I have tried quite a few bizarre things in the name of health and fitness - I’ve punched a professional boxing coach repeatedly in the stomach and had him punch me in the stomach with a glove on the end of a stick, I’ve gone open water swimming in 12 degree green lakes and I’ve eaten health bars made of crickets, however I feel EMS training (otherwise known as Electric Muscle Stimulation), might just top the lot.
What is it? It’s a full body workout using an impulse current that's apparently big in Germany. Wearing an electronic vest, E-Pulsive (as this particular brand is called), delivers impulses through electrodes onto the skin - to the upper and lower back, lats, abdominals and chest muscles as well as legs, glutes and arms. The aim, is to stimulate muscles to a much greater capacity than during a standard training session, and each session lasts only 20 minutes.
‘How hardcore could it be?’ I thought to myself as I got strapped into a vest and cycling shorts with wires hanging from them at the HQ in Knightsbridge (note - they will also come to you if you can't make it there.) The answer is ‘VERY HARDCORE’. The wires lead to a box that looks like a bomb detonator from a James Bond film, and the instructor basically turns up the electric current depending on what he/ she thinks you can cope with, whilst making you do combinations of squats, star jumps and running gone the spot. She figured I was quite strong so she kept on turning up the dials. What does it feel like? If you’ve ever used a TENS machine (I had one in labour) then it’s like that times by 100. If you haven’t, then imagine having each part of your body pricked repeatedly with millions of little needles at four second intervals. When I put a picture of myself on Facebook wearing the outfit, I wasn’t joking when I said I felt I'd got electrocuted. This smiley picture BTW was taken before the session!
I don’t think I could say I enjoyed the session as such because it’s actually quite painful, and it’s very hard to do the exercises because a) the vest feels it might suffocate you and b) the current is so strong it sort of poleaxes you, especially in my arms which were shaking rather violently and I had to squeeze some small tennis balls to keep them still. I was also worried that I was never asked if I had any health concerns - whether I was pregant, whether I had a heart condition or any conditions for that matter which concerned me slightly. I filled in a waiver for a manicure the other day so I find it weird I didn't for a session that involved wires and very strong electric currents.
They recommend four sessions in order to see results, but I’m sorry E-Pulsive I’m not sure I can stomach it. I understand that electric stimulus does work (I have experienced it in physio, when after a big knee operation they used it on my hugely wasted away thigh muscle), and I also understand that something that causes your muscles to contract often will give them greater strength. EMS training means you are contracting 350 of your 640 muscles over 36,000 times so I’m sure that prolonged use will reap results. Gaining muscle too helps us to burn fat, so I can see that over a period of time you might lose a bit of weight. However I really don't feel this is something that would be relied on as a weightloss 'fix'. I felt sad for the very overweight man who came in after me who I felt was seeking a magic weightloss pill - we all know that eating less and working out more can do that for you. This never, ever changes no matter what.
If you are braver than me and are up for trying 12 weeks of EMS training (they say 9% of body fat can be lost in this time and a 30% increase in strength), then please report back to me with your results. I, on the other hand am going out for a run instead.
From £40 a session depending on how many you book