Surge Fitness uses Electric muscle stimulation (EMS) technology which is revolutionising the way we will work out. Although the first whole body EMS device was launched in 2003, the first written reference to this form of therapy was made by a Roman doctor who treated headaches using electric eels.
Today, this advanced resistance training tones, firms and strengthens muscles in just 20 minutes a week. Supermodel Heidi Klum, boxer Mike Tyson, Madonna, Usain Bolt, Cristiano Ronaldo and many others use EMS training to stay in top shape. But how does it work?
Surge Fitness have studios in Hammersmith, Bank and Fleet Street. As a busy Londoner, I dislike the gym for many reasons so when I heard that I could achieve the results I want with a 20 minute personal training session a week then I’m in.
Three sessions later and I’m hooked. Below is my experience of what happens before, during and after my new favourite workout.
But what actually is it?
The Surge Workout is an intense 20 minute workout experience that uses technology to amplify the signals that the brain sends to the muscles to make them contract. And no it doesn’t hurt.
Developed in Germany, the machine delivers an incredibly effective and personally tailored exercise programme for all fitness levels and all ages – the oldest member at Surge is 81! This is where it gets interesting. The EMS machine is more effective at penetrating muscle fibre than the brain. When the brain sends a signal to a muscle, only about 65% of muscle fibre is activated. By contrast, the external EMS stimulus penetrates nearly 100% of muscle tissue.
I leave my house and I have a party that night so I am in my glad rags. I pack a little gym bag as well for my Surge session which I booked on their app which makes life easy.
I arrive at Surge in Bank at the gorgeous No.1 Poultry. It’s right next door to Bank tube and I could probably squeeze in a session in my lunch break. I meet Holly who will be my personal trainer. Best of all, I can ask for her every week too. She asks me what my kit bag is for then tells me I don’t need to bring anything to the session. Everything is provided from the workout outfit, water, towels and even hairspray! Result. I am liking this no-fuss approach to training.
I get changed into some tight cycling shorts and lycra top. Things need to be tight so that the stimulations get to the muscle and not that baggy gym tshirt I usually wear.
Holly tells me we are going to do an InBody Health Scan before we train. I wasn’t prepared for this but its included in the membership so why not. This machine is like truth serum and basically knows everything about you in 30 seconds. I grip some handles and the machine measures body composition, fat, muscle, total body water and more. No hiding here! But what I like about it as that it can track my fitness goals so when I redo the scan again in a few weeks it compares all the readings and Holly can also see progress and address problem areas (too many dinners out) over time.
Holly hooks me up the EMS device – I look like Captain America and I’m feeling excited. The intensity levels are adjusted to make sure I am comfortable. As each session goes by, I get used to the stimulations so Holly turns it up slowly and I am at maximum level after a few sessions.
The session starts and Holly is next to me showing me the exercises to do throughout. The machine screen is also showing me the same thing and there is a traffic light system so you know exactly when the impulse is coming. It gets to amber and I prepare for the impulse to come. This is the time to focus and make the most of the impulse. I am squatting and holding in position for that full 4 seconds to maximise the impulses.
I tell Holly “I cant do it” when she asks me to do sets of full on star jumps to end the session on a super high heart rate. But I push through an my pulse is at 135. I CAN do it and every time I think I can’t the motivation of what those impulses are doing to my muscles in such a short space of time drive me on. Holly is also an expert personal trainer and has worked with EMS machines for a long time. She also knows my limits and when to push me harder.
It’s a full body workout. I am guilty of just focusing on arms and chest in the gym because I can’t be bothered but the Surge workout is head to toe.
The workout is done. Holly and I discuss the results of the InBody scan and how I can improve my stats. I wanted to do more EMS but a 20 minute session is all you need and in the next couple of days, I can feel why!
I asked what I need to do to maximise the workout and Holly suggests swimming, cycling or jogging a few days after when my body has recovered fully. So with Surge, swimming twice a week and my usual fast walking (around 10,000 steps a day) I can feel my body getting stronger. I played tennis and didn’t have any aches or pains after. I can feel the EMS working.
I had my shower, downed a litre of water and I’m ready to go to my party. I ask Holly to keep my gym bag for a week as I don’t want to carry it! I feel energised and focused.
The morning after
Holly was kind of right. I feel like I have had a good session at the gym but I’m ok. I go to work, do my usual press ups/sit ups/walking routine and life is good.
Two days later
Ok, Holly was right. I can really feel it today in my legs and glutes mostly. Feels like I have done a massive gym session and today I am definitely resting. But it feels good and feels like my body is still reaping the benefits of the session and getting stronger.
Three days later
I go for that swim and book in my next Surge session. Ideally I am going once a week to maximise the benefits. I mean, it’s only 20 minutes right so there are no excuses. Holly said I will notice results after about 6 sessions.
What about the right nutrition for EMS training?
Hydration is key, good carbs (oats, quinoa etc) and foods high in potassium, magnesium and calcium will help my body recover quicker/repair your muscles more efficiently. Apparently, the magic of EMS happens during the recovery times, so what I eat in between the sessions could make all the difference to the results.
Overall, the old adage of 70% nutrition and 30% exercise is still very much accurate but for that 30% I want to maximise every single percentage and for that, Surge Fitness is my answer.
Free trial sessions available in all studios.
A 12 month membership (which you can pause anytime) includes 52 sessions at £39 per session.
To discover more, visit: surge.co.uk
All imagery courtesy of Surge Fitness.
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