#31: Everything You Need (and Want) to Know about EMS (Electric Muscle Stimulation)

#31: Everything You Need (and Want) to Know about EMS (Electric Muscle Stimulation)

Whether you are a serious competitive athlete or a weekend warrior, you know that recovery is key differentiator between the top athletes and the almosts. Understanding the various forms of advanced recovery strategies can help coaches and athletes implant these protocols within their own training systems to monitor and combat fatigue, improve recovery from training and life stress, and ultimately increase sports performance and health.

In this electrical muscle stimulator (EMS) guide we will discuss:

  • What is EMS?
  • EMS vs TENS
  • 4 Benefits of EMS?
  • Who Should Use an EMS Device, and Why?
  • 5 Ways to Integrate EMS Into Your Daily Routine
  • What is Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS)?

    Electric muscle stimulation (EMS), also referred to as neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES), uses electrical signals at higher Hz rates to stimulate muscle fibers to contract. These muscle contractions increase blood flow as well as nutrient distribution, and additionally can recruit more muscle fibers than a standard warm up or workout. It is for these reasons (and the ones below) that athletes and coaches alike use EMS to help the body to recover faster, increase muscular strength and endurance, and reduce the risk of muscular injuries.

    Did you know that the PowerDot contains programs designed to stimulate both Type I and Type II muscle fibers to cause muscle contractions?!

    EMS vs TENS

    Unlike EMS, TENS (transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation) TENS sends a series of electrical pulses across the skin and along nerve strands (rather than sending electrical impulses to the muscle tissue). These electrical pulses “distract” the brain from the pain signal, according to the Gate Control Theory. TENS also stimulates an endorphin release, which likewise mitigates pain, and is often helpful for nerve pain.

    That said, TENS can be seen as a temporary relief for pain and discomfort, however EMS can be a long-term approach to the improvement of muscle pain and discomfort: in addition to improving many of the below benefits.

    Did you know the PowerDot is an approved EMS/NMES device by the FDA (US Federal Food and Drug Administration)?

    Grab your PowerDot today!

    4 Benefits of Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS)?

    Below are four (4) main benefits of electrical muscle stimulation, and why coaches/athletes can find these beneficial for recovery and performance.

    1. Stimulates Muscular Blood Flow

    EMS has been shown to increase blood flood (often when done at lower frequencies) to muscle tissues (1). Due to the contraction and relaxation cycles of the electrical impulses, the muscle acts as a pump to increase oxygen rich blood flow into the muscle belly while also aiding in metabolite clearance from the muscle.

    2. Enhanced Muscular Strength and Power

    While EMS is not a viable substitute for strength and power training, it has been shown to be effective at increasing muscular contraction rates and strength in athletes (2). This can also be beneficial for individuals during rehabilitation stages (be sure to seek your physician's clearance frost), as it is a good way to stimulate and reeducation muscle fibers and build strength without high amounts of external loading (could be helpful for lifters with joint/connective tissue injuries).

    3. Reduced Muscle Pain

    Some studies have shown that following EMS protocols, that athletes self-reported decreased muscle pain than without any intervention (3). Athletes with lower pain (either perceived or actual) often are able to train harder and feel more recovered leading into successive training sessions, furthering performance outcomes.

    4. Improved Psychological Recovery

    EMS has been shown to improve the psychological recovery and perceived recovery of an athlete (4). This is important because an athlete who “feels” recovered (and often is recovered due to the above reasons and sound programming” often will be able to attack training hard, and reap greater training outcomes from it.

    Who Should Use An Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS) Device?

    Below are a few key groups of athletes and individuals who may benefit from including EMS training and recovery protocols within their daily routine.

    Strength, Power, and Fitness Athletes

    No matter your sport, recovery from hard training is key. While recovery from training can be boosted by things like sleep, rest, and proper programming; other alternative strategies like EMS can offer physiological and physiological aid to those lifters who may need a little more help. Additionally, serious athletes can use EMS and the PowerDot to improve muscle activation before training sessions and even increase muscular strength and contraction rates without having to place external loading on the body (key when injured or trying to limit volume).

    Endurance Athletes

    LIke power, strength, and fitness athletes, endurance athletes subject their muscles to high amounts of training volume and stress. Advanced recovery technique, such as EMS can improve psychological readiness, decrease perceived soreness and muscle tension, and help to increase circulation of muscle tissues involved in exercise.

    Everyday Fitness Goers

    Everyday fitness enthusiasts often can find great improvements in recovery when participating in more advanced recovery techniques used by athletes. Due to everyday lifters and fitness goers having to balance life, travel, work, and training stress; they may actually be subjecting themselves to comparable amounts of strain (physiological and psychological) as that of an elite athlete! Just like EMS can help to reduce perceived soreness and aid in recovery from exercise, it can be a great tool to use to help enhance recovery from long business flights, poor sleeping,

    and/or life’s muscle aches.

    Note, that EMS and the PowerDot are not meant to be used as a substitution for consulting a trained medical professional. If you or a loved one has had chronic muscle pain and/or psychological issues, it is highly advised to seek out medical attention.

    5 Ways to Integrate Electrical Muscle Stimulation into Your Daily Routine

    Below are five (5) simple and effective way to integrate the PowerDot into your current routine to improve recovery, decrease muscle pain, and enhance overall strength and sports performance.

    1. Initiate Recovery after Hard Training

    While recovery is dependent on a magnitude of factors (sleep, caloric intake, rest, sound programming, etc), coaches and athletes can utilize EMS and the PowerDot to kick start the recovery process. The PowerDot has a variety of programs, with a few in particular that are geared towards post-exercise recovery.

    2. Wear During/After Long-Distance Travel

    It’s no secret that sitting for prolonged periods of time (trains, cars, airplanes, etc) can wreak havoc on our bodies. Travelling to and from competitions, back and forth from work, or even on long-haul flights can significantly increase joint and muscular stiffness and inflammation. EMS and the PowerDot can help to restore circulation and decrease muscle pain/spasms with lower frequency built in PowerDot massage and active recovery programs.

    Did you know that PowerDot has over 10 different built-in EMS protocols (for each major muscle group) to help improve recovery and performance?

    3. Improve Muscle Activation Before Workouts

    EMS can be used to increase muscle tone and activation, which when done prior to exercise can help to recruit more muscle units and boost performance. The PowerDot has a built in 5-10 minute warm-up and activation programs to help you improve strength and performance. You can even wear the PowerDot during light exercise to further enhance your warm-up preparations.

    4. Integrate into Your Rest/Recovery Day

    Rest days are key to overall performance and injury prevention. While passive rest is a great start to the process, advanced recovery strategies, such as light exercise and EMS have been shown to improve recovery. With the PowerDot, you can boost recovery while doing chores, taking the dog for a walk, or simply relaxing with your boo.

    5. Improve Contractile Strength Post-Injury

    While EMS and the PowerDot are not meant to replace a trained medical professional / rehabilitation therapist, they can be used (with clearance by your medical professional) to improve muscular strength and educate muscle firing patterning following injury. Often, when coming back from injury the body will limit the amount of loading/work a muscle can do (self preservation), however using EMS can help bypass such limiters and offer us a way to train the contractile units of the muscle fibers without placing external loading onto the joints and tissues.

    Learn More about EMS and the PowerDot!

    Want to learn more about EMS training and how the PowerDot can improve your recovery and performance? Check the below articles out!



    Mike Dewar MA, CSCS, USAW2, FRCms, Pn1

    Founder / Head Trainer (j2fit.com)
    Advanced USA Weightlifting Coach 
    New York University Assistant Strength Coach 

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