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Can Electrical Shocks Replace Your Squat Rack? The Science Weighs In on EMS Training

 Written by 

Julien Raby

 Last updated on 

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Forget hours at the gym! Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS) promises a supercharged workout with a sci-fi twist. 

Could strapping into a wired suit be the key to rapid fitness results? Beth Skwarecki goes under the electrodes to find out. But does this futuristic approach truly outperform traditional workouts, or is the hype just hot air? 

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Read on to discover if EMS is worth the investment.

Key Findings: Evaluating EMS Efficacy

Despite the innovative appeal and technological sophistication, EMS workouts may not necessarily trump conventional exercise methods. 

Skwarecki’s firsthand account and subsequent analysis reveal that while EMS offers a unique experience, it might not deliver on its promises of superior efficiency.

What is EMS?

Electrical Muscle Stimulation involves techniques that induce muscle contraction using electrical currents. 

This method is akin to but distinct from other electrical therapies like TENS, which is used for pain relief without causing muscle contractions. 

EMS aims to enhance muscle activation during workouts by wearing a suit that covers various muscle groups, providing a simultaneous, intensified exercise effect.

The EMS Workout Experience

Skwarecki’s session at BODY20 involved donning a special suit and participating in basic exercises like lunges and squats, enhanced by electrical stimulation. 

Despite the high-tech setup, the workout felt underwhelming in intensity compared to traditional strength training. 

The studio’s ambiance, nestled between a veterinary clinic and a yoga studio, and the procedural formalities, including safety disclaimers, painted a picture of a boutique fitness spot with a futuristic twist.

Claims vs. Reality

EMS studios often tout their workouts as more efficient or effective than regular gym sessions. Claims suggest that 20 minutes of EMS can equate to hours of conventional exercise. 

However, Skwarecki points out discrepancies in these claims by examining a 2016 study comparing EMS to traditional workouts

The study showed some benefits in terms of time efficiency but not to the extent advertised, and it was limited to specific demographics, casting doubt on the broader applicability.

Conclusion: A Novel Experience, Not a Panacea

While EMS workouts provide an engaging and novel approach to fitness, they do not necessarily offer a better alternative to traditional exercises. 

For those seeking a new workout experience, EMS might be worth exploring, but it should not be viewed as a superior method for achieving fitness goals. 

As Skwarecki concludes, the primary draw of EMS might simply be its novelty and the unique way it makes the routine workout feel special.


Julien Raby is the owner of BoxLife. He owns a bachelor in literature and a certificate in marketing from Concordia. He's Crossfit Level 1 certified and has been involved in Crossfit since 2010. In 2023 he finally made it to Crossfit Open Quarterfinals for the first time. LinkedIn Instagram Facebook

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