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12-month warranty
Same day dispatch
Professionally endorsed

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TENS Unit for Muscle Building: A Complete Guide

Two iTENS electrodes and gel pads

Muscle building requires consistent effort and proper training techniques. To help maximise their training, some use Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS). A TENS unit for muscle building uses electrodes to deliver electric currents to the body. This triggers the nerves and muscles for beneficial effects. Users may choose from handheld or wireless TENS products for their sessions. To use one, the individual must place pads on the target area and adjust the settings accordingly.

TENS machines are electrotherapy devices that provide many benefits to their users. They can be used to trigger pain-inhibiting mechanisms to help with various conditions. Some devices also have muscle stimulation functions to help improve muscle function and strength. Nevertheless, it is important to consult a medical professional before using electric stimulation. This article will present how TENS can work for muscle building, the types of TENS units, and how to use them.

How Does a TENS Unit for Muscle Building Work?

TENS machines are commonly used to provide natural pain relief. However, using a TENS unit for muscle building is also possible. Some units can provide beneficial effects, such as aiding muscle building and strengthening. This machine delivers electrical pulses to the body using externally applied adhesive electrodes.

Typically, the electrical currents of a TENS machine stimulate nerve fibres to block the transmission of pain signals or trigger the production of natural painkillers called endorphins. Individuals may also use high-powered TENS for muscle stimulation. This can cause muscle contractions that aid in muscle strengthening and preventing muscle loss. It can also help atrophic patients in their rehabilitation process and have faster recovery time.

Moreover, some athletes may also use this to enhance their muscle performance. It can aid in athletic training by supplementing their current exercise routines, giving them a competitive edge. Healthy adults can also use this to increase muscle strength and muscle growth. However, this should not be used as a replacement for exercise training.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Electrical Stimulation


  • TENS triggers natural relief without medications. High-frequency TENS currents trigger the pain-gating mechanism. It also increases blood flow to the targeted area, which can soothe bouts of muscle pain.
  • Using TENS therapy is a non-invasive method of electrical stimulation. It does not involve injections or incisions, removing the risks of infection and other complications.
  • TENS works on various acute and chronic pain conditions.


  • The effects of electrotherapy can vary from person to person. This depends on their tolerance and medical condition.
  • The pain relief from TENS is temporary. It does not directly heal the injury or the condition.

A woman using a wireless electrode on her back

Types of TENS Units for Muscle Building

Several types of TENS units for muscle building are available in the market. These products can target specific muscles and provide different levels of stimulation. Some offer tailored modes designed for muscle strengthening. These can also have a wide range of intensity levels to penetrate the muscle fibres and make the muscles contract.

Generally, there are two types of TENS machines. The first one is the wired or handheld model. These use lead cables to connect the electrode pads and the controller. Doctors and physical therapists often use these in medical settings. Some multi-channel handheld TENS units allow connection to eight pads, which can provide a more comprehensive workout.

The second type is the wireless TENS unit. These use Bluetooth to link the electrode pads and controller. The controller can be a separate device or a smartphone. Many of these models offer advanced treatments and modes using a smartphone application. In addition, these usually have rechargeable batteries that make TENS use more convenient.

Other Electrical Stimulation Techniques

There are alternative methods of using electrical currents to stimulate the body for therapeutic purposes. Firstly, Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS) uses electrical impulses to target muscle groups to help with re-education and reduce muscle atrophy. Secondly, Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) helps activate movements, assisting patients in recovering from spinal cord injuries.

Thirdly, Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation (NMES) targets nerves and muscles to help the body regain normal function. Fourthly, Interferential Current (IFC) targets sensory nerves deep into the tissue to reduce pain. Lastly, Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS) uses an implanted device to alleviate aches by directly sending electrical signals to the spine.

A person removing the film from an iTENS pad

How to Use a TENS Unit for Muscle Building

Using a TENS unit for muscle building is a straightforward process. However, it is recommended to read the manual from the device manufacturer. This can help improve understanding of using the specific machine. Before starting, users can clean the target area with soap and water to remove body oil, lotions, and dirt. This can help with adhesion and delivery of the electric currents.

To start, the user must apply the electrodes to the targeted muscle groups. Afterwards, they may connect them using either wires or Bluetooth. Then, they may start the session by turning the machine on and adjusting the settings. It is ideal to start on low settings and gradually increase them to avoid sudden shocks and discomfort. Users may set a timer to help keep track of time.

A TENS session for muscle building typically lasts between 15 to 20 minutes. However, this can vary depending on the health condition. Users may also refer to the advice of a medical professional regarding this. When the time elapses, the user can turn off the machine and remove the electrodes.

Safety Precautions When Using the Device

When using TENS therapy, individuals must stay alert throughout the session. They must avoid sleeping or doing safety-sensitive activities that require concentration. This includes driving and operating heavy machinery. Furthermore, they must avoid contact with water as this can damage the unit and harm the user.

Lastly, users must practice proper electrode placement. They must avoid placing pads in sensitive areas, such as the spinal cord, throat, chest, and head. Moreover, it is vital to remember that consulting a healthcare professional is recommended before using any electrotherapy device. They can assess the condition and ensure that TENS is safe for the individual.


A TENS unit for muscle building is a device that can help improve muscle function and performance. It is a medical device that uses electrical signals to stimulate the nerves and muscles for positive effects. It can provide pain relief by triggering the pain-gating mechanism and endorphin production. Some can also induce muscle contractions to supplement exercise routines. Several wired and wireless options are available in the market, such as the iTENS.

There are many forms of electric stimulation that people can choose from. TENS, in particular, is growing in popularity because it is a drug-free and non-invasive option for relieving pain. It also helps improve blood flow and reduce inflammation, which aids in the recovery process. However, it is crucial to remember that consulting a medical professional before using TENS is ideal. This helps ensure the safety of the user.

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