Electrical Muscle Stimulation training helps quadruple amputee to ‘feel his muscles engage for the first time since losing his limbs’
Alex Lewis nearly died in 2013. In the hospital, close to death, he had all four limbs amputated after what he thought was a common cold turned out to be a devastating Strep A infection, a rare bacterial infection that causes a person’s flesh to eat itself. He was given just days to live but miraculously survived, undergoing over 120 hours of intense surgery.
Five years on and Alex is preparing to take on several intense physical challenges, raising awareness for The Alex Lewis Trust, his charity raising funds for wheelchairs, home adjustments, and prosthetics for amputees. Come September 2019, Alex plans to climb one of Africa’s tallest mountains, Ras Dashen in Ethiopia, and the following year, travel over 800 km in 10 days across the Gobi Desert. He hopes to use the money he raises to open a wheelchair factory in Ethiopia.
On top of his own cardiovascular, physiotherapy, and Pilates training, Alex attends a 20 minute weekly Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS) session with a trainer, Tom Corcoran, Owner, Fast Track EMS in Hampshire. In just three months, Alex has noticed dramatic physical improvements from his weekly EMS sessions – improvements that were achieved far more rapidly than anything he experienced with his traditional training program.
We spoke to Tom about Alex’s training with the BIOWAVES ™ EMS system and how it’s helping prepare him for his upcoming physical challenges.
How did you meet Alex?
One of our clients introduced us to Alex back in November 2018. He thought EMS could be a great way for Alex to train for his upcoming challenges.
EMS works by providing an external stimulus via an EMS machine to help individuals engage muscle fibers they might otherwise struggle to target through normal exercises. When Alex climbs Ras Dashen, he will be using a hand-propelled moon buggy, which requires him to use a lot of upper body and core strength to power the wheels with his prosthetic arms. Throughout his traditional training, Pilates, and physio, Alex has struggled to activate and build the muscle required for this movement. Because the BIOWAVES ™ can target traditionally hard-to-reach muscles, it is the perfect addition to Alex’s training regime.
Training a quadruple amputee requires some special modifications. How do you adjust the training for Alex?
I knew EMS could help Alex and I was extremely driven to make it work. EMS training is particularly effective for targeting weaker muscle groups, forcing them to contract involuntarily, so I knew it made sense for Alex’s situation.
We spent a lot of time researching, speaking with Alex and his physio, talking through his goals, and understanding what he can and can’t do. It’s been a real learning curve, but seeing the changes Alex has made in such a short period is extremely rewarding and inspiring.
Tell us about Alex’s training plan
Every training session is different. Because the moon buggy Alex will be using is hand propelled, we focus a lot of attention on his upper and lower back, lats, shoulders, and core. We use resistance bands, Bosu balls, planks, and pushups. We vary the training week to week, with the end goal in mind. Alex trains with us once a week, but as we get closer to September, we may look to increase this to two sessions per week.
What progress has Alex made so far?
He’s made amazing progress in such a short space of time. As a result of Alex’s condition, his arm and shoulder muscles had all collapsed down one side. He has been working with his physio for years to build up the muscles and level up his shoulders again. After his first session with us, his Pilates instructor immediately noticed a positive difference, and within a few weeks, he was holding a much stronger position, with normal postural alignment. He’s also stopped suffering from the ongoing back pain he was getting every night in bed.
Alex is always enthusiastic in his sessions. You can see all his muscles engage when he is working out. You can tell just how much he is getting from the training. Hearing Alex says things like “I’ve not felt these muscles engage since I lost my arms and legs” will forever put a smile on my face. It is unbelievably rewarding to know you are making such a difference for someone.
EMS Training has made a huge impact on Alex but tells us about how some of your other clients are benefiting from EMS Training.
EMS training is for everyone. It can be used for weight loss, muscle toning, improving strength and power output. Not to mention its background in rehabilitation and for improving posture and back pain. We recommend one weekly 20 minutes session, so it is perfect for busy individuals looking to see fast results without the usual long, sweaty gym session.
We work with a whole range of clients, including those training for triathlons, bodybuilders, boxers, those recovering from injury, the active aging community, mums, corporates. The benefits of EMS extend far beyond muscle fiber recruitment and strength building. We adapt the style of training based on the client’s needs, shifting between slower and more steady movements and higher intensity workouts to get results.
What’s next for EMS Training? Is the market growth in the UK?
The work we are doing with Alex has proven the potential for EMS to help so many different types of people looking for effective training and rehabilitation solutions.
EMS is already massive in Germany and other European markets, with more than 250,000 sessions taking place each week. It is growing in the UK too, and the diverse, efficient and flexible nature of the training makes it the perfect service to help PTs stand out and bring in new clients.
There are multiple models for incorporating EMS into a personal training service, including mobile PT solutions, franchising, renting spaces in gym facilities, and running a bespoke EMS studio. The conversion rate for those trialing an EMS session is extremely high, around 90%, giving PTs the perfect opportunity to build a business through the client base they already have. It is a great solution for helping to unlock new clients, inspire existing ones, and increase revenue through a more time-efficient schedule.
“I wish I had found EMS when I was in rehab. I would have become more independent much more quickly if I had done. The technology is amazing. The way it allows you to target specific muscles depending on what you need to work on. It allows me to engage muscles I haven’t felt since I lost my arms and legs! Every day I feel stronger. I’m no longer suffering from ongoing back pain and everyday tasks are much simpler. Completing the challenges will be a real test of both physical and mental strength, but I’m excited to put my training to the test and see how much more I can progress.”