Would you attend a group exercise class wearing a skin-absorbing wireless bodysuit that provides EMS or electrical muscle stimulation? Would you pay $299 to buy your own suit? Would you believe you can pack two hours of intense exercise into a 25-minute low-impact session?
The founders of Ohm Fitness believe the answer is yes, and are franchising their new concept after opening a test studio in June in Scottsdale, Arizona. “When I first heard about the concept, I was skeptical,” said co-founder Doug Payne, formerly of Orangetheory Fitness, European Wax Center and Massage Envy, who checked out an early version a few years ago.
“The first look I had was old-fashioned suits with cords and buckles and underwear that had to be wet to have a positive experience. I didn’t see it as scaling and something Americans could get behind.”
His research turned up the idea of a wireless suit, which he thought showed promise. “I built this program around the idea of a futuristic technology-driven fitness experience that disrupts the way we think about traditional fitness. We’re condensing it into a 25-minute package. We’re giving our guests back time.”
EMS is “pretty new and pretty unique in the United States,” he said, “but it’s been around since the ’60s. You might have heard of something called the super soldier program that Russia had in the ’60s,” probably a mythical effort to create high-performance soldiers by stimulating their muscles with electrical currents. “It was also used by Olympic athletes in the 70s, long before doping. Eastern European countries used it and got into trouble, and it was seen as an unfair advantage.”
Ohm Fitness’ version, called the EMPower suit, “looks like a wetsuit, but it’s breathable,” Payne said. “There are 30 pads sewn into the suit, and the pads communicate directly with the muscles through the skin and deliver impulses that cause your muscles to flex during your 25-minute workout.”
Instead of contracting a muscle 10 times in 10 seconds with typical dumbbell curls, for example, “with the EMPower suit, I deliver up to 85 muscle contractions per second.” Also, in typical exercises you only work 50 percent of your muscles, whereas with the EMPower suit, you’re “firing 95 percent of that muscle connection.”
The first agreement on the development of the area was signed
Ohm Fitness has signed its first territory development agreement, for Arizona, with two new women in the role. Alexis Krisay and Melissa DiGianfilippo are co-founders of the marketing and PR agency Serendipit Consulting; they were hired to develop and run marketing for Ohm Fitness, but then decided to jump in as franchisees.
They will sell franchise licenses to open up to 35 locations in the state over the next three years, with plans to open at least three themselves.
Their PR agency has a lot of franchise clients, so “we’ve seen the secret sauce of what works,” DiGianfilippo said. It’s a combination of the founder, the experience of the founder and the concept,” she said. “This is so different. When we talked to Doug about marketing this brand, when we walked in, my first words were, this is going to be bigger than Orangetheory.”
The women will continue to run their marketing agency as well as serve as area developers for Ohm Fitness. Ohm memberships start at $90 a month for four classes; $250 per month for 12 hours and $360 per month for 20 hours. Customers can use suits provided by Ohm Fitness or purchase their own, for $299.
Other franchises are in the EMS game. Upgrade Labs, based in Santa Monica, California and founded by Dave Asprey, offers individualized EMS treatments primarily for injury recovery, in which a cuff wrapped around the injured area sends electrical currents to promote healing.
Pulse Performance, founded in 2021 by JD Busch, offers EMS through personal training sessions, where people wear full suits and harnesses to receive the stimulation. Read here about more new age wellness franchises flooding the market.
The co-founder comes from Massage Envy, Orangetheory
Payne started franchising in 2005 with Massage Envy and later joined with a good friend from Massage Envy, Dave Long, to start Orangetheory Fitness, he said. Orangetheory, started in 2010, is known to have more than 1,300 studios today. He was also involved with the European Wax Center, initially helping the founders develop the concept and later becoming a franchisee.
The investment price for an Ohm Fitness franchise ranges from $225,000 to the high $300,000s, he said.
Asked if “Ohm” is meant to evoke “om” or the chant used in meditation, Payne said no. “Ohm is a measure of resistance in an electrical circuit. And the person who came up with it is Georg Simon Ohm. We honor him” with the name of the franchise.
That led to another fun fact about Payne. “My background is as an electronics engineer, first in the United States Navy and then at Boeing,” perhaps making the launch of Ohm Fitness full circle.