The Weirdest, Hardest Workout I've Ever Done Only Lasted 16 Mins

Since joining ClassPass in February, I've really ventured when it comes to fitness.

I've stepped out of my comfort zone by taking on spin classesboxing, pilates and other challenging studio workouts that extend outside of a traditional gym routine. And, thanks to my job, I've had opportunities to try unique workouts, including Bellicon (trampoline) and Ubarre.

That said, nothing prepared me for EMS (Electrical Muscle Stimulation). I was totally unfamiliar with the workout, until two weeks ago when I met someone at a friend's housewarming party, who told me all about her job at Element Fitness Beverly Hills, a personal training studio that specializes in EMS. Even as she described it and showed me photos, I still didn't grasp what it really was. She suggested I come in for a full studio trial and tour, and connected me with one of the trainers the following week.

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The Workout

It's a little difficult to describe EMS except to say, trust me—you haven't tried anything like it before. The workout, which originated in Hungary and is popular all over Europe, involves significant vibrating, but on an entirely different level than a Platefit class, for example. Through a machine, EMS sends electric pulses throughout your entire body via electrode pads on a vest. This stimulates your muscles in a way you wouldn't otherwise be able to do in the short span of time allotted for each session. Because of the training's high intensity, average sessions don't exceed 30 minutes.

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The Experience

After doing a deep dive into the studio's Instagram, I still had literally zero idea what to anticipate during my session. All I knew is it would be different from anything I'd experienced prior. When I arrived at the penthouse of a giant commercial building in Beverly Hills, I was greeted by one of the head trainers, Ryan, in a large, white space, with luscious views of Los Angeles everywhere I turned.

Ryan led me into a room, where we sat down for about 15 minutes and went over what was in store for our three-part session, which also included an LED body treatment and sport recovery stretch trial. I signed some forms, asked and answered some questions, and then proceeded to change into the two-piece set Ryan gave me to wear the rest of our day.

Following my LED session, I was taken into the fitness room, which was set up with treadmills, weights and everything else you'd see in a traditional gym. I took a moment to look around and take in beautiful, panoramic views of the city while Ryan set up my special vest and bottoms, which would go on top of the set I was already wearing. I was definitely a bit overwhelmed by the whole production, which included spritzing the vest with water before applying the electrodes. It took about seven minutes to get fully equipped.

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About to get suited-up for my #emsfitness training at #elementfitness in Beverly Hills. It's quite the process! ????????????????????????

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This is when all the fun began. I was strapped into my suit and Ryan explained how the EMS machine operates, and the little workouts we'd be doing. He told me the average time a typical session lasts, but that it would probably be too much for me on the first try. Yeah right, I thought. Well…

He started up the machine, which felt like huge weights were leaning on my body. It was unlike anything I'd ever experienced, making even the slightest motions difficult. Everything felt excruciatingly heavy, but I continued to plow through. I broke a sweat in no time.

While I actually did embrace the challenging discomfort throughout, it was the booty exercises that made a significant impression. As I stood there doing squats, each impulse felt like a sting on my behind. There were many impulses at once, making me wonder if this is what it felt like to get tattooed (I wouldn't know!). It wasn't so much of a sharp pain, but rather some intense stinging vibrations.

Before I knew it, the workout was over, and I was wiped. Oh, yeah, and I only made it to 16 minutes. Immediately following the session, I laid on the ground, and the vibrational shocks continued, but in a way that's supposed to settle the muscles. I didn't have to actually do anything, but the continued impulses were discomforting.

Once we wrapped up that portion, we headed to another room where the final part of my trial was to take place. I was handed off to Kiki, a Master Sports Recovery Stretch Therapist, who explained the importance of stretching after this workout, in particular, and gave me the play-by-play of what he'd be doing to stretch me out that day.

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After completing my full trial—which is typically 90 minutes (mine was a little longer for the sake of this article and documenting all necessary information)—I headed home, feeling very at-ease. While there was no soreness (at first), and I knew this workout was legit.

Cut to two days later, and I was sore in places I'd never felt before—namely, my upper legs. It's interesting because I rarely get sore in those areas, but boy could I feel it at this point. I took a quick trip to the mall and legitimately struggled to make my way from my car. That said, I love being sore, so I wasn't complaining. Feeling that slight discomfort is a nice reminder that I put in the work. Luckily, it went away about 48 hours later.


Bottom Line

Wow, EMS is wild! That's all I can say. I always do better with weight-focused exercises as opposed to cardio-heavy, so even though this workout was incredibly challenging, I would still choose this any day over even a light jog. Granted, there is some cardio involved in this (and there can be more, depending on your EMS experience level), but from what I experienced during my trial session, I would take that exact structure all over again.

Luckily, the EMS impulses aren't a one-size-fits-all type of thing. They can be lowered or heightened depending on how you feel or how experienced you are. Some of my exercises were completed at a higher frequency than others. Regardless of where you're at, the workout is challenging—and it's meant to be. Even though there were moments when I thought to myself, wait, am I seriously struggling with a simple arm lift?, I realized that's the whole point. That's what makes the workout so intense and interesting.

Obviously this isn't your traditional workout, so if you love the freeness of a jog, for example, you're not going to get the same treadmill experience here as you would at a normal gym. But with this workout, you really test your limits and push your body in ways you didn't realize you were able.

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Now that you've got your latest workout in order, HERE's what you need to smell fresh while you sweat!