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What is electro muscular stimulation or EMS?

July 26, 2015

Electro Muscular Stimulation or EMS has been used in former Communist Bloc countries for sport training since the early 1950s, but Western countries only became aware of its use in 1973, when Dr. Y. Kots of the Central Institute of Physical Culture in the former USSR presented a paper on EMS at Concordia University in Montreal. There he outlined the tremendous potential for strength enhancement beyond that which was possible by traditional (voluntary) training methods.


His claims raised many eyebrows and considerable effort was expended in an attempt to validate Kots’ claims. Crude studies that pitted EMS-fired muscles against voluntarily contracted muscles (using Cybex machines for measurement) appeared to show that EMS was not as effective as Kots had claimed. However, the design of these studies was flawed due to a poor understanding of how EMS worked on the neuromuscular system.

image(Early devices were not very user friendly)

Early Conception and Devices

Kots was able to show, using a tensiometric device, that the muscle tension produced in a maximal EMS contraction can be up to 30% higher than a maximal voluntary contraction. This finding was corroborated by independent studies and makes intuitive sense, given the nature of the body’s energy conservation system.

EMS works directly on the muscles, bypassing the body’s energy conservation system, thus there’s no limit to the percentage of fiber that can be activated. The EMS stimulus “spills over” from fully contracted fibre to activate remaining fibre (given sufficient current) allowing the athlete to experience a training stimulus that’s unattainable by any other means.

Selection of Muscle Groups

Maximum strength EMS is applied to the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and the erector spinae. These muscle groups play the main role in power development around the hip joint, where, at maximum speed, the power output is seven times higher than around any other joint.

young woman exercise on electro stimulation machine

Equipment today

EMS has grown and been developed in the last 15 years by certain companies, such as Miha Body-Tec, to allow for far more efficient use and application. Practitioners are able to administer preset and bespoke programmes that have been researched to provide weight loss, muscle gain and performance enhancing protocols.


What does it feel like?

Often people have the misconception it will hurt because it is electrical stimulus. However it is no more painful or should I say uncomfortable then a moderate to intense gym work out but the efficacy is 3x more powerful. The reason is simple. Greater contraction stimulated muscles. This directly translates to greater calorific utilisation and affects your metabolic rate, resulting in greater recovery time required when compared to cardiovascular training.


Who would benefit, is it just for athletes?

Anyone who has muscles in their body will benefit from EMS. It is especially useful for those who need to tone, lose weight or have been inactive for extended periods and have lost muscle mass. This new technology is becoming the fastest growth sector in the health and fitness industry as it combines safe effective training with efficient time management. It is no longer necessary to carry all the training gear around when one can wear comfortable undergarments and a vest and achieve an equivalent 90 minute workout in just 20 minutes. It does sound too good to be true but never discount something new just because you haven’t tried it. The proof is in the trying.

Where is it available?

Currently it is still a niche product however in Surbiton we are lucky enough to have a facility called The Body Shape Studios which has installed this revolutionary equipment in a fully functioning personal training model.

For more information on EMS or musculoskeletal strengthening and development contact me. Marcel Salazar, Studio Manager.


69 Brighton Road, Surbiton, KT6 5NF. Tel:  020 3659 1098.

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