EMS vs Traditional Exercise

What is 20 minutes of EMS training equivalent to?

Option a) 4 hours

Option b) 3 hours

Option c) 2 hours

Option d) 60-90 minutes

You only have one joker left: the phone call (888) 842-2899.

For a more in-depth understanding, let’s dissect the question. Not all exercise is created equal, and for simplicity, we can categorize them into two buckets: resistance and cardiovascular training.

Resistance training involves activities like weightlifting, calisthenics, Pilates, Olympic lifting, and CrossFit, primarily focusing on strengthening muscles. On the other hand, cardiovascular training, including running, jumping rope, swimming, cycling, pickleball, and more, primarily targets heart and lung capacity.

Whole-body electrical muscle stimulation (WB-EMS) can be used for both resistance and cardiovascular training, excelling as a replacement or complement to resistance training while providing a slight enhancement to cardiovascular conditioning.

20 minutes of EMS vs Cardiovascular training:

Wearing an EMS suit during cardio activities increases calorie burn and engages more muscles, intensifying the workout. EMS settings for cardio training are usually lower, allowing for more fluid movement. Sessions at 20 minutes with EMS result in an additional 20-30% burned calories, making it a time-efficient option.

For cardiovascular training, a 20-minute WB-EMS session could be equivalent to 30-40 minutes of regular cardio due to increased calorie burn and higher heart rate from enhanced muscle engagement. Yet, WB-EMS stands out more for building muscle strength.

20 minutes of EMS vs traditional resistance training

Option a) 4 hours

Many companies equate an EMS workout to a 4-hour workout. There is a research study that compared two groups of untrained men ages 30-50 years old. One group trained twice per week for an hour using traditional strength training exercises and another group used WB-EMS three times per week every two weeks. At the end of the 16 weeks, the traditional group accumulated 32 hours of resistance training, while the WB-EMS only totaled 8 hours of exercise. 

Both groups had similar results in terms of body composition and strength. We can conclude that based on this study EMS workouts are equivalent to 4 hours of working out for untrained men. 

Option b) 3 hours

You may have seen some more modest marketing around EMS claiming an equivalence of 3 hours of working out. Well, there is a research study that would prove you right as well. In this study, participants were moderately trained and were again separated into a traditional workout group and a WB-EMS group. In this study, both groups trained three times per week for 6 weeks. The study doesn’t explicitly state how long the traditional group worked out, but when you do the math based on the warmup, the tempo, the number of repetitions, and rest time, it adds up to 49.5 minutes. I’m taking the liberty to add in 10 minutes as the 49.5 minutes doesn’t take into account switching from one machine to another or setting up weights, adjusting seats, and other things you would need to do at a gym. No significant differences were found between groups except for arm flexors being stronger in the WB-EMS group. Based on this shorter and smaller study, we can conclude that EMS workouts equate to at least 3 hours of working out for moderately trained individuals.

Option c) 2 hours

I’ve only seen one popular WB-EMS company making this 2-hour equivalence which has been reported in a few articles. Without any internal knowledge of why they chose 2 hours, I can only assume that they chose this moderate comparison to avoid sounding too exaggerated. I’ll admit that “2 hours” rolls off the tongue a bit better than option d). 

Option d) 60-90 minutes

This range is a practical choice. While research supports strength and body composition equivalence for 3 and 4 hours of working out, EMS fitness’ impact on various health aspects is not entirely explored. Choosing a modest range acknowledges the complexity of exercise outcomes beyond duration.

Resistance training also affects bone density, connective tissue, muscular endurance, metabolism, functional capacity, coordination, balance, flexibility, mental health, hormonal balance, and many more aspects of health. 

We’ve covered in our blogs how EMS workouts also help with all of these outcomes because electrical muscle stimulation is in many ways similar to resistance training. However, we do not have the research to support a claim that an EMS workout is equivalent to improving connective tissue or flexibility as 3 or 4 hours of lifting weights. Anecdotally, the results we see with our clients who train twice a week (2×20 min) are in line with the general results of clients who train with weights for two to three hours a week. 

This is why we chose to go with a modest range instead of a fixed number. 

Factors such as exercise selection, intensity, enjoyment, diversity, and accessibility impact consistency. Whether EMS workouts equate to 1 or 4 hours, by training twice a week you will get stronger, leaner, exceed the national recommendations, and have plenty of time to enjoy the small moments that make you happy.

Your final joker is just a phone call away at (888) 842-2899.

If you want to learn more about EMS, book a free consultation with me here: https://calendly.com/conradfitness/30min. You can also make an appointment to book an intro session at our Costa Mesa studio.


Managing Director



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. This full-body workout 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.