Brian Chilson
BUZZ BUZZ: I quickly learned the Manduu workout is much harder than it looks.

Feeling sluggish (and cheap), the Arkansas Times staff sought out some of the free trials for workouts around town to find the best ways to get ourselves fit in the new year. This is the first in our sweaty series. 

Manduu, located on Chenal Parkway near the Chenal Promenade, is a different type of workout that seems like it would appeal to people who prefer to use a Mac over a PC or rush out to grab the latest smartphone. But I’m neither of those and I came away a believer. 

Manduu, in a small storefront that I previously thought was a yogurt shop, offers short strength workouts that last only about 15 minutes and don’t use weights, bands or traditional equipment. Instead, Manduu uses electrical stimulation to create resistance on muscles during exercise movements. The electrical pulses create a buzzing feeling on different muscle groups, but it doesn’t hurt and is nothing like sticking your finger in a wall socket, thankfully.  

Manduu began in Europe where, according to the company website, electrical stimulation has been used to train athletes since the 1970s. Electrical stimulation allows the workouts to achieve high intensity while also being low impact. 

Let’s face it: The electrical component of the workouts is unusual and sounds bizarre. As soon as I learned about Manduu while researching Little Rock workout studios, I couldn’t wait to tell my wife and co-workers about the buzz-worthy joint on Chenal. They all said I had to give it a try. Were they excited to see me get into shape or was I just their guinea pig? Either way, I was on board. 

Before my appointment, which Manduu offers as a freebie for first-timers, I filled out several pages of online waivers to say I didn’t have a device like a pacemaker, metallic body implants or any of several afflictions. There were a lot of boxes to check, which made me a little nervous but not enough to turn me off. 

I arrived for my too-early 7 a.m. appointment mostly excited and maybe a little nervous about what to expect. I walked into the small, quiet studio where I was greeted by general manager Dylan Waugh who would guide me through my – ahem – stimulating experience. An older man was already going through his workout with a trainer and the exercises looked pretty easy, but I knew it had to be more intense than what I was seeing. (Hint: It was more intense). 

Brian Chilson
SUITED UP: Manduu provides workout clothes and an electrical suit.

First, I changed into pants and a shirt provided by Manduu, a requirement for the electrical workout suit to work properly. When I stepped out of the dressing room, I stepped onto a scale and held some contraptions that Waugh said scanned my body to gather all sorts of measurements. 

Brian Chilson
MEASUREMENTS: Manduu took all my measurements with a pre-workout body scan.

Waugh, who holds a kinesiology degree from the University of Central Arkansas, strapped me into a tight vest full of electrodes and helped me step into a similar getup for my bottom half. He sprayed the suit with water to help conduct the electricity, which sounded scarier than it turned out to be. 

The electrode vest connected to a controller that was managed by Waugh who set the buzzing on each muscle group to an intensity level that I could handle. Arkansas Times photographer Brian Chilson later jokingly suggested Waugh should crank up the juice but, thankfully, we left it at a manageable level. 

Waugh led me through basic exercise movements like squats, arm lifts and punches. I held a couple of tennis balls while I did the workout since Waugh said the exercises cause people’s fingers to curl. 

From the outside, I’m sure it didn’t look like I was doing much, but there was plenty of resistance each time I squatted or reached for the sky. 

As the session went on, the workout got harder. I remember “Semi-Charmed Life” by Third Eye Blind and “1985” by Bowling for Soup playing as I squatted and punched. At some point I got so focused on my workout and the intermittent buzzing all over my body that I didn’t notice the man working out to my left had disappeared. 

I caught myself looking at the countdown clock to see how much time had elapsed but only a few seconds had passed since the last time I checked. On some exercises, I struggled to get my arm to fully extend because I was getting tired. It was a sign this was no cakewalk, even if it looked easy from the outside. 

By the end of the 15-minute workout, I was spent and wobbly. I definitely felt like I had done a full workout. 

Waugh said his clients, who are primarily in their 40s to 60s, report seeing results in two to four weeks. He said he suggests clients come in one to three times a week, depending on how much they are doing on their own. Three times a week is the max, Waugh said, since the workouts can be intense. Waugh said I should think of Manduu as a strength workout and that I should still do some running for heart health. 

All told: Manduu is a tough workout and it probably works great for people who struggle to squeeze a workout into their busy schedules, since the sessions only last 15 minutes. I even signed up for some additional sessions and I can schedule them at my convenience through the company’s smartphone app. 

Manduu, which has been in Little Rock for about three years, offers a free first workout session and a variety of workout packages.

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