What Happens At A Vibrating Fitness Class?

Cast your mind back, if you will, to some of the more baffling fitness fads of yesteryear.
Obviously there's the questionable fashion sense that came along with the aerobics movement. Then there was the shake weight, the much-chuckled-about tool which had the misfortune, when used, of emulating a very specific sex act. And let's not forget those trainers which were meant to tone up your bum while you walked.
Perhaps the most interesting fitness fad of old, though, is the vibrating belt. Your friend's mum definitely had one when you were little. The premise was too good to be true: strap it on, sit back, watch the telly, and end up with rock-solid abs.
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Of course, people didn't end up with rock-solid abs. Or we'd all be wearing vibrating belts all day, every day.
So when a company called E-Pulsive reached out and asked me to try their vibrating fitness class I was intrigued, and yet sceptical.
E-Pulsive relies on EMS or "Electrical Muscle Stimulation" and the company claims that a 20-minute EMS workout "equates to a 90-minute high-intensity gym class."
Essentially, EMS engages your muscles more than in a regular workout. It works them harder. They claim that EMS allows for 98% muscle engagement, compared to the 50% a normal workout would entail. E-Pulsive reckons this means that attending the sessions regularly can result in "a reduction in body fat", "an increase in strength and muscular endurance" and "a decrease in back and joint pain."

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Did I mention each session only lasts 20 minutes?
So yeah, sign me up.
E-Pulsive's studio is in a basement in London's Kensington, an area that tends to give me the heebie-jeebies on account of the coffee prices and the absurdity of the various school uniforms you're likely to encounter. Although after the election, perhaps I'm more welcome there than I thought.
I showed up to the studio in gym gear which, it turns out, was unnecessary as the first thing that happens is you're given a set of long johns to put on. "Keep the bra on" I was told, which should probably be a rule of thumb when it comes to strapping yourself into a vibrating suit. All support is good support.
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Once in my long johns, I am strapped into my suit. Various Velcro fittings are sprayed with water and strapped around my thighs, my arms, my abs and, most interestingly, my bum. I look like the Michelin Man.
Then, wires which run from the machine itself are plugged into my suit. I am literally attached to a machine that administers electric pulses. Voluntarily. What is going on.
I should note that, during all of this, I had been laughing at what I perceived to be an absurd situation. Perhaps not taking it as seriously as I should have been. My trainer assures me that I will not be laughing once the workout starts. Also, he tells me that there is a shower on the premises for afterwards. I laugh some more. How could doing squats for 20 minutes make me sweat enough to warrant a shower?
We decide I'll do 10 minutes of cardio and 10 minutes of toning. And with that, my trainer turns the machine on. If any of you had the pleasure of growing up in the countryside in a place that favoured electric fences, you'll know the feeling (albeit much muted) I got in all areas of my body; a dull, rolling tightening in my arms, legs, abs and bum.

Not only did I sweat, actual droplets of water were splashing onto the floor. My face was redder than Jeremy Corbyn's tie.

The cardio was brutal. The trainer had me do things like star jumps, running on the spot, side lunges with hops in between – pretty basic PE stuff but, when your muscles are being forced to work much harder, these simple steps suddenly become really tough. Not only did I sweat, actual droplets of water were falling from my body and splashing onto the wooden floor. My face, when I caught sight of it in a mirror, was redder than Jeremy Corbyn's tie. In 10 minutes, I got sweatier than I had in three years of attending the gym and classes on the regular.
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I thought the toning 10 minutes would be a welcome respite after cardio but no. The trainer again whacked up the intensity of the pulses (this happens constantly throughout); at one point the pulses were pummelling my abs so hard, I cried out. He quickly readjusted the intensity.
For this section we work on things like squats, lunges, arm raises, bicep curls and all the other stuff I'd usually use weights or a kettle bell to do. Here, in the suit and minus the kettle bells, it's so much harder – even bending my elbow to bring my fist to my shoulder is a big ask.
When I am finally done, 10 minutes later, I eat a lot of humble pie. "That (gasp) was (gasp) so (gasp) intense" I manage, before being directed to the shower to try to do something about my beetroot of a face.
The next day, I've got DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), big time. I walk downstairs bowlegged; lifting my arms above my head is best done slowly.
On the upside, though, I feel like my muscles are next level and they seem pretty darn solid (through my normal padding, that is). I honestly think I look more toned after just one go. E-Pulsive say to allow four sessions to see a difference, and I actually believe them.
I wouldn't replace my regular gym-going and running completely with E-Pulsive – I'd miss the duration and mindful aspect that longer workouts give you. Also, it isn't exactly cheap – E-Pulsive's three-month package works out at £50 a class, although there is the possibility of training with a friend to cut costs.
For weeks when you're short on time, though, in the heady days after payday, it's certainly worth giving it a go. If for the novelty factor alone.
E-Pulsive, Kensington, London. For more information or to book a class, click here.
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