T Nation

Question: EMS

I’ve got some questions about the this issue’s article: “The Truth About EMS
Electronic Muscle Stimulation: Facts and Fallacies” By Charlie Francis

I must have read the article 6 or 7 times. EMS builds density not so much size and so on. Does EMS have the ability to transform a keg to a 6 pack??? I’ve got a EMS machine from TON-A-MATIC. I’m not really sure where or how to place the pads. It came with the velcro straps and like 24 pads, all the pads are circular some are 4 inches some are 1.5 inches. The manual I got says sessions should last at least 45 minutes. I’ve place it on my abs and have gone for 1 hours sessions. I’ve turned up the intesity to around 6-7 thats as much as I can handle without tearing on a fast pulsing. Should I be using the other setting where I can control how long the rest periods are and how long the contractions will be. I haven’t really noticed much visual impact, which is mainly why I bought the $400 machine. If anything I probablly wasted my money right??? Mr. Francis, anybody, can you shed some light on how to use this thing??? Like I said before, I’m really using this to bring out my ABs (I’m not sure how/where to put it on any other parts) there might 2 inches of fat on my ABs to melt off before I see anything. HELP ME PLEASE.


No it won’t bring out your abs. All it’s good for is maintaining strength and perhaps a miniscule amount of size at times when one has injuries.

Dude I can’t believe you bought one of those just to bring out your abs! And it won’t even do that! Think of what else you could have purchased with $400! Just kidding man, but it really makes me laugh when people look for the ‘magic pill’ so to speak, instead of just getting their ass in gear.

it seems you could use it to get bigger arms though. But, you will not get the a lot of the strength benefits associate with say benching, and you may actually feel more pain while using the ems than if you just lifted.

Thank you all for the feedback, good/bad its still nice to hear it. I guess I shoould sum up my original question. HOW DO I USE THIS MACHINE TO GET SOME SORT OF BENEFITS??? KELLY says that I can’t use it to bring out my ABs. I don’t understand how it can “build” muscle and not bring out my ABs. I’m hoping that CHARLIE FRANCIS himself can erase the confusion. He says it can help in his article, JACK IT UP right??? More help please.

Hey BeeR,

There is hope, at least to a certain extent. Any EMS unit worth discussing should have provided a pad placement chart, and a manual of instruction. Some of the other respondents were right though, you won’t get the “six pack” by simply using EMS, however you will tone and strengthen the abs. Proper diet is one of the most important aspects of good abdominals, and crunches, in conjunction with EMS, can work wonders. Lay off the beer :), it doesn’t do much for your physique.

If you have a multi channel unit, as it sounds like, place the two pads from one channel on either side of a line drawn from the chest straight down through the belly button, but slightly below the belly button. Exercise this region (lower abs first). Don’t over do in the beginning. Turn up the frequency, and the channel gain gradually until its at a point where you experience max. contraction, but not to a point that it actually causes pain. Go slow and increase the intensity and frequency just as you would in doing isotonic training.

Use a ten second contraction time, and anywhere from 3 to 45 seconds relaxation time between contractions. You need to be the judge of this. As you progress you can decrease the amount of relaxation time.

You can also exercise the middle and upper abs in the same manner, but do the lower abs first. A ten minute application to start is about right. Build from there as you start to see progress, or feel progress.

You probably will also find a reciprocating mode, and generally this is used to exercise antagonistic muscle groups in the same session. One channel for example on the biceps, and one on the triceps, at the same time. The reciprocating mode will exercise one and then the other, just not both at the same time. That is a definite “no-no”.

I could go on about how and where to place the pads, but you really need to contact the manufacturer to find out why you didn’t receive a chart. If worse comes to worse contact one of the other sites such as vitalityweb.com, or some similar site and see if they will provide a chart (there might be a nominal fee of course).

There are a couple sites on the web that allow you to preview sample charts, you’ll just have to do a search to find them. Whatever you do, stay away from the infomercial sites, like fastabs, abtronics, abenergizer, etc. These are commercial sites dedicated to making money, providing inferior products, and locking you into addt’l purchases to keep the units working. Don’t get caught up in that mess, it’s a “rip”!

And regardless of all the pseudo intellectuals that downplay, or dispel EMS as a gimmick, just read that article by Charles Francis again, and you be the judge. You might also take a look at the latest issue in the newsletter section at the following site for more info:


I’ve have used, and still do, this technology, and in my opinion your unit is right around the price range of a good functional unit, without committing (unnecessarily) to one of the more professional models used mostly in rehab and chiropractor’s offices. It is beneficial, and it does work, regardless of what you hear, and I say this from personal experience.

I’m no professional, but I have done a good deal of research on the technology, and would be glad to answer any questions for you that I can.

Oh BeeR,

One other little side light which I forgot. The unit you have very possibly could tear muscles if you over do it, but it takes a great deal to do that. This is as per a Chiropractor friend, who by the way is an advocate of EMS. However as you build tone and strength the possibility of this happening is lessened considerably.


On the following site you will find a text and pictoral depiction of how to place the pads for different muscles/muscle groups.: