Why BODYTEC Is The Weirdest Workout I’ve Done
Heard about BODYTEC but not sure what exactly it is and whether it works? Deputy editor Wanita Nicol tried it to see if you really can get a workout in just 20 minutes a week.
What Is BODYTEC?
BODYTEC is the name of a company that uses electro muscle stimulation (EMS) to help clients tone up and recover from injury. EMS works by using an electric current to stimulate your muscles, causing them to contract and creating the kind of resistance you’d feel doing weight training. Of course, with weight training it’s easy to cheat – like, say, using momentum to swing the dumbbell up when you’re doing biceps curls. That’s great if you just want to get the movement done (dammit, suitcase, get in that overhead locker!), but it’s not necessarily strengthening the muscles you set out to target. In a BODYTEC sesh, the electric stimulus you’re feeling in your muscles makes you a lot more aware of which muscles you’re using and your movements are more controlled.
What’s It Like?
First up, don’t bother choosing a cute outfit for the occasion.
You’ll be given special clothes to wear (clearly designed for functionality) that consist of a three-quarter sleeve top and matching cropped leggings. Both are snug fitting, but not at all tight, like lycra would be. In fact, the thin fabric reminded me of those long, lacy socks we were all forced to wear on special occasions as little girls, with Mary Jane shoes and our pigtails tied with ribbons. The other surprise? No underwear allowed – the idea is to have only one layer of fabric between the device and your skin. That’s all very well once you’re all strapped in, but there’s the matter of the walk from the change room to the training area. If you’re self conscious, take a jacket.
Next, they spray you down.
Water helps the suit conduct current (yes, I have watched The Green Mile, but I’m pleased to report that no electrocution was forthcoming). Using the kind of spray bottle you’d use on your herb garden, your trainer sprays your outfit with (thankfully, warm) water in all the places where electrodes will be attached. Then it’s into the suit, which includes a vest akin to a life jacket, broad straps around your thighs and upper arms and a band around your bum. Once everything’s pulled tight it feels like you’re harnessed for abseiling.
The exercise part starts with a threshold test.
Your trainer dials up the intensity of one muscle group after the next. This is the weird part. At first you feel nothing, then you start feeling a sensation in a very localised part of your body (say, the front of your thighs) that begins as a slight tightness and blossoms into that feeling of a warm, hard jet of water being sprayed directly onto your leg. When your muscle feels almost like it’s about to spasm, you’ve reached your threshold intensity.
The actual workout goes a lot faster than you expect.
You’re governed by lights – when they’re orange, you need to be in position; when they go red, you need to do one rep of the move and hold it until the lights switch off (I resisted the temptation to yell, “Clear!” on every rep). You only do about four reps of each move; then your trainer will demonstrate the next. Aside from the few seconds between reps during which you get in position, there’s no rest. It’s all very fast paced. And just as you’re starting to realise that you’re actually feeling pretty fatigued, it’s over.
Is It A Legit Workout?
As someone who does a lot of strength training, I found it harder than I expected. The trainers can pick up fairly quickly where your weaknesses are and will target those areas to help you reach your goals (’cause there’s an interview before your first sesh, obvs). I pulled faces, gritted my teeth and I was sweating and short of breath by the end. The next day my muscles felt used. According to my FitBit, my heart rate spiked, but not nearly as high as it does during a cardio workout (BODYTEC recommends you do some cardio over and above your weekly sessions). Bonus: It picked up a weakness in my right shoulder that I wasn’t aware of.
Is It Worth A Try?
If you have the cash (prices start from R975 per month) and are looking for the benefits of exercise without having to do too much of it, it could be a good option – although remember, we’re talking strength training only. It’s also handy if your schedule doesn’t allow for an hour-long gym sesh three days a week – one 20-minute workout a week is all it takes – or if you’re a cardio bunny who grudgingly recognises that strength training is also part of being healthy. Personally, I enjoy working out, so you’ll find me in the gym.
Looking for more? Here’s exactly how to build muscle without the bulk.