EMS Training: What It Is and What Science Has to Say

Author : maddy smith | Published On : 27 Feb 2024

Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS) training has been gaining popularity in recent years as a quick and efficient way to build muscle and improve overall fitness. But what exactly is EMS training, and what does science have to say about its effectiveness? In this article, we'll explore the ins and outs of EMS training, how it works, its potential benefits and drawbacks, and what research has revealed about its impact on the body.


Understanding EMS Training

EMS training uses electrical impulses to promote muscular contractions.  During a typical EMS session, electrodes are placed on specific muscle groups while the individual performs exercises or movements. These electrodes deliver electrical impulses that cause the muscles to contract, mimicking the natural process that occurs when the brain sends signals to the muscles to move.

The intensity of the electrical impulses can be adjusted to suit the individual's fitness level and goals. EMS training can target various muscle groups simultaneously, providing a full-body workout in a relatively short amount of time.


How Does EMS Work?

The electrical impulses used in EMS training bypass the central nervous system and directly stimulate the motor neurons in the muscles. This leads to stronger and more intense muscle contractions than what can typically be achieved through voluntary muscle action alone.

Additionally, EMS training can activate a higher percentage of muscle fibers compared to traditional resistance training. This is because the electrical impulses can target deeper muscle fibers that may not be effectively engaged during conventional exercises.


Potential Benefits of EMS Training

  • Time Efficiency: EMS training sessions are typically shorter than traditional workouts, making them ideal for individuals with busy schedules.

  • Increased Muscle Strength: EMS can help improve muscle strength, endurance, and power, making it beneficial for athletes and fitness enthusiasts looking to enhance their performance.

  • Improved Muscle Recovery: Some studies suggest that EMS may help accelerate muscle recovery by increasing blood flow and reducing muscle soreness after intense exercise.

  • Enhanced Fat Loss: While EMS alone may not be enough to promote significant fat loss, it can complement a healthy diet and exercise routine by helping to increase calorie expenditure and build lean muscle mass.

  • Versatility: EMS training can be tailored to suit individuals of all fitness levels, from beginners to advanced athletes. It can also be used to target specific muscle groups or address imbalances in the body.


Drawbacks and Considerations

  • Cost: EMS training sessions can be more expensive than traditional gym memberships or personal training sessions, which may be a barrier for some individuals.

  • Potential Risks: While EMS is generally considered safe for most people, there is a risk of skin irritation or burns if the electrodes are not properly positioned or if the intensity of the electrical impulses is too high.

  • Limited Research: While there is some research supporting the effectiveness of EMS for muscle strengthening and recovery, more studies are needed to fully understand its long-term effects and potential benefits.

  • Not a Replacement for Traditional Exercise: EMS should be viewed as a supplement to, rather than a replacement for, traditional exercise. It is important to incorporate a variety of exercises and training modalities into your routine for optimal results.


What Science Has to Say

Research on the effectiveness of EMS training has yielded mixed results, with some studies reporting significant improvements in muscle strength and endurance, while others have found minimal or no benefits.

One study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research compared the effects of EMS training versus traditional resistance training on muscle strength and power in elite rugby players. The researchers found that both forms of training resulted in similar improvements in muscle strength and power, suggesting that EMS may be a viable alternative to traditional resistance training for athletes.

Another study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology examined the effects of EMS training on muscle mass and strength in older adults. The researchers found that EMS training led to significant increases in muscle mass and strength, particularly in the lower body, suggesting that it may be a valuable tool for combating age-related muscle loss.

However, some research has cast doubt on the effectiveness of EMS training for improving muscle strength and performance. A systematic review published in Sports Medicine concluded that while EMS may provide some benefits for muscle strengthening and recovery, the evidence is limited and inconsistent.



EMS training is a promising fitness modality that has the potential to enhance muscle strength, endurance, and recovery. While more research is needed to fully understand its mechanisms of action and long-term effects, preliminary studies suggest that EMS can be an effective tool for individuals looking to improve their fitness levels and athletic performance.

As with any form of exercise, it is important to approach EMS training with caution and to seek guidance from qualified professionals. Individuals can reach their fitness objectives by adding EMS into a well-rounded fitness regimen that includes a healthy diet and frequent exercise.