Behind a nondescript door a few paces from the hipster hustle of Commercial Street is a studio where you can get wired, and then some. Exerceo Training is one of the few places in London where you can try Electric Muscle Stimulation (EMS). An offshoot of the medical technology used for rehabilitation of muscles, EMS combines a simple personal training session with a complex suit that hugs the body and stimulates the muscles deeper than exercise alone. The combined effect is a 25 minute workout that feels like one three times as long.
I went for my first session with Ali Dewji, who like me is more accustomed to lifting weights and doing the occasional spot of cardio. Our Personal Trainer, Nooroa, a beaming Kiwi with a reassuring timbre of voice joked that we were in for the workout of our lives. The EMS machine accommodates two users simultaneously, which only adds to the experience. Need an idea for date night? You won’t forget this one in a hurry.
The workout started with us changing into a tight fitting cotton top and trousers, which were provided along with a towel and bottle of water. As Ali got changed, Nooroa prepped his electro suit, by spraying the inside of the jacket, shorts and armbands with water. My thoughts turned to John Coffey of Stephen King’s The Green Mile: “Don’t put me in the dark. I’s afraid of the dark.” I muttered to myself. As with any electrocution, the water aides the transfer from electrode to skin to muscle. We suited up and the Trainer plugged in leads from the control unit to our suits. We were connected to the grid.
The unit had a series of buttons and a dial rather like the volume knob on an amp. The session started with the Nooroa setting our levels, the electrodes in the different parts of the suit targeting different muscle groups, primarily:
- Lower back
- Biceps and triceps
At first the electricity caused minor spasms throughout my body, pulses of deep energy reaching pretty much everywhere. At a low level it’s like some sort of deep tissue massage, but as the power increases the muscles are tested and you can feel it. Boy can you feel it. Trying to put one up on Ali, I asked for the levels on my abs to be set a bit higher than him.
Where energy meets exercise is in the movements the Trainer pushed us to do over the 25 minutes. These were all very simple on their own: bicep and tricep curls, squats, lunges, press ups and planks, but with the added electricity, it quickly became like training at the edge of your ability.
To that point where you feel the burn in your muscles and the compulsion to stop. It is this point that most of us, certainly me, don’t pass very often, but this barrier needs to be crushed in order to build muscle. In essence EMS Training puts you in the burn zone and keeps you there, as your compulsion to quit is quashed by the Trainer, as the carefully timed pulses of energy flow through you.
After 3 minutes I was squealing, ‘ABS DOWN. ABS DOWN.’ Thankfully Nooroa turned down the level of electricity running through my stomach muscles. He explained that normal weight training will only activate 30%-40% of muscle fibre, EMS Training reaches far deeper to 90% of muscle – I could feel it. The intense force reeling inside me against the movements creating a mass of resistance. Both of us were grunting and intaking sharp breaths between sets.
Ali has bigger muscles than me. Halfway into the set I noticed that the Trainer was giving him heavier weights. Normally, being a man, this would elicit feelings of inadequacy and the stubborn desire to push harder than I can take. In this case I looked on and sniggered with a searing schadenfreude as I saw the sweat dripping from Ali’s forehead. Mwuahahaha. I should add that the weights we used for the bicep and tricep curls were 2 or 3kg – risible until you add the electricity which makes them feel ten times heavier.
We made it. The last three or so minutes are spent lying down with the machine set on a relaxing pulse. Down on the ground, wired up, muscles put to the test, we felt as if we were floating – our bodies put through the spectrum that all workouts should have, like a novel with a beginning, middle and end, a few plot twists, but a happy resolution.
If you would like to try out Exerceo Training use this link for a 50% discount: www.payasugym.com/r/376e4637