If you’ve recently stumbled across photos of Victoria’s Secret models Alessandra Ambrosio and Alina Baikova hooked up to a network of wires in futuristic suits on your Instagram feed, chances are they are taking part in an Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS) workout — a 25-minute full body training that stimulates your muscles with electrical currents.
While EMS as a fitness trend still has yet to make its way into the Asian fitness world, the technology of EMS isn’t new; it has been used in rehab settings to help repair spinal cord injuries and in physical therapy to strengthen weak muscles and correct imbalances. Now dubbed the future of fitness, a 25-minute session of EMS is said to activate over 90% of the muscle fibers at the same time during each contraction and burn calories equivalent to 90 minutes of HIIT training, all with basic movements and minimal effort.
Sounds too goo to be true? There’s no better way to try it out for yourself. Bangkok-based fitness fanatics and time-poor workers will be pleased to know that EMS has just touched down in Bangkok at FiTin25, a personal fitness-training studio located in the heart of the Silom business district — and it’s set to take the city by storm.
Featured image: Instagram/usainbolt
Conveniently located on Silom road and next to Sala Daeng BTS station, FiTin25 is owned by Chaloemlak ‘Nok’ Roemer, a certified EMS instructor who has nine years of EMS training experience in Germany. Designed to be as practical as possible, the EMS studio has a clearly-divided layout of a closet of electrode-embedded suits, a workout area with three EMS devices, two showers and locker spaces that ensure a hassle-free workout.
Using the EMS device from Miha Bodyte produced in Germany, each EMS session is performed through small electrodes that are placed against the wet bodysuit, with small electrical impulses sent to the muscles which mimic the action of the central nervous system, recruiting more muscles throughout the entire body for every rep using external impulses.
Before the class started, I was strapped up tight in water-soaked fabric and a vest, which was connected to a series of wires running to my arms, legs and glutes. A dampened suit hooked up to wires was definitely not a comfortable outfit to workout in, but it was necessary to spritz the electrodes with water in order to conduct the electricity to activate muscles deep inside the anatomy.
Next, a bigger cable was plugged into my bodysuits, connecting to an EMS machine with a small screen indicating the exercises and time. Nok slowly turned up the voltage to target each body part with pulses of electricity, manually firing each of muscle group at a time. Every four seconds, an electric pulse triggered an involuntary contraction deep in my muscles. The sensation was very strange and took some time to get used to — it felt like a dozen phones were vibrating against my body.
For the next 20 minutes, Nok guided me through a body-weight workout that, on its own, looked more like a warm-up — planks, squats, lunges and standing crunches, following a fixed timing of nine seconds of exercise followed by fours seconds of rest when the impulses stopped. But with the added resistance from involuntary muscle contractions, my movements were incredibly slow, yet the muscles were working ten times harder to do basic moves that wouldn’t normally cause me to break a sweat.
By the end of the 25 minutes, I felt drained. It was not the same kind of crushed I feel after an intense circuit training, but the fact that I was even fatigued from a few squats and bicep curls was noteworthy. In the next few days, the stiffness deep in my biceps and glutes was a solid proof that the EMS had targeted muscles that apparently didn’t get enough work.
The class might’ve only been 25 minutes long, but FiTin25’s EMS session managed to work just about every muscle imaginable. However, EMS is no muscle-building or fat-burning magic — it works best to support your other gym efforts by enhancing the performance of certain muscle groups, which means it cannot completely replace your workout routine. EMS training is, however, a great supplement to your standard gym practices and should take place once or twice a week. So if you’re not daunted by the fact that your workout will involve a wet bodysuit and tiny spasm stimulated by electric impulses, this is the time to hop on the global EMS bandwagon.