I know this is a wide open topic with countless nuances, but I need to start somewhere. Will someone please provide a reference to scientific literature comparing the effects of electric muscle stimulation to weight lifting and other forms of resistance training. I am especially interested in how this applies to healthy normal individuals.

1 Answer 1


This meta-analysis claims that

The findings indicate that training with NMES [Neuro-Muscular Electric Stimulation] results in virtually identical strength gains compared with conventional strength training when training volume is matched. If training with NMES is preferred, the stimulation frequency type (regular or Burst Mode Alternating Current) can be chosen according to preference without loss of effectiveness.

Mind, this is for similar training volume and only applies to strength, not necessarily hypertrophy.

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    It should be noted that these studies are using NMES/EMS to cause the muscle to contract against an external resistance, which is very different to the TENS treatments often used to manage pain, in which the electrical stimulation is applied without external resistance. It isn't clear which of these two the question was asking about. Commented Jan 30 at 1:26
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    I’ve downvoted because you’re overlooking a critical point: strength is task-specific. While this meta may have found that NMES works as well as voluntary contraction for gains in isometric contraction strength, NMES probably isn’t going to increase your squat in any circumstances at all.
    – Thomas Markov
    Commented Jan 30 at 3:08
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    @ThomasMarkov Strength may be task-specific, but there's still a huge amount of carry-over between tasks, especially in lesser-trained individuals. For example DOI 10.3390/life10090184 was a study in order adults that found that isometric NMES training significantly improved performance in dynamic tests. Commented Jan 30 at 5:12
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    @ThomasMarkov It is unusual, though quite appropriate and polite to explain a down-vote on SE. You are a rare true gentleman. Commented Jan 30 at 17:19
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    I up-voted the answer because it is informative and useful. Commented Jan 30 at 17:21

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