Science Says: Electrical Myostimulation Can Speed Recovery

Proper recovery from training is vital to any competitive or focused athlete. New research into electrical myostimulation shows it can help recover work capacity and muscle function.

When it comes to recovery, many people just accept the fact that rest is the only method. Recovery is vital in athletes, because in order for the work capacity of the skeletal muscles to be fully restored, then a full recovery is a must. The cliché “time heals all things” is usually the rule of thumb when it comes to rest and recovery. Therefore, any method that could potentially accelerate recovery could be very beneficial to athletes. A recent study done in Lithuania compared the effects on restoring work capacity in the skeletal muscles of athletes with the traditional method of passive rest, compared to that of a method that involved mild electrical myostimulation (EMS).1

This study involved nineteen long distance runners. The athletes were divided into two groups: the control group, which was the passive rest group, and the experimental group, which was the EMS group. Each athlete had various measures done before and after training (10 minutes before, and both 4 hours and 18 hours after). Maximum voluntary contraction (MVC) and work capacity were the main measures taken. Arterial and peripheral blood flow in the calf muscles was measured as well, along with stroke volume, cardiac output, and heart rate.2

Two extensive run sessions were performed by each group, and those sessions were separated by two days rest. The aforementioned measurements were made before the sessions and during the recovery period. The results of the study showed there were more rapid recoveries of work capacity and increases of MVC of the calf muscles in the EMS group, compared to that of the passive rest group. There were no big differences in stroke volume, cardiac output, and heart rate between either group ten minutes after training, but increased blood flow was measured during the recovery period.3

It is thought that EMS increased the MVC and the work capacity of the calf muscles due to the fact that fast twitch muscles may have been recruited and activated. EMS recruits Type II muscle fibers when it artificially activates a muscle. This results in an improvement in the function of the motor units, compared to how they perform when they are activated naturally. Consequently, a result of more efficient recruitment is greater strength. Another reason EMS is thought to have accelerated recovery is due to the fact that the muscles tested experienced increased blood flow.4

Athletes today are looking for any advantage they can utilize that can help them get ahead and stay safe and abide by the rules. Any means that can accelerate the recovery process in regards to muscle fatigue could definitely be used to the advantage of not only long distant runners, but almost any athlete in any sport. When it comes to a speedy recovery, it is now no shocker that EMS methods are showing great promise as a potential effective way of accelerating recovery, and increasing work capacity at a faster rate than previous methods.5

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