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Can electrical muscle stimulation really increase strength?

Can electrical muscle stimulation really increase strength?

“My own results have been so favorable that I am not interested in debating whether or not EMS works, but rather in optimizing the use of EMS in the training of elite athletes.”

- Charlie Francis 

EMS has been used by athletes in Eastern European countries for sprints training since the 1950’s, while western countries have become aware of the uses of EMS only in the early 1970’s.  It has become clearer over the past few years as far as the popularity of EMS machines to aid in recovery and regeneration.  However, there is substantial evidence supporting the use of EMS machines for strength development too.  With the demand rising in this space there is one, in my opinion, that continually stands above the rest in regards to effectiveness, usability, customer service, and application, PowerDot.

So, how can the PowerDot help to develop strength?

An EMS stimulus fires all motor neurons in the area being stimulated.  It creates an uncoordinated contraction which is isometric by nature.  Studies have shown that the muscular tension produced by EMS is up to 30% higher than a maximal voluntary contraction.  

There is a motor learning aspect related to using EMS in the space of strength work.  This helps an athlete not only learn how to recruit muscle fibers but also fire a greater number.  The usage of EMS for strength teaches the body how call upon more fast twitch muscle fibers.  Not only that, but there are theories that state using EMS creates not only intermuscular change but also intramuscular change.

Studies show that you can achieve strength gains up to 30% after 10-15 treatments (person and training age specific.  Studies from Kotts of the USSR) in a period of 3 weeks.  These strength gains do not come from an increase in muscle mass or Cross-section, but rather CNS related training.

So, the question is how and when do you use this based around training week, and not overdoing it?  

In a given micro cycle, EMS should be done three to four times per week, generally on the same days when high intensity power work is done.  So, when you are doing CNS related training, this is when you should use your PowerDot machine.  Other wise, if you use it on the opposite days you will not allow for super compensation to occur.  The one day separation between speed work and speed endurance work allows for the recovery of the central nervous system.  

EMS for strength should be used in the PM session as a separate training cycle.  Generally two hours post last training and done alone.  Make sure you clean your skin to have it clear and free of oils to allow for a good conduction of the current.  So, take a nice warm bath or shower, then when you are dry, apply the PowerDot system to your muscle area and select the strength program.  This includes a warm phase, do not skip this, and then sit back load up the response. The goal is to have the system at the highest number you can handle.  

The application is getting your body to fire contractions that will call upon the muscle fibers and create a CNS response to aid in strength development.  Although the mental fatigue factors are low, make sure you keep to the protocol and don’t over do it.  Just like anything else, you need the stress and application to create and adaption.  However, If you over do it then you will prevent any adaption to occur due to an overtrained state.

You can also supplement this in for injured athletes who may not be able to load up joints or their bodies. Using the PowerDot machine is another means to maintain strength through times of injuries.

- Jason Leydon, CSCS

(Training Principles - Charlie Francis)

(Studies done by Kotts)