Effectiveness of WB-EMS compared with conventional strength training methods
Twelve times greater effects of WB-EMS Training versus conventional strength training – to be honest, not even the keenest WB-EMS supporter would believe this. In fact, the myth comes from a scientific study which showed a 12-fold higher CK concentration after WB-EMS compared with classic strength training. We now know about the significant effects of WB-EMS on body composition and functional capacities (see above). However, the question is to what extent WB-EMS can compete with a similar time-effective training protocol such as high-intensity (strength) training (HIT). To answer this question, we conducted a study with men aged 30 - 50 years – certainly one of the few groups for which there is a relevant competition between WB-EMS and HIT (Kemmler, Teschler, Weissenfels, et al., 2015). The HIT protocol was designed as single-set training to exertion with different strategies for exhaustion 2-times/week (12 - 14 exercises/session; ≤ 10 - 12 repetitions/exercise; ≈30 min/Session), WB-EMS used an intermitted current protocol (1.5 sessions/week; 6 s impulse – 4 s rest, 85 Hz, 350 µs, rectangular) with (very) slight body movements over 4 months. During the period of the intervention we allowed no changes in nutrition, physical or sports activity. Overall, we were able to record highly relevant and significant improvements in both groups for fat-free mass, appendicular muscle mass, total and abdominal body fat mass, and maximal strength. Slight differences in favor of HIT were found just for fat-free mass, muscle mass of arms and legs as well as maximum strength of leg extension, while the maximum strength of the back straighteners and the abdominal body fat tended to develop better after WB-EMS. This result came as surprise, because we expected a much higher dominance of the very complex and elaborate HIT.
Consequently, for middle-aged men both methods, HIT and WB-EMS appear equally attractive and effective training methods for positively influencing fitness, strength, muscle mass and body fat. As for time efficiency, both methods seem to be suitable for people with limited time resources, whereby the time effort in WB-EMS is clearly more favorable (50 %).
The somewhat lower popularity of HIT in women could be a good opportunity for WB-EMS time-efficient fitness and body composition in this particular group. However, this speculation, supported by a high percentage of female WB-EMS users, should be underpinned by further investigations.