Electrical Muscle Stimulation: Does It Work?

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We can do sports training for many reasons. These range from defining our muscles to achieve optimal physical shape or simply, losing weight. But, in all cases, we try to make the most of the time we spend doing physical activity. And in this regard, electrical muscle stimulation or EMS is a great tool. 

With it, we can improve traditional training. This is why it’s important that you know what it consists of. But first, we want to tell you what the different types of training are and how they can benefit you.

What is conventional training? 

We can describe it as the physical activity that you can do in a gym to work different muscles in pre-set routines. The duration of this type of training to achieve your goals will depend on what your goals are and also on your physical condition and skill. 

It is not the same to start training from scratch than to do it already having a certain level of fitness. However, all the experts agree that three days a week for about a month and a half is enough to achieve good results. 

Of course, this also depends on your age. Likewise, each person has his or her own peculiarities. Even so, in general terms, we can differentiate three age groups: 

  • From 5 to 17 years of age. The recommendation is to exercise for 60 minutes a day, mainly aerobic exercise. 
  • From 18 to 64 years of age. The recommendation is 300 minutes a week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of intense activity. It is also advisable to dedicate two days a week to exercising your muscles. 
  • From 64 years of age and older. The adequate amount is 300 minutes a week of moderate exercise of at least ten minutes a day. 

Another important aspect has to do with the number of calories you burn with this workout. It depends on the physical activity you do, but, for example, running for an hour will burn about 800 calories, 45 minutes of spinning will allow you to burn between 600 and 800, and 30 minutes of HIIT workouts will help you burn about 400 calories. 

Finally,when you do conventional training, this means you’re doing a generic type of workout. In other words, it’s the same for everyone, regardless of their physical characteristics. Therefore, we can only advise you if you simply want to do sport or lose a few extra kilos.

As its main advantage, it certainly is easy to do. However, if you want better results, you will always be better off with electrical muscle stimulation training.

What is electrical muscle stimulation training?

Known as EMS, this is a technique that causes muscle contractions by means of electrical impulses. With it, you get an effect similar to the effect of physical activity, which is why it is also called passive exercise. 

However, the best way for you to use this procedure is as a complement to training. That is, as a complement to the physical activity itself. In this technique, we use an electrostimulation suit which is connected to a device. This suit has electrodes that are strategically placed along your body. In this way, the electrical impulses reach the deepest areas of the muscles, precisely those that are not activated through traditional training. In figures, you would go from working 40% of your fibers, to 90 %, thanks to EMS.

With the electrostimulation suit or EMS vest, you boost the development of your muscle mass. This way, it grows faster than if you only do physical activity, and you also multiply your calorie burning ability

In fact, with two normal exercise sessions of 20 minutes each per week at an intense pace, you would burn around 500 calories. But, if you combine them with EMS, the number would go up to 2,500. 

What’s more, experts recommend the application of this technique with the help of a professional trainer, and with different sessions and intensities depending on the client’s profile.

A training session for an 18 year old is not the same as a training session for a 64 year old, and a training session for two 30 year olds is not the same if one of them is actively involved in sport and the other has never played a sport.

In terms of the benefits of EMS, these are numerous. The main one is that it strengthens the muscular system,but we’ll get back to this later. However, this technique is not indicated in some conditions. 

If you have a pacemaker or suffer from conditions such as epilepsy,you should not use an electrostimulation suit. You should also not use it if you are pregnant. In any case, check with your doctor before doing so.  

It is also not advisable to overuse electrical muscle stimulation. You must use it with caution, although its impulses are of low to moderate frequency and are very unlikely to cause injury. 

Differences between conventional training and electrostimulation training 

We can’t establish a difference between conventional training and training with EMS. Rather, we will say that they are complementary and never mutually exclusive. If you use an electrostimulation suit while doing your training normally, you will notice how it helps you to improve your performance noticeably from the very first moment.

The big advantage is that you will need a much gentler workout to get the same results. In other words, and in more technical terms, moderate exercise with the addition of electrical muscle stimulation will give you a similar metabolic response to that obtained with intense training. This means that you will burn more calories and also that your muscle fibers will be more and better activated

Why does electrostimulation training work? 

For all the reasons mentioned above, EMS workouts exponentially enhance the results that normal exercise provides without the need to make a greater effort. But, in addition to this, the very use of this technology provides you with another series of interesting additional benefits for your body.

Advantages of training with an electrostimulation vest 

  • It allows you to achieve greater muscle development without increasing the intensity of the exercise and minimizing the risk of injury.
  • It helps you lose more weight.
  • It is very useful for treating injuries, like muscular pain and muscle atrophy, as well as for rehabilitation therapies.
  • It improves the stability of your joints, helps you improve your body posture, enhances your flexibility and elasticity, and develops your strength and endurance.
  • It relieves stress.
  • It helps you get back in shape after childbirth.

Applications of electrostimulation training 

The big conclusion that we may draw is that EMS is applied in training to achieve better results without the need to increase the intensity of the exercises. Thanks to the use of an electrostimulation suit, you can stimulate several areas of your body simultaneously and thus optimize the performance of your exercises.

In fact, the use of electrical stimulators has been shown to be the perfect complement to improve fitness in athletes in various disciplines, like soccer, golf, hockey, tennis, swimming, cycling, and running among others. 

What’s more, adding EMS to your workouts gives you the possibility to control the intensity of the activity in each specific muscle area. So, depending on the sport you play and your physical condition, you can strengthen those muscle groups that are really going to make a difference and help you reach higher levels of performance.

Therefore, applying electrical muscle stimulation within your sports routines allows you to improve the firmness and definition of your muscles, while optimizing their tone and increasing your explosive, elastic, and reactive strength. You will even find it extremely useful to strengthen your muscular aerobic endurance or the muscle’s oxidative capacity in order to postpone the onset of exhaustion and fatigue.

However, it’s not all about purely sports performance. EMS is an excellent tool to combat stress. Thanks to its application, your body increases blood flow and the secretion of endorphins, better known as the “happiness hormone”. This causes greater muscle relaxation and increased oxygenation, which, in addition to being a physical relief for your body, also helps to reduce the psychological pressure you are suffering. You will notice how your energy levels increase completely.In any case, your use of electrostimulation suits should always be supervised by an expert. Each application mentioned above requires a different electrical frequency, different repetitions, and correctly timed rest periods.

Do you know what EMS is?

Electrostimulation is a resource that we use in physical therapy and sports medicine as a method of exercising muscles. Its effectiveness is proven, and we currently have the most advanced technology to achieve the highest safety standards and provide you with all the necessary comfort.

The acronym EMS stands for Electrical Muscle Stimulation, which can be explained as the stimulation of muscles by means of electrical impulses. The goal is to mimic the action potential coming from the neurons to activate the tissue so that a contraction occurs. This is achieved by using equipment specially designed for this purpose, known as an electrical muscle stimulator.

What is EMS for?

The electrical impulses generated by the stimulator can be applied to various parts of the body. For this reason, they are useful for treating pathologies that affect different organs, in addition to the musculoskeletal system.

EMS to treat illnesses

Some after affects or severe forms of some conditions may benefit from this therapy.

A clear example is COVID-19.After suffering this disease, the patient may experience symptoms of chronic fatigue. Electrical stimulation helps the individual regain muscle strength and improve mobility and flexibility after the period of physical inactivity brought on by the virus.

Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disease in which the thyroid does not produce enough hormones. Metabolism slows down and fat accumulates in the body. Electrostimulation works by helping to speed up your metabolism, thus reducing your fat percentage and your body size, and toning your core muscles.

Among the symptoms of fibromyalgia, we find pain in specific areas or throughout the body and chronic fatigue. Quality of life is affected and is potentially disabling. The use of an electrical stimulator improves motor skills, produces a sensation of wellbeing, and reduces fatigue.

Multiple sclerosis is another autoimmune disease, caused by progressive destruction of myelin that primarily affects the spinal cord. Its symptoms are very diverse, but in general there are muscle spasms, tingling, loss of sphincter control, and loss of muscle strength. Thanks to the muscle stimulator the treated patients gain more strength, endurance, and agility.

Training with EMS 

Complimenting your workouts with our electricalstimulation suits allows you to reach the goals you have set for yourself. It improves overall health as well as physical fitness, and works for professional athletes helping them achieve peak performance. On the other hand, it’s also useful for those who wish to improve their physique, as it reduces fat deposits, tones muscles, and slows down the natural aging process; there’s also the benefit of lymphatic drainage, which improves the appearance of arms and legs.

Cardio workout 

Aerobic or cardio exercise works the larger muscles of the body for long periods of time, which helps you burn fat. No less important is the effect it has on the functioning of the lungs and heart, improving tissue oxygenation. On the other hand, endorphins are released, substances that improve your mood. But there are more benefits, as we will see below.

Weight loss

The effect of dieting and exercise to lose weight is intensified. One of the effects is that it increases the work of the muscles, building tissue and increasing their volume, which gives your body a better shape. Better muscle tone also contributes to achieving this goal, especially in the muscles of your core, which improves your posture.

By training and stimulating all muscles simultaneously, accumulated fluids are drained and the fat deposited in specific places is eliminated. The energy consumption is increased, and in this way the body fat percentage is also reduced.

Cellulite

This is another problem that you can lessen or eliminate thanks to this resource. It is generated by sedentary life, hormonal changes, tight clothing, and high sodium intake. In both aerobic and anaerobic exercises, the use of a muscle stimulator increases tissue oxygenation. This action benefits adipocytes and muscle cells, allowing the accumulated water and fat to drain.

Flabby skin

The loss of collagen that appears with age, as well as unhealthy lifestyle habits and sedentary lifestyles cause the skin to lose its tone and look loose. This occurs because the muscle mass is not bulky and firm enough to tighten the skin. It is most evident on the arms, but may appear on the legs or abdomen.

Doing aerobic and anaerobic exercises in the affected areas, together with the electrical stimulation provided by the EMS increases muscle mass and tightens the surrounding skin.

Strength training 

Muscle tone and mass are what largely determine the strength of the organ, but what really helps to build this is explosive strength. This is defined as the maximum muscular tension that is developed in the shortest possible time.

Gaining muscle mass

This is fundamental not only in bodybuilding but also when it comes to recovering muscles that have become flabby after an injury. The enormous advantage of the electrical stimulator is that you can increase muscle work without increasing the load. This helps protect your joints.

Electro stimulation of the quadriceps

This set of muscles located in the front of the thigh is very important for swimming, walking, and jumping. Its main function is the extension of the knee, and it’s very important from an aesthetic point of view, as it defines the contour of the thighs. Conventional training is sometimes not enough to develop it quickly, and EMS activates this process, making it faster and more effective.

Strength and power

The types of force that a muscle can exert are related to several variables. Muscular power refers to a great force production over a short period of time, while absolute strength is the maximum amount of force exerted on an object, without considering speed. EMS allows you to recruit as many muscle fibers as possible during your workouts, thus increasing your strength levels.

Toning

As you lose weight, the muscles and surrounding tissues become flabby. By means of a routine of postures and movements, you can tone these anatomical elements. Electrostimulation works by activating the deepest muscle fibers to build your muscles in a uniform way.

Abdominal muscles

A big part of your core, these muscle groups are tremendously important for breathing, containing the abdominal organs, and for posture. The use of the electrical muscle stimulator allows you to get that six pack you want so badly and sport that super toned abdomen.

Shape buttocks

The glutes are made up of three muscles, and it’s hard to activate them with intensity only with toning exercises. However, stimulation with electrical impulses is able to reach the deepest muscle fibers, exerting a stimulating effect with this exercise.

Muscle size and EMS

Building muscle size is one of the goals in disciplines like bodybuilding and weightlifting. You can complement your anaerobic exercises with EMS to achieve more defined results.

Rehabilitation

We mentioned earlier that sometimes what we are looking for with exercise is to recover a muscle group that has been weakened due to illness or  injury. Let’s see how this method can help you.

In physical therapy

The use of the electrical muscle stimulator is endorsed in programs aimed at the recovery of muscle groups that have been injured or suffer atrophy due to an accident or illness.

Knees

The use of this technique on the knees prevents the after-effects of tendon ruptures, sprains, and muscle strain.

Back

Problems with back pain are very frequent and sitting for extended periods is one of the causes. The electrical stimulation used during physical therapy significantly reduces pain and improves quality of life.

TENS

TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. It’s different from EMS, as the objective is not muscular work but pain relief. It works on the sensitive nerve endings instead of the motor ones, and its purpose is to control acute or chronic pain that comes after an operation, in inflammatory joint conditions, or migraines.

Benefits of EMS

Throughout the text, you will have noticed that the positive effects of this technique are numerous. The increase in muscle tone and muscle mass is the most noticeable, but there are more benefits.

  • There are benefits related to physical appearance, like shaping and tightening muscle groups, improving posture and slimming the body.
  • Strengthens muscles, with increased explosive strength, power, and endurance.
  • Sends blood flow to the tissues, improving blood circulation.
  • Speeds up the recovery of muscle groups.
  • Eliminates or improves  flabby muscles and skin.
  • Achieves weight loss goals faster.

Contraindications of EMS

In any type of training, it is advisable to undergo a thorough medical examination shortly before starting it. This way, you make sure you don’t have any illnesses that limit the use of some practices, like electrostimulation. You might want to find out what pathologies limit its use, and that’s why we’ll describe them below.

What are the effects of electrical muscle stimulation?

This technology, also called EMS,  is aimed at improving the effects of training. By placing electrodes on the area you wish to exercise, it’s possible to emulate the action of the nervous system. They generate action potentials which stimulate the muscle to contract and optimize the activity they perform.

The electrical impulses reach the deepest fibers and so make the contraction more efficient. What’s more, the impulses increase capillarization and the blood supply to the area, so that more nutrients and oxygen reach the tissues. This constitutes one of the biggest advantages of electrostimulation, as it accelerates the process that leads to muscular hypertrophy.

On the other hand, as the joints are not overloaded, the risk of injury is minimal. The electrical stimulator allows you to work a muscle individually, which is difficult to achieve with conventional training.

It’s also a good idea to learn about the different frequencies used, as this is relevant in relation to the benefits of electrostimulation.

Very low frequencies

They produce relaxation of muscle fibers, activate circulation, and promote the secretion of endorphins.

Low frequencies

They activate the slow-twitch muscle fibers or type I. They are the ones that give you endurance and the ones that work the most in aerobic exercise.

Intermediate frequencies

They specifically stimulate fast-twitch or type II fibers, which are involved in both aerobic and anaerobic exercise.

High frequencies

They exert their effect on type IIb fast-twitch muscle fibers, which are used in anaerobic and explosive muscle work of high intensity and short duration, like HIIT workouts.

Can I use electrostimulation every day?

There’s no definite answer, as you have to take several factors into account. The most important thing is to keep in mind that the body needs periods of training and rest to be able to adapt to the modifications produced by the electrical impulse. What’s more, it’s not always a good idea to subject tissues to a higher than usual or sustained blood flow.

The recommendation is to stick to a schedule of two or three sessions per week of no more than one hour each. The reason is that the use of this equipment makes your muscles work at maximum capacity, and you may feel the after effects of this effort for up to 72 hours.

Your trainer or physical therapist will always have the last word, but we can give you some general guidelines for specific cases. Sessions aimed at rehabilitating an injury can be done several times a day. In the cervical region, you need to be more careful, and the sessions will be once a day, two or three times a week.

Who can’t use electrodes?

As we will see below, this form of complementary training has specific contraindications, like pregnancy and some pathologies. On the other hand, people with skin conditions like burns, wounds, or a rash should refrain from placing the electrodes on the affected area until it has healed.

What happens if you put the electrodes in the wrong place?

In this case, what may happen is that the electrotherapy won’t have the desired effect because the electrical impulse is administered in the wrong place and with a low intensity. The stimulus may also be excessive, which has several consequences. One of them is that the overstimulation of the muscle tissue may cause stiffness that persists for several days. The other is that if you receive excessive stimulation of your nervous system, you may suffer from insomnia.

When to train with electrical muscle stimulation

Anyone who wishes to enjoy the benefits of electrostimulation can do so. The goal is to complement your conventional workouts to achieve muscle mass gain, better tone, and more strength or to achieve muscle hypertrophy. It is suitable for people who are in a rehabilitation program, with the purpose of improving the function of weak or injured muscles. This recourse is also convenient when you want to accelerate your weight loss if you are following a personalized diet and exercise plan.

However, it’s important that you have a medical examination. This will help rule out illnesses that may relatively or absolutely limit the use of this method, in case you suffer from something you don’t know you have.

When NOT to train: Contraindications of electrostimulation

Here, we have two aspects to consider: the use of a device that generates an electrical impulse and the consequent effort obtained. As we have already mentioned, the use of electrical stimulation is not allowed with some illnesses and, on the other hand, certain situations limit its use, so you should know what these are.

Pregnancy

The drawback in this case is that the electrical impulses may endanger the fetus. Additionally, the increased blood supply to the muscle areas activated by the electrical impulses may deplete the placental blood supply, which alters fetal metabolism.

However, you can use electrostimulation training after pregnancy to regain your figure and strengthen the pelvic floor.

Neurological diseases

Although this technology has proven useful in improving the symptoms and quality of life of people suffering from multiple sclerosis, its use in other types of pathologies of the nervous system is not recommended. The final decision will depend on the severity of the clinical condition and the opinion of the treating physician.

Injuries 

As mentioned earlier, acute skin conditions, like abrasions, burns or wounds, limit the use of electrodes until they’ve healed. If the condition is generalized, like an extensive rash, its use is not recommended.

There is one specific location where electrodes should never be placed, and that is on the side or front of the neck. The reason is that muscle contraction in this area may lead to injury. In cases of abdominal or inguinal hernia, or abdominal wall separation, the contraction of the abdominal muscles may aggravate the condition.

Some specific diseases and pathologies

The specific conditions for which this training method is contraindicated are a relatively long list. Read it carefully so that you know what the problem is in each case.

Diabetes

While moderate exercise is beneficial for blood sugar levels, there are two limiting factors. One of them is diabetic neuropathy, which reduces the sensitivity of the neurons in the extremities. This makes it difficult to control muscle activity. On the other hand, intense exercise can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar. Diabetic patients should carefully limit electrostimulation training, but the contraindication is relative.

Hemophilia

The problem in this case is that people with this hereditary disease need treatment with clotting factors to prevent bleeding. Irritation of the vascular wall may cause them to hemorrhage.

Epilepsy

The cause of this disease is that there is an area of unstable electrical activity in the cerebral cortex. EMS may irritate it and cause seizures. In people suffering from inflammatory joint diseases, this method may trigger a reactivation of the pathological process.

People with pacemakers

This device is placed in the chest to generate electrical impulses that replace the usual, altered heartbeat. The electrical impulse from EMS may interfere with this treatment, causing an arrhythmia. This is more risky when using the electrostimulation suit.

High blood pressure

This is a relative contraindication, as only isometries and periods of apnea should be avoided.

Cardiac and inflammatory pathologies

Heart disease weakens the myocardium and the increased muscle activity generated by the use of this equipment may overload the organ.

Severe or acute circulatory problems

Its use is limited in cases of varicose veins, as it is possible that the diseased vein may become more voluminous as a result of the procedure.

Acute infections or fever

The increased blood supply to the electrically stimulated areas may cause the infection to spread.

Blood clots

If there is a history of blood clots or deep vein thrombosis, its use is not recommended. The reason is that the stimulus on the circulation may cause a clot to break off and cause a blockage in another part of the body. This is one of the most important contraindications of electrostimulation to bear in mind.

Conclusion

Electrostimulation is an effective training method, thanks to its numerous advantages. However, in certain cases its use should be limited or strongly discouraged. It is very important that you know when to limit the use of this technology. If you subscribe to our blog, you will learn more about these and other interesting topics. Don’t miss out!

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