You may have seen the ads on Facebook or segments on the news: a 20 minute workout that is equivalent to 4 hours in the gym, all while being low impact. Is this too good to be true? Maybe, or maybe not. Enter EMS Revolution , a gym using an Electro Muscle Stimulation (EMS) powered training system to promise such a workout. Not only that does the promise of a short but intense workout intrigue me, but when their website also claims that “you can work up to 350 individual muscles at the same time in just one session.” I knew I had to check it out for myself. So I was super excited when Andy (owner of EMS Revolution here in Perth) offered me the opportunity to do just that! So on a beautiful Thursday morning, I drove up to EMS Revolutions studio in Malaga and threw myself into the unknown of EMS workouts.
To answer the big questions before getting into my experience: First, what is EMS? According to EMS Revolution’s website: “EMS or Electro Muscular Stimulation is the stimulation of muscle through low frequency electrical impulses. Your central nervous system uses electrical impulses to control each and every muscle in your body. EMS Revolution simply enhances your body’s natural process by intensifying the contraction of your muscles during activity allowing you to exercise in less time.” From both personal experience and my basic knowledge, EMS makes muscles involuntarily contract but can be coupled with voluntary contractions to help with specific muscle training and strengthening. I have had EMS before, but only in a rehabilitation setting and only on 1 to 2 body parts at a time. So I knew the feeling (sort of) of the machine but never had it on my whole body. And to answer the second question: Is it safe? As long as both the exerciser and the overseeing trainer take proper duty of care, yes it can be. There is a full section on the EMS Revolution website (read more here), and from doing my own research, unless neglect is a factor and guidelines aren’t followed, EMS can be a complement of voluntary exercise of healthy muscles. (Click here for my source)
Now onto my actual experience!
Upon arriving at EMS Revolution, I noticed that it had a very private gym feel to it. There wasn’t a lot of equipment and the computer monitors and EMS machines definitely stood out, indicating this wasn’t going to be my typical gym session. After being introduced to my trainer for the session, Ria, we got right into prepping for my workout. All workouts start about the same; after arriving you are handed a pair of black capris and a black ½ sleeve top to change into. This is to help with the electrical conductivity, Ria said, as not all workout gear allows the current to pass through the same way. After getting into the workout gear, it was time to put on the biosuit. The biosuit is where all the EMS pads are contained and pretty much looks like a knee to elbow wetsuit but with extra straps and wires. And it pretty much feels like a comfy wetsuit, minus the fact that it was wet as it was sprayed down with water before I got in. (Again, conductivity.) I also was given a Heart Rate monitor to wear on my left arm, as your heart rate zones are displayed throughout your workout and tracks how hard you are working. After all the prep work, it was finally time for the workout!
Standing in front on the monitor with two leads coming from my suit and attached to the EMS machine, I was ready to get started. The pads in the suit are centered over 10 different muscle groups, and Ria slowly started turning on each sensory. It felt similar to what I expected, but it felt weird feeling opposing muscles trying to involuntary contract at the same time. The worst were my arms (the stims are over the biceps and triceps) as they just kept twitching! I now understand why the give clients stress balls to hold, as actively contracting my muscles even a little bit helped to negate some of the awkwardness of the muscle contractions.
Once all the stims are turned on and up slightly (to the point I definitely felt them but it wasn’t uncomfortable) the warm up exercise starts. It was a basic squat while moving my arms, but I am very glad it happened. It is a bit of a learning curve moving with the stims on (contracting with the movement and not thinking about all the other stims) and I don’t think I quite mastered it during the session. But I do think that it would be something I would get better at during my next session, just like any new exercise class, as I would be able to focus more on the actual workout and less on the stims.
Ria selected a strength workout for me, one that would be fairly typical for any new client to do. There was a mix of mainly strength exercises with a few cardio moves thrown in for good measure. While the moves weren’t anything new or fancy (think squats, lunges, pec deck, front punches, tricep extensions, and push ups) with the stims on I felt my whole body working no matter body part I was focused on. My abs felt engaged like they are supposed to be, which is something I do struggle with occasionally when exercising. Also, my arms were completely jelly by the time push ups came up on the screen. I have no idea how long I was supposed to be doing them for (too long in my mind) but pretty sure the only reason I kept pushing myself was Ria coaching me through it, telling me I only had to do five more before a short break. My abs at this point also felt like I had spent the entire workout laughing (and it had maybe been like 12 minutes at this point) and hurt in the best way possible. I can see why this workout can be tough while being low impact!
After a tough workout, the final minute of my session was one of relaxation. Aka I got to lie on the floor and just let the stims do their thing. When not exercising, the stims actually feel kind of soothing. Ria then treated me to a minute of the “cellulite treatment”. This feels slightly different then the regular stims, as they pulse in a different way (hard to explain), but was equally as relaxing. Not sure how much difference it would make over time to cellulite, but it sure feels nice!
Overall, I highly enjoyed my EMS workout. It was both challenging and fun, and I do think it did what was promised: a short intense workout that was low impact. I like the one-on-one focus of the workout (or one-on-two if you bring a friend!) and felt completely comfortable in the workout environment. I also appreciated that post workout, my HR monitor results were emailed to me. Not only can I see how I did during the session, I can then compare it to any future workouts which is awesome! (To see how I like tracking my workouts, check out my post here.) So with all these extra touches, I can see myself going back for another session at EMS Revolution.
Click here to view my post session HR results: EMS Workout Sarah-Beth_2017_04_13_10_11
What workout should I try next?
Happy working out!
Editor’s note: Two days later, I went and did an F45 workout (mix of strength and cardio). OMG what a difference I felt! I felt it easier to engage my abs during each exercises and was just more body aware of what muscles I should be contracting during the workout. So surprise bonus: refocusing on kinaesthetic awareness!