In many occasions, a simple lack of knowledge of the functioning of the muscular system of the human body and how an effective muscular contraction takes place brings up the following questions: Is electro-stimulation not an artificial method? We can respond by stating clearly: in the same way that the potatoes and fruit you eat are cultivated artificially, it is necessary to understand that with neuromuscular electro-stimulation an electrical current is applied to the skin, near to a motor point, and then the current travels to the nerve tissues. It is this that provokes an electrical discharge on the motor plate, causing a totally natural contraction.

To cause a muscular contraction by means of electrodes alone, and to achieve a powerful stimulation of the muscle mass, such as the quadriceps, we would need to generate and transmit such an electric impulse that would cause burns on the skin; which would be useless for any athlete that would use this method. This is not the method used by electro-stimulation; consider that electro-stimulators are used as much in physiotherapy to recover from knee, abdominal and lumbar vertebrae injury, as well as general rehabilitation; as well as for aesthetic reasons such as gluteal, abdominal and general cellulite, and in general for various treatments of the body which have been used for years. Recently, it has been used for improving sports performance and, even though for physiotherapy and aesthetic professionals the possible problems with electro-stimulation has been overcame a long time ago, classic sports trainers still have too many doubts.

Amongst those imagined problems, perhaps the most important to mention is whether the method is natural or not, so we’ll offer another example; when a bullet is shot, the firing pin hits a central zone of the bullet in which gunpowder is not located, the firing pin acts on a point in which the mercury is found, and it is this that discharges powerfully in an explosive way which is capable of iniciating the combustion of the large amount of gunpowder which is inside. The initial impulse is powerful enough for that intitial quantity of fulminate, but the second impulse is immense in comparison with the fulminate. This is an example which displays clearly what happens in the muscle nerve pair; the nerve impulse is a very organised impulse with very precise frequency and energy. This energy trigger is hardly anything when compared with the energy the muscle will need and use. The above comparison of the bullet is useful in many ways; the gunpowder leaves waste elements, as does the reaction of the combustion of the glucose; this we will discuss further on.

Therefore, the radical difference of the voluntary contraction originates in the impulse generated by the brain, whereas the neuromuscular electro-stimulator contraction is caused directly by a generator with electrodes, which transmit the impulse to the motor nervous tissue which drives the signal and provokes an effective contraction. If the type of signal which arrives to the muscular motor plate were not the same as the signal involved in a voluntary contraction, the muscle would not respond by producing a contraction; it would do nothing. So, the signal to which the muscular tissue responds is the same as the signal which the brain also produces, with one extra advantage; when the brain constantly needs to generate a series of impulses during a long time, exhaustion occurs; not just muscular exhaustion, which is clear, but also, exhaustion of the brain. Creating these impulses causes a type of exhaustion in the brain, and in most cases, when the brain cannot continue to do it anymore, using an electro-stimulator on the muscle causes it to continue to contract, but the brain no longer needs to generate the impulses. There is an inherent mental exhaustion involved with all types of sports activity which does not occur with electro-stimulation.

Working with an electro-stimulator allows us to progress in our sport of choice because we can recruit a large number of muscle fibres in each training session and, furthermore, we will be able to adapt this to the objective which we are trying to achieve, by varying the intensity and frequency. By means of varying these parameters, we will improve our local circulation, strength and resistance, and all of this without psychological exhaustion.

When we speak of amateur athletes who don’t have a lot of time to train, the usage of this special equipment allows an easy increase in the muscular load work. As for professional athletes, statistics show us that with electro-stimulation there can be a 8 to 10% increase in strength, even in highly trained atheletes. Obviously, this will significantly affect sports performance. Today, an increase in strength or resistence of just 1% can allow an athlete to rise above the rest. When an athlete of a regional or national level is not using electro-stimulation, they are reducing their potential of reaching the level of elite athletes, normally due simply to a lack of knowledge of this type of training which can allow them to move up in their professional career.

There may still be doubt as to whether the effects of electro-stimulation on the muscles are the same effects noticed in day to day sports training. The answer is obvious and without doubt: Yes. This requires an explanation; we are not talking about equipment capable of producing magical effects. We are talking about equipment which allow us to improve our local circulation; which permit a development in the strength in those muscles to which its applied; and which can stimulate rapid muscle fibres in an intense way so as to improve the training. In short, we can improve our speed and strength, and the performance of our muscles, but it is necessary to also train in the traditional way. A volly-ball player could spend 10 hours connected to the equipment but would not improve technically nor tactically, nor understand their team-mates any better, nor partake in team work, nor improve any of the factors necessary for playing well during the stress of a match. The electro-stimulators offer an improvement in circulation, and increased strength and speed; from there, the athlete must turn to technical, tactical and team training. What is clear to us, without doubt, is that if we add this very specific type of training we will always improve sports performance.

We can improve the quality of our musculature system and, understanding that EMS (Electrical Muscle Stimulation) makes up a part of a training program that complements classic sports training and that both should comprise a programme for improving our general condition, we can achieve results which help us stand out above the rest, with less psychological and physical exhaustion.

There are not many problems with electro-stimulation. In the world of physiotherapy it is enough to say that they are few and far between. In short; don’t apply electro-stimulation on the abdomen of pregnant women nor zones in the proximity of the abdomen, don’t use the equipment on those with pacemakers, nor on patients with epilepsy. We always advise following and adhering to the usage and security norms of EMS.