Electrical muscle stimulation training has hit London by storm, with little studios popping up all over the place. So what is this new popular phenomenon of being hooked up to electrodes and having small electric pulses going into your muscles? Is it safe? And should you give it a go?
What is Electrical Stimulation Training (EMS) and how does it work?
EMS training is performed through small electrodes that are placed against your clothes or skin, small electrical impulses are then sent to your muscles which mimic the action of the central nervous system, activating the muscles and contracting them in the same way, but using external impulses. These impulses reach deep muscle layers, which are harder to activate though normal training. The effect of the impulses causes the muscles to work harder than they would in a conventional training session but with much less work completed.
EMS training has been used by many athletes for years, however, only recently has it hit London by storm because of the ease of the sessions with city professionals – you are done and dusted in 20 minutes and your muscles have done a workout that you would have completed in an hour. But do you get the same results?
Studies have shown that EMS training can slightly increase muscle mass faster than conventional training – although this is very much debated. Some companies suggest that EMS training can increase fat loss faster but studies have shown that actually there is not a significant difference between the rate of fat loss in EMS training and conventional training.
What to expect:
I had a couple of great sessions with Exerceo in Moorgate and Canary Warf. When you arrive you are given a cotton top and leggings to change into and then a suit is put over the top with wet pads so that the conduction of the electrical current is stronger. You are then shown the machine and you are able to choose the intensity of the electric current to different areas or your body. You can therefore focus on a specific area to target by increasing the % in that area and reducing the % in other areas. If your keen to grow the booty and not the biceps you can specify that.
The trainer explained the timings of 9 seconds of exercise followed by 4 seconds of rest when the impulses stopped. I was shown the exercises I was to perform and then the electrical impulses started and it really was the strangest sensation – a sort of all over buzz! I started performing my exercises – it was SO much tougher than performing the exercises without the impulses.
I was taken through a range of exercises, body weight and lightly weighted – squats to shoulder press, lunges, plank, crunches. The trainer continuously asked if I was feeling the pulses and where I was feeling it less he would increase it - continuously feeding back and encouraging me for 20 lengthy minutes!
Never in my life, did I think, I would get so sweaty and out of breath from some body weighted squats and a 2kg dumbbell shoulder press! I felt great after the workout - 20 minutes of very low impact work but I felt like I had exercised for hours! To my surprise I didn’t feel it as much as I expected to the following day.
The next week when I has another session I ramped up the intensity of the impulses and wow could I feel it – it had me sore for days. Showing that something was certainly working my muscles differently from how I would normally work them with my conventional weight training, HIIT cardio or running.
I can see the attraction in EMS training for those that don’t have the time to get to the gym for an hour in the evening - this workout is done and dusted in 30 minutes including changing time.
Is EMS training safe?
The systems are regulated, however, all electrical systems come with their risks, the most frequent one for EMS training is; Turning the impulses up too high causes the muscles to become too tense which can cause muscle tears, these tears take a considerable time to recover – this may show in the form of VERY sever DOMS – lasting for 1-2 weeks. Don’t perform your EMS workout in pain, lower the impulses if it becomes painful.
It’s hard to find studies that look into EMS training over a longer period of time and the effects it will have on your body, but if you are going to go once or twice a week for a short period of time there have not been any reported serious side effects.
Summarising EMS Training and Should You Be Doing it?
If you’re very short of time to workout and 30 minutes twice a week is all you have, it is certainly worth having a go. Studies have found that it may help build muscles faster than conventional training. What I would say is, for full benefits make sure you crank it up and don’t be fooled into thinking you will drop fat and gain rock hard abs from it!
One thing to note with EMS training is that your recovery time may be longer and therefore it may interfere with your other methods of training, so be aware of this.
Hope this has been useful and you have enjoyed learning a little more about EMS training, as always drop me a message if you have any questions!