EMS Fitness vs TENS Unit

Tens Unit Vs. EMS Fitness

Disclaimer: our trainers are not physical therapists; our service is not intended to treat pain or be a replacement for physical therapy. You should consult with your doctor if you are in any kind of pain.

If you’ve had physical therapy, you may be familiar with a TENS unit. TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. It is a medical device mostly used by physical therapists to treat chronic pain and avoid muscle atrophy.

How is EMS fitness different from a TENS unit?

The technology behind TENS unit is the same as EMS fitness but with a few key differences.


The main difference is the desired outcome. TENS unit is a medical device for pain relief. The desired outcome is to reduce pain by stimulating different nerve signals. EMS fitness is also an FDA-cleared medical device but meant for muscle development. EMS fitness is designed to stimulate all the major muscle groups to elicit strength and endurance adaptations.

Localized vs Whole body

TENS is localized, meaning it is usually applied to one or a only few muscle groups around one joint. EMS fitness, also known as whole-body electro muscle stimulation, is applied to 10-12 muscle groups.


Another difference is the stimulation parameters used in each modality. The main parameters are duration, frequency, and depth.

There are three types of intensities used with TENS units:

  • Conventional TENS is the most used setting with low intensity (50-200μs) and high frequency (50-100 Hz).
  • Acupuncture-like TENS is high intensity (100-400μs) and low frequency (2-4 Hz) used less frequently than conventional TENS.
  • Intense TENS is high intensity tolerable to the patient and high frequency (200 Hz) but used in very short durations.

With a TENS unit, according to my limited knowledge, one of those three parameters is usually low as you can see above. With EMS fitness, the depth and frequency are usually higher with varying durations: 4-6 seconds for strength building, but up to 59 seconds for endurance. High-intensity TENS unit usually is set around 1-second impulses.

With EMS fitness we have our own in-house programs at different intensities, depths, and durations.

Passive vs Active

EMS fitness is a workout. You’re meant to move, perform exercises, and feel as if you are challenged throughout the session. The co-contraction of your muscles along with the stimulation is where the magic happens. This will elicit muscular adaption.

TENS unit is meant to be done without moving, in other words, it is a passive treatment, much like getting a massage or acupuncture.

Can EMS fitness be adjusted to have the same settings as a TENS unit?

EMS fitness can certainly have the same parameters as a TENS unit, however, as the disclaimer at the top says, we are not physical therapists and we are not in the business of treating pain.

Anecdotally, our clients have reported a relief in pain, especially lower back pain after our sessions. The explanation is that we end all of our sessions with a 2–3 minute recovery mode to cooldown, which uses a low frequency and low depth that is very similar to the Acupuncture-like TENS settings.

In upcoming blog entries, we will review specific pains and aches that EMS fitness is able to help with based on research studies.

If you want to learn more about TENS unit and how they work, you can follow this link.

If you are recovering from an injury, feel free to reach out, as EMS fitness, being low-impact and joint-friendly, might be a great option for you to get stronger as you heal.

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.