How does it work? Expected benefits for strength, recovery, expansion … Which device should I choose?
Over the years, electrostimulation has become a device for rehabilitation, which has not been beneficial for athletic training and muscle building. Then we saw more and more efficient devices being developed, and then science was able to demonstrate a net impact on performance in terms of recovery, explosiveness, strength … In bodybuilding, it is now a dozen years that Michael Gandill popularized its additional use to the practice of weights.
So, in this article we’ll see how it works, when to use it, and most of all, how to effectively link it to your workout.
1 – How does it work?
The pacemaker teaches us a lot about our (simplified) functioning, because it is nothing more and nothing less than a portable nervous system. It allows you to manually adjust the intensity and frequency of “nerve” impulses, and not depend on what our human nervous system sends, which varies the frequency and intensity depending on the situation (exercise, for example) our fatigue (more or less asleep), our motivation …
Thus, we can adjust the intensity indicated on the device mA (milliamperes) and the pulse frequency in hertz (not really, but we will see it below).
On average, the human nervous system is said to emit up to 65 Hz, which means there are practical uses with a device capable of transmitting 150 Hz.
2 – build muscle without pain?
When we look at audiovisual ads about electrostimulation, are we promised mountains and miracles without suffering? We see people using it under their clothes, without feeling the slightest suffering, unoccupied with their work, as if nothing had happened.
The truth is that for electrical stimulation to be “effective” you need to increase the intensity and frequency, and that hurts! It even prevents anything other than using the recovery program.
First of all, you know that muscle contraction causes movement, it’s incredible, isn’t it? Therefore, it is necessary to wedge the arm, thigh … in accordance with the muscles that you are stimulating. You have to prevent movement and keep the muscles stretched, which is relatively uncomfortable.
But the worst thing in all cases is that using the correct intensity and the correct frequency, that is, the maximum of the device, causes so much pain that it is almost impossible to hold the contraction without screaming. For trying with some of the forum members, he ended up putting his nose in his mouth to avoid farting his teeth because it hurts.
Fortunately, after a while you get used to the pain, and it becomes possible to “control”. But this is far from pleasant. It’s not like on TV!
We will now look at the effectiveness of these torture devices for various purposes.
3.1 – Recovery: outside and during sessions
If there is an undeniable question, it is about this aspect.
Low intensity electrical stimulation promotes recovery. There are also at least a dozen programs that can help, such as capillarization or direct recovery programs. These programs help circulate blood.
During the session, in order to displace the “lactic acid”, the “burn” of the muscles, you can also send a little current without increasing its intensity. This will allow you to regain strength and increase resistance, ideal if you are doing relatively long streaks.
3.2 – Hypertrophy: Direct Muscle Gains
There are several ways to use your device here. We can follow the instructions and use a hypertrophy program that sends about 65 hertz (this will depend on the devices), so we shouldn’t hope for anything as this is what we send naturally.
We can also use it as I did at the time, that is, carefully, at 120mA and 150Hz. But then again, results are also lacking as it lacks factor # 1 in muscle growth: tension stretch (negative).
In addition, he greatly fatigues his muscles and even feels like he will never recover.
3.3 – Motor Learning: Indirect Muscle Gains
We are indebted to Michael Gundill for popularizing this concept in bodybuilding. Recall that motor training here consists of training muscles to contract. You will tell me that this is useless because the muscles contract to perform the movement intended for this, but unfortunately not always, especially during multi-joint exercises.
Thus, we are talking about the use of an electrostimulator directly on a muscle that is experiencing difficulties in contraction, that is, in a weak spot.
Two additional features:
- Use it outside of training sessions, as often as possible at low intensity so that the nervous system “learns” the path of the muscle in question and communicates sensations and contractions during training. training
- Use it during a session between sets directly to the muscle you want to develop and which has trouble contracting despite theoretical exercises aimed at it
This is where electrostimulation is an important means of dealing with weaknesses.
3.4 – Explosion hazard and PTO
The same observation as with direct hypertrophy, no results. One would expect results, since electrical stimulation makes the “fast” fibers that are closest to the skin work, but, unfortunately, there is no transfer to the ground after that, despite careful sessions, that is, without using programs with a lower frequency and intensity. Therefore, in practice, we find no positive effect of scientific research.
3.5 – Potentiation: straight PTO
Potentiation is what post-activation with a barbell and dumbbells is. You are more advanced, right?
This should explain the principle of heavy light. For example, my workouts per day should get me to 10,140 pounds with bench press and to make sure I get there, I’ll do one or two reps of 160 pounds at the end of my warm-up before attacking my streak. from 140 kg. It is actually a matter of tricking the nervous system into the number of impulses to send in order to move the load. The secret lies in the right combination of stress and fatigue.
If you do a maximum up to a series of 140 kg, that is, your series is dead, you are tired, your strength has been amputated. So don’t put too much weight on post-activation and benefit from temporary excess strength.
With the help of an electrostimulator, this is done before a series of strong contractions in order to catch the nervous system and “force” to send more impulses than necessary. Therefore, in practice, you should set the device’s maximum capacity and grit your teeth (not too much anyway!) A few minutes before the start of the series.
In theory, it’s very beautiful, it’s even magic. The reality is that it only lends to seasoned athletes. For example, when I used the device, I never noticed any increase in strength, while Michael Gundill put on a few pounds on his bars.
3.6 – Fat Loss
In theory, blood circulation in the “difficult” places where most of the fat is stored should help remove it, but this is a very long-term effect (several years).
In the short term, unfortunately, we didn’t notice any difference. That would be too good.
3.7 – Rehabilitation
One area where electrostimulation does not argue is rehabilitation. If you are injured and unable to work dynamically (indoors, in a stadium, in the field …), its use helps maintain muscle mass and theoretical strength until recovery.
4 – Which device should I choose?
There are about a hundred models available on the market today with common and different functions. How to choose your electrostimulator in these conditions?
First, it depends on how you want to use it. If you want to use it in both restorative and motor training or rehabilitation, then any model will do, one of the first Cefar-Compex will suffice.
If your goal is to use it during your sessions to amplify your streak, you will have to pay attention to the intensity and frequency the device provides. The more mA and hertz “develops”, the better. Overall, the best commercially available devices provide 120mA and 150Hz, but be careful because you will need to find a program that sends this. This is usually a plyometric or explosive strength program.
5 – How to place the electrodes?
We said above that electrical stimulation is very painful. Luckily, there are a few small pain management solutions besides the sock-in-mouth technique!
You should start by shaving your hair wherever you want to use your electrostimulator. The less the electrodes stick to the skin, the more it hurts. There are also gels to be applied to the skin before turning on the “current”, which prolongs the life of the electrodes, which hurt more and more as they wear out and stick less and less.
Then it’s very simple. Forget about complicated manufacturer designs. Each wire includes + and -, this is an electrical circuit, as you saw in physics school.
Therefore, it is necessary to place this + and this – in the same muscle on one side. Never put + on the right and – on the left, you could die!
Note that the more electrodes you place on the muscles, the better.
A small apartment about the use of electrical stimulation on the pectoral muscles. If you have problems with the pectoral muscles, do not put the current very strong, do not look for potency, the heart is not far away!
6 – recommendations
If we listen to device manufacturers or scientific research again, that is, practically without testing the combination or transmission with training, then it will be necessary to perform several sessions per week of electrical stimulation in addition to the usual training, in other words, this is nonsense! We checked, and the result is clear: it is impossible to recover, the muscles are tired all the time, regression, difficulties with stagnation …
For the purposes that we have defined above and what kind of work we recommend:
- For motor learning: As often as possible, a program such as hypertrophy at a very low intensity, around 10-15 mA, is enough to feel tetanic contraction (that is, you will feel the frequency of the device increase to a strong reduction without weakening). You can do it in front of the TV in the evening, no problem
- For recovery from a session, we support the capillarization program more than the recovery programs that induce tetanic contractions. For example, in the evening and the day after a session, there is enough time for the 10-20mA program to feel like it is moving.
- When potentiating: 4-5 minutes before the series, the maximum discharge on the muscle limits movement. Imagine a pectoral or triceps bench press, always in a stretch position, sending the maximum release to the plyometric program. You can repeat the experiment between each series until fatigue sets in. Remember this technique is only suitable for experienced athletes
- To recover between series, only a small discharge of about 30-40 mA is required on the overworked muscle for the “lactic acid” to be flushed out of the muscle. This will allow you to shorten your recovery time if you are mainly playing at overload during training.
- In rehabilitation: up to 2 sessions per week of the maximum intensity plyometrics program you can tolerate
7 – Superphysical conclusion
First, I would like to say a big thank you to Michael Gundill for explaining most of the principles and techniques in the old articles. Without it, this article would never have been published, and few would have had an idea for a bodybuilding app.
To return to our sheep, even if electrostimulation has many benefits for muscle growth, it must be said that in most cases it is very boring and too expensive.
You have to place the electrodes and do nothing for X times during the recovery program, you have to bring your pacemaker with you to a room with wires roaming around, this is very impractical!
A good electrostimulator costs between 500 and 600 €, and the life of the electrodes is limited to about thirty uses, depending on the intensity you use.
If all this does not scare you, then electrostimulation is for you!
But remember, if you are just starting out, there is no point in wasting time on this!