Since this paradigm is just emerging, there is quite a lot of confusion out there. Many trainers and writers still rely on old results with the older tech, while others misapply the results of the latest studies. It may be fair to say that EMS understanding is uneven in the fitness industry, with strong views on both sides.
So how do you know who’s right? And who can you trust when it comes to EMS myths and facts?
Abraham Carle, the Technical Director for Wiemspro, and an accomplished expert in Sports Science and physical activity, shares some truth about the common EMS mistakes.
1-NOT BEING UPDATED ON THE LATEST EMS KNOWLEDGE
It can be difficult to get clear and well laid out EMS information for training. So it's common to find many trainers that use EMS to not have deep understanding of the subject matter. This results in misapplication and inefficient use of this amazing technology.
We strongly urge trainers to keep up to date on a regular basis: whether through formal education or by sharing experiences and learning from other EMS fitness professionals. The key is to understand the electrical wave parameters and what effect these have on the body. For example, there should be a clear understanding on the effect of the different frequencies, how they affect the muscle fibers and how to complement this with the appropriate movement. This framework should be developed into a training plan that provides for progressive overload, whether in terms of intensity, duty cycle (period of activation), movement progression or other fitness parameters. We feel that trainers should also understand how parameters like chronaxie and interference can be made to better benefit the client. However, most trainers have not been taught these elements of the electrical wave parameter. Accordingly, they may not be able to maximize the results for their clients.
2-FAILING TO UNDERSTAND THE CLIENT’S NEEDS
In many EMS training studios, potential clients are entitled to a free EMS trial as part of the marketing for EMS. Normally, these sessions are kept short and do not last as long as a full client training program. Accordingly, to save time, very often the initial interview between the trainer and client is very short. The emphasis is to quickly move to trying on the EMS system. This is a mistake. The best way to attract a client is by demonstrating your professionalism. This can be done by understanding the person and knowing exactly the best way to help them. The best time to start this relationship of trust is during the initial interview before the first session. This initial interview is more than just going through a EMS contraindication checklist. Instead its our chance to learn about what the client wants, at what point of his life they are and from them to hear what we can offer them. A good trainer should have an effective script that logically sequences discussion on the objectives and tasks to be done for maximum efficiency and motivation. With better understanding of the electrical wave parameters, we can then lay down the framework for wave parameters along with the training plan. However, by skipping the initial interview, we may miss out on key information and hence proper EMS planning. Ultimately, this will reduce the results of the program.
3-Not designing an ems program that is personalized
Using EMS is a fantastic stand alone workout or complement to any training regime. Everyone who joins a FITtec.® studio is an individual with their very own set of circumstances and body goals. And thats why it is our goal to dig deep with each client to understand their needs so we can design an effective workout program.
The correct order we recommend is:
- Set out the objectives to be reached;
- Structure the physical training to reach the objective; and then
- Design the EMS protocol that best complements the above, more effective and efficiently.
We believe that EMS can be the core or add-on to any workout program. It all depends on where you are in your fitness journey and where you want to end up. Understanding these two elements allows us to define an approach that will optimize the results for our clients, and should only be used when there are clear reasons for it. For the average client, however, we think that EMS should be seen as a powerful complement to any training program.
With EMS you can:
- Build whole-body strength and fitness
- Lose inches, weight and cellulite (reduce body fat %)
- Rehabilitate weak, non-contributing muscles
- Increase lean muscle and the performance of those muscles
4-GETTING TOO COMFORTABLE IN A SET FITNESS ROUTINE
It is common for trainers to rely on methods that they know, are used to and become comfortable with. That is why, after some time on the job, trainers fall into a form of “standardization” of training. This means, to organize their work more effective or easily, trainer replicate the same training programs and protocols for all people, whatever their needs and stages of development are. This can be especially true for franchises that have strict rules on how trainings are provided.They can sometimes focus more on effective centre operations, instead of on individual client requirements. In other cases, its just because centers need to train large groups of new fitness professionals in a simple and fast way. This can result in very basic training programs, which are easily taught and replicated, but in which the variability training may not be available. In this situation, we tend to lose out on “stimulus variability” and with allowing our client’s to have fun and varied experiences. This lack of stimulus variability and allowing clients to enjoy their workout ultimately affects the effectiveness of program itself. Clients get bored, have lower motivation and this prevents the achievement of objectives in two ways:
- By lowering their motivation, they are less involved in their daily habits, such as diet or daily physical activity.
- At an extreme point, they can leave the training program and, therefore, our center.
At FITtec.® we design a program that fits the clients current fitness level and the objectives they are trying to achieve, which allows maximum efficiency and motivation. It is important to change the application paradigm of whole-body electrical muscle stimulation, sequencing all the parameters of the wave along with our fitness plan.
5-RELYING ON EMS JUST FOR WEIGHT LOSS (OR AS A SIMPLE “METABOLIC ENHANCER”)
Derived from the ignorance of this technology and the simplification of its application, we find ourselves at a time when most people (clients and professionals) consider whole-body electrical muscle stimulation only as an enhancer of calories consumed. While this is true and you can burn calories for up to 36 hrs after training, EMS's true potential lies in building whole-body strength and lean muscle, this is where we transform the body by reducing body fat % and increasing lean muscle, which in turns burns more fat. Couple this with a suitable nutrition program and BOOM, you're healthy, lean, fit and strong.
The simplistic view of thinking of EMS as only a calorie burning machine prevents us from making the most of this technology. It is very common to see its application during interval training, but rarely we can see it supporting a work of joint mobility, integrating a work of “cardio” during a strength exercise, as a means of muscle activation before making a complex fitness movement.
In short, we must know and understand the versatility that this tool offers, giving us support in different stages of our fitness plan and each workout. Whole-body electrical muscle stimulation is much more than a complement to HIIT, it is a complement to the coach and his work.