EMS Workout 101
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of years, you will probably have come across images of people decked out in a strange-type suit with wiring and electrodes attached.
No, this is not some AI driven, Lara Croft-like female fantasy figure, but the Electro Muscle stimulation (EMS) suit fitted with built-in electrodes targeting and stimulating specific muscles while you exercise. And with the science behind the technology illustrating how just 20mins of ‘EMS fitness’ is equivalent to, for some body types, an intense full body workout, even the most gym devoted are switching from treadmills to the strange suits.
So, what exactly is EMS and what can you expect from a workout session?
EMS machines actually first came about years ago - used by physical therapists to increase blood flow to an area and help reduce muscle damage to an injury. However, EMS fitness workouts are a new concept.
Expect to feel small sensations as you move through exercises with a trainer on hand – as the electric current causes the targeted muscles to contract. According to certified EMS trainers, “EMS is the practice of delivering tiny pulses of electricity to the muscle while working out. These contractions mimic the body's natural muscle contractions after brain stimulation to elevate the training's intensity. This training method aims to fortify the muscle strength of the targeted muscle groups.”
With standard circuit training exercises, squats and lunges, given thrice the intensity when done attached to EMS, it is easy to see why it’s gaining such a devoted following. All you need do is take 20 minutes in a lunchbreak or after work attached up to the electrodes and you can have a guilt-free evening out after.
What does the science behind EMS tell us?
EMS engages slow-twitch and fast twitch muscles fibres, sending electrical pulses every 2-3 seconds. Slow-twitch muscle fibres contract and tire slowly; they are responsible for supporting muscle strength and endurance. Fast-twitch muscle fibres contract quickly but require lots of energy and tire quickly as well. Electric muscle stimulation helps promote blood flow, sending oxygen to muscles while also flushing out lactic acids that can cause muscle soreness.
Since electrical muscle stimulation overrides the central nervous system, it helps speed up muscle contraction, strengthen muscles, improve muscle endurance and support faster muscle recovery. Also, electric muscle stimulation treatments, when applied correctly and consistently, help enhance overall fitness performance including increased explosiveness, strength endurance and recovery.
Whilst EMS fitness is certainly proving popular as a ‘workout,’ with followers finding benefits in strengthening, toning and firming muscles, to clarify, there is no proven study or research into the long-term improvements of your health and fitness through EMS.
However, research does show that it activates over 90% of your muscle fibres, whilst you are training, and pushes your fast powerful fibres harder than the majority of regular training methods. So, you get a large training stimulus with only 20 minutes of exercise. Therefore, if you use e-stimulation in tandem with movement and weight, you will see better results than if you did the workout alone.
An EMS Fitness workout will keep your body engaged for up to 72 hours after your session and targets around 400 muscles simultaneously.