One of the popular products on the market claiming to strengthen and tone your muscles is an Electrical Muscle Stimulator or EMS.
Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS), also known as neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES), is a protocol that elicits a muscle contraction using electrical impulses that directly stimulate your motor neurons. An EMS unit is a device that delivers this in the comfort of your own home.
This stimulation creates muscle contractions that can be quick and frequent, fast with long pauses, or contractions that are held for several seconds or minutes at a time.
Normally, your body fires your muscles by sending electrical impulses from your brain through your central nervous system (CNS). But an EMS device allows you to engage in deep, intense, and complete muscular contractions without actually activating (or stressing) your CNS – not to mention your joints and tendons.
The coolest thing is that your body does not know the difference between a voluntary contraction and an electrically stimulated one. Your body only recognizes that there is a stimulus and reacts to it accordingly.
If this sounds a little wacky to you, do not worry – there is science to back this up.
A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning looked into whether or not EMS could help elite athletes gain a performance edge. They concluded, “The analysis shows that trained and elite athletes, despite their already high level of fitness, are able to significantly enhance their level of strength to same extent as is possible with untrained subjects.”
At the conclusion of that study, the researchers stated, “EMS offers a promising alternative to traditional strength training for enhancing the strength parameters and motor abilities in athletes.”
What do electrical muscle stimulators do?
Activate muscles: The benefits of using an electrical muscle stimulator are a result of the electrical currents that pass through the body, which is why these are also known as electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) devices. An electrical muscle stimulator contains small electrodes that send electrical pulses through your skin when you secure the device around or on your body.
Tone existing muscles: Dr. Manish Shah, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon, says electrical muscle stimulator can help tone muscles by helping contract the muscles and activating blood flow with vibration. However, he points out that there is a misconception that electrical muscle stimulator will burn fat or be a primary tool for losing weight, and this is not the case.
Help in physical therapy: Since electrical muscle stimulators (EMS) are considered devices under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, the FDA is required to regulate them.
With that in mind, the FDA states that most EMS devices they review are intended for use in physical therapy and rehab environments, not for aiding in fat loss.
Electronic Muscle Stimulators can:
- stimulate muscles in your midsection to contract
- help tone muscles
Electronic Muscle Stimulators cannot:
- aid in weight loss when used alone
- work off a large amount of fat tissue
Recommended Product: EMS Muscle Stimulator / Trainer
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