A Guide on Electrical Muscle Stimulation

Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS) has always been a little confusing to performance coaches and sports medicine professionals because the research is cloudy at best. Many of the reasons behind the limitations of science are the ethical boundaries you need to navigate, and the expectations you have with the results of those studies. I recently spent more time working with EMS, as more and more athletes are using EMS devices on their own and we are dealing with the hangover of injuries still lingering in the off-season. What I have learned is that the science is not perfect and there are no best practices.

There has been a resurgence in EMS in sport over the last five years because of Bill Knowles, Derek Hansen, and Henk Kraaijenhof sharing their experiences with athletes. I believe that EMS suit inluding electrostimulation vest has a place in sports performance and the rehabilitation of athletes, but we don’t have a solid explanation of why some athletes don’t respond to it while others seem to come alive from it. In this first piece, I will review some of the current literature on EMS and present a healthy perspective on this modality. (Part 2 will be published as “The Top 6 EMS Protocols for Sports Performance.”)

A Brief History of Electrical Muscle Stimulation in Modern Sport
Without getting into any unnecessary background on electrotherapy (such as a retelling of the way the ancient civilizations used electric fish or citing references to Volta and Galvani), it’s valuable to know how e-stim or EMS has been part of sport in the last few decades. Outside of product design, very little innovation has occurred since the 1950s, making EMS more of an art than a science. Coaches and therapists are sometimes frustrated because transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, or TENS for short, gets confused with sports electrostimulation.

To understand the difference between TENS and EMS, you need to know just a little bit about engineering and biology. TENS targets the sensory nerves, while EMS attacks the motor nerve and attempts to recruit as many muscle fibers as possible. TENS is currently used—mainly in vain, in my opinion—to manage pain. In 1965, Ronald Melzack and Patrick Wall proposed the “gate control theory” of pain. What we know about the pain experience is extremely complex and personal, making the TENS intervention for sport very dated and extremely limited for athletes. Some research has shown positive findings, but the modality method of working with athletes in pain is lazy and proven unproductive in clinical research.

EMS focuses mainly on sending current to muscle groups in the hope of eliciting either a recovery response or a performance response later. Based on the current literature, recovery indices appear very limited, and performance benefits have shown up enough with some populations—including athletes—to be accepted as valid complementary treatments. The truth is that our understanding of electrostimulation is usually confined to a few studies on stroke victims and post-surgical wasting, and nothing I have seen has excited me.

What interests me, instead, are the clinicians who have used EMS creatively. Some of the studies on cellular and performance outcomes are strong enough to show that EMS isn’t just a placebo. I have used the Compex systems for nearly 20 years, and have some experience with the Marc Pro, PowerDot, Globus, and ARPwave. If I had to conclude which I think works best, it will be a short answer: All of them work, so choose one based on your needs and not its features.

If you were to go to a medical bookstore and check the physical therapy section on EMS, you would see that it tends to be a set of protocols based on pad placement, current settings, and scheduling sessions. This approach is nowhere near the same as what the modern clinician does and, since we are now entering the bionic athlete era with gait retraining, this only widens the gap between practice and research. It’s easy to shout that you’re ahead of the research, but without evidence, much of what clinicians do becomes like the dated RICE protocol that we still see people clinging to.

A Rapid Review of Electricity for Coaches and Therapists
Electric current can flow in different ways, such as through a wire, or something lesser known, such as a plasma state. The current generated from a muscle electrostimulator uses a conductive pad to transfer through the skin, causing the muscle to contract. The specifics of the muscle contraction will come later, but the important information is that electricity from medical muscle stimulators is more complicated than voltage and ampere. Electricity is not just about whether something is “on” or “off,” and we often take much of the technology we use for granted, especially the safety of the muscle stimulators. Most companies that get involved with e-stim devices are regulated, but it’s up to the consumer to do their homework on the quality of the product.

Experienced coaches and therapists commonly refer to stimulation parameters and share their practices, including the use of different types of settings, such as Russian Stimulation or strength protocols. Stimulation parameters and waveforms can be the subject of their own article but, for the most part, duty cycle, frequency, intensity, and ramp details are part of electrotherapy theory, but are not very well-documented. Regardless of the intimate details, many parallels exist between classic training principles and the current clinical practices of EMS use. Cycles, or waves of energy, are part of a “unified training theory” proposed by several coaches and sport scientists. EMS should be used to improve athletes, similarly to loading the body with training or rehabilitation.

Companies must do their job, not only to prove their machines are delivering exactly what they promise, but also to ensure that their products are used as intended. Most companies have terrible product education, and visiting their YouTube channels makes me cringe more than their highest simulator settings.

The Science of Electrical Contractions With Muscle
Sending electricity through a muscle group sounds like a bad science fiction movie, but that’s precisely what athletes are willing to do to get or feel better. It’s a priority to know what EMS can do physiologically and what is likely ineffective. Five years ago, pioneering researcher Nicola Maffiuletti summarized the differences between a normal muscular contraction and one from electrical stimulation in his NSCA journal article. The two types of contractions have similarities and differences that a coach should know. Overall, EMS is not going to make a major difference. However, like all things in sports training, the little things matter.

One development that throws this concept out the window is the rise in functional electrical muscle stimulation, equipped with electrostimulation shorts, which incorporates active training with the simultaneous overlay of EMS. While we can assume that the merging of both contractions will yield a hybrid result, most of the research is with disease models and only clinical rehabilitation has shown merit with this in early post-operation subjects. I have yet to see a single study with elite athletes performing EMS in conjunction with conventional training, but the case reports and work with spinal cord injury patients is promising.

Finally, EMS is used to help with neuromuscular adaptations and, while sessions may prevent atrophy, the improvements are from neural drive-like mechanisms, not from increased protein synthesis rates. EMS doesn’t directly create hypertrophy changes to the muscle, and a study on nutrition and e-stim showed no acute changes.

What is also important to know is that electrically stimulated muscles are, for the most part, superficial, and that is useful for propulsive muscle groups. Some rogue therapists are using fine needle EMS with low current for deeper muscle penetration for rehabilitation purposes. Most EMS experiences are one muscle at a time, but some athletes are getting simultaneous total body sessions. Nobody knows if total bodywork is more time-efficient or if a possible synergistic benefit exists, but down the road, studies will likely discover if there is a value beyond convenience.

The Scientific Benefits of Stimulating the Neuromuscular System
If you were to read a catalog of features and settings for a personal e-stim device, the list would be very long, ranging from relaxation massage all the way to explosive strength. While, technically, different settings will have unique stimulation protocols from the device programming in the electrostimulation center, the reality is that only three purposes exist with EMS and the research is enough to form a realistic expectation. The three EMS benefits are strength training, rehabilitation, and a little regeneration. Distilling the benefits more, you can make an argument that EMS helps with general muscle strength and facilitates low-level recovery for travel. That’s about it, but it’s enough to warrant investing in it, especially when sport moves into the unfortunate health compromise for winning.

Sports Performance

EMS and strength, and the results that may lead to jump and sprint performance, are mixed in the research. However, enough research shows that if EMS is done with specific protocols, a positive result is possible, especially with the less-trained athlete. So far, much of the work has been done with soccer, and some recent investigations of youth jumping performance and plyometrics had favorable outcomes.

What is a Junction Box and How to Install an Electrical Junction Box

Junction boxes are metal or plastic enclosures used as housings for wiring connections. The connections within are called branch circuits and usually represent the end of a conduit run. Junction boxes make wire access easy, since all one must do is remove the covering to make alterations, repairs, or additions to a conduit. Junction boxes also protect wiring from the elements or environment, which can sometimes be corrosive or otherwise harmful to wiring material. Finally, junction boxes protect wiring from unwanted tampering, whether malicious or unintentional.
Junction Box Wiring Basics
Essentially, a junction box houses wire connections in order to split off power from a single source to multiple outlets. For instance, a distribution box might contain one wire power source that is connected through multiple wires to power several different lights.
Junction boxes are usually between 2 ½ to 3 ½ inches long and made of metal or hard plastic. The functional difference between plastic and metal depends whether or not the junction box is supposed to support any weight. Some metal junction boxes can support light fixtures; plastic junction boxes cannot withstand this weight. Additional differences include installation, in that plastic junction boxes are typically quicker and easier to install than metal ones. However, a standard junction box designed to simple cover wire splices can be either metal or plastic.
Wire Splices in Junction Boxes
All wire splices must be contained within a junction box for a building to meet electric code, although sometimes splices are missed and may present hazards as a result. Any exposed wiring can be dangerous, but exposed wire splices are especially prone to accident because they can be tripped over, expel sparks or misrepresent themselves be misperceived as playthings by children or pets. IP65 junction box are helpful for wire splices because they also allow one to easily locate the wire splice area.

Shut off the Power and Test the Wires
Turn off the power to the circuit you’ll be working on by switching off the appropriate circuit breaker in your home’s service panel (circuit breaker box). Test all of the wires you’ll be working on with a non-contact voltage tester. The test should confirm that no voltage is present in any of the wires.
Remove a Knockout (Metal Box Only)
If you’re using a metal box, remove a knockout on the box for each cable that will enter the box. Use a screwdriver and hammer to break out each knockout (metal disc), then twist off the metal knockout disk with pliers.
Mount the Box
Separate the circuit wires at the existing splice and loosen the cables as needed to make room for the new junction box. Anchor the box to the framing (or other support structure) with screws driven through the factory-made holes in the back or side of the box, as applicable.
Set up Clamps for Each Cable
Install a cable clamp for each cable, as needed. Standard plastic electrical junction boxes do not have knockouts and contain internal cable clamps. Metal boxes usually have internal clamps; if yours does not, install a locknut-type clamp for each cable. Insert the threaded end of the clamp through a knockout hole and secure the clamp inside the box with the ring-shaped nut. Tighten the nut with pliers.
Secure the Cables
Feed the cables through the clamps and into the box. The cable sheathing (outer jacket) should extend 1/4 to 1/2 inch into the box beyond the clamp, and the individual conducting wires should extend about 6 inches into the box. If necessary, trim the wires as needed and strip 3/4 inch of insulation from the end of each wire, using wire strippers.
Secure the cables by tightening the screws on the clamps, being careful not to overtighten and damage the cables. Plastic boxes usually have spring-tabs for clamps and do not require tightening.
Join the Wires
Join the wires together with approved wire connectors, following the manufacturer’s instructions:
Join the bare copper (or green insulated) ground wires together first. If the box is metal, add a pigtail—a 6-inch length of the same type of ground wire—to the ground wire connection, then connect the loose end of the pigtail to the ground screw on the box. Special green wire nut connectors are generally used to join the grounding wires together.
Join the white (neutral) wires together, then join the black (hot) wires together, using a wire nut or other approved connector for each wire pair. If there are red (hot) wires, join them together, as well. Confirm that all wires are secure by gently tugging on each wire.
Finish the Job
Carefully fold the wires into the box. Install the box cover, securing it with two screws. Code requires that the cover must be a solid “blank” without holes. Restore power to the circuit by switching on the circuit breaker box.

[ Renting & Real Estate ] Open Question : Question about electrical work ( coaxial wall outlets)?

I live in an apartment building and my first question is: can a technician come out to my home and install a coaxial outlet to any wall in my living room that I want? Or must the outlet be installed in a particular location in the apartment? 2nd Question: Must I obtain permission from my apartment manager before allowing a technician to cut holes in my wall and install anything new? There is already a coaxial outlet in my bedroom . However this does not suffice. A second outlet needs to be in the living room so that I can connect my TV in the living room . Also the outlet that is in the bedroom is being occupied buy my laptop computer’s modem right now.

How to test server’s peak draw on electrical amperage?

I’m moving my server to a co-location center and they’r not concerned with the actual wattage, which is what I’ve tracked, but they are very concerned with the peak amperage. They charge by the amps made available to the machine. Is there some industry standard way I can test that? The person I spoke with in the data center is a sales guys, so he’s not sure of the technical aspects that he’s asking me about.

If there’s a software solution, my system is an HP DL580 G7 running centos 7.

What I’ve tried:

I have a UPS on it now that gives wattage outputs which bounce all over the place. The highest I’ve seen is 800 watts, so my guess is 800watts/120volts should be six and two thirds amps. Do I provision 7 amps? Sounds a little flimsy.

Powerstat says “Device does not have any RAPL domains, cannot power measure power usage.” so I don’t think it’s compatible with my system.

Please let me know what the industry standards for this are.

Do electrical spark sounds from the power plug hint for higher risk of damage?

I was moving my PC while it was turned on (at the Windows 10’s Login screen) when I heard some electrical spark sounds from the back and the PC fell out. Looking at the back I noticed that I didn’t push the power supply cord firmly into the PC socket, so it fell out while I was moving the PC.

Now from what I’ve read, a PC shutting off unexpectedly could mainly corrupt files and to a lesser extent damage hardware. My PC is running normally afterwards and chkdsk didn’t find any problems. But what I am really worried about were the electrical spark sounds because of the power supply being a bit loose.

Do these sounds hint for surges and/or electrical fluctutations within the PC before it fell out, which give a higher risk of damaging the hardware? In other words, was it more safe if the plug got disconnected immediately instead of creating sparks for a short time first?

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What are the electrical contacts in a Nikon F-mount?

Current Nikon camera bodies and lenses have electrical contacts. What exactly are they used for and what sorts of electrical signalling is used? Why are there so many?

Some background to my question.

Early Nikon F-mount lenses communicated to the camera with physical couplings: micro-Nikkor 55

  • at 7 o’clock: the original aperture-indicating meter-coupling “prong” (pre-AI).
  • at 10 o’clock and at 6 o’clock black aperture-indicating ridges (AI).
  • at 3 o’clock a slot to engage the pin that locks lens to body.
  • just below that a machined dimple indicating linear stop-down (AI-S).

In 1990 Nikon filed US Patent 4896181 which described “a camera system … provided with terminals for transmitting information data signals [between body and lens]” this described a five contact system

Diagram from Patent

The Patent is long and tedious to read but I gather that these five contacts implement a simple synchronous serial interface:

  • “a” – Vdd (positive battery voltage)
  • “b” – P1/P2
  • “c” – SCLK (serial clock)
  • “d” – SI
  • “e” – Vss (common ground)

When Nikon introduced autofocus (AF), at that time they introduced lenses and bodies with these five electrical contacts (by the way, at 11 o’clock is the coupling for the focus-motor in the body that drives the lens focussing mechanism)

AF 70-210

However, later they increased the number of contacts to seven in the body.

F-601 body lens mount

And (later?) to eight contacts as shown in this lens, although some contemporary Nikon DSLRs (with this kit lens) still only had seven contacts! (by the way note at 7 o’clock is the focus-motor coupling in this entry-level DSLR – stare and weep ye D3200/D5100 owners with AF-D lenses)

18-55 G VR D50 lens mount

More recent lenses have up to ten contacts!

18-200 G VR

I wonder why you need more contacts (surely the old 5-contact serial interface can just be used for newer data)? What do the “extra” contacts do?

For comparison the Nikon 1 CX mount has twelve contacts arranged

  • with spring pins in body not in lens
  • at the bottom of the opening (not at top as in F-mount)
  • parallel to the front surface of the camera body (not radially perpendicular)

10-30 CX J1 lens mount

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Issue with residential electrical system in Brazil [migrated]

A 127 volt electrical receptacle in my kitchen in Brazil appears to have a problem. Could be a coincidence, but after moving the frig to clean behind it (it was never tilted) and plugging it back in, almost immediately a relay popped with a burning smell. The frig was repaired but before plugging it in again, I checked the voltage and the amperage in the receptacle using an old fan I could afford to lose if the receptacle was defective. The voltage looks perfect: 127 volts with hot (black) to neutral (blue); 127 volts with hot to earth ground (green) and 0 volts neutral to earth ground. The amperage reading appears to suggest a problem. 3.7 amps on the hot wire and 5.3 amps on the neutral. It’s my understanding that the neutral should be 0 amps no matter what the hot is reading. What am I missing ? Thanks, Tom

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