as muscle mass, hydration levels and metabolic age plus an analysis of the results is followed by questions and advice regarding my diet and lifestyle. Charlie clearly knows his stuff and I vow to consider changing some of my deleterious ways!
Next I’m fitted with a specially designed training bodysuit containing electrodes. The suit has been sprayed with warm water to aid conductivity and I expect it to be uncomfortable but Charlie adjusts it to fit snugly. A cable is plugged into my bodysuit, connecting to a stand with a small screen. At this point I’m feeling decidedly nervous – am I about to be shocked into oblivion?
Diana is my personal trainer for the session and for the next 20 minutes I’m expertly guided through various exercises such as squats and lunges. The electrical impulses start lightly and Diana checks with me before increasing stimulation. At first it all feels a bit odd but I soon get used to it and I ask her to crank it up. Since different body areas are covered by separate electrodes within the suit, one can choose to work certain muscle groups harder than others. Ideal.
After 20 minutes I feel as if I’ve been through a strenuous workout equivalent to countless miles on the treadmill, and a few circuits of strength training at
My aim was not to lose weight but to tone and build muscle which I feel was achieved. I found the option of excluding certain muscles, in my case, my tight lower back, helpful as that is something I often found difficult to do with exercise such as yoga or strength training at the gym. I did miss the cardio aspect of ordinary training and EMS alone is probably not a sufficient cardio substitute. Contrary to my expectations, I enjoyed my workouts and I appreciated how time-efficient it all was.
Time saving indeed but what does the science say?
EMS training reaches more muscle fibres than are normally activated during regular exercise and all major muscle groups can be worked at the same time. When combined with deliberate muscle activation exercises during personal training sessions, muscle contractions are stronger and more intense resulting in muscles working harder. Involuntary muscles are also stimulated and EMS is safe for joints and ligaments.
A Korean randomised controlled trial conducted in 2015 exploring whether EMS therapy could reduce abdominal fat in young women concluded that, without modifying exercise or diet, EMS caused significant effects in decreasing waist circumference, subcutaneous fat mass and body fat percentage. Sign me up.
Bodystreet Worthing, 14 Chapel Road, Worthing, BN11 1BJ, 01903 930 910.