Electrical muscle stimulation (EMS), also known as neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES), is routinely used by physical therapists and athletic trainers for muscle rehabilitation. In the 1970s, a Russian scientist claimed to have used EMS to increase the maximal muscle contraction of athletes by 40 percent. However, don't think you can just turn on the EMS and sit back on your couch. In a study published in the January 2008 issue of "Sports Medicine," Dr. Thierry Paillard found that EMS is most effective when used as a complimentary technique along with dynamic exercise.
Pad Size and Placement
EMS pads generally come in two sizes, 2-by-2 inches and 2-by-4 inches. Large muscle groups, such as the quadriceps and abdominals, require a high-intensity impulse to contract the muscle, so stick with the larger pads to spread out the electrical current. Smaller muscle groups, like the calf muscles, activate with lower intensity and will be comfortable with the smaller pads. Only two pads are required for each muscle group, one positive and one negative. Keep the pads spaced about one to two inches apart, and be sure both pads have good skin contact.
Take out the larger pads for this one. Place each pad vertically along either side of your abdominals, so that your belly button is between the pads. Turn up the EMS until you feel a muscle contraction, and set the EMS device to turn on for 10 seconds and off for 50 seconds. When the device turns on, perform a situp and hold it for the full 10 seconds; then rest for 50.
Place two large pads horizontally over your quadriceps muscle, on the top of your thigh. The top pad should lie across the upper thigh closer to the hip and the lower pad closer to the knee. Sit in a high-back chair, for lumbar support, and turn up the EMS until you see a muscle contraction. Again set the EMS device to turn on for 10 seconds and off for 50 seconds. When the device turns on, kick your leg up and hold it for the full 10 seconds; then rest for 50.
Place two smaller pads onto your calf muscle. Here you should place both pads right onto the muscle belly spaced about one inch apart. Stand in front of a table or highbar for additional support, and turn up the EMS until you see a muscle contraction -- set the device for 10 seconds on and 50 seconds off. When the device turns on, rise onto your toes, lifting your heels off the floor, and hold for the full ten seconds; then rest for 50. These exercises can be intense when you compliment them with EMS so be sure to rest for the full 50 seconds.