EMS (Electrical Muscle Stimulation) has been used as a tool in rehabilitation for many years, and now as the technology continues to advance, it’s being adopted by top-level athletes to take their performance to the next level.
Olympic champion Usain Bolt, soccer players Karim Benzema and Dani Cavajal and Pro Footballer David Njoku have all used EMS to improve their sporting performance.
So, in this post, we’ll take a look into some of the research and data that backs up why top-level athletes should include EMS as part of their training regime.
To start off with, here are 5 benefits for elite athletes to be using EMS:
- Save time by packing a 3-hour workout into just 20 minutes
- Increase muscle growth from the electrical impulses engaging both slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscle fibers
- Enhance performance and reduce the risk of injury by becoming stronger.
- Recover faster from hard workouts
- Train and recover anywhere and anytime thanks to the portability of EMS
How Can EMS Effect Sporting Performance
EMS can be a perfect fitness performance device to help you quickly and effectively build strength and endurance, increase explosiveness, and support muscle recovery in between workouts.
Positive results support the use of EMS for strength enhancement and performance gains. Like any training tool, you will achieve optimal results when using the technology appropriately in terms of specific settings, timings, frequency, and overall volume of work.
Let’s take a look at 2 studies and their results which make the case for pro-athletes and sportspeople to build EMS into their training plans.
Study of EMS on Muscle Strength
A study by Andre Flilipovic found that in a 6-week EMS training period significant gains were shown in 5 areas of strength:
- maximal strength
- speed strength
- rate of force development
- force impulse
Becoming stronger in these areas was shown to increase vertical jump height and improves sprint times in trained and elite athletes.
Consider pro-footballers. Increasing their speed-strength is going to help linebackers get through the line of scrimmage and sack the QB, or help running backs deflect tackles and keep driving forward to get that next first down.
How about fitness levels?
Filiopvic concluded that “trained and elite athletes, despite their already high level of fitness, are able to significantly enhance their level of strength to the same extent as is possible with untrained subjects.”
He finishes off by saying that “EMS offers a promising alternative to traditional strength training for enhancing these strength parameters, and because of the clear-cut advantages in time management, especially when whole-body EMS is used, we can expect to see EMS used increasingly in high-performance sports.”
Study of Strength & Power on Elite Rugby Players
Let’s look at a second study from 2014 published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. This research split a group of rugby players into 2 groups and conducted tests after a 12-week period. One group used EMS and the other didn’t.
The research concluded that the “12-week EMS training program demonstrated beneficial effects on muscle strength and power in elite rugby players on particular tests. However, rugby specific skills such as scrummaging were not enhanced.”
Again, we can see that research points to the positive effects of EMS on increasing strength and power, but perhaps not so much on sport-specific skills – which isn’t really surprising as it’s hard to see those types of gains in a short period of time.
A Word from the Coach
Carl Valle has coached Olympic athletes and believes that EMS has a place in sports performance and the rehabilitation of athletes.
He adds that “I believe EMS is great for preparation periods and for times when maximal training is difficult to perform during the competitive season. Coaches will see an athlete’s willingness to train and their energy decrease as the season draws out.”
It’s not always possible for top-level athletes to train at maximum effort throughout the course of a season, especially at times when lots of travel is involved, or the games are coming thick and fast and training in between games is taken down a notch.
Having the convenience of EMS is a great tool to keep the body at full power.
For more information on how EMS actually improves strength and builds muscle, check out post here (LINK TO BENEFITS + MUSCLE BUILDING POSTS)
How Does Strength Affect Sporting Performance
As we saw from the studies above, EMS has been proven to increase strength parameters such as squat strength, squat jump and drop jump.
As well as enabling athletes to sprint faster, tackle harder and jump higher, stronger muscles and joints will help to stave off the threat of every athlete’s nightmare. Injury.
Training and competition takes its toll, and because EMS engages more muscle fibers when working at a high intensity, likelihood of injury can be reduced.
How Does EMS Help To Recover from Workouts
It’s widely recognized that active recovery performed post-workout can enable athletes to recover quicker than by resting completely and being inactive. Active recovery includes exercises such as low-intensity cycling, swimming and yoga.
However, for some athletes, time and location may mean that these types of active recovery are not possible.
For athletes in this position, EMS offers the perfect alternative to active recovery exercises such as swimming, walking and pilates.
Sometimes after a heavy training session we just want to relax a bit!
When used for post workout recovery, EMS will:
- oxygenate muscles
- reduce soreness
- remove toxins such as lactic acid
- Increase blood flow and circulation
- decrease swelling in the muscles
All of these achieved without any extra impact on joints or muscles!
The end result?
Athletes can recover quicker, still reap the rewards from their workout and get back to training sooner without increasing the risk of injury or decreasing the potential gains from their workout.
EMS is Portable
Because EMS suits are compact and can easily be packed into your travel luggage, they are ideal for those times when athletes have to travel a lot and sit still for long periods of time.
A fully wireless EMS suit means that athletes can workout or recover anyplace, anytime.
EMS is especially useful for those athletes with tight schedules, as it can be applied during other “rest” activities. Use it in the car (but not while driving), on the plane, while you’re surfing the internet, or even over a meal.
I hope that this helps to shed some new light on some of the potential gains and benefits of elite athletes using EMS.
Incorporating EMS into your training regimen can help take your performance to the next level.
Our wireless EMS suit, the AWI Powersuit, has your back. Go check out our video of the Njoku brothers in action!