Electro Muscle Stimulation

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In the era of advanced technology, regular exercise is no longer an option for certain individuals. This can be due to injury, time constraints or lack of willpower. EMS training provides an existing alternative to address these factors.

EMS (Electro Muscle Stimulation) is the process by which muscle contraction is generated through the application of an electrical current directly into the muscle fibre (Godin et al, 2005). This is done by passing small amounts of electricity through electrodes that are placed on key areas of the body. These areas are specific to gross motor movement (large movements of the body).

What is EMS used for?

In the early days of EMS, it was predominately used for strengthening muscles that have been injured or damaged. Because the EMS machines produce the current needed for the muscle to contract, the main aim was to decrease the degeneration of muscle fibers in paralyzed patients (Hurtado, 2002). Later on, scientists realized that normal muscles can also be strengthened through the use of EMS training.

EMS Training

How does EMS work?

Muscle fibers in the human body contract by means of electrical signals generated by the brain. These electrical signals are known as action potentials. Action potentials travel through neural pathways throughout the body. The pathways originate in the brain and make their way to the muscles. With EMS training, these pathways are “bypassed” by introducing electrical current directly into the muscle fibers. Contraction is therefore involuntary and occasionally stronger than voluntary contractions (Snyder-mackler, 1995).

What is the benefit of EMS?

The goal of EMS is to increase the amount of muscle fibre contractions within a given exercise. More contractions equal more metabolic expenditure. Benefits will include increase in strength, greater muscle fibre recruitment and increase in blood flow to specific areas (Curry & Mann, 2005). Contrary to TV adverts, one cannot simply wear the suit while sitting on the couch and watching a movie. For the results to be clearly seen it is necessary that movement be added into the equation. Training whilst wearing an EMS suit is not like doing normal exercises in the gym. Movements are slower and more controlled. On occasion it is necessary to counteract the contraction generated by the EMS machine. In our sessions we use elastic bands, dumbbells and tennis balls as exercise equipment to achieve this.

How does the EMS suit work?

The EMS suit is comprised of elastic bands that are placed around the body. They are firmly fastened with Velcro straps. Within the bands are the electrodes that pass the electrical current to the skin (Hurtado, 2002). For hygiene purposes each client wears cotton tights and a top. Therefore, the electrodes are never in direct contact with the skin. To increase the conductivity, it is necessary for the electrodes to be wet before training starts. Mildly warm water is used for this.

Who can do EMS training?

EMS training can be done with almost any person, except if you are not pregnant or have any form of contra-indications. The intensity of each electrode is manually adjusted until moderate muscle contractions can be seen, or to the comfort level of the person training. If done correctly, EMS training is not painful in any way and can be a pleasurable sensation. Suits come in various sizes and can be made to fit any body shape or size.

Article Credit : Sports Scientis, Willem Landman.

References:

Gondin, J., Guette, M., Ballay, Y. and Martin, A., 2005. Electro Muscle stimulation training effects on neural drive and muscle architecture. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise37(8), pp.1291-1299.

Hurtado, A.F., 2002. Device for administrating electro-muscle stimulation and method of use. U.S. Patent 6,341,237.

Snyder-Mackler, L., Delitto, A., Bailey, S.L. and Stralka, S.W., 1995. Strength of the quadriceps femoris muscle and functional recovery after reconstruction of the anterior cruciate ligament. A prospective, randomized clinical trial of electrical stimulation. JBJS77(8), pp.1166-1173.

Currier, D.P. and Mann, R., 1983. Muscular strength development by electrical stimulation in healthy individuals. Physical therapy63(6), pp.915-921.