EMS for Power Training

Power Training with EMS

Should older adults focus on power training? And how EMS can be the safest way to train for power.

“With great power comes great responsibility” – Uncle Ben from the movie Spiderman. 

One of the cheesiest lines in cinema, but somehow, unforgettable. Also, not the first time that line was used. If you want to go down history lane here are the origins of that phrase.

What is power training? 

Muscular power is work divided by time, or force x velocity. In other words, how quickly you can use your strength. 

Power training vs strength training

Power training, also known as power exercises or powerlifting, is a type of resistance training that focuses on improving explosive movements and speed. It typically involves exercises that require rapid muscle contractions and high levels of force in a short amount of time, such as plyometrics (jumping, sprinting), Olympic lifts (cleans, snatches, kettlebell swings), and ballistic exercises (medicine ball throws). Power training is often used by athletes to improve performance in sports that require speed, power, and quick movements, such as sprinting, jumping, and throwing. More practical applications would be a golf swing, throwing a ball to your dog, or catching yourself if you trip or begin to fall.

Strength training, also known as resistance training or weightlifting, is a type of exercise that focuses on building and improving muscular strength. It involves lifting weights or using resistance, such as resistance bands or body weight, to target specific muscles or muscle groups. Strength training typically involves lifting heavier weights for fewer repetitions and sets, with the goal of increasing muscle mass, strength, and endurance. Strength training exercises may include weightlifting with dumbbells, barbells, or machines, as well as bodyweight exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, and squats. Other day-to-day activities would be picking up and carrying groceries or lifting up your kids or grandkids.

Why is it important to train for power? 

We discussed how muscles follow the use-or-lose-it principle in our blog about glute activations for lower back pain. The “use-or-lose-it” idiom is catchy and easy to remember but it is not completely accurate. If you don’t use your bicep muscle it won’t disappear from your arm making it impossible to flex your elbow anymore. However, it will lose power, strength, neuromuscular activation, and endurance, in that order. The muscle will also lose size through the process of atrophy. 

In order to maintain our type 2x muscle fibers responsible for power, we need to use them, and we need to use them often since they will be the first ones to go. You can read more about muscle fiber types here.

According to a research study by the European Review of Aging and Physical Activity, power has more benefits and transferability than strength training: “Power training offers more potential for improving muscle power and performance on activity based tests in older adults than strength training.”

What can we do to maintain and increase muscular power? 

The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) recommends including multi-joint exercises at moderate intensities of 40-60% of your one repetition maximum, in other words moving a moderate weight as quickly as possible. The “weight” can also be your own body as in a jump or sprint.

The recommendation is not very precise because power training can encompass anything from standing up quickly from a chair to lifting an Olympic bar over your head. What exercises, how often, and how much, is going to depend a lot on your individual needs, goals, fitness ability, and so on. 

What are the risks of power training? 

We’ve mentioned jumping, throwing, sprinting, punching, swinging, and moving weight as quickly as possible…what could go wrong? You can get an idea by watching Piñata fails.

Jokes aside, there is always a risk for injury when training, especially with power training when you add force to speed. This is why, as personal trainers, we learn to include power exercises in the last phase of training after we’ve built a solid foundation of strength

Even professional athletes typically only train for power during the off-season because the sport they play usually is enough to maintain those type 2x muscle fibers throughout the season. Most athletes are already at a high risk of getting injured while performing their sport, so any training in between needs to be low-risk

How can EMS help with power training? 

Whole-body electrical muscle stimulation has many benefits with three distinct reasons that make it very effective for power training.

Muscle fibers:

We have several muscle fiber types that have different functions: endurance (type 1), strength (type 2a), and power (type 2b and 2x). EMS fitness engages all muscle fibers indiscriminately regardless of what exercises we do. This leads to our next point.  


We know that EMS workouts stimulate all the muscle fibers no matter what exercise we choose, so instead of jumping we could do a squat or even a sit-to-stand and still activate all the muscle fibers. In other words, we can use the safest exercise available for the muscle group we want to increase power in.

We also know that the best adaptations with electrical muscle stimulation occur when we contract our own muscle voluntarily and allow the pulse to enhance that contraction. We could theorize that the best adaptations for power would happen when we use WB-EMS along with power exercises. Even in this case, WB-EMS would still be a safer choice because the pulse is what would stimulate the muscle instead of the external weight. The NSCA recommendation, using 40-60% of the maximum weight we can handle, would not apply to EMS fitness because the stimulation replaces the load on the muscles. We can therefore use 5-10% of our maximum weight and rely on the stimulation to provide the necessary challenge for the body to change. 

Backed by research:

There are studies that looked at the effects of EMS on specific power outputs such as jumping and sprinting. Some studies used localized EMS which is different from WB-EMS as we use it. You can learn about the main distinctions in our previous blog about EMS devices. The consensus seems to be that the best practice, as we theorized, is to use EMS and power exercises, either together or separately for optimal outcomes.

In one of the early studies with localized EMS and plyometric training from 2002, researchers investigated the effects of a 4-week combined electromyostimulation and plyometric training program on vertical jump performance in 20 male volleyball players competing in an Italian regional league. Participants were assigned to the intervention group or control group.

The training program consisted of EMS knee extensors and plantar flexor muscles, as well as plyometric jumps 3x/week. They used a localized EMS device called Compex that uses electric pads placed directly on the lower limbs only. They used frequencies of 115-120 Hz with a pulse width of 400 ms with a duty cycle of 3 seconds on, 17 seconds off for 16 minutes for the knee extensors, and 10 minutes for the plantar flexors. After this EMS session, and a rest period of 10 minutes, participants did 5 sets of 10 repetitions of vertical jumps

Key findings: The results showed that after two weeks of training, maximal voluntary contraction significantly increased for knee extensors and plantar flexors. After the 4-week training program, different vertical jumps significantly improved compared to pretraining, with gains ranging from 8-10% to 21%. These improvements in strength and jumping ability were maintained even after an additional two weeks of normal volleyball training. 

In conclusion: The study concluded that combined EMS and plyometric training can effectively improve vertical jump ability in male volleyball players, with rapid increases in strength followed by improvements in jumping ability. The study also recommended using specific plyometric exercises to complement EMS sessions for optimal results.

Our take: This study was short, only 4 weeks long, with a post-test 2 weeks later. They only used male volleyball players around the same age. The study used a localized EMS device and only stimulated the knee extensors and calf muscles. It would have been interesting if they had also stimulated the gluteus muscles and hamstrings which are also involved in jumping. The parameters they used for the EMS training were higher than we typically use (115 to 120 Hz vs 80-95 Hz). They used a duty cycle of 3 seconds on/ 17 seconds off, while we use 4 on/2 off. The cycle they used means that in 26 minutes, only 4 minutes were under stimulation but with a higher frequency. In our case, clients are roughly 13 minutes under stimulation at a slightly lower frequency following the standard for WB-EMS. The intervention also performed EMS exercises and then a plyometric exercise. We choose exercises that are appropriate for our clients to do while they have the EMS suit on. AND YET this study still had positive results!

If you are interested in trying EMS book your intro session here: https://www.bodybuzzfit.com/book-a-session/


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.