A gym which uses electric pulses to cut down workout times has opened in Worthing – and I thought I would give it a go.
As signs for Bodystreet were put up in Chapel Road, in the former site of a wedding shop, my curiosity grew. And when I was handed a leaflet saying it was opening last Saturday, I had to know what the fuss was about.
The secret? Electrodes that are placed all over your body which send out intense vibrations while you are working out, increasing the impact on your muscles and the effectiveness of the session in a process known as electrical muscle stimulation, or EMS for short.
Perhaps the company’s boldest claim is that one 20 minute workout is all the exercise you need to do in a week – and is as effective as three visits to a conventional gym.
Other billed benefits included fat loss, building muscle mass, increasing metabolism, better posture and mobility... the list goes on.
So I donned my gym gear and paid them a visit. Franchise owners Charlie Mathe and Diana Stegaru, both 27, were bitten by the bug when they first tried EMS training in Romania. When they moved from their hometown of Hunedoara to Bedford in 2015, they looked for an EMS studio to continue their training, and found Bodystreet in Milton Keynes.
When they decided to set up their own franchise after qualifying as Bodystreet practitioners in 2017, Brighton was the first thought – but they fell in love with Worthing. Charlie said: “When we saw the busyness and the people, and how much footfall you get in the town centre, then we knew we were moving down here.”
It became clear pretty quickly that I would not be needing my gymwear as Charlie handed me a pile of cycling-style shorts and top made of Lycra. Once I made myself more streamlined in their changing rooms, my modesty was covered with what looked like a bulletproof-vest covered in wires, which gets hooked up to one of two EMS machines in the training space at the front of the studio.
Oddly, Charlie sprayed it with water before I put it on – but he explained it was so the electric pulses could more easily conduct through my superhero outfit.
Once I was plugged in, I was ready to feel the Gs, so to speak. The workout consisted of a combination of squats, thrusts and other positions which you did accompanied by a personal trainer while the machine zapped you – indicated by a red light on the machine, as if you needed telling – followed by a rest period and a green light and a yellow light telling you to brace yourself, literally, for what was to come.
Tensing your muscles during the electric pulse was key to the training’s success, Charlie told me, as it was what turned a massage into a workout.
After about two minutes of sqautting, I was feeling the burn. But by some cruel twist of fate, the jacket had not been plugged in yet – which is a good indicator of how tough the workout is.
The vibrations began as a light tingling, then like a phone going off in my pocket. By the time Charlie had cranked the dials up, it felt like I was cramping all over.
Twenty minutes later, and it was over. The ache did not kick in straight away, but later that day I could really feel it in my legs. Aside from that, I came away feeling energised and more alert.
They also have a shower onsite, making it ideal for a lunch break visit – although you would need to take into account the time needed either side of the 20-minute workout to get changed.
According to area manager James Holland, Bodystreet Worthing is the first EMS studio in Sussex and one of several other franchises popping up over the country, with branches recently opening in Swansea, Gibraltar and Birmingham. Across the world, Bodystreets are also being opened in Italy, America and Tanzania.
It is already a popular workout method across Europe, particularly in Germany, and is used by top sportspeople like Usain Bolt, David Haye and Cristiano Ronaldo.
James said that the beauty of the workout, aside from being able to fit it in a lunch break, was that there was no limit to your progress. While the settings on the machines have an upper limit, the better you get, the bigger your muscles will get and the lower your body fat will be, so the lower the settings will become as your resistance to the electric pulse decreases.
James said: “At some point at a conventional gym, you will get to the highest incline and fastest speed, so once you complete that, where do you go from there?”
Charlie said a triathlon runner used to cycling 90 kilometres came in thinking it would be like a massage – and was sweating after two minutes.
Jackie Oldridge from Lancing had just finished her workout when I came in. The 64-year-old had tried similar classes years ago and wanted to give this a spin. She said: “It feels like it gets right into your muscles, and it feels like it is working, but I would want to do it at least three times a week.”
Her daughter-in-law Emma Saunders, 28, had her son Archie three months ago and was looking for an easy solution to get her pre-baby body back. She said: “I think you would need to give it the full eight weeks to see a difference, but you can feel it working.
“Once you get to grips with it, it really does feel great. I would like one of the machines at home.”
Bodystreet sessions work out at around £20 a visit. For more information or to book a visit, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01903 930 910.