Electrostimulation and Cardiorespiratory Capacity

Electrostimulation and Cardiorespiratory Capacity

For a few decades, researchers wondered what happened at the cardiorespiratory level when neuromuscular electrostimulation was used  . But perhaps the most surprising results are those presented by Doctor Ángel Gutiérrez on Active Integral EMS in forums such as the 1st Symposium on Comprehensive Electrostimulation (INEF, Madrid, April 18, 2015) and the 1st Global and Analytical Electrostimulation Congress 

The first results of this professor from the University of Granada point to a considerable increase in oxygen consumption when electrostimulation is activated  with biosuit , both at rest and in simultaneous exercise.

Oxygen consumption is the volume of oxygen that the body is capable of absorbing, transporting and consuming during a given activity and in a unit of time. That is, it is the volume of oxygen that our blood is capable of transporting and metabolizing to perform a task. This parameter will determine the energy expenditure that a certain activity entails during a given time. In fact, it can be high for some time after performing an activity, generating excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC, excess post-exercise oxygen consumption).

Knowing this, we return to the investigations of Dr. Gutiérrez, in which he verified something logical, such as that the Integral EMS increases oxygen consumption at rest while the subject is receiving electrostimulation. This is because there is a muscle stimulation that requires energy, and this energy is metabolized with the help of the oxygen consumed.

In addition, the research group from the University of Granada verified what happened hours and days after performing a session of EMS Integral Activa, with a high intensity interval protocol. It turned out that metabolism was elevated above other protocols without EMS (moderate intensity continuous aerobic and high intensity interval aerobic). This metabolism was measured through oxygen consumption, which remained high even 72 hours after the session.

All these data must be taken with caution, since they do not compose a scientific body relevant enough to make statements that lead to a consensus, and they are data that have not been published in scientific journals. Therefore, below we show a brief review on electrostimulation and cardiorespiratory capacity.

In people with spinal cord injury, it has been shown that training with LCE electrostimulation (to induce pedaling in the legs) can improve aerobic capacity by 10-35% (Hooker, 1992, Mutton, 1997).

A case study from 2004 shows a certainly a bit crazy experiment. In this research, they underwent 4 sessions of 30 minutes of local, low-frequency electrostimulation in the quadriceps, hamstrings and buttocks (without simultaneous exercise). In these sessions they increased the intensity by 10% every 3 minutes. The oxygen consumption went from slightly more than 5 ml / kg / min at 10% of the maximum intensity, to slightly more than 40 ml / kg / min at an intensity of almost 100% of the maximum intensity. In addition, they recorded a 4-hour session with the electrostimulator on, in which 1865 kcal were expended, calculated from oxygen consumption. This energy expenditure is equivalent to running, approximately, 24 km. at a pace of 5’30 ”per km. (Caulfield et al., 2004).

In another case study in which the adaptations of a 33-year-old young man to a 6-week training session in which the quadriceps were electrostimulated at low frequency, without simultaneous movement, 45 minutes a day, 5 days a week, were studied. week, a 4.5% increase in oxygen consumption was observed, from 49.3 ml / kg / min to 51.5 ml kg / min (Deley and Babault, 2014).

Grosset and his collaborators investigated how low-frequency electrostimulation in the thigh, without simultaneous movement, affected the energy consumed in obese people. They compared it with the response of these people when walking, and observed that the kcal / h. (calculated from oxygen consumption) in an electrostimulation session it was similar to that of walking at 5 km / h (Grosset el. 2014).

The practical applications suggested by both the studies by Dr. Gutiérrez and the articles on local electrostimulation that we have shown indicate that EMS could be a useful tool to increase or maintain oxygen consumption in people with limitations for the practice of certain cardiovascular exercises, for instance:

  • In endurance athletes who have suffered a musculoskeletal injury that prevents them from increasing intensity to optimal training levels to maintain oxygen consumption or reduce the effects of detraining.
  • In people with movement limitations, due to acute injury or chronic pathology, which prevents them from maintaining or improving their maximum oxygen consumption. Continuing to degenerate this parameter can lead to dependence, since vital capacity is dependent on its values.

But without a doubt anyone can also benefit from this characteristic of electrostimulation, since supplementing physical exercise with this tool is a good option, and applied by qualified professionals guarantees safe results.


Hooker et al. Physiologic effects of electrical stimulation leg cycle exercise training in spinal cord injured persons. 

Mutton et al. Physiologic responses during functional electrical stimulation leg cycling and hybrid exercise in spinal cord injured subjects..

Caulfield et al. The use of electrical muscle simulation to elicit a cardiovascular exercise response without joint loading: a case study. Exercise Physiology Clinic. 

Deley and Babault. Could Low-Frequency Electromyostimulation Training be an Effective Alternative to Endurance Training? An Overview in One Adult. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine.

Grosset et al. Comparative effect of a 1 h session of electrical muscle stimulation and walking activity on energy expenditure and substrate oxidation in obese subjects.

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