Home Health

EMS Machines: Shocking Muscle Gains


People are always looking for a way to burn more calories and gain muscle. Traditionally, a good diet and exercise are the best ways to achieve these goals. But with the growing popularity of Electronic Muscle Stimulation technology (EMS), you may be able to accomplish some of your fitness goals with less effort.

Or a different kind of effort, at least.

Electronic Muscle Stimulation involves electrical impulses directly stimulating your neurons. The stimulation from the EMS unit can be fast or last longer—up to several minutes at a time. The idea is that your body (specifically your muscles) activates your neurons without you needing to use your joints and muscles.

Why People Use EMS Machines

Electronic Muscle Stimulation seems almost too good to be true. Being able to trigger your neurons without actually exerting yourself may sound like science fiction. However, EMS provides an opportunity for more muscle training while removing adding tension on joints and tendons. 

While the science is somewhat up in the air, the Journal of Strength and Conditioning concluded that EMS is a “promising alternative to traditional strength training for enhancing the strength parameters and motor abilities.” 

How Does Electronic Muscle Stimulation Work?

The EMS device works on muscle directly. You place the sticky pads directly on your skin at either end of a muscle band. Once the EMS device is activated, an electrical current runs from pad to pad, completing a circuit. Basically, you become a human battery. 

EMS devices have a variety of frequencies and settings. Changing the frequencies can activate different muscle fibers. The electronic pulse supplied by an Electronic Muscle Stimulation device can help with fat burning, strength building, and warm-up.

Benefits of EMS

Electronic Muscle Stimulation workouts can be highly efficient, saving you time. As we mentioned before, EMS workouts are also relatively low impact. Your joints may be in significantly less pain after an EMS workout. Because of this, EMS is usually seen as a great option for athletes with back and knee pain. 

Another benefit of EMS devices is their impact on auxiliary areas. Unlike most workout routines, the EMS targets all muscles, making you feel some muscles more intensely than others. This targeting can enhance your core strength. EMS is also beneficial for recovering from injuries. Increasing numbers of athletes use EMS technology to stimulate blood flow to a particular area and speed healing.

Potential Dangers of EMS

The scientific community is still somewhat divided on the benefits of EMS. EMS technology will not help your cardiovascular system the way that traditional exercise might. EMS devices are also pretty expensive. Even getting an EMS session from your local gym can be pricey. It is also important to remember that EMS is not for everyone. Pregnant women and children should not use EMS technology. Consult with a medical professional if you are not sure that EMS is appropriate for you. 

FDA Regulations for EMS

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the use and sale of EMS within the United States. Their website indicates that they will receive reports of device malfunctions through MedWatch. The FDA has received reports of shocks, burns, bruising, skin irritation, and pain associated with EMS devices. 

The majority of EMS treatments take place as prescription treatments for specific medical conditions. Doctors may use electrical muscle stimulators for muscle re-education, relaxation of spasms, prevention of muscle atrophy, and more (according to the FDA’s website).

The FDA has only approved one over-the-counter EMS device. That device is the Slendertone Flex marketed by BMR NeuroTech, Inc. It’s cleared specifically for toning, strengthening, and firming abdominal muscles. 

EMS Considerations

The scientific community is divided when it comes to the pros and cons of this technology. While under the use of a medical professional, it seems that electronic muscle stimulation can be beneficial technology. EMS devices have helped with recovery, muscle spasms, and a whole lot more.

But the idea that EMS will burn all of your belly fat while you sit and watch television is, sadly, just a myth. It’s simply not the function of this technology. EMS currently represents a relatively unproven and costly technology. Before considering the use of EMS, educate yourself and have a conversation with your healthcare provider.