Katalyst EMS Suit: Tested & Reviewed by a Personal Trainer
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Our in-house personal trainer used the full-body workout suit consistently over the course of six months to see if it's worth the hype.
You may have seen the Katalyst EMS suit taking social media by storm. Backed by investors like Cindy Crawford and Randy Gerber, this state-of-the-art home training system promises a two-hour full-body workout in just 20 minutes. Katalyst claims that the suit activates your muscles six times more efficiently than any other workout and is suitable for all levels of fitness.
But at over $2,300, the system doesn't come cheap, and the getup itself can seem intimidating. That's why our fitness experts in the Good Housekeeping Institute decided to see if Katalyst is worth it, evaluating the suit over the course of six months, zoning in on ease of use, functionality, efficiency, programming, results and more.
We also recruited two consumer testers to try the suit for themselves, in order to obtain even more feedback on how the system worked for them in their everyday lives and whether or not they saw long-term results.
Here's everything you need to know about the Katalyst EMS suit, and whether it's worth adding to your home gym.
EMS stands for electro-muscle stimulation. It involves using low-frequency pulses of electric current to generate contractions in different muscles in the human body. EMS can be used to target specific areas of the body by stimulating individual muscles or as a full-body training tool.
Commercial full-body EMS training has been around for over 20 years, initially launching in Europe. The devices typically involved wires, control boards and shared suits and were designed to be used in studio environments where training ranged in price from $50 to $150+ per session.
The Katalyst suit is a set of thin garments as well as a vest, shorts, arm straps and arm protectors that are controlled by an "impulse pack" that delivers the EMS. It is the first (and currently only) product of its kind cleared by the U.S. FDA for consumer use, meaning it can be used in the comfort of your own home instead of having to go to a gym or studio to experience it.
The innovative technology works by sending low-frequency impulses through the skin to directly activate your muscles. This muscle activation, combined with simple bodyweight movements, helps to build strength, muscle mass and more in a short period of time.
Tech executive Bjoern Woltermann, who was living in Germany at the time, found EMS after his doctor referred him to the technology to help with the debilitating back pain he was suffering from due to his busy travel schedule of over 150 flights per year. "My physician told me I needed to strengthen my core, or I'd end up with a herniated disc and require surgery," Woltermann told Good Housekeeping. "He sent me to an early training of this type of suit, and within six weeks of doing just one workout a week on Mondays, I was literally pain-free."
At the time, there wasn't any way to do EMS at home, and it wasn't available in the U.S. because of FDA regulations. After having a personally transformative experience with the technology and seeing that it could unlock performance improvements in a short period of time, Woltermann dived into the research and then quit his job in 2015 to move to the U.S. and bring EMS to America.
The training system doesn't come cheap with its price point of $2,385. But with an Affirm payment plan, pricing is available at around $66/month for 36 months with no deposit, which is similar to the monthly membership cost of a mid-tier fitness club. If you utilized EMS in a gym facility with a trainer, each individual session would likely cost $100 or more.
Discounts are available for military personnel, first responders and medical professionals, and the equipment may also be eligible for HSA/FSA reimbursement since it is both a piece of exercise equipment and an FDA-cleared medical device.
You’ll need to speak with your healthcare provider and insurance company regarding that eligibility prior to purchase. Another important thing to note regarding cost is that although the corresponding app includes a set of basic workouts for free, you'll need an iPad running iOS 15 or later as a platform. The brand is currently in the development of an iPhone interface.
Katalyst uses EMS technology to help users activate multiple muscle groups while building strength and more. The brand claims that the suit allows you to activate 90% of your muscles compared to about 40% in a typical workout. The device doesn't require any weights or additional equipment, and it's a low-impact form of exercise that does not require jumping or other high-intensity movements. Katalyst is easy-to-use, relatively lightweight and offers on-demand training that is convenient and tailed to fit your schedule and fitness goals.
"What we generally see is that after three to four weeks, people really feel better, and after six to eight weeks of consistent workout with Katalyst, users say they can see it in the mirror," Woltermann told us. That being said, EMS is not recommended for pregnant people or individuals with pacemakers and/or certain medical conditions.
After we placed our order, Katalyst reached out to collect a few measurements to ensure our suit fit well. Even if you know you're a specific size, Katalyst still has you take specific measurements to determine the optimal size for the equipment. You'll also answer some other basic questions like your height, weight and current activity level.
They then ship you the entire system which includes:
✔️ Attend your personal walk-through: Each of our testers received a personal one-on-one set-up demonstration with a Katalyst trainer, which is a standard offering for the service. Katalyst offers this during business hours, so you'll need to make time on a weekday, but the session was extremely helpful and personal.
✔️ Put on the Base Layer: You'll don your base layer, which is a breeze to put on, but one drawback is that you'll need to wear no or very thin undergarments or the suit won't properly work in certain areas.
✔️ Prep the suit: The suit itself is complex, but having one of the trainers run through the set-up made the process straightforward. The suit is padded, and you start by laying it flat and getting the pads wet so the EMS can properly work. Katalyst provides a spray bottle for the water, which we found helpful, but this can get still messy; you'll likely want a towel (or two) nearby. "The setup of the suit gets progressively easier the more times you do it," said one tester. "This is also helpful as you learn how much water to add to the suit so as to not make a mess in your house."
✔️ Check the fit: The trainer will talk you through attaching the appropriate wires and closures to make sure the suit is secure on your body and tight enough for the muscle stimulation to effectively work. There are several velcro straps, buckles and wires that you'll need to be sure are in the right positioning. The initial set-up can take some time —we timed it at about 15 minutes for us on that first try — but once we got familiar with the instructions we were able to set up the suit within five minutes in subsequent workouts.
Once the suit is on and operating, you'll access the library of workouts on the Katalyst app and connect it to the suit. You'll have a chance to figure out the appropriate intensity for each individual muscle group. It does take some time for your body to acclimate to the EMS sensation, and it was interesting to see that certain muscle groups could tolerate a higher impulse intensity than others. You can choose from a variety of training modalities including strength, power, cardio and recovery, and the impulse intensity increases as the workout progresses.
We found that it was important to start with a lower-intensity setting, just to let the body adjust to the EMS sensation. The workouts are pretty basic: The movements are simple, and the instructors make the content easy to follow. For a full-body workout, at one point we were sitting into a high squat, followed by holding a diagonal reach and more. The moderate moves make Katalyst's workouts suitable for beginners. That being said, it can feel a little slow and repetitive at times, but the sessions last a maximum of 20 minutes. Toward the end of the workout, we could tell that we didn't dampen the suit with enough water in certain places, but we got the saturation right with subsequent sessions.
We were surprised by how effective the workouts were in such a short period of time. "After 20 minutes of using Katalyst, I was zapped," a tester said. "The incredible muscle stimulation you get from the body suit is definitely noticeable, even after only 20 minutes. Honestly, I don't ever recall having such sore hamstrings and glutes from a workout. The Katalyst body suit was able to give that and more."
We found the app to be relatively easy to navigate and full of a decent library of content. The interface includes a timer, rep counter, indicators for the current and the next exercise and more. You can pause the workout and adjust the intensity as needed, which was helpful as I felt I couldn't go as hard in certain areas. Our pros also like that you can cast your workout to your TV if you have Apple TV or an AirPlay-enabled smart TV. You can play music from Spotify during your workout too. You'll have to charge the impulse bank, but we found that it held a charge for about 10 workouts, sometimes more.
Taking the suit off is pretty simple. You'll need to wash the base layer so if you're planning to work out multiple times a week with Katalyst, that's something to keep in mind. The suit itself doesn't come into direct contact with your body so you don't need to wash it often, but it does need a space to air-dry (we hung ours in the shower).
The price is certainly steep and a piece of equipment like this is a luxury fitness item, but overall the suit was incredibly effective for us. "I noticed a major difference in muscle tone and size after using the suit one to two times a week," said one tester. "It's easy to use and very quick to get a solid workout in. Those who want additional targeting of muscle groups will see great benefits."
One important standout to our experts was that the workout was easy on the joints. Some people with knee and wrist issues wouldn't be able to achieve these results doing traditional strength training exercises in the gym without feeling pain. You really don't need much fitness experience to start: Testers ranging from beginners to more seasoned athletes found that Katalyst offered versatility and results regardless of activity level when used on a consistent basis.
Testers also loved how quick and efficient the workout was, saying that it's perfect for people with busy schedules. "Having multiple workout options with short durations makes the product very versatile and accessible to anyone who may have a busy lifestyle," a tester commented.
"The efficiency of preparing the suit and getting in a full body workout in less than 30 minutes is great for those that are constantly on the go. Katalyst has allowed me to fit in a quick, efficient workout that can hit all muscle groups in one go," another tester said.
Since the app offers strength, cardio and recovery content, it could theoretically replace having to go to the gym. But our fitness pros say that Katalyst is best used to complement a balanced fitness routine. "I supplement the suit with workouts for muscle stimulation in those hard-to-grow areas like my quads and hamstrings. If you're looking to grow specific muscle groups that are harder to target in a traditional gym setting, Katalyst can help," said one tester.
"It was well made, easy to use and delivered results," another tester commented about the suit.
We were impressed with how effective Katalyst was at delivering an efficient workout in under half an hour. The low-impact session involves basic movements, and you don't need much skill or fitness experience to start. You can use it for a variety of training modalities, but we found that it led to significant results in muscle strength and tone.
Although it comes at a high price point, there's no doubt that the EMS technology is effective in improving overall fitness. But as with any form of exercise, staying consistent with using the Katalyst suit is key to seeing long-term results.
Stefani (she/her) is a registered dietitian, a NASM-certified personal trainer and the director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Nutrition Lab, where she handles all nutrition-related content, testing and evaluation. She holds a bachelor's degree in nutritional sciences from Pennsylvania State University and a master's degree in clinical nutrition from NYU. She is also Good Housekeeping's on-staff fitness and exercise expert. Stefani is dedicated to providing readers with evidence-based content to encourage informed food choices and healthy living. She is an avid CrossFitter and a passionate home cook who loves spending time with her big fit Greek family.
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The Best Shapewear for Every Occassionthis state-of-the-art home training system promises a two-hour full-body workout in just 20 minutes with its price point of $2,385 $66/month for 36 months The Base Layer: The Katalyst Suit: The Impulse Pack: Set-up ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ Attend your personal walk-through: ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ Put on the Base Layer: ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ Prep the suit: ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ Check the fit: The workout The results