electrical muscle stimulation

Electrical Stimulation Sends Pulses Through Muscles During Workout

New fitness craze involves wearing a body suit of electrodes during a workout, but does it work?

NBCUniversal, Inc.

A 90-minute workout in just 20 minutes? That's the claim you may hear more of as the latest generation of personal training comes to North Texas.

The secret is said to be electrical muscle stimulation, or EMS.

Michelle Mansour, a Dallas mother of two, said she didn't believe the claims at first.

"I was like, 'No, you can't achieve this in 20 minutes.' But after the first work out, every part of my body was sore," said Mansour, who's incorporated the electrical muscle stimulation into her workout routine for six months.

At Ninety20, she puts on an EMS body suit before every workout, which she does about twice a week.

The suit sends electrical pulses through the muscles to contract them so that they get a much more intense workout while doing simple exercises.

Under the guidance of a personal trainer, Mansour performs exercises such as squats, while the trainer controls the electrical pulses of the suit.

"When you're working out or being active and you get tired and say, 'Yeah I'm just going to stop,' the suit takes you past that point," said Trent Michel, a Dallas personal trainer who brought the technology to his clients after he tried it for himself while in Europe.

Now that the FDA has approved the devices for use in a fitness setting, new EMS boutique gyms are opening up across Texas and the United States.

"Very simple movements are just as effective as if you we went to the gym lifting heavy weights, doing more difficult exercises, but you get the same results," Michel said.

Few studies have been done on how well EMS can really boost your physique, but the technology isn't new and it's only been used in medical studies.

At TMI Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Surgery, director of rehabilitation Daniel Evans demonstrated how EMS can fire up the muscle, but he says, this kind of stimulation, up until now, has been reserved for patients battling back from muscle injury.

"Most of the research situations have used patients that have muscle atrophy or a significant weakness or a significant amount of pain," Evans said. "We know we works on patients. I'm not sure whether it would provide an increase training effect or an increase in efficiency to my workout."

Experts said while the technology is safe, it shouldn't be used on pregnant women or people with devices such as a pacemaker, and anyone who's interested should be sure to follow the guidance of a fitness trainer.

They suggested one or two sessions a week to avoid overworked muscles and to know that it's not a magic pill.

It should be used in conjuction with an outside exercise regimen for the best results.

The cost per session is between $50-$90, around the same price for personal training sessions.

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