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Need a shock? What is EMS training?

In today’s hectic and chaotic world, physical exercise should be, first and foremost, efficient. This is why an ever-increasing number of fitness centres and personal trainers are offering 20-30-minute workouts that are supposed to show results after just a few weeks. These quick results are achieved by using electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) or electrical muscle activation (EMA).

The theory behind EMS or EMA training is actually quite simple. Usually, motor nerves conduct electrical impulses to the skeletal muscles, causing them to contract. However, during EMS/EMA training the muscles are stimulated by electrical impulses caused either by a full body suit containing electrodes or by lots of smaller electrodes adhered to the skin. EMS uses a low-frequency current to stimulate the motor neurons in order to induce muscle contraction. In contrast, the medium-frequency current used in EMA training causes immediate muscle contractions with no stimulation of the motor neurons. While voluntary muscle contractions are highly regulated and only take place when needed, EMS/EMA training stimulates a significantly higher number of muscle fibres. The result is that the muscles do more work.

However, it is not sufficient to simply put on a suit full of electrodes and let them energise the body. Electrical muscle stimulation only works when combined with exercises for the entire body. Training needs to be supervised by qualified staff as injuries are most often caused as a result of unqualified trainers or the pace of activity having been set too high.

Many feel that EMS/EMA training is more challenging than normal exercise, while also being less time-consuming. At the same time, it is significantly more expensive than other forms of exercise. However, the number of studies on the topic are currently limited, meaning that there is no reliable data on the differences between EMS/EMA and classic strength training. Nevertheless, EMS and EMA training offer an alternative to regular strength training and are an interesting option for those who do not have much time and who are not afraid of wearing futuristic-looking outfits while they work out.

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