If you’ve recently stumbled across an Instagram shot of Ashley Graham or Alessandra Ambrosio working out while hooked up to a bunch of wires, your first reaction was probably “whaa?” But these celebs and more are just taking part in a new fitness trend called electric muscle stimulation (EMS) training.
WTF is electro muscle stimulation training?
EMS training uses an electric current sent to your muscles through wires to trigger involuntary muscles twitches, according to FitLifeByMo, the website for certified personal trainer Mohamed Elzamar, who has worked with Alessandra Ambrosio, Ashley Graham, 2Chainz, and Luann de Lesseps.
EMS has been used to treat injuries during physical therapy for years, but is now gaining steam as a fitness trend. (Elzamar claims on his website that it can burns 600 calories in 20 minutes, while building lean muscle, too.)
But does EMS really work?
EMS may help speed up your muscle recovery or improve your muscle strength, depending on what kind of setting it’s on, Daniel Giordana, C.S.C.S., doctor of physical therapy, and co-founder and director of physical therapy at Bespoke Treatments says.
EMS can help make exercises you’re doing more effective, Giordana says. But, of course, the electrodes need to be put on the right muscles that you’re using during that particular exercise.
This isn’t all out of left field: Research has shown that EMS might help increase muscle density, muscle strength, your power output, and the amount of oxygen that you can use when you workout, Giordana says.
Can anyone use EMS?
EMS isn’t a great idea for everyone. The electrodes shouldn’t be used on people who have a pacemaker, defibrillator, or another electronic or metallic implanted device (so, if you have a copper IUD, ask your doctor if it's okay before trying this).
It also shouldn't be used by anyone with epilepsy, anyone with a hernia, or on anyone who is pregnant or has heart problems, Giordana says. It shouldn’t be put on your neck, head, across your chest, or your eyes, and shouldn’t be used in the shower, bath, or sauna (because, electricity).