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History Of Muscle Stimulators
Electronic muscle stimulation, also known as EMS, goes back considerably further than most people might think. In fact, it goes back thousands of years before the invention of electricity. As far back as 2,500B.C., the Egyptians of the Fifth Dynasty were using electric fish to treat pain via muscle stimulation. This practice continued on with the Greeks and the Romans.
Much later on in the 18th century, an Italian physicist and philosopher named Luigi Galvani discovered that passing electrical currents through a frog’s spinal cord resulted in muscle contractions. While it is common knowledge nowadays that the brain creates electrical impulses that are transferred to the muscles to create muscle movement, this was a radical discovery at the time and it prompted continuous experimentation by many universities.
In 1965, a paper published by Melzack and Wall entitled “Pain Mechanisms: A New Theory” examined the use of electricity as a means of therapy for pain and other problems. This paper was the result of extensive research and revealed that there were indeed many benefits and a variety of uses for electrical stimulation.
Not long after this in 1971, EMS made its first appearance in sport applications with experiments known as the Russian Currents. Soviet athletes were subjected to tortuously high levels of electrical discharge and it was found that this delivered muscle fatigue similar to the kinds seen after intense workouts.
Finally, in the late 1990’s electronic muscle stimulation in home treatments started to gain in popularity with the use of wearable units as we know them today.
Uses For Electronic Muscle Stimulators
Today, electronic muscle stimulators have a variety of applications where they can be used to benefit our health and overall fitness level. Whether you are looking to activate muscle growth, alleviate pain, or recover after an intense workout session, EMS can be a helpful tool. Muscle stimulation units have been divided into two broad categories by the FDA – over-the counter devices (OTC) and prescription devices – and has been approved by them for a number of uses.
Muscle stimulators can be used for muscle re-education in patients who have suffered an injury. It helps them build strength in severely weakened muscles before they start with traditional physical therapy methods. EMS forces muscle contractions in coordinated patterns to strengthen the cognitive link between the brain and movements.
Muscle atrophy is another area where EMS can really help. This decrease of muscle mass is often the result of some other medical condition, but electric stimulation can slow, or even prevent, muscle atrophy by keeping unused muscles active, especially in mobility-restricted patients. Along with muscle atrophy often comes a decreased range of motion. By using EMS in home and professional therapeutic applications, one can limit the range of motion loss while people heal.
Electric stimulation can also increase the blood flow to muscles, which has two beneficial results. It delivers vital nutrients necessary for muscle growth and recovery, plus it helps remove waste and lactic acid after a workout, which equates to less soreness and faster recovery.
In addition to the FDA approved uses, it is a commonly accepted belief that electronic muscle stimulation can be used by bodybuilders looking to increase strength gains, improve muscle tone, and give an overall more defined appearance to muscles. The key to building muscle mass and creating a stronger muscle is contraction. The more a muscle contracts, the more it will develop. In this way, EMS machines can be incredibly useful for training. Maximal EMS contraction can be up to 30% higher than maximal voluntary contraction. Using an EMS machine also allows you to bypass the body’s natural energy conservation system, and activate more muscle fibers than would be physically possible manually.
How To Use A Muscle Stimulator For Strength Training
The most effective way to use an electronic muscle stimulator for strength gains is in conjunction with a traditional fitness routine. To aid in maximum muscle and strength development, the best use of an EMS unit is as a second strength training session in the same day that you do a traditional gym workout on that muscle.
This will compliment your earlier training session and compound the effects. You should not do them one after the other, but rather give your muscle at least a four hour rest period between sessions. It is also helpful to use electronic muscle stimulation on all primary and auxiliary muscles used in your workout. This means if you bench in the gym, you should hit your pecs, shoulders, and triceps with EMS.
When using your EMS unit, you should perform 6 to 10 seconds of intense, continuous contractions followed by 50 seconds of less powerful pulsing for recovery. You can repeat this for 10 rounds on each muscle you want to train. As with any type of workout routine, you’ll want to be fully warmed up from some stretching and light muscle use before starting, to reduce the possibility of injuries, cramping, and muscle soreness. You can even use the electronic muscle stimulation for warming up by using a low intensity setting with a one second on/one second off approach.
Since electronic muscle stimulation works directly on the muscle without putting any pressure or stress on joints, ligaments, and tendons, there is less chance of over training via this method as compared with two traditional gym workouts in the same day.
If you want to build muscle, there are ways to get faster and better results. Although some people use a TENS unit to try to build muscle, there is no conclusive evidence suggesting that it works. Electrical impulses make the muscle contract, providing a minimum level of stimulation. However, the level of intensity needed to build muscle would be extremely high, and therefore, painful. A more effective way to stimulate muscle growth is to perform regular strength training exercises.
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation
A transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, or TENS, unit is generally used to help relieve muscle and joint pain, especially back pain, sports injuries, migraine headaches and arthritis pain. Most are small battery-operated units with electrode pads that attach to the skin.
The unit creates an electric current that stimulates muscles and numbs the nerves by sending electric pulses into the nerves. The heat generated by the current can help reduce pain and stiffness by increasing the release of endorphins in the body.
Although a TENS unit is designed to provide pain relief through nerve stimulation, placing the electrode pads correctly on a muscle can cause a strong muscular contraction. Using electrical muscle stimulation alone or in combination with TENS may help tone your muscles, particularly when used in addition to exercise and weight training.
Electrical Muscle Stimulation
Electrical muscle stimulation can build muscle, but not enough to enhance athletic performance. Slow electrical pulses cause muscles to contract and relax, contributing to muscle build-up similar to passive exercise. The devices are actually a type of TENS machine, as they work in much the same way. EMS machines stimulate muscle motor nerves rather than sensory nerve endings, the way TENS units do. Electronic muscle stimulators are used to help prevent muscle atrophy, to assist in relieving pain and to tone muscles.
How EMS Works
An EMS unit simulates the contraction and relaxation cycle of a muscle or muscle group, which helps to loosen muscle fibers. To some degree, EMS machines can stimulate the same cycles that occur when you are exercising your muscles. This form of electrical stimulation also works to improve blood flow to the muscles, which can result in more muscle growth. Physicians, physical therapists and rehabilitation specialists often use EMS units to treat and repair muscle injuries.
Caution When Using
The American Cancer Society advises against using a TENS machine if you have a pacemaker, infusion pump or implanted defibrillator. In fact, people who have any type of heart problem should not use these devices. Neither should you use these devices if you are pregnant or have epilepsy.
Never place the electrodes near the heart, temple, head, throat or eyes. Keep away from broken skin or open wounds. Use the device correctly to prevent electrical current from burning or irritating the skin. Always talk to your doctor before using any form of TENS unit.
For best results, an individual who wants strong muscles and a lean body should eat a healthy diet and include strength training and aerobic exercise as part of a regular fitness program. A regular strength training regimen can help you reduce body fat and increase your lean muscle mass. As a result, your body will burn calories more efficiently. Other benefits of strength training include increasing bone density and boosting stamina. Building muscle also reduces your risk of injury.
The 10 Best Muscle Stimulators
10. Easy@Home EHE029G-B
9. Pure Enrichment Pure Pulse Duo
8. iReliev TENS + EMS
7. Tone-A-Matic Tamtec Sport 2 Plus
6. Massage Therapy Concepts Two-Channel
5. HiDow XPD
4. Compex Edge
3. Famidoc Combo
2. Compex Sport Elite
1. iReliev Playmaker
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