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Electronic Muscle Stimulator (EMS) Training for Athletes

muscle-stimulatorHave you ever come across pictures of models like Ashley Graham or entrepreneur Hannah Bronfman on popular social media platforms like Instagram? If so, maybe you’ve observed them or other athletes wearing futuristic suits with wires attached to their muscles. Maybe you’ve even heard about the newest workout activity that requires your muscles to become “shocked” into working. You could have even visited a physical therapy center where they already make use of Electronic Muscle Stimulators (EMS). Or maybe you have never heard of this jargon, but now you're intrigued. If so, read on to find out what EMS training is all about.

A brief description of Electronic Muscle Stimulators (EMS)

In layman’s terms, Electronic Muscle Stimulators, often shortened as EMS, is a tool used by physical therapists to aid the recovery of athletes from issues like weakness or muscular inhibition as a result of pain, immobilization or swelling.

For instance, in cases where a patient has undergone knee surgery, they may have a high tendency to experience weak quads in the future. In such cases, EMS is recommended as it involuntarily activates or wakes up these weakened quads. With this, the patient will be saved from totally losing the muscle mass or from the quads functioning as normal.

However, fitness experts and boutique workout aficionados have continued to buzz around with the kind of workouts that incorporate the technology of electronic muscle stimulators. EMS involves transferring electrical impulses to the muscles in order to facilitate the recruitment of more muscle fibers. Therefore, leading to a sporadic increase in the intensity of the strength training routine. 

With EMS, there is a high probability that you’ll work more muscles while also improving your overall fitness in a relatively shorter period. And yes, this is one of the reasons why many professional athletes are now attached to it.

Whether you have developed some curiosity about EMS itself or you find yourself unsure of the whole trend, here are a few of the things you need to know about EMS training for athletes.

Reasons Why Athletes Needs to Adopt EMS Technology into their workout routines

Here, we’ll be revealing a few reasons why the entire sporting community, which comprises of both recreational and competitive sports should look to incorporate EMS technology into their workout routines and training.

Research has Proven the Effectiveness of EMS

Numerous positive results from those who have tried the EMS training for strength enhancement and have seen overall improvements in their performances have necessitated the support for the use of EMS. Like many other training tools, optimum results are usually recorded when it is used appropriately. Some of the factors that contribute to its appropriate use include frequency, specific settings, timings, as well as the entire volume of work.

For Electronic Muscle Stimulators, you should have individual goals and objectives. Whenever this technology is properly integrated into their daily physical therapy with well-designed conventional training, athletes tend to record maximized improvements and benefits.

One such study on the effect of EMS training on volleyball practice and jumping ability, published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research in 2003, showed that there was indeed an improvement recorded when the aim was to improve vertical jump ability 

Another similar study, this time focused on the physical performance of Ice Hockey players, again showed a significant enhancement of isokinetic strength and short skating performance, as published in the Performance Expertise Center at the University of Burgundy in Dijon, France.


Screenshot of the “Electrostimulation Training Effects on the Physical Performance of Ice Hockey Players” research paper by Julien Gondin et al.

EMS Ensures a Clean and Complete Muscle Contraction

With an Electrical Muscle Stimulator, there is an increased tendency of contraction in a group of muscles more cleanly and completely than by lifting regular weights. EMS is a technology that bypasses the direct efforts of the muscle to achieve a complete muscle contraction. This is particularly relevant when you are on a mission to target fast-twitch muscle fibers, and you can even meet your target with the accurate stimulation frequency.

If you have depended on EMS as a sole method of eliciting strength gains in your muscles, there is absolute certainty that you’ll achieve an effective muscle contraction, albeit with the right amount of current. This is more effective when compared with rigorous training for three consecutive times per week.

EMS works at its peak when integrated with the usual training routine that requires a component of coordination for a more effective transfer of training adaptation. By incorporating EMS sessions with the regular voluntary training in the appropriate proportion, there is no doubt that you’ll achieve the best results.

EMS Helps to Facilitate Recovery

In tight situations where it might be difficult for the athlete to implement the recovery and regeneration protocols as a result of time constraints, Electrical Muscle Stimulation is considered the best tool for the job.

Effective recovery and regeneration protocols that stimulate the circulatory mechanisms within the body help to bring about a more complete and expedient recovery. Optimally, tempo running might be implemented by an athlete, whereas activities like swimming or stationary bike intervals can speed up the recovery rates. Since not all situations are optimal, other tools could aid the recovery.

Is Electrical Muscle Stimulator Safe for Athletes?

Let’s face the truth; not all EMS devices are completely safe. However, if you are receiving EMS treatment from a certified physical therapist, then you shouldn’t be worried as they are probably using a device that is approved by the FDA. Consequently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reported several cases of burns, bruises, shocks, pains, and skin irritation, specifically from unregulated EMS devices.

Since EMS involves the use of electricity, there is a high probability that the cables or wires, if not handled properly, could result in electrocution. So, you are left to do your own research and make inquiries about the kind of EMS device the gym or trainer is using.

In addition to that, EMS isn’t recommended for everyone. People with defibrillators or pacemakers shouldn’t make any attempt to use EMS. More so, pregnant women, nursing mothers, and epilepsy patients shouldn’t try using EMS at all. This is because there is no credible evidence that supports the safety of those categories of individuals. However, if you are unsure of your eligibility to use EMS, you should try speaking to your doctor or physical therapist.

As an athlete should I be using an EMS machine?

Electrical Muscle Stimulation offers numerous possibilities of support for muscle development and improvement. No matter the level of performance you are at the point of using EMS as an athlete, electrostimulation can be tailored to your individual needs and requirements. Therefore, your performance is improved in addition to conventional training.