How does Electrical Muscle Stimulation work?

We know roughly the results that we obtain in our muscles with a standard sport's training, but those same benefits and probably better results can come if you inform yourself on how does electrical muscle stimulation work.

This technique uses electrical current to cause a muscle contraction. Using a device called EMS unit,  muscle contractions are used to treat and/or train muscles, looking for a therapeutic purpose or improve their performance. The key points of this type of therapy are:
  • Electrical muscle stimulation improves your muscle strength and helps you recover injuries.
  • Replaces your nerve impulses with electrical impulses.
  • It gives you the option of selecting either stimulus type and number of repetitions; all depending on your goals.
  • Use with care: this therapy has advantages, but also drawbacks.
So what is electrical muscle stimulation (EMS)? Just as its name implies: it is a training technique based on the use of electric current to generate muscle contractions. Therefore causing out the ordinary over-stimulation that cause useful adaptations in the body.

This technique is not new: used in medicine and rehabilitation for many years. In principle aimed to atrophied muscles recovering from injury, but has gradually evolved to also be used in cosmetic and sport medicine. Where does it come? USSR; it was already used in the eighties to improve muscle strength. It has also been used to reduce spasticity and muscle atrophy or decrease pain. 
To understand how electrical muscle stimulation works  versus nervous stimulation, you would need to compare it with your voluntary muscle actions. In a voluntary action, your central nervous system sends a message in the form of electrical stimulation to the motor plate that is in your muscle and it contracts (your muscle moves). Electrical muscle stimulation does the equivalent action but does it directly on your muscle, the stimulus goes directly to your motor plate and achieves the same result, the contraction of a muscle. Simple, practical and direct.
The electrical impulse has its own characteristics, if you change any of them then you will have different impulses. Please note some important factors: 

Pulse frequency is the number of times the pulse per second (Hz) is repeated. You can change it:

  • Between 1-10Hz: is relaxing and increases your circulation and endorphin segregation.
  • Between 90-150Hz: improves explosive, reactive and elastic strength.

Contraction time and rest: it has a direct relation with the pulse frequency. The more pulse frequency the less contraction duration, and the opposite for low frequencies. You can use contractions from 1-5s to 10-30s. The time off has to do with your muscle recovery: the higher the frequency the longer your resting times will be and the contrary for low frequencies. 

Number of repetitions: is your overall workload and is different depending on your goal in each session. If your goal is... 

  • Endurance: up to 200 repetitions 
  • Strength endurance: 60-100 repetitions 
  • Maximum Strength: 30-50 reps 
  • Explosive strength: 20-40 reps 
Intensity: only influences during the treatment application. It is expressed in mA. It depends on how many muscle fibers perform the treatment.
It is also relevant to take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of this electric therapy.
  • You get higher muscular activation than with just your voluntary muscle contractions.
  • Your nervous systems foes feel exhausted and can co more repetitions than normal training.
  • Muscle tension is maintain for longer periods of time.
  • You gain more muscle mass in less time by doing a higher work load.
  • It doesn't exercise your metabolic system or your coordination.
  • It doesn't produce any cardiovascular adaptations.
  • You have a slight risk of muscle injury on the outer layers of the skin as your natural defense mechanism is inhibited.
Not all EMS equipment  is the same or do their job equally. The importance of the type of wave, duration and frequency is essential when obtaining satisfactory results and guaranteeing its safety. All EMS units sold at Discount Medical Supplies, ensure compliance with these technical requirements and security on their devices.

Related Read: What parts of the body does the EMS 5.0 benefit?