If you’ve ever wanted to reap the benefits of strength training without spending endless hours at the gym, you can now get the same results in 15-minute sessions with electrical muscle stimulation (EMS). It’s more than just a fad, with many renowned physical therapists and fitness moguls vouching for the effectiveness of this buzzworthy muscle strengthener.
While incorporating bursts of electricity into your workout regimen may sound painful, it can do wonders for achieving the fitness results you seek. If you’re new to EMS, this guide will tell you everything you need to know about how it can improve your fitness routine.
What is EMS?
Electrical muscle stimulation incorporates electrical impulses to elicit muscle contractions. To achieve this, EMS machines directly stimulate the motor neurons.
These stimulations often occur in a pulsed setting, either quick and frequent or fast with long pauses. The body recruits more muscle fibers through this setting, causing them to contract faster when performing a rep.
How Does EMS Work?
When undergoing EMS, technicians apply the electrodes using sticky pads or vests. The pulses are not painful, though they may feel “hard,” as if you are “walking through mud.” This sensation occurs because pulses function as a type of resistance.
Technicians typically apply EMS in a therapy setting, loosening tight muscles so they can recover. As part of a workout routine, EMS helps to stimulate weak muscles and improve their range of motion.
In addition, unlike in physical therapy, technicians apply fitness-forward EMS to larger areas of the body instead of a specific part. They are most effective when applied to low-impact exercises.
Who Should Try EMS?
Traditionally, EMS is most applicable to people with neuromuscular issues such as multiple sclerosis. People with spinal cord injuries can also benefit significantly from EMS, as it allows the muscles to exert more effort into simple movements.
Most therapists also recommend EMS for athletes with ACL injuries, allowing them to recover and enhance their workouts.
That said, developments in EMS technology and the science of fitness make it a viable addition to workouts for a broader set of people. It’s gone from being a tool for rehabilitation to a great new form of exercise.
Where to Try EMS
Nowadays, EMS training is more accessible than it was before. There are two settings where you can try EMS—at a studio and home.
At a Gym
Depending on where you live, some studios will come equipped with EMS tools and employ a specialized trainer. These specialists can moderate your exposure to the machine and help you achieve its maximum benefits.
Not to mention, the right EMS studios will be equipped with FDA-approved machinery. When signing up for a session, don’t hesitate to inquire about what equipment you can expect to see.
While you can purchase an EMS machine for use at home, we recommend doing so under the supervision of a professional trainer with EMS experience. Especially if you have never used an EMS machine before, undergoing training with the help of a professional fitness coach can prevent injury and help you achieve your intended results.
What to Expect When Training with EMS
Most EMS training programs occur over a long period, with the minimum being five weeks. If you are undergoing EMS training for the first time, here is what you can expect and how you can use it to maximize results.
One to Two Weeks
Before heading into your first session, your trainer will likely perform an interview regarding your medical history and current health. If you are clear to engage in EMS training, a professional will get your measurements and fit you with a vest.
Your trainer will fit you into a vest with straps around your glutes, arms, and legs on your first session. Expect the initial shock to feel like pins and needles as you go through exercises like squats, lunges, and curls.
Depending on how you react to the impulses, your trainer will dial up the voltage—or lower it.
Expect to feel muscle burn after each exercise for the first two weeks. At this point, you’ll also start to feel more toned.
Three to Four Weeks
Your trainer will likely start to amp up your workouts in your third and fourth weeks of EMS training. Expect to incorporate additional metabolic training like HIIT (high-intensity interval training) and other cardio-based exercises.
Throughout these more fast-paced exercises, your pulse may also change. Instead of deeper, slower pulses from the EMS machine, your trainer might switch you to quicker vibrations.
At this point, you may start to see some definition in the abdominal muscles.
Five to Six Weeks
During the fifth and sixth weeks of EMS training, expect to feel more energetic throughout your daily regimen. If you suffer from lower back pain, increased strength in your core muscles will help eliminate any discomfort.
You’ll also find it easier to perform specific exercises that you might’ve previously struggled with—these include squats, mountain climbers, shadow boxing, and other similar routines.
Does EMS Training Work?
Ultimately, EMS training can do wonders for enhancing your workout routine by:
- Making difficult tasks more manageable
- Speeding up recovery
- Preventing injury
- Avoiding muscular imbalances
Most EMS enthusiasts claim that you can achieve the results of a 90-minute workout in just 15 to 20 minutes! Circuit training alone can have two to three times its usual effects when hooked up to an EMS machine.
While you can still meet your fitness goals without it, EMS training is highly effective for people on a tight budget who may have trouble with weight loss or muscle building. As long as you work with a professional and don’t overexert your body, you can achieve impressive strength gains in just five to six weeks.
The Bottom Line
As with any exercise, it’s best to walk into an EMS session with the right expectations. Also, never purchase your own equipment without first consulting with a medical professional. EMS can make for a positive experience and excellent workout regimen with the correct electrical dose and guidance.
When it comes to fitness, we at We202 believe in working smarter, not harder. If you’re looking to shed a few pounds, get toned, increase your metabolism, or relieve body pain, book a session with our trainers today!