What Is a Muscle Stimulator
Your body contains 650 different muscles that provide your body with the strength, shape and tone to deliver ultimate athletic performance, from explosive dunks to sprinting several meters in a matter of seconds. Building muscle can be something of a mystery. You lift weights, you maintain the right diet, and your muscles grow, right?
Unfortunately, it’s not always that easy. Whether you’re hitting a plateau or just not getting the results you’re looking for, building and maintaining strength and muscle mass sometimes requires that extra push. That’s where muscle stimulators come into the picture. What are muscle stimulators? What does a muscle stimulator do? Read on to learn more.
While you know your muscles contribute to strength, mass and every basic movement and activity that you perform, they are also essential to maintaining good posture and transporting blood and other fluids throughout the body.
The average human body has 650 known, scientifically named muscles, though this number can grow to over 800 if you break down some of the individual muscle groups. These muscles typically make up one-third to one-half of your total body weight. There are three main types of muscles. Visceral muscles are found inside blood vessels and some organs. They are the weakest muscles and work to move things through your system. Visceral muscles in your intestines, for instance, move food through your digestive system. These are involuntary muscles, meaning you can’t consciously control them.
The cardiac muscle is what keeps your heart ticking, allowing it to pump blood throughout your body. Cardiac muscle tissue is also involuntary and controlled by a combination of hormones, brain signals, and its own internal systems. As you can imagine, cardio exercise is good for cardio muscles.
Skeletal muscle is what you know and love. These muscles connect to (usually) two bones across one joint, allowing them to move. Skeletal muscles are the only voluntary muscles. They are responsible for every conscious movement you perform and are susceptible to growth and muscle atrophy based on use or disuse.
How Muscles Grow
Each muscle is actually comprised of hundreds of thin fibers known as myofibrils. When you lift weights, do a pushup or otherwise perform an activity, those fibers contract and retract. If the weight you are trying to lift is heavy, your brain sends signals to your muscles to generate the force necessary to lift the weight up.
If the object is heavier than you’re used to or if you perform the action repeatedly, you essentially expose your muscles to stress, which creates a controlled muscle tear. This explains the soreness after a solid workout. When your myofibrils have torn, the body activates the immune system to repair the damaged fibers, often making them stronger and larger in the process.
Unfortunately for your muscles, the human body is good at adapting. That means that maintaining the same workout routines day after day is good for keeping your muscles in shape, but it won’t do much in terms of building up your muscle mass.
Another component of muscle growth is metabolic stress. Metabolic stress results in the increase of components called metabolites, like lactate, phosphate, and hydrogen. If you’ve felt that burning sensation during or after a workout, you’ve experienced metabolic stress. The accumulation of metabolites essentially causes cells around the muscle fibers to swell. This form of muscle growth, known as sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, makes your muscles look bigger, but it does not actually contribute to your strength.
The fact is, while we know how muscles tear and rebuild themselves to get bigger, research still isn’t sure of the best, most optimal way to build muscle mass through exercise. That gets even more complicated taking into account the fact that everyone has different metabolic and muscle growth rates. Some people do better with fewer reps and heavier weights, while others might be better with moderate weight and more reps.
The Role of Electric Muscle Stimulators
So what do muscle stimulators do? Do muscle stimulators work? As the label says, these are devices that work to stimulate muscles through electrical impulses. Most electric stimulators comprise of a main device that creates the electric impulse and a series of electrodes consisting of pads that are attached to the skin, near the muscles that you want to stimulate.
Electric muscle stimulation (EMS), sometimes known as neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES), involves delivering controlled pulses of electricity to your motor nerves. These pulses are meant to simulate the same signals sent by your brain to your muscles, thus causing a muscle contraction.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is similar in concept, but this specifically aims toward stimulating nerves, not necessarily muscles. Put another way, EMS and NMES target motor nerves, while TENS targets sensory nerves.
Benefits of Electric Muscle Stimulators
There is a wide range of benefits to electric muscle stimulators as well as applications for athletes and exercise enthusiasts of all experience levels.
Applying electric muscle stimulators during training offers an extra level of workout for your muscles. Electric muscle stimulators can engage a greater percentage of muscle fibers at once, allowing you to get even more out of every rep and set. That’s just plain efficient and ultimately equates to:
- More muscle mass
- Increased strength
- Improved endurance and physical stamina
Electric muscle stimulators also allow you to engage muscles that may not normally receive much attention. That can provide greater physical support and stability.
Warming Up and Cooling Down
Warming up your muscles before you exercise is essential to more effective workouts. Warming up is also known to reduce the risk of injury during workouts and physical activities in general. Electric muscle stimulators give you an easy and efficient way to warm up your body so that your muscles are plenty ready for the crux of your routine.
Once you have finished with your workout, muscle stimulators offer an easy tool for a cool-down session. Cooling down your body post-workout can keep stiffness and soreness to a minimum and keep the blood flow circulating through your muscles.
On its own, electric muscle stimulation likely will not have a huge impact on weight loss, which generally requires exercises that engage your heart, lungs, and multiple muscle groups, all at once. However, when combined with your existing cardio training regimen, electric muscle stimulation can give you the extra edge to burn more calories and fat, leaving you leaner and stronger.
One of the hardest parts of any workout is the recovery period, but it’s also necessary to building your muscle fibers back up. Electric muscle stimulation can help to facilitate the recovery process. The gentle stimulation can help to bring blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the muscles while expediting the flushing away of toxins. All of that equates to faster recovery. The process may also help to release endorphins, which can help to dull any soreness or pain.
Proponents also suggest that EMS works via the gate control theory, which states that the non-painful input from the muscle stimulator can prevent pain sensations from traveling to your central nervous system. That may essentially keep any muscle pain or soreness at bay for an easier recovery process.
Using Your Electric Muscle Stimulator
Using a muscle stimulator is generally easy. Simply apply the adhesive pads and follow the instructions for the most optimal settings. Compex muscle stimulators offer a wide range of unique programs for every step of your workout. Beginners should start with the lowest, easiest settings until they get used to the system.
What are muscle stimulators used for? Muscle stimulators are by no means a replacement for traditional workouts or getting in a “workout” while you’re lounging on the couch. They are a complement and enhancement to your existing training and exercise routines, helping to support your recovery while building muscle strength, stamina and speed. Shop through our Compex muscle stimulators and see the results for yourself.