Io­bella boasts ther­mal ex­er­cise pods, bio­elec­tric mus­cle stim­u­la­tion, and a manda­tory triple-oxy­gen lounge. Ni­cole Catanese in­ves­ti­gates a fit­ness stu­dio wor­thy of the Jet­sons.

Harper’s Bazaar (Malaysia) - - The Beauty Bazaar -

No pain, no gain. Just do it. Sweat is fat cry­ing. These may sound like clichés, but the truth is it’s been in­grained in our minds that work­outs should be, well, work. Un­til now. The chic and uber-mod­ern Io­bella body-shap­ing spa in Santa Mon­ica is a far cry from the cookie-cut­ter Spin­ning, barre, and boot-camp mec­cas that seem to out­num­ber Star­bucks, not only be­cause of the spa-like aes­thetic that es­chews stan­dard ex­er­cise fare (as in bulky free weights and car­dio ma­chines) but also for what is there: hu­man-size Plex­i­glas tem­per­a­ture-con­trolled pods and sleek triple-oxy­gen cap­sules.

It’s within the space­ship-es­que pods, in­di­vid­u­ally heated to match the body’s tem­per­a­ture of 98.5 de­grees, that you com­plete the 20 ex­er­cises specif­i­cally pre­scribed for your body – and goals – to the ver­bal and phys­i­cal cues of your per­sonal Io­bella in­struc­tor. The reg­i­men is cu­rated as a re­sult of an ini­tial full-body anal­y­sis, which in­cludes cal­cu­lat­ing your BMI and body fat as well as tak­ing head-to-toe mea­sure­ments to see how many inches you could lose and where (Io­bella-ians speak in inches, not pounds). For 30 min­utes straight, you power through a per­fectly or­ches­trated se­quence of ba­sic strength train­ing and Pi­lates-like moves that any­one who’s ever taken a beginners fit­ness class knows by heart – tri­ceps kick­backs, leg lifts, side planks.

Un­like no­to­ri­ously in­tense work­outs like Crossfit and Barry’s Bootcamp, which look to sky­rocket your heart rate with HIIT (high-in­ten­sity in­ter­val train­ing) and ad­vo­cate pick­ing up the heav­i­est weight you can han­dle, Io­bella is rooted in not re­quir­ing men­tal – and phys­i­cal – war­fare to get to the fin­ish line. By us­ing two sets of low-weight re­sis­tance pul­leys (two to three pounds each) that strap onto your feet or your hands, you can shave off inches from prob­lem ar­eas in as lit­tle as three weeks. (A min­i­mum of twice-weekly work­outs is rec­om­mended; three for faster re­sults.) The catch? Mak­ing your way through 20 to 40 fast-paced rep­e­ti­tions of each move. “There are more than 120 ex­er­cises,” shares Fabi­ana Erica Mora, an Io­bella per­sonal trainer. And it’s this cus­tomised cock­tail of ex­er­cise that she refers to as the stu­dio’s sig­na­ture “cel­lu­lar en­zy­matic re­ac­ti­va­tion method to shape the tar­geted ar­eas by ac­cel­er­at­ing fat burn­ing.”

Ac­cord­ing to Brad Schoen­feld, an ex­er­cise phys­i­ol­o­gist and di­rec­tor of the Hu­man Per­for­mance Lab at Lehman Col­lege in the Bronx, though the ef­fec­tive­ness of spot-re­duc­ing fat with tar­geted moves is un­sub­stan­ti­ated, build­ing mus­cle in a par­tic­u­lar area by us­ing lighter weights and high rep­e­ti­tion is le­git. “The only way mus­cles de­velop is when they’re taxed be­yond their ca­pac­ity,” he re­veals. “Lighter weights activate the en­durance-based mus­cle fi­bres, while heav­ier weights iso­late more strength-based fi­bres, but both in­crease mus­cle.”

Re­search has shown that when it comes to strength train­ing, Io­bella may be right: heav­ier isn’t nec­es­sar­ily bet­ter. In a 2012 study, re­searchers at McMaster Univer­sity in On­tario, Canada, used MRI to show that there was es­sen­tially the same in­crease in mus­cle mass from lift­ing heavy weights as there was with lighter ones, as long as the sub­jects couldn’t pos­si­bly do just one more rep.

While Schoen­feld notes that the phys­i­cal ben­e­fit of the ther­mal pod, as with all heated work­outs, is more about shed­ding wa­ter weight than boost­ing fat burn­ing, there is also a real – and worth­while – bonus to your state of mind. “Fat is burned in­ter­nally, not through ex­ter­nal heat, but some people sim­ply like be­ing hot,” he ex­plains.

Io­bella’s post-work­out reper­toire is as unique as the work­out it­self. First, there’s the non-ne­go­tiable 15-minute ses­sion in an O3 cham­ber. Af­ter show­er­ing and slip­ping on a robe, you’re es­corted to your per­sonal white lac­quered “cabin”, which sur­rounds you with tripleoxy­genated air (like what’s used in oxy­gen fa­cials) while cool cu­cum­ber slices rest on your eyes and sooth­ing mu­sic plays through padded head­phones. Io­bella acolytes say that the Zen ef­fect (plus no­tice­ably softer skin) is worth ev­ery minute. You can also book time on an in­frared mas­sage bed or have a bio­elec­tric stim­u­la­tion treat­ment, in which pads are placed on your prob­lem area for a half hour. These treat­ments are more likely to help heal than sculpt mus­cles, notes Schoen­feld. “It’s not go­ing to help you get a six-pack.”

De­spite the hefty price tag and lack of hard­core sci­ence to back some of Io­bella’s claims, the body-slim­ming tes­ti­mo­ni­als are in­dis­putable. Made­line, 47, an avid run­ner, says that for years she tried to lose the un­sightly bulge around her waist. Af­ter three months of twice-a-week ses­sions, she lost 11 inches all over. Ni­cole, 42, did Io­bella twice a week and quickly lost nine inches – and nine pounds – af­ter just six weeks.

High-tech pod and oxy­gen lounge aside, Io­bella’s suc­cess may be as sim­ple as this: “Re­sis­tance train­ing re­ally is the foun­tain of youth,” says Schoen­feld. “Aer­o­bic ex­er­cise has heart and weight-con­trol ben­e­fits, but if you only do car­dio you’ll be skinny and flabby.”

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