Good Housekeeping’s writer, Ashanté Dlamini-Mthembu, shares her BODYTEC® EMS training experience over a four-week period. As part of my New Year’s resolutions, I decided to really get back into my physical training in the hopes of shedding some kilos in time for my 24th birthday.
When I started going to the gym four times a week, I realised I still needed to fit in an extra day of exercise, but one that wouldn’t take up too much time, and I thought BODYTEC® EMS (Electro Muscle Stimulation) training would fit the bill. EMS has been used for decades, but mostly in professional sports and rehabilitation.
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Prior to my first session at BODYTEC®, I was a bit sceptical that one 20-minute session once a week would be sufficient for strength training. I thought EMS training was recommended for individuals who were looking to bulk up, or for professional athletes, but research has shown that strength resistance training of big muscle groups is the most effective way to achieve the desired change in body composition. The efficiency is caused by a repeated contraction of all major muscle groups at the same time, leading to a time-saving but intense workout.
The main difference between EMS training and regular strength training is that, thanks to the technology, (which is able to activate up to 90% of all your muscles in one go) you can fit your strength training into a mere 20 minutes once a week. I was also encouraged by the fact that I did not need any pre-BODYTEC® exercise/training before starting my first session. The only things I had to remember were to drink enough water and to make sure I had a bite to eat beforehand
My initial thought at my first session was, ‘This is such a daunting experience. I hope I don’t pass out!’ The studio I would train at for the next four weeks was a simple one, with only two EMS devices in the training area. This made me a little less nervous, as I always dread trying something out for the first time with a host of onlookers. The fact that only two people can train at the same time made me feel better.
My trainer, Rossouw, took me through exactly how EMS training works and what my body would be experiencing throughout the next four weeks. The first step would be to change into the specialised shirt and tights (provided by them), which give the best yield for the stimulation to reach the muscles. This was followed by the EMS training vest and patches, which are dampened with warm water before being put on. The vest and patches link directly to the EMS device, which transfers the stimulation directly to the targeted muscle area.
For the first session, I had to arrive 15 minutes prior to my actual appointment because my EMS levels needed to be set on the device and linked to my card. These levels would be determined by how much stimulus I could take at one time. The levels are out of 100 and, on average, most people average about 65 to 75 in the first session.
Once my levels were set, I was good to go and my very first 20 minutes of EMS training began. To my surprise, there was nothing daunting about it at all. The device would count down 10 seconds and my trainer instructed me which exercise to do next. The exercises were things like leg raises, bicep curls, standing crunches and lunges. This continued for a full 20 minutes, with no long breaks. I had a four-second pause between exercises, but other than that the session was jam-packed the entire 20 minutes.
After my first session, I felt great. I broke out in a sweat, which is a great sign! I was amazed by how spent I felt after doing only 20 minutes of exercise in a 1m by 1m space. I only began to feel the effects of my first session two days later, and boy was it hell. I could clearly feel that my entire body had gone through every single stimulus I experienced. I felt pain in muscles that I didn’t know existed, which could only mean that they hadn’t been in use for a while. To shake off the tenderness, Rossouw suggested I do light cardio sessions of 45 minutes each at least twice a week after my BODYTEC® session.
BODYTEC® training is always by appointment, so you don’t wait, and it’s always supervised by a qualified personal trainer, giving you optimal results in minimal time. I made my second appointment for the Monday following my first session – exactly a week after. With the first session under my belt, I felt more confident heading to the studio. I arrived, changed and got set up at the EMS device in under 10 minutes, and we got straight to work.
In this next session, my trainer asked which areas I would like to target now that I had knowledge of what the aftereffects of training would be. This made me feel so much better because I could automatically prepare for the tenderness in those areas and possibly plan my exercises for the next day. I opted to focus on my abdominal area and my legs. Since my legs are quite sturdy and muscular already, my trainer increased the intensity by five to make sure the stimulus reached the depths of my muscles for the best results.
As before, my trainer instructed me on the exercise and I then did it. This process continued for 20 minutes and once again I was dripping with sweat and ready to fall over at the end of it. Since I have always gone to the gym or participated in outdoor activity, I thought this session would be easier than the previous one, but I was wrong. In fact, I would say my second session was tougher in the sense that my trainer did not go easy on me. Where he could see that the exercise appeared to be a little easy for me, he would increase the intensity to test my resistance.
I found this to be a really great form of training, as it helped me push a little harder than I would have initially. Since I knew to do my two light cardio sessions following my EMS training, my recovery was not as intense as in the previous week. I also added a few stretches to my recovery period in the morning before getting into the shower. This helped a lot, as I didn’t feel the need to hold on to every rail when walking down the stairs or around the house.
By the third week, I thought I had nailed my pre- and post-workout routine. I was confident to take on any changes in levels that my trainer would throw at me. In my third session, we went back to targeting my entire body rather than targeted areas. This was okay, since I would do targeting areas at the gym on my ‘off’ days. As before, I left the studio feeling like I had just run a 10km race.
To relieve the strain on my body, I went to the gym after my EMS session and sat in the steam room for 15 to 20 minutes. This helped to remove toxins from my body through copious amounts of sweat (and it cleans your skin too!).
My final session was the most difficult session yet. My trainer pushed up all my levels by 10 to increase my resistance. This was incredibly difficult for the first few exercises, but I got into it quite quickly as we went along.
Due to the confidence I had built throughout my EMS experience, I thought it would be a great idea to test my body and do a 5km run a day after my final session. This proved to be a huge mistake. My body didn’t have enough recovery time and as a result I spent the entire Sunday after the 5km run in bed nursing my tender body.
It taught me to listen to my trainer and not to push my body too much too soon. High-intensity training is definitely not recommended the day after EMS training. I should have given my body at least 72 hours before I tried it.
1. While I only did four weeks of EMS training, I could really feel my body was stronger afterwards than it was before I started. I also felt much lighter and more in control of my body than before.
2. I lost 6cm around my abdomen and 4cm around my thighs. These were my biggest areas of concerns, so I was elated by the results.
3. EMS training is not a replacement for exercise. It’s essential to continue with cardio and other exercise in order to achieve the best results.
4. As with any training, a balanced diet consisting of protein, lean meat and a lot of vegetables and water really helps when it comes to seeing results.
5. I would definitely recommend EMS training. It was a great way to fit in a full-body workout, especially on days when I could only spare 30 minutes.
6. Hydration is key. I sweated a lot more than I had anticipated, so keeping hydrated before and after my sessions saved me from feeling shaky and weak.
7. BODYTEC® offers two types of membership contracts. A six-month contract at R975 a month allows you one session per week (26 sessions) over the six-month period. A 12-month contract at R1 170 offers one session per week (52 sessions) over the 12-month period.
8. Single sessions are not offered or encouraged, as BODYTEC® EMS training works best when experienced over longer time periods. However, when you near the end of your contract or are relocating within the next six months, BODYTEC® does offer existing members a ‘booster’ session at R670 per session.
9. BODYTEC® also offers a trail session at R195 that is open to the public. This is a great way to get a sense of the training before you commit to a membership.
To book your trail and find out more, visit www.bodytec.co.za.