Going to the gym or simply working out at home may sound like a hassle for many. Many brands have come up with various work out methods to help us sustain the habit. Little do we know people in Europe and some in America are already replace their daily gym routines by using Whole Body Electrical Muscle Stimulation(WB-EMS) wearable technology.
An WB-EMS suit set increases the recruitment of your muscles when you excise, which will save the time of your daily working out. Unlike stationary bikes or treadmills, the EMS suit set help you evoke your full body muscle simultaneously. EMS suit sets use electrodes to send electrical pulse to make much more muscle fibres contract. Since this can be a substitute to gym equipment and double or triple the recruitment of your muscles than ordinary without, this wearable technology has great potential to be the future of fitness.
BalanX now is one of the first and biggest WB-EMS suit set vendor in the world. We’re glad to have Bill Zhang, the founder of BalanX, to discuss the stories of BalanX EMS suits and the future of fitness wearables.
*Please note: Use no longer than 30mins max each time. Your muscles will be overworked if you wear the suit for longer. Consult with a doctor if you are unsure or have preexisting health issues.
What is BalanX’s vision?
BZ: Our vision is Fit-Tech, Functional, Balance.
Fit-tech is a word I created, which is inspired from the word ‘Fin-tech’. When you go to the gym, you can hardly find out some gym tools with high technology. The real Fit-tech industry began from heart-rate band (Garmin), then developed to heart rate bracelet and watch (Fit-bit and Apple), now you can see some of the gym equipment like dynamic bicycles and treadmills are becoming smarter than before (Peloton), so we think it is a trend in future, the technology will change the gym industry to a large extent.
The word ‘Functional’ has two aspects. One is for the target group of our product. We focus on the ‘Life Long Trainer’ and provide the schemes with more considerations of rehabilitation and training without injury. It is very important for the elder users, who want to keep fit, however, do not want to get injury.And another aspect is that, we want to emphases on the function than fashion for our product. We hope more people can enjoy the benefit of BalanX, like Apple did, so the costume design and industry design of our product is based on the modern design trend, rather than fashion design.
And the last word is ‘Balance’. Our trade mark BalanX is the origin Latin word of Balance. Our modern lifestyle needs more balance between work and life. A Fit-tech suit set can save your time for training, and avoid your potential sport injury, which will spare you more time for sleep and company with family.
Why did you want to sell EMS suits for consumers, not gyms?
BZ: In the past, European gyms offered EMS training suit rental to train their customers more effectively. This was a general option for the crowd as suits were really expensive. However, the downsides are that they are not sanitary because they’re rentals, and nowadays, you’re not able to use them because gyms are inaccessible during Covid-19 in many locations.
BalanX wants to provide an affordable solution for everybody to be able to work out in anywhere and whenever they like, accordingly, to help our customers achieve an effective, healthy, and balanced lifestyle.
I know that BalanX has experience operating as an ODM company’s past? Can you introduce your company’s history?
BZ: It is a long story – Before we got into the fitness industry, we were in the medical field. We designed TENS (Trans-cutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) for some big companies in Chinese under the regulation of NMPD, the Chinese version of America’s FDA. And we also had another brand for pain relief, which so called RELEV and the main market was in mainland China. The product helped people’s immune system release endorphin for muscles and tissues.
In 2017, we met someone in a start-up from UK. They asked if we could make a WB-EMS for them, because they were planning to sell 2000 units of WB- EMS suits to the UK government. After we finished the product demo (without charge), these guy just disappeared . Eventually, we decided to finish this product, then gave it a shoot. After using 40 days for testing, I lost 8.5kg without too much effort. At that moment, I realized that this product would have great potential in future!
I see most EMS suits on the market are sold for at least 1500 Euros each, but BalanX is only USD 999 for each suit. Why can you offer such competitive pricing?
BZ: Actually, before Balanx, the lowest price of Whole body EMS is 2000USD. We price it as 999USD because we think it should be like this. For consumer product, we have a normal pricing strategy. Like Apple, it is a high-end mobile phones have good experience design, high-tech, and great-quality production. They are expensive, but they are essentially a popular mobile phone.You can see for last decade, how the Apple inc. uses these distinctions change our daily life. This is also Balanx understanding of products and pricing. we think we should be the ‘Apple’ in fitness industry. This is our self-discipline.
Can you tell me a bit more about the design of the product?
BZ: The first principle of our product is “Functional”. My partner for industry design have over 10 years experiences . We have cooperate for 6 years of hardware design and manufacture . The basic principle of our product is ‘Functional first’.
For the suit we have separated the top, bottom, and a full body suit into 6 different sizes so anyone can wear them.
The electrodes are designed to be placed at certain places so they activate the most important and biggest muscles of your body. These design are base on human autonomy, as I used to study medicine in college. We don’t place these panels on your forearms, shoulders or quadriceps because the electrical stimulation at these places will make one lose control of their motion.
In terms of design, we choose to use black as the main color because it is timeless and feels high-end. More importantly, in our survey of various consumer electronics products (especially mobile phones), we found that black is most acceptable to the general public.
Of course, with the improvement and iteration of new products, in addition to the classic color of black, we will choose some creative colors to satisfy those discerning and unique users.
Can you talk about the fabric and its tech a bit more?
BZ: The oldest Whole Body EMS was initially started from NASA from 1960s. Lack of gravity and resistance makes hard for astronauts to exercise, so they use EMS to avoid muscle deterioration.
Before the 2000s, we did not have wearable devices. After the 2000s, this new wearable form of WB-EMS showed up on market, and following the Chinese National Space Administration for over 10 years, we adapted the electrophysiology technology and to put it into industrial usage.
Now we are working on developing new types of electrodes with our supply chain, which is highly challenging. I suppose before this June, you will see next generation of BalanX EMS. I am so excited to show you about these new technology we have developed in past three years.
How do you see BalanX help people during Covid? Especially for everyday users.
BZ: BalanX is the first one that offers D2C EMS suits for home training and personal training. People could only use them by rentals in gyms in the past because it was very expensive to purchase. Once our strategy succeed, people can keep fit at home! The suit comes with a portable hub that provides training lessons for you.
We even had a customer, a housewife from Japan, telling us that she’s been using it to lose weight while doing chores!
We are still working on lowering the cost of this product. Yes! We think 999 USD is still too much for our customers. However, being affected by the pandemic, silver, chips and everything is getting more expensive than before. We kept the price unchanged. In future we want to design some entry-level products to lower the barriers for consumers to buy and use
Lululemon is made to make sure people can move freely while doing exercises. It is tightly fitted to your body. Do you believe that this will become a common suit like an updated version of Lululemon in the future?
BZ: Lululemon helps people connect with nature and feel their body while doing yoga or whatever sport. BalanX, on the other hand, aims to shorten our exercising time and help people train their muscles equally and more effectively without going to the gym.
What is the future of wearable tech? and what is the future of wearable EMS tech?
BZ: This is a great question. Actually, I am not the right person to answer this question.
We can see, the main player of wearable tech industry is Apple Inc. The apple watch is a really good wearable device for monitoring heart rate, ECG and oxygen. So what Balanx do, is to find another way for customers to truly ‘wear’ these new technologies.
For the future of WB-EMS, I would like to quote one of our customers: ‘In 20 years, when we are off working at home, simply picking up a suit you like from closet and training in front of mirror for 20mins, then it can keep you fit.’
How sustainable is EMS technology?
BZ: Ok, this year we will latch a plan of ‘Old for New’. The suit contains a lot of sliver for conduct electric pulse, which is very expensive and limited. So we develop the reusable technology for isolating out the silver from old suit. We want to do something to benefit our customers and the environment.
What’s the plan for BalanX in the future?
BZ: Shortly, we will upgrade the design and electrode panel functions. BalanX EMS 2 and BalanX EMS PRO will be released by the end of this year.We have collaborated an athletic-wear designer and fashion designer with our industrial design team, incorporating more design details. You will find out more about it in June.
Did you benefit from this yourself? How did this change your life?
BZ: I used to represent NingXia province for the 200 meters free-swimming competition in China. However, after I started working, my weight increased by 20kg within ten years. In 2019 May, after I tested 1st gen of Balanx for one month, I lost 10kg. Then I kept my weight at 95kg for the whole year. After the pandemic started, I had to stay at home. Then I lost 10kg more from using Balanx and control the diet.
What’s your background? Tech or Design?
BZ: I graduated from Peking Union Medical College, which belongs to Tsinghua University, and then worked at the University of Hong Kong. My study field is Neural Engineering. After I got my master degree, I worked in a medical instrument company in Shenzhen as a R&D for ultrasound equipment for hospital use.
We started this company in 2014. I knew how to make hardware, firmware and even coding, and I also learned product management, design, marketing and sales from my company. Every year I read a lot of books, include philosophy, finance, management, design, art, novel and biography. I think I am a big fan of Steve Jobs, because he let us know, a well designed product will affect the whole society and make us better.
On the scale of HYBRIDITY(mix between organic and tech), where do you think your company is currently placed at?
Please choose a number between 1-100; please provide 2 decimal numbers for accurate representation. There are no good or bad numbers. This number is also fluid; we will revisit it every year for you to update.
1= Total organic, less tech, form first
50 = Total hybrid
100= Total tech, less organic, the function first
BZ: 80% and 20%, but in the future, I hope to have more design elements integrated into the product.