We tested out NOVA, a fitness tech service that’s generating a buzz — literally

January 14, 2019
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Fitness enthusiasts have long stated that there’s no such thing as a shortcut to six-pack abs.

To that, NOVA Fitness Innovation says, “hold my beer.”

The boutique fitness studio fuses Electric Muscle Stimulation (EMS) technology with a one-on-one training session to give gym-goers a more efficient workout. How much more efficient, you ask? According to NOVA, the technology essentially tricks your body into producing the effects of a 90-minute workout in just 20.

Fortunately, Built In NYC had 20 minutes to spare for testing.

Image via built in nyc

As I squeezed into what can only be described as a wetsuit with strategic padding, I briefly questioned why I willingly agreed to be shocked in exchange for some muscle definition. I zipped up the back of my suit and left the dressing room.

NOVA’s personal training manager Yamisi Fanga-Mbourounda greeted me and proceeded to ask me about my current workout routine as she increased my speed on the treadmill. She later told me that she was using my answers to determine a custom workout routine in real-time.

“We tailor our one-on-one training session to whatever kind of fitness routine the client is most familiar with,” she said. “That’s why we’re able to accommodate people across a wide variety of fitness levels and abilities.”

What’s most important, she added, was doing so with proper form and the right EMS output. That’s when the shocks started.

The technical term is actually “micro-contractions,” and they feel less like shocks and more like subtle tingles. If they feel any more intense, it could be a sign of injury, weakness in the muscle or simply an output setting that’s too high. Each NOVA trainer is well-educated on the technology, she said, and adjusts the settings accordingly throughout the workout.

“A lot of people unfamiliar with EMS technology think we’re going to electrocute them, and that’s obviously not the case at all,” said Fanga-Mbourounda. “In Europe and other places around the world, this kind of fitness technology is as popular as, say, Zumba.”

In Europe and other places around the world, this kind of fitness technology is as popular as, say, Zumba.”

In fact, EMS technology can be used in medicine to help with the rehabilitation process in an individual with a musculoskeletal injury. In fitness, it’s used to enhance — not replace — a workout. And it’s why the NOVA-provided suit is very different from the wearable ab-contracting devices of your parents’ generation.

But that’s just the tip of the technological iceberg. Founded by professional trainer Jackie Wilson, NOVA's EMS technology produces 40 micro-contractions per second, activating 98 percent muscle stimulation while you work out.

The company aims to eventually produce even more services that meet at the intersection of fitness and technology. Currently, individual sessions are $120, and monthly packages are available. With seed funding from Aldavia Ventures, the company will soon expand to a second location in Tribeca, which I will enthusiastically visit for a second session.

As I left the studio with my legs feeling slightly heavier and my head a little lighter, I could honestly say: NOVA Fitness is worth the buzz — literally.

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