Q: I’ve seen commercials for “no-effort” exercise devices that stimulate muscle contractions with electrical impulses. Do these products really help people build muscle or slim down?
A: No. An electronic muscle stimulator is a device that repeatedly shock muscles force rapid muscular contractions, which can stimulate the growth of muscle fibers.
Electronic muscle stimulators are a proven, efficient way of treating muscle injuries by the transmission of electronic pulses that causes passive exercise. The stimulation, contraction and relaxation cycle of an electronic muscle stimulator (EMS) loosens muscle fibers, increases blood flow and stimulates muscle growth. But, any gains from these devices are minimal at best.
Even the best units, used to rehabilitate injured people, do little more than partially prevent muscle atrophy. Without regular exercise, electrical stimulation will not foster noticeable muscle-size or strength, or burn sufficient calories to cause meaningful weight loss. And results from units like those you’ve seen advertised may be even more disappointing.
A study of one popular model found that stimulating the major muscles of the arms, legs, and abdomen for 45 minutes three times a week for two months did not significantly change the participants’ strength, weight, body fat, or overall appearance.