What’s EMS

I offer Full-Body EMS training as part of my services at HealthStyle Lifestyle Medicine and Aesthetics. Continue reading to find out more and get answers to frequently asked questions.

Electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) is a process through which a medically approved device is used to send low-level electrical currents to your muscles, causing them to contract.

So how is this different to training in the gym?

First of all, the Miha Bodytec device gives you a full body workout, with up to 90% of your muscles being stimulated at the same time. Secondly, the muscle contractions the machine gives you are more intense and of a higher quality than those of voluntary exertion alone. Finally, EMS training activates deeper muscle groups compared to conventional resistance training. So that’s a full body, more intense and more thorough workout – in only 20 minutes!

Who can benefit?

Studies have shown that full-body EMS training can:

  • Increase muscle mass (Kemmler & Von Stengel, 2013)
  • Increase maximum muscle strength (Speicher et al., 2008)
  • Significantly improve speed (Filipovic et al., 201; Speicher et al., 2008)
  • Lower body fat percentage and abdominal fat mass (Kemmler, Birlauf & Von Stengel, 2009)
  • Reduce widespread back pain (Vatter, 2010)
  • Improve body shape and overall mood (Vatter, 2010)
  • Aid in secondary prevention in patients with heart failure (Fritzsche et al., 2010)

20 minutes a week? Surely that’s not enough!

Since I’m a Science graduate, you’ll have to excuse me while I get a bit more technical in explaining this to you. Bear with me – it’s worth understanding!

Conventional resistance training


Exercise: Bicep curl

1 rep = 3 seconds

10 reps = 30 seconds

2 sets (10 reps each) = 1 minute


All major muscle groups:

1 hour/60 min = 1 minute contraction time per group


10 hours = 10 minutes contraction

Full-body EMS training


20 minutes:

4 seconds on : 4 seconds off

= contractions 50% of the time




All the major muscle groups stimulated at once


20 minutes = 10 minutes contraction

In the table above, the first column shows the math behind conventional training. We’re focusing on contraction time here – that is when your muscles are physically contracting and therefore working.

2 sets of bicep curls give you about 1 minute of actual contraction time. If you were to do 2 sets of all the major muscle groups in one session – lets say quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves, biceps, triceps, chest, lats, back and abs – and that takes you 1 hour, you’re getting 1 minute of contraction time for each group. (I’ve done a lot of weight training myself, and spotting, buddy training, recovery pause, and waiting for equipment easily stretched my workouts to an hour or more)

If somehow you manage to do all that 10 times in a week (that’s 10 hours of gym time) – you get 10 minutes of contraction time for each muscle group. (Add in driving to and from the gym every day, and the time advantage of one intense session becomes even more enticing!)

With EMS training, the machine contracts all your major muscle groups for you at the same time. In a 20-minute session, your muscles are contracting 50% of the time, so that’s 10 minutes of contraction time for each muscle group.

So, whether you spend 10 hours at the gym or 20 minutes on the EMS machine, you’re getting the same amount of contraction time (10 minutes)– bearing in mind that the EMS machine ensures intense, deep level muscle contractions.

Will I lose weight with full-body EMS training?

I hate the term “lose weight” – your body’s weight can have very little to do with how you look! Around 60% of the number on that scale is water after all! With EMS training you will lose body fat, your body will be toned and your clothes will start fitting more loosely. You will, however, also gain muscle, and while you will look and feel great, the numbers on the scale might remain the same. A better way to track your progress would be to track body fat percentage (which can be done at HealthStyle) or to take before and after progress pictures for yourself.

Does EMS training hurt?

No. It doesn’t shock you and it doesn’t cause pain – but as with all exercise, full-body EMS makes your body work, and with a personal trainer taking you through the exercises, you’ll be sure to make each session count.

Is EMS training safe?

Yes it is. Muscles contract in response to a stimulus – this can either be an electrical impulse sent from the brain to the muscles through the nervous system, or it can be from an external stimulus (like when you reflexively react to something touching you). In this case, the EMS device acts as an external stimulus, using low frequencies to activate intense muscle contractions. Your personal trainer will ensure your individual training levels are an optimum fit for you. EMS training is also known to be particularly gentle on joints compared to conventional training.

Can anyone do EMS training?

Certain medical conditions are contraindicated in EMS training, namely:

  • Pregnancy
  • Pacemaker or other electrical implants
  • Acute illness (fever, viral infections, any inflammatory condition)

Training is not recommended if any of these conditions are present.

The following conditions are not contraindicated, but medical consent is required:

  • Circulatory disorder, acute stroke, stent, thrombosis and cardiovascular disease (e.g. arteriosclerosis)
  • Bleeding, bleeding tendency, haemophilia
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Abdominal wall hernia or inguinal hernia
  • Severe neurological disorders (e.g. epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis etc.)
  • Acute operation (within 8 weeks)

Are there long term side-effects to EMS training?

No – EMS training has been extensively researched over the past few decades and no long-term side-effects have been found. (Apart from feeling good and looking great!)

What should I wear to a training session?

Your trainer will give you a specially formulated suit to wear to ensure that the low-frequency impulses optimally reach all your muscles. These suits can be hired at a small extra fee or purchased at the studio. Other than that, wear comfortable trainers and be sure to bring a sweat towel – you’ll need it!

What should I eat and drink before training?

Be sure to eat a proper meal with carbohydrates 1-2 hours before training. If this isn’t possible, eat a high carb snack an hour before. Your body will be working hard, so be sure to fuel it. It is also recommended to drink 500ml of water an hour before training to ensure optimum hydration. Bring a water bottle along to make sure you get enough fluids in after training as well.

It all sounds too good to be true? Come and book a trial session with me (R195, suit rent included) and experience full-body EMS training for yourself!