EMS vs Tens vs others

Electrical Muscle Stimulation – Differences Among Devices

EMS fitness is a relatively new service in the US, and there seems to be quite a bit of confusion around it. I’ll try to clarify as much as I can in this article.

We’ll start with the acronyms, as EMS can stand for several synonymous terms, and shouldn’t be confused with emergency medical services. We will then describe the several types of devices and their uses.



EMS: electrical muscle stimulation, electro-muscle stimulation, electrical myostimulation, electronic muscle stimulation. All of these terms are synonymous, all involve electricity, muscles, and stimulation. 

WB-EMS: whole-body + EMS (any combination of the above). This acronym refers to EMS fitness, or EMS workouts, where you put on a suit that covers all the major muscle groups and is intended to build muscle and get people stronger. This is the service we provide. However, the acronym WB-EMS is often shortened to just EMS. 

EMS suit: the acronym describes the suit you wear during a WB-EMS workout. We trademarked the term “SuperSuit” to describe ours. For most EMS manufacturers, the suits are typically a jacket and pants or belt, with additional arm or leg bands.

TENS unit: transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation unit. This is a device often used in physical therapy but can also be sold directly to consumers. They are localized EMS devices, meaning they usually come with electrodes to stimulate one or two muscle groups around a joint. They are commonly used for relaxing the muscles and nervous system and reducing pain.

E-stim unit: electrical stimulation unit. This is the same as a TENS unit, just a more simple and more general way to call it. 

EMSculpt: electrical muscle stimulation sculpting is a passive modality usually done in beauty salons or day spas. 

WB-EMS Devices:

WB-EMS or EMS, as a fitness modality uses an EMS suit with electrodes on all the major muscle groups: arms, chest, abdominals, upper back, mid-back, lower back, glutes, quads, and hamstrings. Some suits will have shoulders or calves or will allow some redistribution of certain electrodes to target adductors, obliques, and gluteus medius. 

Certain manufacturers use a suit connected through a cable to a large console that controls the frequency, depth, and duration of the stimulation for each individual muscle. 

We currently use the latest generation of Wiemspro which is professional grade, wireless and controlled via a proprietary app on an iPad. 

The major manufacturers are XBody, Miha Bodytec, Wiemspro, and E-Fit. A couple of notable mentions are I-Motion and Katalyst. I was lucky enough to try all of them and see the differences between them. 

All of these companies had to go through FDA clearance and produce medical-grade devices even if intended solely for fitness purposes. 

Price: Costs vary depending on the brand, features, number of suits, suit sizes, and so on, but all are in the 4 to 5-figure range. These are all professional grade products and not to be confused with the cheap do-it-yourself products being marketed on the internet which can be dangerous.

All of these WB-EMS companies require the workouts to be delivered by a certified personal trainer that has received their respective in-house certification.

Purpose: WB-EMS devices are meant to deliver a short workout, usually around 20 minutes long which equates to 60-90 minutes of weight lifting. The goal is primarily to build muscle endurance, strength, and cardiovascular conditioning. They can also mimic a TENS unit and alleviate aches and pains and can also be used as a recovery tool. For the most part, however, true EMS is an active modality, meaning you’re going to be moving and contracting your own muscles for higher adaptations.

Localized EMS Devices

Localized EMS devices for personal home may not require FDA clearance even though some have received it, such as Compex. Other big brands are Powerdot, Auvon, and Omron. 

These devices are localized EMS, meaning they are meant to be used around one or a few muscle groups surrounding a joint. They use adhesive pads with a special gel cream, and use a small handheld device to regulate the stimulation. 

Price: Usually these devices are in the $30-$200 range depending on the brand, features, number of pads, programs, and so on.

Purpose: Most of these devices are marketed as TENS units for recovery and pain management for one muscle group around a single joint. A common use for example is to relax the quadricep muscles to alleviate knee pain. Some can be set to elicit muscle contractions as well but typically will come with predetermined programs.

EMSculpt devices

I have never tried these devices and have not looked for research on their effectiveness. I know that beauty salons offer EMSculpt services as a passive treatment.

Price: There seems to be a wide price range for these devices from the low 4 figures up to 6 figures.


Purpose: I believe EMSculpt can certainly stimulate the muscle to the point of causing micro tears and therefore maintain and possibly even increase strength. However, because it is meant as a passive treatment, meaning you’re not moving or voluntarily contracting your own muscles, I don’t know how much of that strength is actually transferred into daily activities.

The marketing around these devices tends to promise fat reduction in specific areas which is simply not how the body works. You lose fat over time when you are in a calorie deficit. You may also see fat loss from switching your diet to more nutrient-dense whole foods. 

You will not lose belly fat by doing crunches, just like you do not lose fat in your cheeks by smiling a lot or chewing harder. Spot reduction, as it is known in the fitness industry is a myth. You can decide where to grow muscle, but you cannot decide where to lose fat. Muscle will grow if it is active and challenged, and atrophy if you don’t use it. This is not the case with fat tissue unfortunately. 

If you have experience with EMSculpt devices or have research to share with us, please send me your thoughts via email to conrad@bodybuzzfit.com.

I hope this helps clarify the discussion around EMS. If you have questions about specific difference among WB-EMS devices, feel free to book a call with me using my link below.

If you are interested in learning if EMS fitness would be a good option for you, book a free consultation with me here: https://calendly.com/conradfitness/30min


Director of Education and Technology



Bodybuzz combines Certified Personal Training with Electrical Muscle Stimulation, giving your body a deeper, safer, and more effective workout. 20 minutes twice a week is all it takes!

Our personal trainers will guide you through a custom EMS workout designed specifically for you. Whether you’re looking to build strength, lose weight, get toned, or recover from an injury or illness, we offer a safe, low-impact solution to help get you there.

EMS has now been FDA-cleared for use in the US and we are proud to be one of the first companies to introduce this technology. It is a full-body workout that uses a special muscle stimulating suit that sends low-level impulses to your major muscle groups to trigger muscle contractions. It’s a unique sensation that is painless and invigorating. EMS workouts are designed to achieve optimal conditioning, burn fat, develop strength, build muscle, tighten skin, combat cellulite, jump-start your metabolism and restore your body’s natural balance.