Buying an EMS

hey guys, I’m looking into doing some ems at some point and was wondering how much I should be looking to shell out to get one of reasonable quality? any recommendation of specific ones to look into would be great too

Jimson Lee mentioned during a recent visit that he has been researching various types and price points. You might send him an email for his input.


Hey there,

I would respectfully note that Jimson Lee sells his own EMS unit in partnership with Derek Hansen and Globus, so I would take into consideration that he has a horse in this race, so to speak. Anything he may say about non-Globus units must therefore be scrutinized with the above knowledge in mind.

There is a great deal of information in the archives here, and I don’t think anyone needs to go anywhere else for info on EMS units. Charlie Francis is the EMS master, and there are few who would question that. Gain a bit of an understanding of what is important and why first, then check if the unit you are considering has what it is you need. There is excellent discussion of EMS in the two EMS podcasts in the store, as well as in Key Concepts.

Depending on your needs, you can go out and spend a whack of money on an EMS unit, or you can buy a pretty inexpensive unit that will do an excellent job as well. Keep in mind that Charlies group used modified Slendertones, which were very simple!

One unit I have recommended to other members is the Neuro-Track Sport XL. I ordered mine from WinHealth in the UK, and their service was excellent. I’ve had this EMS unit for four years, and it has never given me any problems.

The reason I like the unit so much is that it offers two dual channels of operation for a total of eight electrodes. This means you can stim muscle groups much faster than dual channel units, but without the associated cost of EMS units with four independent channels. I’ve used it for both max strength and recovery with very good results.

The kicker is that it offers the ability to create and save three custom programs that you can make yourself, something that no expensive unit allows. This was important to me as I wanted to closely follow Charlies recommendations for max strength (10 on, 50 off) and since no commercial unit of any price offered exactly what I wanted, I went with the Sport XL as even though it retails for under $150, it offers a ton of value if you’re willing to do a bit of legwork to find and program your own settings.

Just as a disclaimer, I’m not affiliated with the unit i’m recommending- I just think it’s incredible for the money!

With all due respect T-Slow, I looked up the specs of the unit, and I do not think it is a powerful enough unit. Since one could think that I’m partial because of my affiliation with Globus, I think we should look at facts on the unit you recommend, which can be found on several sites advertising it for sale.
[li]The maximum current is 43 mA*.
[/li][li]The dual channel operation means that you will not be able to independently control muscle differences between left and right**.
[/li][li]Waveform width duration falls short of what would be a more effective value***.[/ul]
Note*: the various sites advertise a maximum current of 86 mA for 1000 Ohm. Since this is the maximum the machine can give, and depends on the resistance (or impedance) connected to the machines, a higher load will decrease the maximum current available. Quadriceps have an impedance of at least 2000 Ohm, therefore the current will be at least half as much. Please consider that in an EMS training regimen of several weeks, one will make a steady progression on the current level: typical starting at 30 mA the first couple of days, and then going up to 80 mA in the ensuing weeks.
Note**: current intensity needs to be adjusted depending on exact pad placement, muscle asymmetries, imbalances.
Note***: The various sites selling the unit quote 330 µs for duration of the pulse; some of them as an afterthought mention 450 µ. So I wouldn’t trust this information so dissimilar between different pages. For efficient quadriceps stimulation again you need 450 µs.

Hi there gciriani,

First of all, I want to say I greatly respect your contributions to the forum over the years, as well as greatly respect your knowledge of all things EMS.

With respect to the unit I suggested, it was not done on a whim. I have used it with great success for a number of years.

First, the individual who inquired about EMS units is a college student, a demographic that is not exactly flush with disposable income to spend on $450+ EMS units. The Neurotrac has been covered in numerous threads in the past and has many satisfied owners, as do various Compex and Globus units.

I used the Neurotrac XL this very week on my athlete’s hamstrings for strength maintenance due to a small injury, and I couldn’t get past 40 mA out of 90mA on the contractions. Of course, he has a ton of white fibre, so that likely made a difference! Also, as stated over time an adaptation will likely occur and more current may be required, but since EMS max strength blocks tend to be very short, this may not be much of an issue, as the adaptation time is limited.

When it came to using the Neurotrac XL on the quads for max strength this time, I skipped it because he has a strain in the gracillus, so I can’t comment on how it affected him. Personally, when I used it on my quads for max strength, I found I couldn’t get anywhere near the max output, and I have very little white fibre, so whatever the actual max output for the Neurotrac XL when taking into account the resistance of the quads, in actual practice it hasn’t been a problem for me.

Also, the protocols for max strength suggested by Charlie, Zatsiorsky, et al. are not contained in any commercial machine i am aware of. I don’t know why the 10 second on, 50 second off protocol is avoided by makers of EMS units, but I’m interested in following the protocols of the greatest sprint coach of all time- I don’t care what other researchers or EMS vendors think, I want to follow Charlie’s protocols to the letter. None of the EMS units offered currently on the market meet this need, thus having the Neurotrac’s ability to create custom programs is a massive advantage.

With regard to recovery, it is not necessary to have an expensive EMS unit in my experience. Cheaper units work fine for pulsing, and here again having the ability to create a custom profile is an advantage that the Neurotrac XL has. As a concrete example; despite the fact that Waldemar has custom designed his own EMS units and his office is littered with many different older industrial units, he has repeatedly used a VERY inexpensive Chinese made unit to deliver EMS recovery as well as electro-acupuncture during sessions in his office.

Again, for the average user who is unwilling to spend $450+ on an EMS unit, the Neurotrac XL is a no brainer. Like anything else in life, I realize quality costs money, so I am certain that more expensive Compex and Globus units are better in many ways. However, if one has a choice of a $150 EMS unit or nothing, there is no way that the Neurotrac is worse than nothing.

I have a globus elite pro 2

This allows self programming, which I have set to Charlie’s protocol
As also mentioned by gciriani, this unit has 100ma and a max freq of 120

Costs £145 here in the uk, I bought it years ago and still going strong.

I read the EMS theory threads over n over again before buying this unit as I defo wanted those figures!

Good product n defo does what you need (limited on time of course as only dual channels so working groups takes for ever lol but what’s time but an investment)

Just my thoughts


Like T-Slow, I’m interested in having a unit that follows the exact protocols that Charlie Francis has recommended. From your extensive research, what is your opinion of the 10sec ON/50sec OFF or 1:10 work to rest ratio of the max strength program that was advocated by Charlie Francis and Zatsiorsky?

I’m quoting the book where I read it: “Zatsiorsky’s method is a series of 10 repetitions with a load 70% of maximal, at maximum speed, and 45-90 seconds between series”. Supposedly it applies to any type of exercise, voluntary or involuntary. I believe Kotz adapted this method to his early EMS training of Russian Olympic athletes (Valery Borzov) in the '70s. Because he was training sprinters who typically concentrate their effort in 10 seconds, I believe it came natural to transform it in 10 repetitions of 10 seconds each. I think that Charlie was very much influenced by the work of Kotz (actually I believe that’s what started him), and must have used it extensively in his coaching. The work/rest ratio is 1:5, and not 1:10. That means there are 10 seconds of effort and 50 seconds to allow the muscles to recover. I’ve never seen a work/rest ratio of 10 (but I understand why it is easy to get confused with all those ratios). This is the same program that I provided in the machines that I gave Charlie for testing, and that I’ve given to those who asked for it (a couple of NFL strength and conditioning coaches).

I don’t want this to be perceived as marketing, but just basing my statements on pure facts, that is not true. There are machines with that protocol.


This is an email I have exchanged with a Neurotrac representative. I had told him about the false advertisement of the unit claiming to be able to have 450uS when the unit really only gets 330uS.

[b]"We deeply apologize for misconception of advertising, our other product called Sports has 450uS and Sports XL had always 330uS max.
We had a mistake on our Sports XL manual and this mistake (450uS was mentioned) was corrected in 2008-1010, since then we clearly display 330uS as per correct technical specifications.

In fact, Sports XL has much stronger symmetrical pulse comparing to Sports, therefore 330uS in Xl are comparible to around 360uS in other asymertical waveform units.

Let me suggest that uS and mA are directly proportional in terms of power to muscle, so the stronger contraction by mean of electrical power, you can eithr increase by uS or mA. for example, a pulse of 330uS and 40mA will have exactly the same contraction effect as a pulse of 660uS and 20mA (as the power=[mA x uS] delivered to the muscle is the same).

This means you can still use the pre-set programmes or your own custom, and increase ma until the level of contraction."[/b]

What do you think of the statement above? Is it accurate according to your expertise on EMS Max Strength?

EDIT - In the comments above he’s distinguishing the difference between the Neurotrac Sport XL model and the Neurtrac Sports model (an older model).

They do not know what they are talking about. µs * mA calculates the charge delivered (mC or milli-Coulombs). However, muscles obey Lapique’s law ( In a nutshell it means that there is an optimal choice to stimulate muscle, i.e. an ideal combination of µs, also called chronaxie. For quadriceps this is in the neighborhood of 450 µs.

mA determines how deep in the flesh the current will go, and therefore determines muscle fiber recruitment percentage.

Thanks for the response Giovanni. Here is another email repsonse from him regarding the quads needing 450uS.

Me: According to my knowledge the quadriceps muscles need at least 450us for an effective stimulation, is the neurotrac sport XL model capable of coming close to this in comparison to another unit?

Neurotrac representative: “450 on symmetrical or asymmetrical waveform? symmetrical, used in Sports XL is much stronger then symmetrical, used in Sports.
The data source you use for 450uS should specify the waveform and the approximate height of a person. See the attached electrode’s placement manual, page 13: it discusses the uS settings on our symmetrical-waveform machines.
How stronger in comparison - I’ve never calculated as there is clear explanation: with more mA you substitute the lack of power.
Finally, you use higher uS for bigger muscles, the quadriceps of a normal child of 120cm height I would stimulate with 120uS, no more.
450 is not a magical number for any quadriceps, it is just the length of an impulse and if it is 200uS longer or shorter - the mA intensity setting will make up or compensate the difference.”

Anything else to say about this repsonse?

We are talking about symmetrical waveforms, I don’t know why he would bring up asymmetrical. I agree that the ideal chronaxie for a smaller muscle, a biceps or the quad of a child, is shorter. But for an adult you are going to limit your stimulation. If you need to increase mA to make up for a shorter µs, you are making the stimulation less comfortable, and you are going to keep mA low because it is going to be extremely uncomfortable. Higher µs are going to make stimulation much more comfortable, and you will be able to get better results. Recent studies have shown that the number one determinant of results in EMS is recruitment > 50%. The fact that this guy is trading mA for µs, means he doesn’t understand Lapique’s law.

Makes good sense now.

I’m curious to how you configured the proper chronaxie in microseconds for each area of the body that you listed in your EMS Digest manual:

Lower leg - 430 microseconds
Upper leg - 380 microseconds
Lower Torso - 330 microseconds
Upper Torso - 280 microseconds
Arm - 200 microseconds
Forearm - 230 microseconds

Are these numbers configured from your own experience or is there research/evidence behind the explanation of these number? I’m also curious to how you came up with 450 microseconds being efficient for an effective quad stimulation.

Now this is good information! If anyone is going to spend serious money on an EMS unit, I want to know why, and this is helping. I’m still not sure how big of a comfort difference there is between 330 microseconds and 450 microseconds considering this only applies to one muscle group as related to max strength.

Is there any reason that the top units (e.g. those with 8 electrodes) don’t allow custom programs? Is this a safety / certification issue in North America? If so, will manufacturers input programs of my choosing as standard?

With regard to some units having 6-10 seconds on, 50 off protocols as standard, I haven’t carefully researched EMS units recently, so if there are commercial units available it would be nice to know about them.

The best way to understand the difference between different µs waveform duration, is to use a machine in which parameters are adjustable on the fly (while one stimulates). We have one such unit, and the reason we put it on the market was for people like coaches who need to experiment, make changes to adjust for comfort, or to increase the force developed at each twitch. We also developed a machine with 10/50 work/rest protocols, and variations around that concept to help athletes go on a progression. I think I have to stop here because more would be considered marketing.

I also wanted to respond to a statement you made earlier about your loyalty to the protocols espoused by Charlie Francis. When Charlie started using EMS, the waveform he employed was the Russian waveform, which is equivalent to a waveform of 200 µs (or less) at 2500 Hz. Later on he started employing waveforms of longer duration, moving to square wave (aka symmetrical, biphasic rectangular). So you can see that he was for progress and change, as new things are proved with facts to work better. When he asked to review one of our machines, I sent to him one of our programmable machines, which had adjustable parameters, 450 µs, and a 10/50/10 protocol programmed in it. He liked it very much, and responded: “BTW it’s a great machine”. I’m sure he would have all been for making even more progress and putting in a machine variations around the 10/50 s rest/work protocol to help athletes’ adaptation and growth.

Would you be able to pm me his email so I could inquire?


t-slow: how did you go about avoiding or getting over these deficiencies, especially in the quad area it seems. I injured my pcl several years ago and whenever I stop squatting heavy it flares up again with sprinting, so i’d be using the ems to keep my quad strength up/supplement quad strengthening to prevent pcl pain

gciriani: do you have any specific recommendations in the not super-expensive range (obviously I don’t need anything super advance but obviously I want something that gets the job done)? you could pm me or I could give you an email if you’d prefer…

thanks everyone for the discussion

Originally posted by tb2010:
… do you have any specific recommendations in the not super-expensive range? …

I understand the difficulty you and others are having, trying to make sense of disparate advice. In one camp you have people like me who have a conflict of interest with the product they sell, and therefore you would not be sure whether to trust the advice or not. In the other camp you have people like T-slow who have had experience with the lesser machines only, and therefore cannot offer a direct comparison either.

The only thing I can offer you is a more informed opinion by NumberTwo (aka Derek Hansen), who has contributed many posts to this forum. Although NumberTwo has an interest in promoting my brand, he is the only one I know of in this forum who has tried and compared machines going from several thousands to less than a hundred. Following is his quotation.

Originally written by NumberTwo:
On the subject of cheap stimulators - I’ve had a bunch (3 to 4 stims) in the past. They were cheap on many levels. Less comfortable stimulation, cheaper build quality (i.e. timers and knobs fell off), leads wires would break and no ability to manipulate pulse width. These stimulators did not have pre-set programs, but they also lacked the convenience of warm-up modes, cool down, pause function, etc. Tough to convince people that we simply support Globus because it is a much superior product.

For what it’s worth, I have tried dozens of units over the years ever since reading the CFTS back in 2001 trying to emulate the success without spending money, I mean no money! From £5 - £35 even units like the body tech elite (“elite” lol) for £100 with fixed programmes, fixed frequencys and widths the lot

As I said earlier I went only a little more cost £155 with my elite pro 2 bought 4 years ago now, in this time I have used on myself and my athletes (one of whom is now with uka and ran 10.35 under me)

I won’t be changing that’s for sure, the contractions are full and strong without that feeling of electrocution I was getting with other cheaper models.

so all in all it looks like for ems its something that if I want quality I need o be willing to spend some cash. on the one hand, superior quality would probably also speak to longevity so even if I have to deepen my pockets a bit, I probably plan on doing some bodybuilding if not moving towards oly lifting when my track career is over, since I enjoy the weightroom portion of speed development so much, so I could be using it for years to come

on the other hand the only money I will have for the next school year and next summer (I will be taking classes) will be the money I make this summer, so the more I spend now, the less I’ll have for college things and other track stuff (though hopefully I’ll eventually run fast enough times that our school’s sponsorships (used to be nike, but a new contract is being negotiated) will just give me shoes (10.93 or 7.00 in the 60).

gciriani: even with conflict of interest, what models would you recommend as far as what I should be looking at? obviously I can’t throw down the type of cash a professional would. I am 19, a mid 11 100 runner, with a 3 foot vertical and can squat 2.5x my bw to parallel as far as stats go

a-j: does the elite pro 2 have any of the problems that were discussed earlier in the thread? and yeah, I’m no 10.35 runner, hahah