benefits and how it works

“We can get some benefits,” explains Fornusek, a professor of sports and exercise science at the University of Sydney. “For people with complete spinal cord injury, their muscles will grow to some degree, they will get blood flow, they will get things like reduced muscle spasms.”

In some cases, it may even help to retrain a muscle to shoot again: “Sometimes it can flow back to the brain because it also activates the sensory fibers. It has potential.”

SpeedFit EMS training.

SpeedFit EMS training.

Its potential is often hyped up by companies that sell it to the public to get in shape quickly.

Sixpad has been accused of false marketing, while Danoz Direct’s Abtronic was removed from sale after the ACCC stated that it was misleading with its claims that it could burst fat and cellulite, flat stomach, and that 10 minutes was equivalent to 600 sit- ups.

When I have a phone induction prior to a SpeedFit EMS training class – there are currently 29 SpeedFit studios in Australia – I am told that during a normal workout, we only train one muscle group at a time. Via EMS, however, we can activate up to eight muscle groups at a time. A 30-minute session, the woman tells over the phone, is like 960 sit-ups and 960 reps of weightlifting.

On the SpeedFit website, it explains that by sending electrical impulses that pull your muscles together, it is “incredibly time efficient: in just 20 minutes, an EMS machine will give you the same results as several hours spent sweating in the gym” .

I walk into their sparse gym in North Sydney where only two people can train at a time. A wetsuit-like vest and straps that go around my biceps, thighs and glutes are sprayed with water, to make them conducive to electricity, and connected to the station.

Co-owner Roland Safar, a friendly Slovak whose background is not in fitness or health, guides me through the 20-minute session. He was investing in the business when his college friend Matej brought a machine home from Europe and asked Safar to try it for three months. Safar did it once a week, he says, and was so impressed with the changes in his body that he agreed to invest. We do some basic squats, lunges and bicep curls while manually increasing or decreasing the intensity of the electrical impulses that pull my muscles together rhythmically. I was not bloated during class, but after a very basic 20-minute session, my muscles definitely hurt and felt like they had been worked out. “Can it cause cramps,” I ask as my biceps twitch. “No,” he assures me, insisting that it also relieves them and sore muscles instead.

The workout is perfect for people who are low on time or who do not really like fitness, he says, as you get more for your money.

This may or may not be true.

What is true is that EMS can cause much more muscle damage than normal exercise because it activates our muscles “in a weird way,” Fornusek says.

Too much intensity and activation of many muscles simultaneously can cause injury and even lead to the life-threatening rhabdomyolysis, “which is extremely difficult to induce during normal training,” Balzevich adds. There have also been reports of shock, burns, bruising, skin irritation and pain associated with the use of some EMS devices.

For this reason, Blazevich warns people who want to try it to perform a detailed safety check and ensure that it is operated by a qualified professional (preferably someone with a PhD degree or a related health professional with clinical experience).

And while some athletes use EMS, it is uncommon.

“It’s certainly not a recognized part of any training plan I’ve seen internationally,” Blazevich says, recalling that performance is about skills more than muscle size or even strength.

In fact, the Australian Institute of Sport says its use is “very limited and only in special circumstances”.

Fornusek adds that “there is not much strong evidence” that it improves recovery after exercise or greatly benefits otherwise healthy people who want to improve fitness or strength.

“My gut feeling is that it’s better for people with a weakening of the central nervous system or an injury,” he says. “But if it works for you and it makes you more active, then that’s a good thing. It definitely has a place. ”

Its appeal to many is that you can complete each session quickly – it provides a shortcut if you do not like exercise.

Although everyone likes a shortcut, I wonder if we will miss something along the way. Shortcuts are focused on the destination and not on how to enjoy the process.


And since a high percentage of people do not use their fitness membership, and more than half of Australian adults do not adhere to the physical activity guidelines, perhaps if we want to improve our fitness, we would all do better and have more fun if we forgot the destination and found a way to enjoy the trip. It is not necessary to burst your muscles with electricity.

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