Could electrical muscle stimulation take your workout next level?

Electrical muscle stimulation training promises big results in less time than traditional exercise. So what is this trending workout, and does it really work?

Regular exercise is important for good health, but sometimes it can be difficult to find time for a quality workout.

Electrical muscle stimulation training uses electrical current to stimulate the nerve endings that innervate muscle beneath the skin and is used to improve muscle strength and tone.

The attraction of electrical muscle stimulation training is it can achieve similar results to a traditional strength workout, in less time, with some research suggesting it may be as effective and time-efficient as a HIIT workout.

So how does electrical muscle stimulation training work?

Wearing an electrostimulation suit, electrodes delivering mid-frequency electrical impulses are placed around the body, forcing the muscles to contract when stimulated.

“The technology now allows us to… stimulate your muscles at a maximum potential,” 20V fitness studio head trainer Byron Kruger tells The House of Wellness TV.

“We usually contract up to about 40 per cent of our muscle’s potential, but now the device is allowing us to tap into 90 per cent activation.

“So, we don’t need any resistance from weight, we’re using an impulse to stimulate those muscles.”

One of the benefits of an electrical muscle stimulation workout is how efficient it is.

Byron says just one to two regular sessions per week will provide results.

“The science shows us that 20 minutes of (a) 20V training session is equivalent to four hours in the gym of conventional weight training,” he says.

“What’s happening is your muscles are working against each other and getting them to involuntarily contract so we don’t need any resistance from weight, we’re using an impulse system to activate those muscles.”

Does electrical muscle stimulation training really work?

Edith Cowan University exercise and sport science expert Dr Krissy Kendall says those who see the biggest benefit of electrical muscle stimulation are people who cannot voluntarily contract their own muscles due to physical ailments.

But Dr Kendall says for healthy people there is no conclusive evidence electrical muscle stimulation is better than a traditional workout.

“There is a bit of discrepancy or disagreement between whether or not it’s truly beneficial for those (healthy) individuals,” Dr Kendall says.

What conditions can be treated with electrical muscle stimulation?

Electrical muscle stimulation can be used to treat people suffering from spinal cord injuries, stroke, cancer, COPD, chronic pain and some research suggests it may be a time effective way to enhance strength for athletes.

“Injured athletes would potentially benefit from using it in physical therapy as they can still activate specific muscle groups to maintain strength, but with a lower risk of muscular fatigue which may lead to further injury,” Dr Kendall says.

Is EMS safe?

While Dr Kendall says electrical muscle stimulation is safe, people should be aware the sensation can be uncomfortable – like experiencing a leg cramp, but this will depend on the intensity and frequency of the stimulation.

“To my knowledge, no one has ever died or has received an electrical shock … however, there are reports of muscle damage and muscle soreness following unaccustomed electrical muscle stimulation exercise,” she says.

Is electrical muscle stimulation better than the gym?

For those keen to pursue electrical muscle stimulation, Dr Kendall says it’s important to go to a specialist gym rather than using at home devices.

But even with the best equipment, it will still be difficult to replicate the benefits of a traditional workout.

“Electrical muscle stimulation has not been shown to decrease body fat or help you burn more calories, because you’re not actually expending enough energy doing that, your heart rate isn’t increasing and you’re not consuming more oxygen with EMS,” Dr Kendall says.

“I think if you are actually interested in getting your muscles stronger, going to the gym and lifting weights in the more traditional way is a far better option than electrical muscle stimulation.”

Written by Bryan Hoadley.