In this blog entry I’m going to explain the difference between EMS and TENS and how to use both of them correctly to achieve your fitness goals faster and saver. Beforehand I want to say that I am a great enthusiast of EMS products and I actively use them on myself and my clients.
EMS stands for electrical muscle stimulation and originally comes from the rehabilitation sector. It is used to prevent muscle atrophy in patients who had surgery and aren’t able / allowed to move. It is a great way to have someones muscles “work out” while the patient lays in bed. STOP that thought! No I’m not saying you can put on an EMS device lay in bed and wake up like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime. I’m talking about the rehabilitation sector. A lot of athletes use EMS devices as well to recover faster from smaller injuries. An EMS device is a machine that sends pulses to your muscles which causes the muscle to contract. This is the same contraction you’d achieve when lifting weights. In short, EMS mimics how you would create muscle contraction.
NOW we’re moving on to the part that you’ve been waiting for. Can you build muscle mass faster with EMS? The answer is YES. YES you can use EMS to build up muscle mass in a shorter period of time. The reason behind this is that with EMS you deliberately increase the amount of muscle contractions via an electric impulse. More contractions – more gains! Sounds good yeah? I want this to sink in because this is important. Think about doing a bicep curl. How long do you actively contract / flex your bicep? Be honest! You usually curl up to the peak and lower the weight right after with no hold or extended time contracting the muscle. With EMS and the right setting your muscle contracts for 7 seconds followed by a 7 second break. According to science you’re also activating more muscle fibers with EMS and the more muscle fibers you’re activating the “stronger” you are. Makes sense too, right?
The catch to getting the best results with EMS is to actively work out while using EMS. I’ve seen multiple commercials of ripped people sitting on their couch at home flexing their abs with a weak ABS EMS device. Let me tell you – the guys you so on that couch with a shredded sixpack work out 6 times a week and watch their diet very carefully to look that way. I personally use EMS both at the gym but also at home to increase the intensity for body weight workouts and I NEVER just lay down to do a “workout”.
Many athletes use EMS while performing exercises like deadlifts, back squats, bench presses or even sprints on a spinning bike to send more electrical impulses to force more muscle contractions. This increases the intensity of the workout tremendously since the muscles are worked harder and are contracted longer.
BENEFITS OF EMS
One main reason why I’m obsessed with EMS is that I can use it on clients that have major back / spine problems without putting more stress on their spine. If for any reasons you’re advised not to put pressure on your spine or on your hip, how are you supposed to work out your legs? Almost every leg exercise puts pressure on your hips or spine at some point. Not so much with EMS. I can have a client go through regular Air Squats if their hip mobility is in tact and increase the intensity on the EMS to a point where it feels like the client is squatting 100lbs. If hip mobility is an issue you could have the client sit down and perform leg extensions with EMS attached to their legs. This is obviously just an example which should illustrate a major benefit that comes with EMS.
What is TENS
TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. This means that a TENS device won’t activate any muscle cells but will stimulate nerves. So why should you use a TENS unit? Electrical pulses can release endorphines to reduce pain. To be more precise it will stimulate your nervous system with electrical impulses which then reduce the ability to transmit pain signals to the spinal cord and brain. The frequency and intensity of the impulses is usually way lower than an EMS device as well.
As I mentioned in the first paragraph of this blog entry. I’m personally a huge advocate when it comes to EMS products and I do see / feel the positive effects on my body either for muscle growth or post workout recovery. If you want to give it a try please make sure you work with someone you trust and who is educated enough to perform EMS on you. Injury may occur if you use it the wrong way or increase the intensity too fast.