“Firm, tone and strengthen without the effort…”
We’ve all seen these ads promising real results without the workout. And, let’s be honest now, it sounds great, doesn’t it? I mean who wouldn’t want rock-hard six-pack abds and toned, sexy legs without the grueling workout routine?
But is it real? Does it work? How does it work?
WHAT IS ELECTRIC MUSCLE TRAINING
Electric Muscle Training is based on a type of treatment that has been utilized for centuries, dating back more than 2000 years when ancient Greeks used electric eels to treat a variety of ailments. But it has just been in the latter half of the twentieth century where we have seen a surge of FDA approved electrical devices.
Also known as Electric Muscle Stimulation, or EMS, it is a device that uses electrode pads on a muscle or muscle group that stimulates the nerves through electrical impulses. These small electrical stimuli cause the muscle to contract.
Physicians, physical therapists, athletic trainers, etc. have used EMS for a variety of things, such as injury rehab; enhancing healing of fractured bones; decreasing muscle atrophy (wasting away of muscles); decreasing spasms; muscle re-education following a stroke or muscle disorder; and incontinence.
ELECTRIC MUSCLE TRAINING AS A WORKOUT TOOL
Advocates for the portable, in-home units of EMS claim just by strapping the electrodes, say to your abdomen, you can see “real” results in four to six weeks with just thirty minutes per day. They allege the secret is in the patented medical-grade muscle stimulation technique.
A typical ad may declare it’s like performing 1500 sit-ups in thirty minutes while at resting, as you can use the device while watching TV or reading a book. They also boast an average of 49% increase in abdominal muscle strength and a 72% increase in abdominal muscle endurance in as little as four weeks.
It also has the clearance of the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), as it is relatively safe to use without the assistance of a trained medical professional.
DOES IT WORK?
Since the old adage, “use it or lose it” does apply to muscles, any time you contract or tighten a muscle or muscle group you can increase strength and tone.
But according to the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), electric muscle training is not as effective in the development of muscle size, power or coordination as voluntary resistance training. In other words, it is an effective tool in things like athletic injury rehab, but it is not recommended as an alternative to traditional resistance training.
According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE) this type of EMS is ineffective, time-consuming – plus to keep muscles active, the amount of stimulation necessary to actually build muscle can be painful.
And all the experts agree: electric muscle training should coincide with traditional strength training and proper diet.
THE REAL DEAL
Electric muscle training is a valuable tool, but not for gaining muscle tone and strength without the effort. In-home units can only provide enough electrical stimulation to keep muscles active – great when injuries prevent you from your normal routine.
In order to attain the body you’ve always wanted, you need to lose the fat and gain muscle tone. Electric muscle training does not burn fat. If you gain muscle without burning the over-layer of fat you will appear bulkier – not toned.
Electric muscle training does not provide you with a good cardiovascular workout routine, which is essential for good heart health.
And if you actually read the instructions for in-home electric muscle training devices all the way through, it recommends regular exercise and a good nutritional program.
So in summary, electric muscle training units have little practical significance or carryover benefits for the average individual.
Though the in-home electric muscle training units do not supply a high amount of electric impulses, there is a chance of skin irritations and burning. You can experience discomfort and yes, even pain if the settings are too high. There is a chance of electrical shock too.
Placement of the electrodes, a pad that conducts the electrical impulse can be cumbersome and time consuming. Plus frequent replacement of the pads, usually pre-gelled (for conduction purposes) is necessary as they will lose their effectiveness.
There are also some medical conditions and circumstances where the use of electric muscle training units is contraindicated, meaning inadvisable due to adverse reactions. These include, but are not limited to any heart condition, especially if you have an arrhythmia, pace maker or implanted defibrillator, and if you are pregnant.
Obesity makes it difficult to generate adequate muscle response to electric muscle training without a significant increase in intensity. Since pain receptors are not insulated, the increased intensity to elicit a muscle response may be difficult to tolerate.
As with any exercise program, you should always consult your primary physician before attempting to decrease your chances of adverse effects.
Electric muscle training is an effective tool when used for rehabilitation purposes, or when used in conjunction to a healthy diet and exercise program.
The old saying – “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is…” applies with this method. Attempting to solely use electric muscle training to gain the body you’ve always dreamed of is just that – a dream.