Have you ever seen the commercials for the Dr Ho’s muscle stimulator? For those wondering, that’s essentially an Electrical Muscle Stimulator (or Myostimulator, aka EMS).
What is it exactly?
The basis is simple, instead of using the signals from our nervous system/brain to signal a muscle contraction, we’re using an electrical impulse from outside the body to cause a muscular contraction. From the muscular standpoint, the motor unit simply needs an impulse, or signal, to function. It doesn’t really care whether you’re human or cyborg. If the impulse comes, it will contract. So from a super simplistic point of view, EMS is used to influence a specific muscular system, outside of the global system. This means no central nervous system, no joint motion and barely any energy systems. It is a very controlled and acute way of influencing a specific muscular system.
What are its main uses?
EMS can be utilized for a number of purposes. First of all, if you have an injury which limits your movement, like a joint injury, you will be unable to use the related muscle groups normally. If I injured my ankle and can barely walk for an extended period, I can use the EMS to reactivate and strengthen muscles in my lower legs (or higher up if needed). Or perhaps certain factors, like travel, might cause me to miss workouts, I can use EMS to still create a stimulus and maintain certain characteristics. In the same manner, people can use EMS for recovery cycles or to warm up specific muscle groups.
EMS is a completely underrated tool in the strength and conditioning world. I think they’re so robust and diverse that any athlete could find use for a unit. That being said, they don’t have a lot of implementation in the industry from what I can tell. Up until recently, machines were very cost prohibitive for individual athletes and also difficult to implement for practitioners dealing with multiple athletes at a given time. The wires and base units were a bit tedious and messy to use, especially away from home. I think the new PowerDot model, which utilizes your smartphone as the base unit and wireless electrodes could eliminate some of these inconveniences. If athletes each had the app on their phones, they could possibly share a unit around a training session.
The wireless nature and small form factor could also allow their use in more settings. Whether it’s during travel, at a sporting event or while moving around, they could be hidden beneath loose fitting clothing.
If you’re curious about how to implement EMS for strength, click on the picture below for my article on SimpliFaster.com
Let me know what you think of EMS in the comments!
It’s About Getting Better!