Based on research done by Martin Gerry Gerhardt
The health and performance benefits of regular strength training are commonly known and well researched, but continuous training over a longer period of time still poses a challenge for most individuals in the 21st century. Most common reasons for infrequent or abstinence from strength training are time constraints, lack of training expertise, physical limitation, lack of enthusiasm or risk of injury. In this context, whole-body EMS training has gained popularity as a specific form of strength training over the last decade in many different countries. Considering the short time duration, the degree of trainer supervision and the possibility to individualize intensity settings of individual target muscles, whole-body EMS training can be seen as an attractive and effective training form to overcome the common challenges for many individuals to regularly engage in strength training. While EMS training has been used mostly in rehabilitation or elite sports performance settings, the technology-based training method is increasingly relevant within the mainstream fitness industry. Research with EMS training technology has focused on a wide range of strength-related parameters and found positive effects for maximum strength, strength endurance, speed and explosiveness. This study therefore aimed to expand on the existing knowledge by examining how whole-body EMS training affects different strength parameters and additionally aimed to assess the effect of EMS training on flexibility, a parameter not well researched at this point. Due to the simultaneous stimulation of agonistic and antagonistic muscles while performing a dynamic movement in a full range of motion, as well as the possible stimulation of certain pain receptors, it was hypothesized that a single 20-minute whole-body EMS training session per week would be sufficient to improve flexibility.
Objective and methodology
The aim of this study was to examine the effects of an 8-week EMS training program on three different areas of physical performance:
- Strength endurance
- Speed and explosiveness, and
Therefore, a test battery with a total of 9 different performance tests was selected and administered to a group of 24 participants (13 females and 11 males) between 20 and 57 years of age (average age 34,7 years) was before and after 8-weeks of BODYTEC training. Participant’s performance was measured through the following standardized tests: jump and reach test, standing long-jump, fast knee raises – dynamic crunches, static lower back hold, dynamic push-up’s, static wall sit – shoulder and wrist flexibility test, sit and reach test. Research participants were not allowed to engage in strength (i.e. weight lifting), flexibility (i.e. yoga) or explosiveness training during the research period, as it was intended to assess the effect of only adding one additional 20-minute BODYTEC training session per week.
After the data collection with 24 participants, a statistical analysis of the test data (paired t-test) was performed and found that the 8-weeks EMS training seems to have a highly significant effect on performance, as the group average has improved for all tests. While previous research had already established, especially the results on flexibility stand out as the most significant improvement. The results for flexibility show a highly significant performance increase of 79,2% (for the sit and reach test) and 22,8% (for the shoulder and wrist flexibility test) after the EMS training. Further, the results show highly significant performance increase of strength endurance in the core muscle area (24,3%), the upper body (36,9%) and the leg muscles (17,2%).
The findings of this research support and extend previous research findings and suggest that controlled, dynamic and bodyweight-only EMS training is an effective form of training to improve strength endurance, speed and explosiveness and further indicate that whole-body EMS training can lead to a significant increase in flexibility.