|You will have heard about "calf shocker" routines, but would you have imagined that it takes electro shocks?|
And while I know that you know that this ain't the way to go, I am also honest enough to admit that I often catch myself pondering the incorporation of intensity techniques, additional exercises or some fat burning minutes of HIIT, but rarely thinks about the undeniable benefits of things like the hot baths for pre-regeneration and other means to speed up recovery (learn more) ...
Recovery, ceratinly not the #1 topic for gym-conversations
10 weeks 2x per week full body + 4x per week EMS
|Suggested read: "Fast Paced High-Resistant Explosive Circuit Training Burns More Fat and Builds More Muscle Than Classical Weight Training. Trainees Dropped 1.5% Body Fat and Gained 3 Pounds of Lean Mass in 8 Weeks." - Don't discard the value of a fast paced full body resistance training (read more).|
While all subjects underwent the same supervised workout program, only 50% of them were assigned to the EMS group, and instructed to self-administer 1h of electrical muscle stimulation to the calf muscles of both legs four times a week. With the two obligatory exercise sessions, this allowed for two "recovery sessions" in-between workouts.
|Figure 1: Changes (rel. to baseline) in the EMS and control groups after 10-weeks of training (Westcott. 2013)|
So what's the mechanism here?
|It is not exactly likely that the medium intensity EMS targets the IGF-1 + muscle growth promoting PGC-1 a4 isoform (learn more)|
Against that background, the scientists assumption that [...]the enhanced muscle recovery associated with [...] electrical stimulation may be due to increased microcirculation, muscle loading, and angiogenesis." (my emphasis in Westcott. 2013) appears reasonable and would warrant their conclusion that EMS which is hitherto used mainly by professional athletes (esp. football players) "may also be beneficial for less fit individuals who experience prolonged periods of recovery or uncomfortable levels of muscle fatigue after exercising." (Westcott. 2013)
|I openly admit: Hot baths are still not a part or my "pre-recovery" routine, but I like some cheap and effective walking on an incline on the day after a leg workout.|
Apropos "effects" you should not forget that the parameters the scientists measured are actually both performance parameters. Regardless of the fact that the latter is called "fatigue", the fatigue after a standardized workout is mainly determined by your central and peripheral conditioning. It is thus obvious that you should be able to reduce the post-workout fatigue by any means of additional exercise that does not overtax the system - this may also involve enhanced recovery, but the enhancement is a function of physiological adaptations and not externally applied electrical stimuli.
Against that background, the only advantage of EMS over "conscious", i.e. brain-controlled contractions such as a 3x3min (x2 for each leg) session of single-legged body-weight calf-raises or even a simple walk in the park with a deliberate emphasis on calf-involvement would produce, appears to be that it would ease the burden on the central nervous system. Whether that's essentially necessary for the average trainee is however questionable; and though I would probably be slightly irritated, if you called me "an average trainee", I for my part will stick to some recuperative walking on an incline to promote calf-recovery.
- DiNubile N, Westcott W, Reinl G, et al. The Marc Pro TM device is a novel paradigm shift in muscle conditioning, recovery and performance: Induction of nitric oxide (NO) dependent enhanced microcirculation coupled with angiogenesis mechanisms. JEPonline. 2011;14(5): 10-19.
- Girold S, Jalab C, Bernard O, et al. Dry-land strength training vs. electrical stimulation in sprint swimming performance. J Strength Cond Res. 2012;26(2):497-505.
- Kemmler W, Schliffka R, Mayhew JL, von Stengel S. Effects of whole-body electromyostimulation on resting metabolic rate, body composition, and maximum strength in postmenopausal women: The training and electrostimulation trial. J Strength Cond Res. 2010;24(7):1880-1887.
- Parker MG, Bennett MJ, Hieb MA, et al. Strength response in human femoris muscle during 2 neuromuscular electrical stimulation programs. J Orthop Sports PhysTher. 2003:33(12): 719-726.
- Westcott WL, Chen T, Neric FB, et al. The Marc Pro TM device improves muscle performance and recovery from concentric and eccentric exercise in duced muscle fatigue in humans: A pilot study. JEPonline. 2011;14(2):55-67.
- Westcott W, Han D, DiNubile N, Neric F, Loud RLR, Whitehead S, Blum K. Effects of Electrical Stimulation Using the Marc Pro(TM) Device during the Recovery Period on Calf Muscle Strength and Fatigue in Adult Fitness Participants. JEPOnline. April 2013; 16(2): 40-49.