Sheepshead Bay Gym Shocks Its Patrons

Rachel Tagiev, owner of Fittletica, a new gym in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, stands on a body composition monitor, which measures body fat percentage. Photo by Cole Zerboni/Bklyner

SHEEPSHEAD BAY – Electric muscle stimulation training, the latest fitness craze known as EMS, which uses an electric-pulsing body suit to shock people’s muscles into shape during workouts, has made its way to Sheepshead Bay. Fittletica became the first gym in Brooklyn to offer group EMS classes when it opened late October at 2615 East 16th Street, steps off Sheepshead Bay Road subway station.

The owner, Rachel Tagiev, 43, started EMS training last year after she tried it for the first time while visiting Spain.

“In Europe, this is everywhere,” said the Brighton Beach native.

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She attributed her weight loss of 130 pounds largely to her experience with EMS training. The technique, which involves strapping on a body suit that sends electric pulses to muscles, claims to give people the same effects as a 3-hour workout in only 20 minutes.

Wireless body suits lined with stimulation equipment to trigger muscle groups during workouts hang in a corner at Fittletica in Sheepshead Bay. Photo by Cole Zerboni/Bklyner

Electric muscle stimulation has been used for decades as a rehabilitation technique for athletes. It emerged as a popular fitness trend in Europe in the last 10 years and has recently caught on in the United States with the help of celebrities like Ashley Graham, who can be seen using the technique on Instagram.

Tagiev said that initially, she saw the training only as a way to get in shape.

“I felt the results, and they were amazing,” she said.

In fact, it was her business partner, Igor Tovbin, who first came up with the idea back in May to open an EMS gym. He saw the business potential for a gym that offers shortened workouts for Brooklynites.

“Time is the most expensive thing,” said Tovbin. “You can buy anything, except time.”

The location of the gym was an easy choice for the owner, Tagiev. She wanted the gym to be close to her home.

Sheepshead Bay is a great hangout spot,” she said. “It’s a perfect place for people to stop in for a quick 20 minutes.”

Namik Niftaliyev, manager at Fittletica, helps a class member get adjusted in her EMS training suit before class. Photo by Cole Zerboni/Bklyner

On a recent weekday morning, seven Fittletica class-goers suited up in their provided uniforms consisting of black biker shorts and a ¾-length black shirt. Then, class members worked with the trainers to strap on an EMS bodysuit – a scene that looks like it’s straight out of The Hunger Games. Fittletica employees helped attendees assemble their suits by tightening straps on their arms, legs, and torso.  

Trainers adjust exercisers’ stimulation levels before and during the class. The impulses are separated by muscle group to accommodate differences in people’s bodies such as injuries. Photo by Cole Zarboni/Bklyner

Then, trainers customized each class member’s muscle impulse levels on their suit via a connected computer screen before the workout began.

When I tried the suit myself, I felt a tingly sensation slowly emerge in my muscles as a trainer turned up the levels on the computer screen. The short, spastic shocks target arm, leg, abdominal, chest and back muscles.

“Everybody has a different level of stimulation, because everybody is on a different athletic level,” said Tagiev. Trainers at the gym can control attendees’ impulse levels throughout the class as they move from the warmup, to cardio peaks, to stretching.

After the 20-minute workout, which included strength-training with dumbbells and step platforms, trainers helped attendees take off their suits. About two hours later, my legs felt as if I had done a lengthy squat and lunge workout.

In the months leading to the gym’s grand opening in October, Tagiev and Tovbin teamed up with a Spanish EMS training company to obtain the EMS equipment and get an expert from abroad to coach the Fittletica trainers on the workouts. The gym has six certified trainers that teach the 20-minute classes, which cost $449 for a monthly 12 sessions.

21-year-old Anna Kislova participated in a strength training class on Wednesday, Nov. 14 along with six others. Photo by Cole Zarboni/Bklyner

In the short time the gym has been open, Tagiev said it’s been booked most business days. The EMS equipment is used in all of the gym’s classes.

Anna Kislova, a 21-year-old Fittletica member, took the class four times in the first three weeks it was open.

“It really saves you time,” said Kislova after she took off her bodysuit, which was soaked with sweat.

Tagiev’s goal is to expand to a full work week schedule as opposed to just Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and eventually open more of these gyms across the city.

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  1. Ashley Graham is using completely different EMS training technique …. EMS not designed for a group sessions … FIBO 2018 will clarify XBody and other companies on personal training vs EMS group trainings.


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