History of Electrical Muscle Stimulation

History of Electrical Muscle Stimulation

In the beginning…

Once upon a time, in the year 585 B.C., Greek mathematician Thales discovered the principle of static electricity. Ancient China also discovered magnets independently. Ancient Egyptians and Romans used electric eels and rays to treat headaches and other diseases. 

It wasn’t until the 17th and 18th centuries that electricity technology started to take off. If you don’t know the researchers, you will likely recognize names such as Alessandro Volta, Andre Marie Ampere, Georg Simon Ohm, James Prescott Joule, Heinrich Hertz, and Nikola Tesla. All these names have become units of measurement in the field of electricity and magnetism.

When it comes to muscle stimulation, there are two other important names: Jean Jallabert who in 1747 used electrical stimulation on a locksmith with a paralyzed arm that showed considerable improvement after three months of treatment. Luigi Galvani who in 1791, while dissecting frogs, accidentally noticed that when a copper hook and an iron scalpel touched, the dead frog’s muscles activated.

Modern developments…

Fast forward to 1976. Dr. Yakov Kotz (sometimes spelled Kots), a Soviet Union researcher, developed the first localized external muscle stimulation. He trained Russian athletes for the Montreal Olympic games. Dr. Kotz claimed that within 20 sessions, athletes increased strength by 40%. Initially his idea was to treat injured muscles, but he saw how efficient it was in producing strength as well. You can read a NY Times article about it from 1976 here. 

A few key differences between Dr. Kotz’s protocol and our current protocols, is that he used a localized (one muscle) device at a frequency of 2500 Hz for 10 seconds and a rest period of 50 seconds. We use a whole-body SuperSuit with frequencies of 5-100 Hz for 3-59 seconds and rest periods of 1-40 seconds depending on the program.

After the 1970’s version of “going viral”, plenty of knock-offs and similar electric stimulation devices started to appear in the U.S. Many beauty salons and other companies made extraordinary claims about the cosmetic benefits of electronic stimulation devices. The claims ranged from weight loss, reducing belly fat, removing wrinkles, and more. These claims were unfounded and the FDA banned the promotion of such benefits. However, they did recognize EMS as effective for muscle reeducation, relief of muscle spasm, increasing range of motion, disuse atrophy therapy, increased local blood circulation, and immediate postsurgical stimulation of calf muscles to prevent venous thrombosis.

Side note: we explained in our Weight loss and EMS fitness blog, that exercise (EMS included) is only one component of the weight loss equation. The other components being diet, sleep, hormones, and stress management.

In 2003, researchers in Germany began working on a concept for a whole-body electro muscle stimulation (WB-EMS) suit. Over time, the technology improved and manufacturers began developing their own versions, increasing competition and accelerating innovation. 

EMS Today…

Cool story bro, but if it’s so effective, and it’s been around since 2003 in Europe, why haven’t I heard of it in the U.S. until now?

Good question!

The FDA had been regulating localized EMS devices, but manufacturers of whole-body electro muscle stimulation devices required an additional clearance, the first of which was finally issued in 2018. Several manufacturers presented their suits at FIBO that year, one of the largest fitness conventions in the world. 

Many EMS companies began popping up, mainly in New York City. Unfortunately, as many of these first studios were starting to gain traction, Covid-19 forced them to close, killing the momentum. 

As EMS fitness regains momentum during this second phase, we are happy to be in business and growing. 

Book a 30-minute call with me to see if EMS would be right for you 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.