EMS Theory - Continued

Almost three years ago I started the [b]EMS Theory thread[/b] to help educate people interested in electrical muscle stimulation. Charlie Francis was a great advocate of EMS, and I’d like to share recent articles that help consolidate knowledge in this field.

The XVIII Congress of the International Society of Electrophysiology and Kinesiology (ISEK 2010), took place in June 2010 in Denmark. This gathering had a special session: Electrical stimulation for testing and training in exercise and sports. Several papers* were presented during this session, whose authors are among the foremost researchers in the field. The editorial covering the whole session, can be freely downloaded:
Maffiuletti NA, Minetto MA, Farina D, Bottinelli R. Electrical stimulation for neuromuscular testing and training: state-of-the art and unresolved issues. Eur. J. Appl. Physiol. 2011;111(10):2391-2397.
Since there are many skeptics, the editorial does imply that muscle hypertrophy can be achieved with EMS.

In the rest of the articles, one passage reminded me in a statement of a debate I had in this forum with Charlie Francis himself.

Strength training by EMS does promote neural and muscular adaptations that are complementary to the well-known effects of voluntary resistance training
I knew from previous readings that EMS produced the peak of its results between 6 and 8 weeks from beginning of EMS training. Charlie put his spin on what I quoted in a post, and wrote that significant results could be seen much earlier. I’m sorry I didn’t believe him then, because now these papers show he was spot on. One of the articles states:
neural adaptation happens much earlier (4 weeks) than muscle fiber adaptation (6-8 weeks).

[li]Hortobágyi T, Maffiuletti NA. Neural adaptations to electrical stimulation strength training. Eur. J. Appl. Physiol. 2011;111(10):2439-2449.[/li][li]Gobbo M, Gaffurini P, Bissolotti L, Esposito F, Orizio C. Transcutaneous neuromuscular electrical stimulation: influence of electrode positioning and stimulus amplitude settings on muscle response. Eur. J. Appl. Physiol. 2011;111(10):2451-2459.[/li][li]Botter A, Oprandi G, Lanfranco F, et al. Atlas of the muscle motor points for the lower limb: implications for electrical stimulation procedures and electrode positioning. Eur. J. Appl. Physiol. 2011;111(10):2461-2471.[/li][li]Bickel CS, Gregory CM, Dean JC. Motor unit recruitment during neuromuscular electrical stimulation: a critical appraisal. Eur. J. Appl. Physiol. 2011;111(10):2399-2407.[/li][*]Gondin J, Cozzone PJ, Bendahan D. Is high-frequency neuromuscular electrical stimulation a suitable tool for muscle performance improvement in both healthy humans and athletes? European Journal of Applied Physiology. 2011.[/ol]

I remember reading that thread over n over again, I first started using forms of EMS back in 2001 when I first got hold of the cfts

Charlie liked the use of EMS during max strength phases to maximise the adaptation

As someone heavily involved in EMS development and dare I say marketing? What would you recommend as protocols for sprint athletes? 3 years on from your initial thread and wiser

Note: I have a globus

I don’t think I’m qualified to recommend anything else other than what Charlie used to: for instance the use of a 10/50/10 protocol. Perhaps Number two may have further suggestions.

I am actually working with Giovanni to develop speed/sprint based protocols based on both Charlie’s recommendations and my own experiences with EMS and high performance athletes. I could go into more detail, but I would like to keep the information under wraps until they are incorporated into an actual muscle stim unit that can be presented to coaches and athletes. I have been doing testing with a variety of athletes with very good success.

Stay tuned…

Oh waiting was never my strong point. I was just reading on EMS info the past few days. We need your knowledge NumberTwo!

Well that was kinda what I was leaning toward, why haven’t the protocols set and used successfully by Charlie decades ago embedded into units for use now?

My globus can be programmed but choosing the variables is a very labours chore

Yes - I agree. We hope to have all of the most useful protocols pre-set into the new unit. This includes setting the optimal work-to-rest ratios, the appropriate frequencies, optimal ramp-up/down times, and most comfortable pulse-width settings.

I believe most EMS units are created for the “general public” with catch-all settings that conform to the most people. We hope to create a niche market EMS unit that targets performance based clients who have specific goals - both performance and rehab based.

I would also include a comprehensive manual which most EMS units do not include. This includes how to most appropriately integrate EMS with your current training program (i.e. when, how much, etc.). And, people need to understand that for strength building, the unit must be turned up as high as possible to elicit the best results. This is not popular with the average consumer as it is very uncomfortable.

Giovanni and I are trying to combine our different skills sets and experiences to come up with an effective ems unit.

How long will it take before some info on this “product” comes to light?

This makes me smile :slight_smile:

I will sure to provide notice on our progress. Our intention is not simply to sell a product, but to provide appropriate education around the product in terms of integration with an appropriate training program for speed.

This is something that Charlie wanted to do. Not simply provide an EMS unit, but educate people on how to use it effectively. I believe Giovanni and I are passionate about extending Charlie’s intentions.

On the topic of EMS, it would be really nice to have the pre-massage EMS settings / duration and pad placements that Waldemar uses programmed into a CF machine.

He really knows how to get the most out of EMS for the purposes of massage- nobody has ever got me from uber-tight to loose (with near instant recovery!) and I suspect the pre-massage EMS is an integral part of that.


On page 180 of the CFTS, Charlie discusses quad to hamstring strength ratios. Later in that paragraph he mentions that there also needs to be a balance between the right and left hamstrings and that traditional strength training can’t correct this because both legs are already being stimulated simultaneously. He then states that EMS can be applied to strength imbalances in specific muscle groups.

In my case, my left glute is weaker (and smaller) than my right glute. I have tried using EMS strength mode training (10x5on/55off) on my left glute ONLY in the past but was very inconsistent with the treatment to say if it worked or not. I also have to keep in mind that my EMS unit is a NeuroTrac sport XL, so I’m not sure if it is powerful enough or not.

Do my current EMS protocols sound sufficient enough to potentially fix the asymmetry/muscle imbalance? I’d be very interested to hear some input on potentially correcting muscular asymmetries and muscular strength imbalances in your future manual.

Very exciting work you are doing Number2. I look forward to hearing more about your EMS unit in the future. Any chance It will be done for your annual strength and conditioning conference next year? For those of you who haven’t attended in the past, it is well worth attending.

Macsprint - I’m trying to figure out a new approach to the conference concept. I’ve always brought in speakers and made it mostly a one-way interaction (presentations by speakers) with a few questions at the end.

This year I may try to make it more of a collaboration session with invited guests. Perhaps everyone who shows up will be required to speak for 15 minutes on a topic of their choice (i.e. Kind of like a TED presentation). Let me know if you have any ideas.

The muscle stim would be completed well before any such conference - but your suggestion gives me an idea to present the conception of the muscle stim and how to integrate it into training programs for speed.

I will keep everyone informed of my progress on both fronts.

I’m excited about this

you need to think of ems as complimentary. Charlie would be the first person to say do not rely on any one thing to achieve your goal.
Secondly , everyone has one glute stronger and or smaller ( larger) than the other. Some less, some more… Does it matter? Maybe.
You mentioned you were inconsistent with your ems treatment. You already answered part of your question have you not? One major principle in strength development is consistency first.
Have you ever tried flexing the glute with the contraction of the stim? start slow and progress over time. Use the same progressive load and strength as you might for lifting.
Charlie was always experimenting based on things he knew for sure. Charlie was not afraid to question ideas provided it ran in line with the things he knew for sure. I told the dad of a soccer instructor last night that Charlie did not do research… but what I had intended to say was his research would not be accepted as a valid science according to the scientific community.
One last thing.
Be very careful in how you interpret info regarding muscle balance and what it means for you. I had a very successful athletic career but Charlie felt my one inch leg differential created a lot of issues for me. We rarely discussed this but I had experts later say they were amazed I compensated as well as I did.

Point taken Angela! And I would have taken Charlie’s advice over the science community’s advice anyday. I do have a history of lower back pain, and have heard Stuart McGill say before that low back issues can be caused by strength/muscle imbalances in left vs. right hip muscles. This was the only reason why I’m curious. I will continue to do some legitimate experimentation before mentioning it again.

I want to make sure you understand I am not criticizing proper scientific methodology or saying that a muscle imbalance is not creating a problem. My leg differential created a lot of issues for me along the way but I was also compensating really well for this likely do to my competitive gymnastics background which gave me lots of flexibility going into the first stages of my development.
I have no doubt that low back issues can be caused by muscle imbalance but how you decide what to do as a result of this is what I am concerned about. As I was just telling tb2010 in another posts, Charlie was always talkin about the idea of addressing the entire body and to be careful to address bits and pieces of it in isolation.
Not sure what you do and likely getting into this would be a long email… but do you do many drills such as seated side to side with a med ball? ( you are sitting down, feet up and knees bent and you take a med ball and touch ( barely) each side of your hip back and forth…). Or trail leg forward and or backward? ( also called the hurdle drill, when you stand up against a wall or post and look straight ahead and rotate one leg at a time as though you have trying to clear a hurdle? . Or how about donkey kicks and leg swings front to back either from your knees or standing up against the wall? ( I am doing all of these exercises in some of the bike workouts/ basement tempo series… = to summerize these exercises are meant to mobilize, strengthen and specifically build work around the hip joint. I used to do and continue to do a great deal of these exercises as a basis of general mobility but specifically to keep this region loose and moving .

The whole muscle imbalance and structural asymmetry issue is quite fascinating from an entrepreneurial point of view. If you go to the chiropractor or physiotherapist and say your knee hurts, 99% of the time it will be due to a muscle imbalance or asymmetry. “You need to strengthen this muscle.” I work as a strength coach and 99% of the time I’m trying to loosen up muscles to enhance performance and movement, not provide unwarranted isolated strengthening protocols. Frankly, I’m tired of physiotherapists providing strengthening and exercise programs. Just like Ange said, loosen up the region and provide general mobility, and 99% of the time when the athlete returns to sport, the strength required will also return. Tightness creates restriction and inhibition. Remove the restriction, eliminate the inhibition and guess what - people get stronger.

When Usain Bolt breaks the 200m world record, no one checks his leg lengths, finds a 1.5 cm discrepancy and then declares, “The slightly longer leg contributed to his fantastic performance!” But he pulls his groin and guess what! “It’s his leg length discrepancy that’s the problem!”

In the case of EMS, I would always try to train bilaterally even though one side may be less strong. In most cases, the weaker side will be upgraded (because it is well below its potential) and the healthy side won’t be made disproportionately stronger (because it is likely closer to its potential ceiling). Remember, as Charlie often mentioned, EMS provides improvements in Raw Strength. It does not provide the coordination required for specific movements. Thus, there will be a transition period where coordination must be restored through specific movements (i.e. sprinting) to gradually integrate the strength improvements achieved through EMS. I believe only training one side with EMS may create a disparity that could create problems when reacquiring a skill.

Great job,congratulations to both. EMS world did need a next step in productive sophistication,as Kots would have said!