Move over yoga pants—there's a new workout suit available in Canada that does a little bit of the work for you. Zoomer's Vivian Vassos got the scoop on the latest workout tech—and even tried it on for size.
When 59-year-old Jeff Turk decided he wanted something to augment his running regime—he runs marathons—he opted for core and upper body training. But he wanted to spare his joints (particularly his knees) the high impact they were already bearing from his aerobic workouts. He discovered trainer Aman Hasebenebi, who owns Lucid Fitness in Toronto (www.lucidfitnesstoronto.ca), was one of the first in Canada using XBody, a low-impact, high-results technology used in Europe since 2010.
The system employs electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) to target all muscle groups while focusing on resistance and core strength during your workout. You're still working out but, because of the stimulation directly to the muscles, the training time can be as little as 20 minutes.
The tech itself, however, is not groundbreaking. EMS therapy is often a go-to for physiotherapists in cases of muscle rehabilitation. What is new, however, is how fitness trainers are delivering the tech. There are other systems that use laser, light or types of EMS for weight loss, but you remain static or reclining. But XBody has created an EMS suit that you wear while working out in front of a monitor. This I had to try.
After putting on a form-fitting, long-sleeved T-shirt and leggings, you step into a vest and shorts-like suit, made up of a series of fabric-covered plates, straps and belts, strategically placed around all the major muscle groups: upper thighs, core and abs, upper arms, across the chest and back. All the straps are then pulled tight to fit snugly against the curves of the muscle groups.
Built-in electrodes connect each plate and, once you're all in, the trainer "plugs" you in to the "brain machine" that monitors your individual progress and delivers a low-frequency current directly to the muscles while you exercise. Hasebenebi, whose clients range in age from 18 to 70, puts me through a brief warm-up—light jogging on the spot, easy jumping jacks—to get used to the suit and then starts me up.
Resistance moves, squats, lunges, push-ups and arm rows are part of the routine, but you work with the EMS, performing contractions as the frequency is applied, feeling a stimulus to the muscles, and upping the intensity factor while you work out. She constantly adjusts the frequency level – higher when she sees I'm having an easy time of it, and dropping it when I feel the burn is too intense. It's an odd feeling, resistance, light shock and massage at the same time. But there's little or no impact on my knees.
"I had hip replacement surgery and had lost quite a bit of muscle mass," Juliet Lederman tells me. She's also working out with Hasebenebi. "The EMS has helped me rebuild my muscle," she adds, "especially my glutes." Time is another factor for Lederman, 51. "A full-body workout targeting all the muscles, and I can do it on my lunch hour." She has joint issues, so the opportunity to work up a sweat allows her to burn calories without putting pressure on her sensitive joints, making it a good alternative to high-impact cardio and traditional weight training. And with this resistance-style weight training also come the benefits of stronger bones, which can help protect against fractures and maybe even prevent her from having to get another hip replaced in the future.
After a few sessions, I noticed my core strength and posture had improved. And because the workout activates a large percentage of muscle, it can also aid circulation to connective tissue. This has been shown to help break down fat accumulation, which can alleviate cellulite and help lose a bit off that middle-aged muffin top.
A version of this article appeared in the March 2017 issue with the headline, "The Body Electric," p. 22-24.
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