sensory stimulating workouts


If you’ve been in the fitness game, either as a participant or professional, long enough you start to notice trends that come and go.  Some things stay for a long time while fads fade.  The things that stay tend to iterate.  And new iterations of not so new fitness concepts are what I found this year at the IDEA World Fitness Conference expo.

I noticed Barefoot Training, Electronic Muscle Stimulation (EMS) and Suspension Training all leveled up with some interesting products I had the chance to try.  Let’s just say the each of these products were quite stimulating.

If you need some sensory stimulation, start at your feet.

Emily Splichal, DPM, a podiatrist, human movement specialist and chief executive officer of Naboso Technology, has helped develop a textured exercise mat and insole that stimulates the skin on the feet and hands.  The products can be used for fitness rehab to improve function or performance.  According to Dr. Emily, you will notice an improvement in postural control, stability and strength.


proprioceptive insoles

NABOSO Insoles

Barefoot training

NABOSO Mind Body Mat










What makes it work?

The skin on the bottom of your feet is sensitive to different textures. The pyramid shaped points covering the mat are known as a “2 point discrimination” texture which stimulates the skin on your feet.  “The skin on your feet stimulates the small muscles of your feet and the small muscles of your feet are connected to your deep core,” says Dr. Emily.   This leads to better foot to core sequencing.   Dr. Emily suggests doing the Reverse Lunge to Single Leg Squat on the mat for getting major glute activation.  Simply said by her husband, a martial artist, the Naboso mat and insoles  “connect your brain to the bottom of your feet” who wears the shoe inserts every day.  They make you more aware of your step, your gait, and your posture all day long.

Barefoot training on the Naboso mat

Single leg squat on the Naboso Mat

Naboso claims users will notice an improvement in postural control, stability and strength.  The belief is that the more we connect to our feet, which our foundation, and the only contact point between the body and the ground, the more improvements we can have in our balance, sense of movement and our coordination.  One thing is for sure.  It will take your barefoot training to another level.


Total Body EMS.  The results were shocking!

I’ve always been a fan of Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS).  I was born with developmental hip dysplasia, just like most German Shepherds.  This made the bones of my right leg line up in a way that caused me many a severe sprained ankle.  Plus, my all too frequent stints of over training caused several other injuries.  Both roads lead to the same end.  Physical Therapy.  The best part of PT, is the therapy part and a commonly used tool among Physical Therapists is the trusty EMS machine.  If you’ve never had this treatment, it plays out like this…. You lie down while the therapist rolls the machine over, they hook you up to electrodes placed around your injured joint and you kick back while the muscles needing attention workout without you.  It’s used for speeding up the healing of torn muscles and tendons and rebuilding the muscles’ strength.  So why not use it on muscles that are not injured while you exercise?

Miha bodytec is way ahead of you.  The German company has been doing it for years in Europe.  They have a full body training product that you wear while you do a 20-30 minute routine of very basic exercises.  No jumping or complicated moves to learn.  You just watch your avatar on a screen while the trainer guides you to do each movement properly and adjusts the settings.

The set up involves stripping down and putting on some special fabric shorts and shirt.  They felt like the base layer you wear during winter sports.  Then they harness you up in what I can best describe as a wet suit that’s one size too small crossed with an 18th century corset.  From there they put on arm cuffs, leg cuffs and some kind of butt belt.  Then they hook up the electrodes just like in the PT scenario.  You stand in front of the control console where you see your avatar demonstrating the exercises and the trainer adjusts the intensity of the electric impulses.  If you want anything to happen, you need to allow the setting to be high enough so your muscles contract hard.  Even though I’ve done EMS more than the average bear, I was still a little wary as to how high I could stand the current.  That’s normal.  The trainer gradually increases the intensity throughout the session.  Unlike chilling on a bed in my PT’s office, my whole body was being lit up and I could feel it all over.  (See the videos).

At the end of the session, I wasn’t sweating and my body felt great, like I had an awesome workout without feeling worn out and without aching joints.  Interestingly, the muscles where I have the most nerve damage from an accident is where I felt it the most.  The next 3 days were something else though.  The area where I was able to tolerate the highest current was in the glutes.  For days, they were sore to a level I don’t think I’ve ever experienced in my life.  It was the “good” kind of sore, like I just deadlifted a minivan 20 times.  So let’s just say, this thing works.  If you can find a facility that has a machine, try it.  Miha Bodytec is new in the US  but are hoping to expand quickly.

Finally, let’s bounce on the GoFlo

Suspension training has been part of my personal routine since 2007 when I bought my first TRX and a few years later when I bought a dip station (for years, a staple in my outdoor workouts).  With both of these, I was trying to maintain the back and arm strength I developed  when I was rowing crew and before that, rock climbing.  Inverted Rows on the dip station, Australian Pull Ups and TRX rows were key parts of my upper body workout.  Even my clients enjoy doing them too.  Yes, I said, “enjoy.”  Rows on a suspension trainer are actually fun!  But I’ve been doing them for a long long time so I was open to a new type of suspension training.

When TRX took the suspension market by storm, the concept was, the straps don’t move, you do.  In other words, the opposite of pulling and pushing resistance bands.  The straps are non-elastic so they don’t move, making your body weight the resistance.  But now that’s being re-imagined.

The GoFlo Trainer is a suspension trainer made with bungy bands that partially suspend your body weight, allowing you to bounce and do plyometrics with support.  I felt like a baby in one of those Jolly Jumpers.  It was a total blast!  Check out the videos of my Plyo Push Ups and Superman Jumps.  They also come with non-elastic straps so you can also convert it to a more traditional suspension trainer…. but why?  They’re not cheap at about $500 for the whole kit and about $200 for just the straps.  But the website offers some workout and set up assistance.  There is a more budget friendly competing brand on Amazon called the 1Up Gravity Pro that’s marketed for arial yoga however, it looks like you can use it for similar exercises at home.  I checked out some vids of the product on YouTube.  It does not have a website that offers support.

GoFlo has been popular abroad for several years.  They’re also just starting to make inroads into the U.S. market, so be on the lookout!


Jill Brown
Jill Brown
Hi, I'm JillI am a Los Angeles based Fitness + Nutrition Coach. With 20+ years of experience in teaching, training and continuing my education, I have transformed thousands of lives through fitness and healthy lifestyle changes.