"Is this enough?" asks personal trainer Daniel Nyiri as he adjusts a knob on the machine, immediately inciting a twitch of slight agony in me, the person to whom it is connected.
"Maybe a little less," I reply, continuing to push through squats and feeling some relief as another adjustment is made.
It looks like a scene straight out of a science fiction movie: I am wearing a suit full of electrodes — wet so electricity can better flow through it — with cords connecting it to a machine that looks like a sound board. It controls just how much strain is put on each of my muscles as I work out. With each push up, jump or plank, the activated muscles light up on a wall-mounted flat screen so I can see exactly how my exercise is affecting my body.
The process is called Electro Fitness or E-Fit and it's as high tech as the name implies. The workout combines personal training with a muscle stimulator that sends waves of electricity through targeted muscles for an increased challenge.
"When you work out normally, you warm up and then slowly engage each muscle as you practice different exercises," says Nyiri, owner of 4U Fitness, the only gym that offers E-Fit in the United States. "With E-Fit, when the trainer presses 'start' on the machine, all muscles are immediately engaged and they are engaged throughout the entire workout no matter what exercise you're doing."
The result is a highly intense 20-minute session, which E-Fit says is the equivalent of 90 minutes of training.
Recently approved by the FDA, E-Fit is still fairly unknown in the United States, but it's huge in Europe. Professional athletes like Lionel Messi and Usain Bolt use it in their training, celebrities use it to lose weight and tone, and the public at large has hopped on the trend as well. In Hungary, where Nyiri is from, there are more than 1,500 gyms offering the fitness regime. As the one person bringing it to the United States, starting in Tampa Bay, Nyiri already sees the trend catching on with franchises opening in Miami, Chicago and New Jersey this year.
Since opening 4U Fitness in 2011, Nyiri has garnered a loyal following at the Tampa and St. Petersburg studios. The before and after photos of those customers' leaner figures and six-packs created in six weeks are displayed in the center of the gym to give newcomers inspiration.
Great results do come with great soreness, however. Because muscles that usually are not engaged are activated during the workout, it takes a few sessions for them to catch up. On the positive side, it only happens twice a week. That is the maximum number of sessions a client is allowed to complete in order to avoid injury and exhaustion during this strenuous workout.
Unless you're Usain Bolt. In that case, you can do three.