EMS Training – The Basics That You Need to Know

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EMS (Electrical Muscle Stimulation) can be used as a tool for relaxation, for lifestyle users who just want to remain in shape and look good, and also by pro athletes looking to increase tier performance.

To get the full benefit from EMS, it’s essential to know some EMS training basics, such as bodyweight training, training with weights, EMS training for beginners and advanced athletes and how long and often we should train for. 

We’ll cover these EMS training basics in this post, and show you how EMS training builds muscle strength and increases endurance. 

There are 2 different EMS training plans that you can follow.

  1. Build muscle and strength by combining EMS with resistance training
  2. Boost endurance by integrating a full-body EMS workout with cardio exercise.

Build Muscle or Boost Endurance

First let’s look at the different types of muscle fibers we have, and which ones we need to focus on when we want to build muscle or increase our endurance.

  • Increase endurance by engaging slow-twitch (type 1) muscle fibers
  • Build muscle by targeting fast-twitch (type 2) muscle fibers.

In your EMS training, this is achieved by setting different frequency settings, given in Hz.

Low frequencies (no higher than about 18 Hz) will mainly activate your slow-twitch muscle fibers. Power and endurance athletes will thus benefit from electrical muscle stimulation in this frequency range to build up muscle. 

Higher frequencies between 30 and 50 Hz stimulate the fast-twitch muscle fibers, meaning the muscle is deliberately overtaxed and can thus be forced into muscle hypertrophy (muscle build-up). 

EMS suits, such as the AWI Powersuit, come with preset training plans which allow you to choose your type of workout. 

EMS Training to Build Muscle

Although resistance training and EMS both have benefits when used on their own, it’s when we combine both methods that we see some big results. 

To build muscle, we need to work the muscles beyond what they are used to, creating muscle damage and fatigue, which is then repaired and helps the muscle to grow.

The most common way to build muscle is though resistance training, of which there are 2 types: 

  1. Bodyweight training
  2. Lifting Weights

EMS Bodyweight Training

Bodyweight training is great because you can do it anywhere, whether it be in the comfort of your own home, or in the local park. And using an EMS suit can give you this freedom, as opposed to being hooked up to a machine in a fitness studio. 

Want a stronger core? Then cranking out some crunches or leg raises while your EMS contracts your abs and glutes at the same time is going to get your muscles burning.

If you’re looking to build your quads, then set the EMS to work the quad muscles and perform some quad strengthening body eight exercises at the same time.

Check out Pete Williams’s 10 Best Bodyweight Exercises for Your Quads post to get some top examples. 

EMS Training with Weights

To get the maximum benefit of EMS training with weights, we recommend performing the eccentric part of the movement when the EMS suit pulses. These pulses usually last for around 4 seconds, based on the resistance training principle of “Time Under Tension”.  

Let’s say you want to focus on your biceps.

Set the EMS to focus on this muscle and synchronize the movement of lowering the weight with the pulsing. This will increase the exertion on the muscle and give maximum benefit. 

EMS Training for Beginners

We recommend that beginners start off by working the legs and lower body first, and then adding other muscle groups once you become accustomed to the feeling.

When you first start training with EMS, just aim to be active and do some simple cardio exercises like jogging on the spot, cycling or even wear your EMS while you do the grocery shopping!

Your muscles will still be getting worked, and once you become more accustomed with the feeling of EMS, you can move on to more advanced training.

EMS Training for Elite Athletes

Numerous studies have shown that EMS can be highly effective in improving the sporting performance of elite athletes.

Top athletes such as Usain Bolt, soccer players Karim Benzema and Mario Gomez and boxer David Haye have used EMS as part of their training regimen. 

EMS training is an effective method of increasing specific strength skills. As sport becomes more competitive, the pace of the game increases, and as a result, the number and intensity of short explosive and repeated speed actions increases. 

We’ll go into more detail about how elite athletes can use EMS to boost their performance and help speed up recovery in a couple of posts coming soon!

EMS Training to Increase Endurance

In sports such as running, triathlon, swimming or cycling, endurance is essential to provide the ability to be active for longer durations during the sporting activity.

There is some science to back up the positive effects of EMS training on increasing endurance.

Results from a study published in the Journal of Sports Science and medicine in May 2014, confirmed “that 5 weeks of low-frequency electrical stimulation have beneficial effects on aerobic capacity and demonstrated that low-frequency electrical stimulation applied for as short as 5 weeks have a great impact on muscle architecture and cardiovascular parameters and control”. 

Setting a low frequency (or cardio mode) on your EMS suit engages the slow-twitch muscle fibers needed to improve endurance. 

And performing cardio activities such as running, cycling or crossfit style exercises such as Battle Ropes is going to get your heart pumping and with the EMS targeting your muscles as well, you’re getting twice the benefit.  

How Long Should I Use EMS

A huge benefit of EMS training is how much quicker you can achieve the same results, making it ideal for people with a busy schedule.

Because EMS works directly with the muscle and activates almost 100% of the fibers in each muscle, it provides a far deeper contraction than you get with a voluntary contraction.

Doing just 2-3 workouts per week of 20 minutes maximum will give you the same benefits as a 3-hour workout.

Be sure to give yourself 2 days rest between each workout, allowing your muscles enough time to recover and repair themselves to get maximum results. 

Final Thoughts 

EMS is a perfect training partner for anyone, from beginners to advanced athletes and can be used to build muscle and endurance.

It’s powerful technology which has to be applied in the right way to get the full benefit. 

Find out more about how the AWI Powersuit can support your health and fitness goals here and get in touch with us directly if you have any questions.