EMS for long distance

Do you believe that EMS could help a long distance athlete? Not only for recovery and regeneration but for strength and speed also. Stefanie and I are owners of a Compex Perfomance (Stefy is a sprinter so we already know how to use it but I am a marathoner). Are there they scientific articles on it, or any bibliografy? Can I find anywhere EMS programs to follow, targeting endurance? Which are the main muscle groups that I have to train?

EMS seems to work much better than Billy-Bob in a CBC radio interview.

J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 1987

Complementary Information

Harrison Department of Surgical Research, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia 19104.


The latissimus dorsi muscles of six dogs were made fatigue resistant by chronic electrical conditioning. Once the muscles were conditioned, oxygen consumption was measured during periods of exercise. The ratio of the tension developed to oxygen consumed during moderate stimulation (300 msec on) for the control and the electrically conditioned muscles was 16.3 +/- 3.5 and 36.5 +/- 6.7 kg-sec/ml oxygen, respectively. During intense stimulation (800 msec on) the ratio was 12.6 +/- 2.1 and 54.2 +/- 8.9 kg-sec/ml oxygen, respectively. Thus the conditioned muscle was able to develop and maintain tension with a considerably reduced oxygen expenditure. The increased efficiency of the conditioned muscle helps to explain its increased resistance to fatigue and the ability of pumping chambers constructed from electrically preconditioned skeletal muscle to perform sustained cardiac type work.

Annals of Biomedical Engineering, 18 : 479-490 (1990)

Faculty of Electrical and Computer Engineering, E. Kardelj University, Ljubljana, Yugoslavia.


Skeletal muscles, exposed to a prolonged period of specific functional demands, respond adaptively. Electrical stimulation, when employed as a technique for subjecting selected muscles to altered use, enables precise entrainment of the pattern of functional activity. In this investigation, the vastus lateralis muscle in a group of volunteers was stimulated. The stimulation program typical of a phasic type of activity (high frequency, high current amplitude, short pulse duration) intermittently subjected the stimulated muscles to brief periods of intense activity, followed by relatively long pauses. The activation-relaxation time ratio chosen was 1 to 13. It was determined to prevent the muscles from fatiguing. The effects of the chronic stimulation program were established by measurements of the time course of contraction and relaxation and fatigue of the vastus lateralis muscle. Chronic phasic electrical stimulation increased the speed of muscle contraction by 15% while the fatigue characteristics remained unchanged.

Journal of applied physiology, 92, 1383-1392(2002)

Groupe Analyse du Mouvement, Unite de Formation et de Recherche Sciences et Techniques des Activites Physiques et Sportives, Faculte des Sciences du Sport, Universite de Bourgogne, BP 27877-21078 Dijon Cedex, France. Nicola.Maffiuletti@u-bourgogne.fr


Neuromuscular adaptations of the plantar flexor muscles were assessed before and subsequent to short-term electromyostimulation (EMS) training. Eight subjects underwent 16 sessions of isometric EMS training over 4 wk. Surface electromyographic (EMG) activity and torque obtained under maximal voluntary and electrically evoked contractions were analyzed to distinguish neural adaptations from contractile changes. After training, plantar flexor voluntary torque significantly increased under isometric conditions at the training angle (+8.1%, P < 0.05) and at the two eccentric velocities considered (+10.8 and +13.1%, P < 0.05). Torque gains were accompanied by higher normalized soleus EMG activity and, in the case of eccentric contractions, also by higher gastrocnemii EMG (P < 0.05). There was an 11.9% significant increase in both plantar flexor maximal voluntary activation (P < 0.01) and postactivation potentiation (P < 0.05), whereas contractile properties did not change after training. In the absence of a change in the control group, it was concluded that an increase in neural activation likely mediates the voluntary torque gains observed after short-term EMS training.

Medical Scientific Sports Exerc 32 (2) : 403-11(2000)

Department of Kinesiology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.


PURPOSE: The purpose of the study was to determine whether postactivation potentiation (PAP) was enhanced in the trained muscles of male endurance athletes.

METHODS: Triathletes (TRI), distance runners (RUN), active controls (AC), and sedentary control subjects (SED) (N = 10 per group) performed 10-s maximal isometric contractions (MVC) of the elbow extensor and ankle plantarflexor muscles. Maximal twitch contractions were evoked (percutaneous stimulation) before and during a 5-min period after the MVC. PAP was measured as the percentage change in peak twitch torque post-MVC.

RESULTS: TRI, who train both upper and lower limb muscles, had enhanced (relative to SED) PAP in both elbow extensor and plantarflexor muscles. In RUN, who train only the lower limbs, enhanced PAP was restricted to the plantarflexors. AC, whose main activity was upper and lower limb weight training, also had enhanced PAP in both muscle groups, although the enhancement in the plantarflexors was not as great as in TRI and RUN.

CONCLUSION: PAP is enhanced in endurance athletes. Enhanced PAP may counteract fatigue during endurance exercise. The mechanism(s) responsible for the enhanced PAP remain to be determined

There is a whole Yahoo! forum for endurance athletes, hosted by Hammer Nutrition, in which most users are triathletes, cycling enthusiasts and endurance runners (users of either Globus or Compex devices).

For endurance adaptation you have to increase the percentage of slow twitch fibers. The article, Functional and biochemical properties of chronically stimulated human skeletal muscle, Nuhr, Pette et al. 2003, European Journal of Applied Physiology, describes results showing increase in slow twitch fibers in humans, but the protocol was many hours of EMS per day. I’m, convinced you can obtain results with shorter sessions.

However, it seems from the endurance forum members mentioned above, that the most important advantage for them is owed to the use of the Active Recovery program. This program allows the athlete to recover from intense training much faster, and to be able to pack more training sessions within one weeks: also according to this video by a CSCS endurance coach. Two recent research articles seem to confirm experimentally that EMS active recovery works:
[li]Effectiveness of active versus passive recovery strategies after futsal games, J Strength Cond Res, 2008.[/li][li]Effects of different recovery interventions on anaerobic performances following preseason soccer training, J Strength Cond Res, 2007.[/li][/ul]
The main muscle groups to target would be quads, calves and hams. The Yahoo forum has several resources on periodization for endurance athletes (see the links section in it).

The entire point illustrated by the EMS for distance running IMO is that short Alactic anaerobic and aerobic can co-exist very happily.

Thx guys. All of the above are very helpful. Does anyone know any good site with somekind of daily program on using the ems for distances?

That’s the link I gave you above (“resources on periodization”). In particular you will get redirected to a page of Hammer Nutrition that has three PDFs you can dowload: one for triathletes, one for runners, one for cycling.