If you’re one of Liz Hurley, Heidi Klum or Madonna’s IG followers, you may have spotted them working out while hooked up to a bunch of wires and wondered WTH was going on. Well, EMS training is what’s going on, pals. Short for Electrical Muscle Stimulation, EMS training is said to promise results equivalent to four hours of exercise in a twenty-minute session, so it’s hardly surprising that 1.6k of you now search for info on the workout.
WH Editor-in-Chief Claire Sanderson tried it for herself at Repose in South Kensington, London. Here’s her honest review, including everything she learned, and all you need to know, from Eladio de León, co-founder of Kensington EMS studio, E-Pulsive.
What is EMS training?
WH Editor-in-Chief Claire Sanderson tried EMS training
‘EMS training, or Electrical Muscle Stimulation training, is an innovative fitness approach that utilises electrical impulses to enhance muscle contraction during exercise,’ Eladio says. ‘At E-Pulsive, we offer a comprehensive EMS training experience that combines advanced technology with expert coaching to achieve exceptional results.’
How does EMS training work?
‘EMS training works by delivering controlled electrical impulses through special EMS suits or electrodes placed on targeted muscle groups,’ says Eladio. ‘These impulses stimulate deep muscle fibres that are often challenging to engage through traditional exercise alone. This results in more intense muscle contractions and a highly efficient workout. Each session lasts just 20 minutes.’
With little (although growing) research, the verdict is out as to whether EMS training is as effective as it claims to be – the official EMS training website states that it is ‘20 times more effective than traditional strength training’ – but there is some supporting evidence.
One study conducted in 2021 compared the results of two groups of women: one did a set of low-intensity resistance exercises three times a week for six weeks wearing a whole-body EMS suit, while the other followed the same routine, without the EMS suit. The results showed significant improvement in body circumference and cardiovascular function in the group that wore an EMS suit.
EMS training involves wearing an EMS ’suit”
In another 2016 study, men who did a six-week squat program with EMS had greater strength improvements compared to those who did not use EMS. Perhaps less applicable since we know that there are lots of physiological differences between men and women, but still worth taking into account.
On the contrary, another study on ‘moderately-trained males’ found that EMS incited no significant benefits, bar elbow flexor strength, while another (also conducted on men), found no difference in strength between a group who performed two weekly sessions of high-intensity resistance training – they performed 10-13 exercises under a single-set-to-failure protocol, so durations would vary according to experience and existing strength – for 16 weeks, compared to a group who did three 20-minute sessions of EMS every two weeks, for 16 weeks.
The topic clearly warrants further research, but EMS training was initially used for professional athletes, to allow them to get in extra sessions without running the risk of injury, so it’s certainly not BS.
Does EMS training work for your abs?
This is a question just under 500 of you Google each month, and it’s a resounding yes from Eladio. ‘Absolutely!’ he says. ‘EMS training is particularly effective for strengthening your abdominal muscles. Our specialised EMS protocols and tailored workouts focus on helping you achieve stronger abs faster and more effectively.’
What happens during an EMS training session?
EMS training sessions involve a series of basic, low-intensity exercises
‘During an E-Pulsive EMS session, you’ll wear our custom-designed EMS suit while being guided by a certified EMS trainer,’ Eladio explains. ‘Our EMS device and suit are completely wireless in comparison to many EMS suits; this allows you to perform a wider range of exercises. The trainer will lead you through a series of low-impact exercises and adjust the intensity based on your fitness level and goals. It’s a time-efficient and results-driven workout that takes only 20 minutes per session.’
Read on to find out what happened when WH Editor-in-Chief Claire tried EMS.
Is EMS training safe?
‘Safety is a top priority. Our trainers at E-Pulsive are highly skilled and knowledgeable in EMS technology, ensuring that your sessions are both effective and safe. We conduct thorough assessments to determine suitability and tailor workouts to your individual needs, ensuring a secure and comfortable experience,’ Eladio says.
If E-Pulsive isn’t a suitable studio for you, Eladio adds: ‘Moreover, EMS training was first created as a rehabilitation tool and to help people with some disabilities.’
Who should avoid EMS training?
‘EMS may not be suitable for pregnant individuals, and those with certain medical conditions, such as epilepsy or pacemakers. Our team conducts thorough health assessments to determine suitability and make appropriate recommendations for each client,’ says Eladio.
How much is an EMS session?
‘E-Pulsive offers flexible pricing options to accommodate your fitness journey. You can choose from single sessions, packages, or memberships, depending on your needs and goals.
‘We believe in providing accessible and affordable EMS training for everyone. A trial session is £20, then our studio sessions range from £40-£85, our home sessions cost in between £100-£120 – depending on the pack.’
Naturally, prices vary from studio to studio, but you can expect one in-studio session to cost between £30-£90.
How often can I do EMS training?
‘The frequency of EMS training sessions varies from person to person,’ says Eladio. ‘Many clients benefit from 1-2 sessions per week in combination with other forms of exercise.
‘Our experienced trainers will work closely with you to develop a personalised training plan that aligns with your objectives.’
Can I do EMS training at home?
If you have your own EMS suit and access to an EMS trainer, absolutely.
Eladio says: ‘At E-Pulsive, we offer both home sessions and studio sessions. We can send a trainer to anyone’s house or office. Our trained professionals provide expert guidance, ensuring you get the most out of your workouts while prioritising safety and effectiveness.’
Can you lose weight with EMS training?
For the 280 of you who search this Q every month, it’s a yes from Eladio. ‘EMS training is an effective tool for weight management. It helps increase muscle mass and boost metabolism, contributing to a healthier body composition. When combined with a balanced diet and lifestyle, EMS training can support your weight loss goals effectively. You can burn up to 500 calories in just 20 minutes.’
Here’s Editor-in-Chief Claire’s honest review, and everything she learned.
WH Editor-in-Chief Claire Sanderson’s EMS training review
‘As a wellness and, especially, a fitness devotee, I’m up for trying most things that hit my inbox. I’ve trained with marine commandos, given aerial yoga a go, hung from reformer Pilates contraptions that were attached to a ceiling, and have put myself through countless competitive races – even an open water triathlon, despite hating swimming.
‘But getting electrocuted for fitness gains seemed on another level of dedication. I’d been warned EMS training is very uncomfortable. A 20-minute session is supposed to be the equivalent of 90 minutes traditional strength training. As a time-poor full-time working mum of two, anything that achieves results in fewer minutes is worth a go. So I headed to London studio, Repose.’
1.It’s a strange sensation
‘The EMS suit is strapped tightly onto your body to get the best results. It’s pulled so tight that you feel like you can’t breathe properly, but you quickly get used to it. The first sensation you feel is a slight tingly buzzing. Not unpleasant – just a bit weird.
‘The instructor asked me to do simple, straightforward movements, such as squats and lunges. So far, so good. Then he started turning up the stimulation. Each area of the suit can be adjusted individually. Most people can tolerate more stimulation on their lower body than their arms. And women, apparently, can put up with a higher electrical charge on their abs than men. Of course, you are not actually being electrocuted, but it’s feels exactly like what I imagine putting your finger in a plug socket would do.’
2. The pain is real
‘I have a very high pain threshold and the instructor turned the dial up to triple figures in my first session which, I’m told, isn’t standard practice. The best way I can describe the sensation is like a TENS machine – a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation unit, used to treat period pain, arthritis, and other types of pain – but multiplied. The best way to endure the pain, I find, is to focus and breathe through it.’
3. Simple movements feel considerably harder
‘The movements involved in my session are very simple – bicep curls, tricep kickbacks, planks, hip bridges – but made much more difficult by the electrical current charges through your muscles. There were many times I simply couldn’t bend my arm against the resistance of the current and was left vibrating in one position.’
4. It offers serious rewards
‘The aesthetic results were quick to appear. My bum looked more lifted, and my arms appeared sculpted after just a few sessions.
‘But my DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) were serious. I struggled to walk up and down the stairs after my first few sessions, before my body adjusted.’
5. It’s an entirely different feeling to weight training
‘What I didn’t get from EMS is the buzz and satisfaction of lifting heavy weights in a gym session. I love that I can bang out deadlifts heavier than my bodyweight; I pride myself on being genuinely strong and having a good muscle mass (which, I know, is crucial for long-term health). To maintain the results you achieve from EMS, I’m told you must go at least twice a week. For some people it would be a game-changer. But the gym floor, surrounded by squat racks, is my happy place.’
6. It’s a great choice for quick results
‘I wasn’t willing to replace the feeling I get from standard resistance training with EMS, and I don’t have the luxury of enough time to do both. That said, if I had a big event looming that I wanted to look my best for, EMS is amazing for quick results in very little time.’
E-Pulsive has three London studios in Kensington, 180 The Strand and West Hampstead.