Chichi sci-fi tai chi

A new wave of fitness craze has hit Berlin in the shape of Fitbox and its innovative technologies. The technology massages your muscles with electrodes for 20 minutes; enough for a week and to get you toned (supposedly).

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Photo by Astrid Warberg

Time-pressed gym bunnies take note: flaunting its trendy minimalism through a window on Schönhauser Allee, Fitbox, open since March, hopes to bring a new high-tech exercise craze to Berlin.

The technology in question is known as ‘electrical muscle stimulation’. Apparently the Soviets used it on their elite athletes in the 1960s, but only recently has a new and more consumer-friendly version been developed in Germany. At Fitbox, guests first slip into figure-hugging, elbow- and kneelength black long johns (underwear is not allowed: “This way you will feel it more,” explains Axel the trainer) before being strapped into a terrifying array of vests, armbands and belts, all bristling with electrodes.

Then, take your place at one of two stands facing the street, which display the not-quite-painful-but-certainly-weird-feeling levels of current each body part is receiving – and also display you, inescapably, to any curious passers-by. Expect to be stared at: the spectacle of someone trussed up like a lab rat, struggling with what may look like tai chi but feels like lifting weights while being electrocuted every four seconds, certainly turns heads.

The big selling point is that each personal trainer-led session only lasts 20 minutes, in which time, the gym boasts, every controllable muscle in your body gets a workout (though cardio is unaffected). They also claim that merely one session a week is all you need to get toned and gleaming, and prices match the too-good-to-be-true proposition: a year’s membership costs €19.90 a week, an individual session €59.90, and a first try-out is free.

A new development, then, aimed squarely at the cash-rich, time-poor gym-goer, or just anyone who wants to pretend to be Iron Man.