Nutrition & Health OnLine Magazine: Latest Research
By Davey Dunn
Effects of Electrical Muscle Stimulation on Body Composition, Muscle Strength, and Physical Appearance
Electrical muscle stimulation devices (EMS) have been advertised to increase muscle strength, to decrease body weight and body fat, and to improve muscle firmness and tone in healthy individuals. This study sought to test those claims. Twenty-seven college-aged volunteers were assigned to either an EMS (n = 16) or control group (n = 11). The EMS group underwent stimulation 3 times per week following the manufacturer's recommendations, whereas the control group underwent concurrent sham stimulation sessions. Bilaterally, the muscles stimulated included the biceps femoris, quadriceps, biceps, triceps, and abdominals (rectus abdominus and obliques). An identical pre- and posttesting battery included measurements of body weight, body fat (via skinfolds), girths, isometric and isokinetic strength (biceps, triceps, quadriceps, hamstrings), and appearance (via photographs from the front, side, and back). EMS had no significant effect on the any of the measured parameters. Thus, claims relative to the effectiveness of EMS for the apparently healthy individual are not supported by the findings of this study.
COMMENTARY: People are always looking for an easy way to get in shape and Electrical Muscle Stimulation devices were advertised as the solution for people not wanting to workout. Many people bought the devices hoping that they could just strap them to their different muscle groups and build muscle and lose fat while watching television or even while sleeping. This study done at the University of Wisconsin shows that Electrical Muscle Stimulation devices are useless for building muscle, increasing muscle strength, improving muscle tone or reducing bodyfat.
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM THIS STUDY? Do not waste your money on Electrical Muscle Stimulation devices as a substitute for exercise.
Porcari, J.P., K.P. McLean, C. Foster, T. Kernozek, B. Crenshaw, and C. Swenson.  
J Strength Cond Res   2002 16:2 165-172
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