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When it comes to creating sustainable health improvements, there are no magic bullets or quick fixes. Unless you’re a member of Shock Therapy – a workout studio that uses Electro Muscle Stimulation to safely condense the benefits of three hours of exercise into one 30-minute class.
New York has its fair share of unusual fitness concepts, from a refrigerated studio to a workout with bungee bands, but Shock Therapy is in a league of its own. It’s a semi-private class which utilizes a technology called Electro Muscle Stimulation (EMS) to contract and release 300 muscles simultaneously and consistently. Most exercise moves are designed to isolate a specific set of muscles. Performing them with the addition of EMS keeps the muscles firing at all times, making it an incredibly efficient full-body workout.
Shock Therapy founder Esra Cavusoglu, who was previously working as a psychologist and entrepreneur in Istanbul, was amazed by how quickly EMS gave her the body she wanted.
“I’m almost 47 and I’m very muscly so whenever I was doing hardcore workouts to get thinner I would find myself getting bulkier,” she explains. “When I found EMS it was like a magical pill to me, because it didn’t make me bulky but very defined. When I saw the type of muscle fibers the machine activates and the way it affects your posture, it made sense why I benefited from the system.”
EMS has a substantial presence in Europe, but Cavusoglu couldn’t find a studio in her current home of New York. She decided to pour her own money into devising the first wireless, group-fitness EMS concept and launched it on the Upper East Side in early 2018.
When you arrive at the studio you’re handed a pair of special undergarments – a black long-sleeved top and matching capri leggings. Once you’ve pulled those on the instructor hoses down a Power Suit – an all-in-one that looks a bit like sci-fi body armor – fastening its zippers and velcro straps around your body.
The room is dark aside from a few spotlights and a large screen with a male avatar who will be demonstrating each move. Our instructor turns on the EMS system and adjusts the power until we feel comfortable but still challenged. It’s a strange sensation. A strong vibrating and pulsing that’s completely beyond my control.
As we perform basic compound exercises like squats, hamstring curls, rows and lunges, everything is firing. There’s no opportunity for a single muscle fiber to be lazy. We diligently copy the avatar as our instructor corrects for alignment, and suddenly half an hour is up. I’ve hardly broken a sweat but my body is warm and fired. I can tell I’ll be sore tomorrow, which is why Shock Therapy recommends taking a day or two between sessions to ensure proper recovery.
“It’s much safer, it doesn’t hurt your joints, you don’t over-exhaust yourself in a short time, but you get a lot of benefits from it,” Cavusoglu explains. “I see us as an incredible complementary support to people, whatever type of fitness activities they have. If you are a runner in Central Park, it will make your core much stronger and give your muscles more endurance. If you’re going to SLT [megaformer studio] it will protect your lower back and your arms will be stronger.”
She also believes Shock Therapy can be a great asset to those who aren’t fitness obsessed but want to improve their overall health in way that doesn’t disrupt their schedule. In New York, where time is a luxury, squeezing an effective workout into two or three 30-minute sessions a week is ideal. Perhaps it’s even worth the cost of $55 per class.
Those who claim they’re just too busy to workout are going to need a new excuse.