Any fitness programme should include Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS) as an efficient way to passively workout and reduce stiffness. The best minds in sports performance all agree that EMS is a precious tool for those who combine physical training and optimal diet to achieve high levels of performance.
The Big Five Reasons why you should use EMS are because of the general increase in STRENGTH, POWER, ENDURANCE, AGILITY and SPEED
One – Strength
Research has proved that EMS works. Positive results support the use of EMS for strength enhancement and performance gains. Like any training tool, you will achieve optimal results when using the technology appropriately in terms of specific settings, timings, frequency, and overall volume of work. In cases where EMS did not produce performance gains in trained athletes, the researchers did not use the technology appropriately in conjunction with a well-organized training program. This is the key. Simply slapping on the pads and turning up the current is not enough. You must have clear goals and objectives for EMS, as well as a plan for how and when to use the technology.
Coaches maximize EMS benefits when they integrate the units with well-planned conventional training. Many research studies say the use of EMS alone, at best, provides the same benefit as voluntary training; that EMS is no better than regular training methods. Because EMS requires no central nervous system input, it will not fatigue the brain of an already over-taxed athlete. The combination of conventional training and EMS provides a significant advantage over either method alone because the cumulative effect of both methods provides a boosted training scenario with less energy cost to the athlete. This is a win-win proposition, especially if the stresses of life and training over-stimulate an athlete’s nervous system.
To maximize EMS benefits, use EMS in combination with conventional training, not instead of it.
Two – Power
EMS delivers a clean, complete muscle contraction.
Accumulated stress—both physical and psychological—can not only create excessive fatigue , but also interfere with users’ thought processes and autonomic signals within their brains and bodies. If we rely solely on voluntary strength training to prepare athletes, we are selling them short. Using an EMS, an athlete can contract a muscle group more completely and cleanly than by lifting weights. EMS bypasses the “noise” and works directly on the muscle to get a complete contraction. This is particularly important when targeting fast-twitch muscle fiber, which you can preferentially target with the correct stimulation frequency to achieve greater physical power.
While EMS will give athletes a more effective muscle contraction than conventional training, it shouldn’t be the exclusive means of strength training unless you’re dealing with a rehab or joint wear-and-tear scenario. Combine EMS with a conventional training program for the best results.
If you plan to use EMS as a sole means of eliciting strength gains in muscle, you can be certain you will get a more effective muscle contraction—albeit using an appropriate amount of current—than when training three times per week. However, we do not recommend that you rely exclusively on EMS for your strength training unless you are using it for rehabilitation purposes, or you are trying to reduce wear-and-tear on a specific joint structure. EMS works best when integrated with a conventional training program that requires a coordination component for more efficient transfer of the training adaptation. You will achieve the best results by supplementing conventional voluntary training with EMS sessions in proper proportions, supported by general conditioning and recovery.
Three – Endurance
Using EMS makes us more intelligent coaches and rehabilitation professionals. Not only does the use of EMS make us think more about the recruitment characteristics of skeletal muscle, but it also helps us to diagnose problems related to fatigue and injury in both the peripheral and central nervous systems. When an Olympic athlete suffered a significant knee injury, voluntary strength training was not restoring the atrophied quadriceps muscle. In essence, the athlete’s brain was not allowing the muscles to contribute fully to the movement of the knee joint in basic squatting and pulling motions. Because the message from brain to muscle was not getting through, inhibition was dominating the program.
When an Olympic athlete had a significant knee injury, voluntary strength training wasn’t successfully restoring the atrophied quadriceps muscle. EMS help contract the muscle, with the amount of current needed diminishing over time as the athlete can be able to reintegrate increasing amounts of conventional exercise back into his training sessions and improving his endurance.
A muscle injury damages the connections between mind and body and thus disrupts the brain. EMS helps to repair those connections and work through the inhibitions created by the brain’s self-imposed protective mechanisms.
EMS helps restore and enhance the connections between the brain and the body that are disrupted by fatigue and injury.
In cases of both fatigue and injury, the signals between the brain and the body are easily disrupted. EMS can not only restore, but also enhance those connections. Additionally, EMS can help assess the neuromuscular system by monitoring the amount of current required to contract the muscles in question. As the neuromuscular system improved through the rehabilitation process, less and less current was required to attain a full contraction. Monitoring the levels of intensity on the EMS unit can show the progress of muscle rehab (and the central nervous system) in injured states.
Four – Agility
EMS facilitates recovery. In tight schedules, when athletes might not have the time or energy to implement recovery and regeneration protocols, EMS is an extremely useful tool. Active recovery protocols that encourage circulatory mechanisms within the body help facilitate a more complete and expedient recovery.
When athletes have to travel, long waits in the airport—and long periods spent sitting on the airplane, bus, train, etc.—can lead to joint and muscle stiffness. EMS can help athletes stay supple and keep their bodies well-maintained when it comes to oxygen circulation, waste removal, and even getting a good night’s sleep.
EMS is effective in situations where athletes must travel. Long trips and waits in airports can be not only exhausting, but can also lead to the stiffening of muscles and joints. If athletes perform periodic recovery protocols with an EMS unit, they can keep their bodies supple and well-maintained, in terms of oxygen circulation and the removal of waste products. Athletes report feeling significantly better after using the EMS unit on their trip, and some sleep better when they arrive at their destination.
It is also important to note that athletes using maximal strength, power, and speed protocols with EMS have reported feeling more recovered the next day in terms of muscle relaxation and joint mobility, feeling agile and light.
EMS has the ability to essentially reset muscle tone and provide athletes with not only the means to contract muscle more efficiently, but also to relax and de-contract muscle more effectively. This benefit is critical in explosive cyclical movements, such as sprinting, where the nervous system is required to contract and de-contract muscle in a very short amount of time, at very high speeds. EMS can help these athletes minimize muscle stiffness, cramping, and general peripheral fatigue.
Five – Speed
Current portable EMS devices are exceptionally convenient. The first EMS devices was a large device that fit in a medium-sized suitcase. EMS devices now are slightly bigger than a smartphone and can pack a pretty good punch. The portability of the devices, combined with easy-to-use adhesive electrodes, make them a strength training and recovery tool that you can carry in your pocket. As mentioned previously, the travel benefits of EMS are obvious. Having one in every athlete’s gym bag is an obvious solution for getting that extra edge, particularly if you don’t have an entourage of support staff to help you with recovery and massage.
The ease of transport is equivalent to the speed in the results if matched with a proper diet and proper physical training.
EMS can have a decisive impact in the recovery process after muscle trauma, rehabilitation after an accident or simply to increase our performance by helping to build the muscles, and therefore reduce the duration of the therapy or programme.
EMS can even allow people who suffered from a stroke to practise a physical activity in limbs which they completely lost control of to eventually regain muscle control and voluntary movements.