Can EMS Give Professional Sportspeople the Edge?

can ems give professional sportspeople the edge

Can EMS give professional sportspeople the edge? EMS or Electrical Muscle Stimulation, has been utilized for decades to help athletes improve their performance and minimize injury and shorten recovery time. Historically the explosion in EMS usage began with the Russian domination in Olympic competition in the 70’s.

A Russian doctor, Yahov Kots, made startling claims that the success of Russian Olympic athletes was due to a form of EMS he had discovered. He claimed to be able to assist the athlete to increase strength by 30% to 40% even in the highly trained elite athlete

It is important to note that in the 1976 Montreal Olympics, the Soviet Union athletes dominated the world. The Soviet Union won the highest number of Gold medals (49) and overall medals (125). Interestingly, the country who finished second was East Germany, a small country, with 40 gold and 90 medals overall. East Germany would have been aware of Dr. Kots’ methods before the rest of the world gained that knowledge. The United States was distant third in the medal count (34 gold and 94 medals overall). So, the dominance of the Eastern Bloc countries gave impetus for the interest in the Russian training methods and is undoubtably the reason why the western world rushed to catch up with the Russian use of electrical muscle training.

Western research into the role of EMS in athletic performance began in earnest following Dr. Kots description of his methods. Interested parties from research scientists to athletic coaches tried to duplicate his claimed results but could not. However, all this intense interest and wealth of experimentation resulted in a massive boost in our knowledge and understanding of the interaction of electrical waveforms and how they interact with muscle and nerve tissue to produce consistent improvement in training. Current day conditioning EMS has evolved into using Whole Body EMS (WB-EMS) which has incorporated all the effective research into electric wavelength parameters that maximize the benefits of EMS, not just as a therapy for pain relief which it still does, but on improved training methods for athletic performance and the fitness industry.

Research has shown that the optimum waveform seems to be biphasic rectangular wave stimulation to produce the greatest strength in muscle and the least pain when comparing to Russian stim and Interferential. Scientific studies prove that electrical stimulation can affect the muscle bulk, muscle size, muscle tone, muscle atrophy and muscle strength in untrained, trained and elite athletes with the best improvements in the highly trained and elite performers.

Serious athletes are always looking to better understand how to maximize their performance. Sports performance is built upon a body that is strong, efficient and powerful. That requires muscular strength as well as neuromotor efficiency and the ability to recover from maximal effort as well as, unfortunately, repair from injuries due to training or competing at high levels.

For muscle recovery and performance, there must be optimum transport of nutrients and healing agents in the vascular circulation. EMS has been shown to produce long-term changes in the vascularization at the capillary level. It has been shown to increase both limb blood flow and the associated microvascular filtration capacity.

“There is a close link between vascularization and neural activity. Infiltration of nerve fibers into repairing tissue is a necessary precursor to capillary invasion and if the nerve supply to the area is damaged, normal vascularization and repair are markedly inhibited. Conversely, if nerve growth is stimulated, vascularization proceeds more rapidly. (Grills et al., 1997). It would appear that increasing the activity of existing, active nerve fibers by electrical stimulation can also promote vascularization.” page 125, Electrotherapy Explained, Principles and Practice 4th ed., Robertson, Ward, Low, Reed, Elsevier, 2006.

EMS is also a recovery tool used to assist athletes as well as a whole-body strength builder, allowing the athlete to train harder but minimize the down time of muscle recovery. It is also an effective means in the return from injury. A normal healing process without electrical stimulation intervention which normally takes almost a year can now be done in average of three month with the aid of electrical stimulation.

Most strengthening is intended to improve function, and most functional activities involve complex movements. Added to a program that does include voluntarily produced activities, electrical stimulation can increase the overall success of that program.

Studies testing the effectiveness of EMS on elite rugby and soccer players and gymnasts have been published that increased performance characteristics such as 20m sprint time, jumping ability - both general and specific jumps, sprinting ability - including shuttle sprints, maximal isometric strength, and muscle cross-sectional area.

Charlie Francis, an elite running coach who coached many world class sprinters wrote a book on EMS in which he said, “My own results have been so favorable that I am not interested in debating whether or not EMS works but rather optimizing the use of EMS in the training of elite athletes.”

In conclusion, muscle stimulation using EMS as a valid, legal way to maximize sports performance. At FITtec.®, we utilize WB-EMS (whole body – electrical muscle stimulation) to increase strength and endurance. The FITtec.® experience is not a passive, ‘done to’ process, our clients receive a maximum workout with an expert trainer to assist the client in getting the specific workout they want to maximize their performance.


Effect of Electromyostimulation Training on Muscle Strength and Sports Performance
Kayvan M. Seyri, Nicola A. Maffiuletti

Effects of a Whole-Body Electrostimulation Program on Strength, Sprinting, Jumping, and Kicking Capacity in Elite Soccer Players Performance
Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (2016) 15, 639-648.
Andre Filipovic, Marijke Grau

The Use of Electrostimulation Exercise in Competitive Sport
International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 2006;1:406-407
Andre Filipovic, Marijke Grau

Effects of Electromyostimulation Training on Muscle Strength and Power of Elite Rugby Players
The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research · May 2007.
Nicolas Babault

Effects of Combined Electromyostimulation and Gymnastics Training in Prepubertal Girls
Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: Feb 2011, Vol. 25, Issue 2, p. 520-526.
Deley, Gaëlle; Cometti, Carole

by Charlie Francis,, 2008

ELECTROTHERAPY EXPLAINED, Principles and Practice 4th ed.,
Robertson, Ward, Low, Reed, Elsevier, 2006.

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