On a raining Sunday afternoon, over a glass of wine and roast dinner, I was crazy enough to agree to try out a new workout whilst being electrocuted! I’d heard about Electric Muscle Stimulation (EMS) before, knowing many physiotherapists use it for rehab purposes. But it wasn’t until very recently that I discovered you could use it whilst working out, to ultimately improve your efficiency. So last Tuesday I made my way to the Exerceo Training studio by Goodge Street for a 20 minute workout.
The sessions take place in a small, but perfectly equipped training room. Sessions are one-on-one, or in pairs if you’d prefer to go with a friend. The first positive is that you don’t need to take any workout gear with you. So I turned up in office clothing and was supplied with a cotton suit to change into. I was wearing trainers and opted to keep these on for the workout, but this is entirely your choice. Once changed, I got into the electrode suit, and was sprayed down with cold water. Following a short explanation of the equipment from my instructor, Alvaro, as each session is tailored according to your goals and fitness levels, we had a quick chat through my personal goals. I’m currently training for the Paris Marathon in April, so I wanted to focus on my strength, but a little toning never goes amiss.
I’m up for trying anything new, but once in my suit ready to start the session, I’m not going to lie, I was a little bit nervous. I’ve been electrocuted during previous obstacle races and it wasn’t a pleasant experience…‘what am I doing here’ was all I could think!
Alvaro explained we were going to start with a very short warm up – jogging on the spot and jumping jacks – during this time he would switch on the machine so I began to feel the electric pulses. Warm up done and I’m thinking, I can do this, I don’t even need to stop for a water break. We pushed on with the first short 7 minute routine consisting mainly of squats. Oh my, my glutes were on fire! It is really hard to describe what the sensation is like, a little bit of internal vibrating and an external tingling kind of feeling. Not painful, but also not pleasant. The short routine consisted of a period when the machine was turned on, followed by rest periods, e.g. I would feel the pulses for 7 seconds and then I would 3 seconds rest, whilst all the time performing the exercises. We talked throughout about how my body was feeling, with Alvaro continuously controlling each muscle group and adjusting the intensity. I would let him know if the intensity felt too strong in a particular area of my body, or if I could ‘handle’ more. Each muscle group has a separate control so I could say, ok, increase it in my quads, but no more for the abs. The experience took a little while to get used to, but you are exercising for such a short period of time, somehow this makes it bearable.
We continued on, I performed various exercises, including planks, sit ups and some arm exercises with 1kg weights. I thought I could handle the increased intensity in my arms, until I tried to lift my arms from by my side to above my head. My left arm went up fine, but my right arm had a mind of its own and was waving all over the place, this was really surreal to watch it moving, yet have no control – it was also obvious for Alvaro to see immediately I needed the intensity decreasing.
We finished with strength work and the aim was to keep trying to increase my intensity threshold. I really enjoyed this part of the workout, I’m very competitive so wanted to continuously push myself, increasing the intensity as I neared the end of the session. The session was over before I knew it, and I couldn’t believe what I sweat I had built up in such a short space in time.
The FDA-approved machines use very low voltage electrical current, and must comply with EU directives for medical devices, so there is no danger of the electric current damaging the nervous system. Exerceo reports that their clients usually see visible results within four-six sessions and I can see that clients would.
The following day I didn’t feel too bad, I had been warned about muscle soreness and was encouraged to go on my planned short run the following evening. However, 48 hours after the session is when the delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) hit me. I’m going to be honest, sitting on the toilet was a struggle! Given that it takes the body 36-48 hours to recover, it is recommended you only undertake two sessions a week. The saved time and convenience of these sessions is a huge selling point. No workout gear required and it’s a workout you can honestly do within your lunch break, be showered and back at your desk within the hour.