The True Results of Electrostimulation
In the past two years, opening electrostimulation centers are experiencing a remarkable rise. Probably suits have special appeal to the public, and even the feeling of soreness experienced in the first session is created as a symptom of having trained much better than conventionally, but the reality is somewhat different from these perceptions.
What is electrostimulation?
Muscular electrostimulation (EMS) is to use electricity from a device for the involuntary contraction of the muscle fibers. Being a passive contraction, the central nervous system performs no active work for recruiting motor units in the area of application, beyond receive electrical stimulation.
Such an application area may be local or global, full-body (WB-EMS, by its initials in English), which is arousing more interest recently in electrostimulation centers.
Methods of using training applied can be grouped into:
- Isolated method: The EMS applies without exercise.
- Combined method: The EMS is applied while no exercise is done, but combined with conventional voluntary exercise (without EMS). That is, the two methods are used but at different times.
- Overlay method (image): voluntary exercise is done with EMS applied either through a suitor in any specific area.
Each of these methods has its specific application, but in case of injury is when better responding to any of the three, since as indicated, it could be an effective tool to combat the reduction in muscle mass and function observed in numerous conditions that lead to long bed rest.
Faced with this first contribution, Are most users of this type of injury? I do not think so.
They say it does
A reason for an average of 20$ per session, these are some results we would expect according to the centers that advertise:
- It works over 300 muscles at once.
- He reaches deep muscles.
- 10 Minutes EMS weight = 4 hours or 25 minutes EMS = 4 hours of intense exercise.
- Activates the metabolism and fat burning 72 hours after each session.
- It improves strength, endurance, and toning with only 1 session 20 minutes a week.
- You jump higher, you will run faster. The first system that improves the speed of elite athletes.
- All this without suffering an articular wearing high impact on your joints.
- Scientifically proven.
No more references to these points raised, someone who does not know the EMS might think it is the most revolutionary and effective method of recent years and, in some part, have no fault to think so. As in so many sectors, marketing plays a major point in the evolution of business and these “results” certainly go in favor of who publishes.
However, industry professionals know it really is not and, in my view, would have to say the whole truth for the customer to assess whether to use it. Symposium articles like this or like that recently took place in Madrid, the VII International Symposium updates in strength training help it.
Let’s see some real evidence on which we could rely to assess their results in the following sections.
What really makes: Fat Loss
One of the most promising results and that most users are turning to EMS is weight loss and fat in no time. In 2012, he was made one of the most important studies referenced to date, in which the increased energy expenditure to perform active exercise vests carrying the equivalent of walking with or without poles compared. In fact, the authors conclude saying that it is not significant for the sector unless customers are unable (due to injury or illness) to perform an active exercise.
More recently, other findings suggest that the use of EMS during voluntary exercise improves cardiovascular and metabolic responses in people with metabolic disease, affecting particularly the way glucose metabolism. Here it would be the party who would sell; however, “completing the truth” I must say that the authors also add that these improvements are also not significant when it comes to losing weight (see table below), and most troubling is that this type of customer (metabolic diseases such as diabetes) EMS is contraindicated precisely for its effect on glucose metabolism.
What really makes: improved performance, strength and hypertrophy
Although its use for weight loss/fat is assuming the real boom of the EMS, the first studies were conducted and more literature there are oriented towards implementation to improve performance.
First of all, one should say that it is not easy to establish a labor intensity as in voluntary training, where the 1RM is used as a measure. Using EMS, the intensity is set according to the maximum that a subject is capable of supporting, which depends directly on the individual ‘s ability to withstand pain. So, establish guidelines EMS training is complex, making each study used a different protocol.
In any case, there are a number of studies that did not find improvements in the use of WB-EMS suit against conventional training volunteers. Some of the conclusions drawn from relevant research are:
- Simultaneous use of electrostimulation whole body with exercise does not compensate for any deficiencies due to lack of voluntariness, precisely because there is no voluntariness with the WB-EMS.
- Involuntary work with EMS is unable to improve coordination between the different muscles involved in complex movements. To give a clear example, carry a dead weight with or without costume will mean no difference in improving stroke technique, which is a key to further improvement in active training adaptation.
- Joint integrity is maintained, yes; but not improving, as it does with strength training. With the compressive loads experienced in strength training (always within the tolerance threshold), cartilage making it more resistant reinforced.
- The EMS superimposed on the voluntary training interferes with afferent neurophysiological preventing neural adaptations depending on generation and force control.
- The combination of both systems, EMS and voluntary exercise, non-overlapping (not both), improves the results obtained only with volunteer work in athletes in strength. Improvements in muscle hypertrophy have not been well evidenced.
- Improvements in force superimposed WB-EMS have proven to be valuable at a frequency of use of at least 3 times a week for 5 weeks.
By attending and comparing it with what is advertised, and we have mentioned in previous sections, not “jump faster and run faster” unless and jump high and run fast.
Other hazards just mentioned and economic aspects
Any training method has its contraindications, limitations and certain dangers; but in the case of the WB-EMS suits, this can be an important aspect that is not always properly taken into account, especially the lack of knowledge about it.
Thus, some dangerous aspects to consider are:
- Location of the electrodes: The costumes have to respect the entrance to the positive (+) and negative (-) current, preventing it from remaining inside the suit itself.
- Simultaneous stimulation of dorsal chest and may lead to arrhythmias.
- Not to be used for maximal strength work (isometrics), but for endurance work.
- The so famous pain to which we referred at the beginning of the article is largely due to pain by stimulation of peripheral nerves and not true microtears in the myofibrils.
- The real risk of rhabdomyolysis in untrained subjects, who in most cases are those who come to the centers EMS.
It is also contraindicated for:
- Epilepsy, cardiac pacemakers and/or severe circulatory disorders.
- Inguinal hernia or abdomen.
- Severe neurological disturbances.
- Inflammatory diseases.
- The tendency to bleedings (eye women during the period).
- Irritated, burns and wounds.
- Diseases affecting muscle metabolism (eg. Diabetes, obesity).
All this requires continuous supervision by a professional, which together with the high cost of purchase and maintenance suit, raises the cost of meeting an average of 20$.
Taking into account everything said so far, the WB-EMS provides no additional significant at conventional training benefits, so you would be paying about 80$ / month (1 session per week, as advertised) for even get those benefits, and that 1 session per week is really unproductive.
In case you want to see real results with WB-EMS superimposed, it would have to invest about 60$ per week (3 sessions per week). Even lowering the frequency at two sessions per week, bringing “some” small result would be obtained (although not superior to conventional training), would involve 40$ / week.
If a conventional gym (not a “low cost”, which is an even cheaper option) around 40$/ month to go as many times as you like, and knowing that the results would be more guaranteed does not it seems to be an option more coherent than the mere use of WB-EMS ?.
Summary and final considerations
In short, it seems that the best option is the conventional resistance training combined with the local EMS (no WB-EMS). That is, the EMS works (although not a miracle method) is used as a supplement and never as an alternative to conventional resistance training (all, regardless of what is said about the economic cost).
Finally, I would like to emphasize that, although they have not been compared directly, the improvements achieved in the medium term (mesocycle) in strength with EMS (3 sessions per week) are not higher than those obtained, for example, with method post-activation (PAP) potentiation; whereas neural adaptations have been shown to increase with PAP itself against EMS.
This small example illustrates that other complementary training methods to conventional strength training that are at or above the WB-EMS, with less material and less cost.