Best Electric Muscle Stimulator Machine and How it Works

Have you heard the term but you’re not exactly sure what it is, how it works? Or what the benefits are of using it are? Then great, you're in the right place. Here’s a quick overview.


How do Muscle Stimulators work?

Electrical Muscle Stimulation commonly abbreviated to EMS is the process of generating an involuntary muscle contraction using an electric impulse often delivered from a small handheld battery operated device.

Sticky electrode pads are connected to the muscle (simply stuck to the skin) and a small electric pulse is sent to the area stimulating the nerves causing a contraction.


This is different to TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation)machine which you’ve also probably heard of. As an EMS unit normally provides stronger stimulation and contraction with greater control over the length of and the time between pulses. From gentle muscle relaxation, often stim units will have a pre-programmed massage mode which generates small fast muscle contractions which boost blood and oxygen flow to the area. Right up to strong fatiguing contractions used to build size and strength.


You can find out more about the differences between EMS and TEN here:



What benefits can I get with one?

EMS machines have been used for decades by professional athletes to gain advantages in strength, power and to speed up their recovery. Making them a valuable device not only for top sports stars but anyone looking to build, tone or regain muscle strength post an injury or general soreness.

Research results show that this simple technology actually works so you can be confident you’re not wasting your time or hard earned money on another unproven, over hyped health product.


EMS is also used by patents who immobile to lower muscle atrophy (wastage) by keeping muscles active and strong. It has also been shown in clinical studies to help arthritis and osteoarthritis sufferers to keep their joint mobility by improving the strength of the muscles surrounding their joints.


Starting in the 1960’s Russian Sports Scientists began experimenting with this then new form of technology. These Russian scientist where able to unlock some impressive strength and power gains in their athlete of up to 40%. Leaks of these results quickly spread to the Western world and from this point it’s popularity grow fast.  


You can find more on these studies here: Russian electrical stimulation: the early experiments.


Are there any side effects?

EMS should not be used by anyone with a pacemaker heart defibrillators, nor should the pads attached to the heart, neck or head areas.


There can possibly be some skin irritation due to the electrode pad adhesive for anyone with sensitive skin. If there is any burning or stinging sensation it is often due to the pads not being connected to the skin correctly. The experience shouldn’t be painful.



How much and where can I buy one?

The easiest place to buy one for yourself would be on-line, there are several options below depending on your desired price range. From $50 to $1,000+ for the professional models.


For the beginners make sure your unit of choice has plenty of modes and power levels so you can start out slow but “crank it up” as your body starts to get stronger and accustomed to the workout provided by the unit.


Latest TENS/EMS Units available online


Where do I place the Electrode Pads?

Great question, correct placement of the Electrode pads will differ slightly between users and some experimentation will be needed to find what works best for you. Below is a starter guide to placing the pads. But most importantly you need to attach both pads to your skin for the stim to work, attaching just one pad or not having both pads attached to the skin correctly will not allow an the electric impulse to flow to the nerves properly.

In Summary

If you’re an everyday person looking to recover from injury, reduce pain or you’re an athlete looking to boost performance by improving your strength, then EMS is a must have for you. They are a cost effective tool used heavily in the physiotherapy and medical industry to promote recovery and rehabilitation through increased blood and oxygen flow.  

Disappointingly you won’t be able to build ‘bulging’ biceps like Mr Universe entirely while sitting on your couch at home, but you will tone and increase your strength with consistent use. You might just be surprised by how much these little devices can really pack a punch.

Body builders know that recovery is the key to increasing size and strength so you can hit the gym more often and harder.

EMS is a proven “secret weapon” of the sporting elite and medical community and should be leveraged by us average folk too.