In the passed few days I've been noticing that there's been a lot of fuss on the Danish social media about EMS-training. Various people have been writing about how it's all false advertising, that it doesn't work, that it's a waste of money and that it cannot replace traditional training, etc.
I also agree that EMS-training does not replace traditional training, but I'll get more into that later. What amuses me about all these negative comments and updates is that none of them have actually tried EMS-training and, from what I can deduce, they haven't done proper research on the subject either. I personally find it quite odd that these people are so up-in-arms over a subject they know so little about. But hey, I'm all for expressing yourself and voicing your opinions. I just happen to prefer well-informed opinions, but call me odd, I guess.
I've written about EMS-training before and my first experience with it in a previous blog post. Below you'll find an excerpt from my post where I explain what EMS-training is and my experience at FitxpressDk - an Xbody EMS-training studio in the heart of Copenhagen.
"EMS stands for Electrical Muscle Stimulation which consists of electrical impulses that induce muscle contraction throughout the body. These electrical impulses mimic the same impulses that occur in our bodies when our central nervous system sends a message through our neurons to the muscles, brain, glands and other sensory receptors. So, essentially, EMS-training uses a natural way to train our muscles.
When you arrive at Fitxpress you are given a top and shorts to change into and then suited up in a state-of-the-art training suit that has electrodes placed over the large muscle groups. The electrodes in the suit have been fully soaked in water in order to facilitate the connection between the impulses and the muscles. The impulses come from a device that can run a variety of fitness programs depending on your fitness goals and physical condition. In other words, the trainer will design a program just for you and constantly regulate the intensity to make sure that you get the best workout for your level as safely as possible."
The 3 Keys Benefits to EMS-training
Now like I mentioned at the beginning of this blog post, I also believe that EMS-training cannot replace traditional training. I don't believe I have or the people from FitxpressDk have claimed that their product does that. However studies show that EMS-training can be a beneficial supplement to a proper training program combined with a healthy diet. So let's take a look, shall we?
EMS or, as it is also known, NMES (NeuroMuscular Electical Stimulation) has been around for decades in the medical and professional sports industry for rehabiliation purposes.
The electrical impulses allow the patient or athlete to train and stimulate a certain muscle group without inflicting any pressure or strain on the injured ligaments or joints. Naturally, traditional training would be better, but in some rehabiliation situations, traditional training is simply not an option at that point.
For injured athletes, EMS-training is used both on other muscle groups as well as the actual injured area in order to help them maintain their overall fitness level and to help them quickly recover from their injury.
The difference between the EMS treatment that has been used on patients and athletes, and the Xbody technology from a studio like FitxpressDk, is that the traditional EMS pads were only applied to one or two muscle groups at a time. With Xbody, they have crafted a suit that has electrodes on all the major muscle groups and it sends impulses to all of them at the same time.
EMS-training can be designed and integrated to fit your training phases and goals. Various sports disciplines around the world use EMS-training with their athletes for enhancing their strength, velocity, muscle recruitment and recovery.
I found an interesting article by Jimson Lee on SpeedEndurance.com that explains:
"For training, electrical muscle stimulation can provide greater contraction as compared to a normal voluntary contraction, up to 30% higher. Thus more muscles are being used. (i.e. more muscle fiber recruitment).
Another benefit of using the electronic stimulation in training is the order of muscle recruitment velocity. Normally, your body would use red fiber (slow twitch) first to do a specified movement, followed by white fiber (fast twitch) when needed. However, with EMS, the order is reversed with the white fibers activating first, thus this type of “muscle training” is beneficial for all speed, power and strength athletes."
I recommend reading the above mentioned article, as well as this article on T-Nation by Charlie Francis where he describes how he has used and cycled EMS-training for his athletes and other applications. Below is an excerpt from the latter article that addresses the use of EMS for recovery:
"Low intensity exercise has a positive effect not only on recovery from high intensity work but on the high intensity work itself. While high intensity exercise is anti- circulatory as it pumps up the muscles (restricting blood flow), low intensity exercise promotes circulation, which aids in nutrient transfer and hastens recovery.
Exercise of a low enough intensity will not lead to detrimental fiber type changes! In fact, the enhanced capillary density it creates leads to precisely the opposite effect! The enhanced capillary density raises the temperature around the motor neurons, lowering electrical resistance, allowing more fiber to take on the characteristics of fast twitch fiber in response to high intensity work."
Like I've said more than once in this blog post, I do not believe EMS-training can replace traditional training. No fitness concept or training can out-train a healthy, active lifestyle and diet. Period. You cannot expect EMS-training to be a magic wand solution and that you'll achieve the body of your dreams with just 2 sessions per week without putting an effort in to other aspects of your lifestyle.
I have been using EMS-training as a supplement to my own training program up to my competitons and I can only tell you my own personal results have been above and beyond what I expected. I also walked into FitxpressDk a complete skeptic and it wasn't until a few weeks into the trainings that I realized its positive effects on my own training and body.
I personally have felt that EMS-training helps me reach and work on those muscles that are my weak points. I can tell my EMS-trainer which muscle groups I wish to focus on and I can feel a world of pain and a difference in tone after a few sessions. And NO, I am not saying that EMS can target train an area. I am simply saying that it can help me focus on a muscle group that I feel is lagging and needs some extra attention.
However, I also want to point out, I am the type of person that asks my trainer to crank up the impulses because I love to feel the burn in my muscles and the sweat running down my brow. And according to some articles I've read (Charlie Francis' included) those TV-shop EMS-training devices do not deliver enough juice to deliver results and even if they did, most people rarely will crank it up to push their pain threshold to ultimately make a difference.
I think it is also important to mention that like with any type of training, weight-lifting included, results are more apparent with beginners versus a more trained individual - also known as "newbie gains".
In a nutshell, EMS-training does have its benefits and its applications whether you are a beginner, athlete or have an injury. What you need is a good EMS-trainer that can design a proper program for you that can compliment your current training routine and healthy diet.
I can understand if many are still skeptical of EMS, but all I can say is TRY IT BEFORE YOU KNOCK IT. ;-)
And that was my 2 cents on that matter. Thanks for listening!