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High-tech exercise for busy urbanites

Sophisticated machines allow full-body workouts in under 30 minutes

With the beach season finally here, many of us may be asking ourselves the perennial question: How do you slim down in the shortest amount of time possible? Technology, it seems, just may have provided us with an answer. Below are three high-tech, time-saving exercise routines that provide exclusive one-on-one coaching and are rising in Korea today:

Electric muscle-building: Microtraining

Microtraining suits and machines at Elec Motion fitness studio (Elec Motion)
Microtraining suits and machines at Elec Motion fitness studio (Elec Motion)

When Neo first wakes up from the digitally programmed realm of “The Matrix,” electrical currents are sent through his body to enhance his muscle function for the real world.

This is no longer only the stuff of movies. Microtraining, also known as electrical muscle stimulation training, is gaining popularity among exercise buffs and dieters alike. The high-tech routine is perfect for the busy, impatient modern man, enthusiasts say, as it condenses hours of hardcore training into a 20-minute session.

How is this possible? For the workout, you don a tight-fitting, corset-like suit, which is attached to a machine that sends low frequency electrical impulses directly to your muscles. These microcurrents cause the muscle to contract, thereby heightening the effect of any exercise carried out. They also stimulate deep-seated muscles that are not normally triggered through conventional exercise, which is why the method has been used for training astronauts and Olympic-level athletes since as early as the 1960s.

While 20 minutes may seem hardly enough time for any substantial training, a few minutes’ run in the suit is enough to have you panting and sweating. An extreme, full-body workout ensues, involving jumping jacks, squats, lower-leg lifts and more, the effects of which feel multiplied due to the pulsating currents.

The ratio of cardio and muscle-training in the program can be customized to fit each person, said Kim Bo-kyung, manager at Elec Motion, a fitness studio that specializes in microtraining.

“One of our clients lost eight kilograms in a month with EMS,” she added.

Recommended for: Those who want an extreme, hardcore workout in the shortest amount of time possible, or who want to target and intensively train specific muscle areas.

The wonders of vibration: Power Plate

Stretching exercises performed on the Power Plate machine. (Reborn Celebrity Studio)
Stretching exercises performed on the Power Plate machine. (Reborn Celebrity Studio)

In a nutshell, Power Plate involves exercising on top of a vibrating platform. While the concept may sound deceptively simple, it makes for an intense workout that rattles, literally, every muscle in your body.

First, you step barefoot onto the Power Plate platform, which vibrates 25 to 50 times per second and feels like an invigorating massage. Then, with one-on-one coaching, you perform a varied and dynamic program of exercises including squats, stretching and aerobics on top of the platform, making for a complete workout of muscle-building, muscle-relieving and cardio in just 30 minutes. While the movements may seem effortless when demonstrated by the agile trainer, they cause you to sweat profusely within minutes.

Post-workout, your body immediately feels much lighter and more relaxed, albeit exhausted, and is visibly less bloated. For several days afterwards, your muscles feel taut and well-worked.

The principle is that the rapid vibration places added tension on your muscles and causes the body to feel an elevated sense of gravity. This is why 10 minutes of Power Plate exercise is roughly equivalent to an hour of conventional training, proponents and researchers claim.

“It’s very time-efficient, which is why more and more people with busy schedules are seeking Power Plate,” said Lee Seung-a, who is the manager of Reborn Celebrity Studio, a private gym that specializes in Power Plate and boasts an exclusive clientele of CEOs, physicians and Hallyu celebrities like actor Jang Geun-suk and girl group Wonder Girls.

The effects of Power Plate have been backed by medical research, she said, and include not only the general benefits of exercise like weight loss and muscle-toning, but also hormonal balance, cellulite-thinning, boosted blood circulation and relief for overworked joints.

Recommended for: Those who want to combine the invigorating effects of a massage and an intense workout in one program, or with frail joints unable to perform traditional weight-lifting exercises.

Burning fat effortlessly with air pressure: Hypoxi

The L250 Hypoxi machine, which allows you to exercise while lying down (Hypoxi)
The L250 Hypoxi machine, which allows you to exercise while lying down (Hypoxi)

For those who want to lose weight but shudder at the thought of an excruciating workout, and who are willing to throw some money at the problem, Hypoxi may be the way to go.

30 minutes of mild exercise, no grueling dietary regime and guaranteed results within two months ― it almost sounds too good to be true. Hypoxi promotes itself as the most effective way to lose weight, though at a fee ranging from 1.7 million won ($1,500) to 2.4 million won for 24 sessions.

To exercise, you lie down inside a device shaped like your average cycling machine, but with an egg-shaped lid that encases the bottom half of your body. While you pedal at a leisurely pace, the inside of the chamber alternates between a state of vacuum, where your body is relieved of all pressure, and compression, where it is tightly squeezed. This change in air pressure galvanizes blood circulation, which raises body temperature, which in turn maximizes the speed of burning fat.

“Simply put, it’s like squeezing a hose repeatedly to let the liquid inside flow better,” said Lee Seul-ki, coach at the Hypoxi Cheongdam studio.

Another trait of Hypoxi is that it specifically raises lower body temperature to target areas like upper-thigh cellulite or lower-stomach bulk, which are hard to tone down even with intensive exercise, said Lee.

Post-workout, your body feels surprisingly worn-out and well-exercised despite the mildness of the routine, as your circulation has been boosted to three or more times its average speed. For the next few days, you experience significantly less bloating and even, miraculously, immediate weight loss.

Recommended for: Those who want to visibly reduce cellulite in the lower-body area, who are averse to or physically unfit for intense exercise and who want to enjoy a highly exclusive, personal coaching studio. 

By Rumy Doo (

This is the first in a series of articles on new fitness and diet trends in Korea. -- Ed.