So, you’re thinking about doing the Open. What’s stopping you from doing it?
Five weeks of challenging workouts to test you both mentally and physically is not an easy feat. While many competitors will spend hours in the gym tiring themselves out daily and trying different training routines to improve their performance, you can do the same without spending hours in the gym or fatiguing your muscles. So, what’s the best way to be ready for the Open?
Brooke Wells, CrossFit® and Compex® Athlete, understands the demands your body goes under when competing during the Open and provides a little insight to help you be ready for the grueling few weeks, “The biggest thing is to treat the Open as if it were a regular training day! Don’t do anything different like try a new crazy pre-workout or warm up extra, extra long. Stay in your typical routine, and don’t freak or stress out about it,” she adds, “Trust your training and go as hard as you can. Make sure you are recovered before, have a good meal, get sleep, and proper recovery—like using a Compex® device).”
When Compex® electric muscle stimulation is added to your workouts, it helps maximize your muscular effort by engaging a greater percentage of muscle fibers. Compex® devices target both Type 1 slow twitch muscle fibers which impact endurance and Type 2 fast twitch muscle fibers which impact power and explosiveness. Using a Compex® EMS device can help take your performance to the next level. Here’s how to be ready for the Open with the assistance of one of our EMS devices.
Before you begin you the Open workout, it’s essential to warm up your muscles. Using our pre-designed programs can help make your time more efficient in the gym. A dynamic warm-up helps loosen muscles and gets them ready for rigorous activity, which may help to prevent injury during training or competition.
The Performance™, Sport Elite™, and Wireless Muscle Stimulator™ all offer the Pre-Warm Up program which produces a muscle twitch and runs at a low frequency while increasing local blood flow, warming the muscle tissue, and helping to improve reaction of the muscles prior to a workout or competition.
The Sport Elite™ and Wireless Muscle Stimulators™ offer Potentiation which is recommended before a workout or competition, especially for sports requiring speed and velocity. Applied briefly just before the beginning of a competition, it offers immediate, well-potentiated muscle fibers and helping to optimize performance.
So, before you tackle the challenge, turn on the Dynamic Warm-up setting to get ready to compete.
One advantage that you’ll have if you use the EMS device is that you can help speed up your recovery before the next workout, whether you want to redo the week’s challenge or you’re ready to take on the next one at The Open.
Compex® EMS devices offer multiple post-workout programs to assist in your recovery. The variety of recovery programs are designed to bring fresh oxygen and nutrients to the muscles to help flush lactic acid, aiding you to recover faster.
After your workout, place the electrodes on the muscle area you'd like to target. Select your program and let Compex® help you get stronger and fitter faster than you would with your regular routine.
The Edge™, Performance™, Sport Elite™ and Wireless Muscle Stimulator™ offer the Active Recovery program which increases local blood flow, leading to a faster reduction of lactic acid than mere rest, promotes muscle relaxation and helps enable faster recovery. These devices also offer TENS which can be used to temporarily alleviate localized pain.
The Sport Elite™ and Wireless Muscle Stimulator™ devices offer Recovery Plus which runs at a lower frequency for inducing gentle muscle twitches, increasing local blood flow, generating endorphins (the body's natural analgesic) and promoting muscle relaxation when muscles are fatigued after a vigorous workout or competition. They also offer Massage, which runs at the lowest frequency possible to help relax muscles that are fatigued after a workout or competition.
While other competitors may take breaks, stretch or try the workout before they take on the Open workouts, you can allow your body to rest while still helping your muscles improve and strengthen by using the warm-up and recovery programs. Good luck during the Open!
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The contents of this blog were independently prepared, and are for informational purposes only. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily indicative of the views of any other party. Individual results may vary depending on a variety of patient-specific attributes and related factors.
CrossFit® is registered trademark of CrossFit®, Inc.
Brooke Wells is a Compex® Sponsored Athlete.
Compex®, the muscle specialist, is always looking to support athletes in their quest for well-being, performance or even exceeding training objectives.
As a global leader for more than 30 years in muscle stim technology, Compex® has dedicated hours and energy to make sure health care professionals, athletes, and individuals have the essential technology and support needed to help relieve muscle pain and improve strength. Our FDA-cleared products are beneficial for muscle recovery, injury prevention, pain management, and intense training programs. We offer the best in Electric Muscle Stimulators (EMS), Electrodes, and EMS Accessories.
Electrostimulation allows you to naturally reap the benefits of improved stamina, quick recovery, as well as increased blood circulation, strength, and muscle volume. It's a great complement to any existing sports training regimen. From seasoned professionals to weekend warriors, there are many benefits that can be found adding FDA-cleared Compex® muscle stim devices into any training regimen.
Compex® Electric Muscle Stimulators
The technology of Compex®, drawn from its double roots — Swiss quality and medical requirement — is light, portable and easy to use. Whether used for training and muscle strength or relaxation and pain relief, Compex® FDA-cleared EMS devices are an essential go-to training tool as a complement to or occasionally to replace voluntary physical activity.
With many pre-designed program options, the Compex® FDA-cleared devices are meant to help athletes and active individuals reach their fullest potential, fast and effectively.
FDA-cleared medical devices are ones that FDA has determined to be substantially equivalent to (similar) another legally marketed device. A premarket notification submission is referred to as a 510(k) and must be submitted to FDA to review and provide clearance.
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Individual results may vary. Neither DJO Global, Inc. nor any of its subsidiaries dispense medical advice. The contents of this blog do not constitute medical, legal, or any other type of professional advice. Rather, please consult your healthcare professional for information on the courses of treatment, if any, which may be appropriate for you.
The preset Resistance program is the most “bang for your buck” among the training programs. By activating both Type 1 and Type 2 muscle fiber types, you can help to maximize the muscle contraction and get the greatest strength gains. Although this program can be used as a stand-alone routine (yes, even while you sit on the couch!) it may be best utilized in conjunction with some body weight exercises such as squats, push-ups, or calf raises depending on what you want to train. By taking your body through range of motion during each contraction, you’ll get even more benefit of the program to help increase your squat, vertical jump, and increase muscle mass!
Active Recovery Program
The moments immediately following a tough workout can be some of the most critical for recovery in a number of ways. Using the Active Recovery program within thirty minutes of your workout can help reduce lactic buildup, muscle soreness and fatigue so that you’re better prepared for the next session. By starting at a higher frequency and gradually tapering down, this program can be used as an effective cool down method.
Recovery Plus Program
In the hours and days following a workout, using the Recovery Plus program will have the most benefit to ensuring your preparedness for the next session. Using a low frequency pulse, this program helps to increase local blood flow back to the muscle tissue to help keep it mobile and fight muscle soreness. A perfect rest day choice, stick on your electrodes for a relaxing weekend as you plan out your next week in how to continue towards your goals.
We know you’re ready to put in work this New Year and Compex is here to help meet your fitness goals. Train, recover and PR with Compex into 2018!
The most common use for an electric stimulation devices is in recovery, and rightfully so. An NMES device such as Compex can be used to decrease recovery time by using involuntary muscle contractions and controlled levels of electric pulses to improve blood flow, reduce muscle soreness and flush away lactic build up. But if you turn on a Compex device, there are more recovery programs than just one and knowing how to choose the correct program will further enhance the benefit of using a Compex device.
So which program should you choose?
This program is also known as the Training Recovery program in the wireless device. This program would be best used immediately post workout and studies have shown that immediate recovery markers are improved by 4.5x when using a Compex device versus a voluntary cool down. Although the program will run for 20 minutes, just 6 minutes of use is enough to be effective in flushing out lactic build up and recovering from “the pump.” This program would be very beneficial in a competition setting or between back-to-back training sessions or events.
This program is also known as Competition Recovery in the wireless device. This program would be best utilized in the hours or days following a physical effort or on “rest day” to reduce muscle soreness or stiffness. This program should not, however, be used during competition.
This program is also known as Muscle Relaxation in the wireless device. This program is a low-frequency electric pulse that will help to relax tight muscles and help restore mobility with increased blood flow and movement. Like the Recovery Plus, this program should not be used during competition.
Choosing the correct program can help to amplify the efficiency of your recovery between training and competition events. Better recovery equates to higher levels of performance and decreased feelings of fatigue or soreness and can help an athlete advance to the next levels of their potential.
Check out the review in Men's Health and Fitness on the Sport Elite and Wireless Device by Brittany Smith. Complete article here http://www.mensfitness.com/life/gearandtech/fitness-test-compex-muscle-stim-devices
YOU CAN ZAP your muscles—literally send an electric current down to nerve fibers, fire your motor neurons, and stimulate a strong muscle contraction. It's called NMES, neuro-muscular electrical nerve stimulation; more specifically, we're talking about two NMES stimulators from Compex, a company that’s been in the business of electrotherapy for over 20 years. So why should you want to try it out? For one, NMES can help you heal quicker if you're coming back from an injury. But, it's not just for guys who have been sidelined. It can also help you recover faster after a brutal WOD and even boost your performance in workouts by better activating bodyparts.
And it doesn't hurt—aside from some alien tingling sensation you quickly get used to. I can attest to this; I tested both the Compex Sport Elite Muscle Stimulator Kit and the Compex Wireless USA Muscle Stimulator Kit.
But before you read what I thought, check out everything you need to know about personal NMES devices first.
What Compex Devices Do
A NMES electrotherapy at-home device mimics the electrical pulses your brain fires to contract muscles, only it lights up the entire length of your motor neuron so you get a complete contraction—as in 100% of your muscle contracts. The average Joe can contract anywhere from 25-40% of a muscle, whereas more muscular dudes (think: Phil Heath—who actively uses Compex) can get about 65%, says Brandon Hearn, the senior director at Compex & Consumer Business Development.
Compex is approved for a multitude of goals, like increasing your muscle size, strength, and density, boosting VO2 max, honing greater explosive strength, and faster muscle recovery. And clinical studies prove athletes can increase muscle size, strength, and endurance within a few weeks when combining Compex electric muscle stim in a regimen; it's also been shown to flush lactic acid out of muscles faster, getting you back on your feet and giving you a greater capacity to perform than using traditional methods or nothing at all.
Why Athletes Use Compex
High-profile athletes like Phil Heath use the device to booststrength gains. "If you want to lift more, you need to get the right muscles firing," Hearn says.
Hearn's used a device on CrossFit Games athlete Lauren Fisher when her foot was bound in a cast, due to an ankle injury. They cut a small hole in her cast in order to place an electrode to apply electrotherapy. "It prevents atrophy," Hearn explains. Lebron Jamesand players from the San Diego Padres are just a few more of Compex's top-tier clientele, as is Mat Fraser, 2016 CrossFit Games Champion and reigning “Fittest Man on Earth."
“Compex is a big part of my training,” Fraser says. “It’s an easy-to-use tool for activation, recovery, and strength. I use the strength cycles quite frequently—especially on my quads—and pre- and post-workout to help recovery on a nagging ankle injury.”
The Difference Between Devices
The Compex Sport Elite Muscle Stimulator Kit has 9 pre-set programs (so no guess work!): Endurance is designed to build your resistance to long-duration aerobic fatigue by promoting the growthof more slow-twitch muscle fibers over a span of 45 minutes. Resistance encompasses endurance and strength, activating the growth of both slow- and fast-twitch fibers for running and lifting in just 12 minutes. Strength boosts pure muscle strength more efficiently than weight lifting alone and reduces your risk of muscleand tendon injuries in 20+ minutes. Explosive Strength can bolster your vertical leap by developing greater short bursts of powerwithout the strain of plyometrics; you'll work in very brief durations, completing exercises like jumps, sprints, and throws in this program. Potentiation warms up your muscles, getting them up to their max working potential, without the usual fatigue of a warmup. ActiveRecovery helps diminish soreness and relaxes your muscles post-workout. Recovery Plus flushes lactic acid from your muscles in just 7 minutes, Hearn says; this program doesn't actually contract your muscles, but increases blood flow, perfect after competitions, races, and vigorous routines. Pre-Warmup doesn't contract your muscles either; it runs a current at a certain frequency designed to oxygenate muscles before a workout and increase blood flow. Massageimproves the movement of blood and oxygen through your blood vessels, too.
The Compex Wireless USA has all the same beneficial programs as the Sport Elite Muscle Stimulator. The only difference is it's portable. By going wire-free, you can attach the pods to the electrode pads, and go through your workout without fear of yanking anything out of place.
Ease of Use
You don't have to have a certificate in physical therapy, but you definitely need to read the instructions and electrode placement guide for the best results. The electrode pads are sticky and you don't want to handle the side you'll place skin-down too much. Clean your skin with soap and water (sweat, oil, and lotion break down the pads' stickiness, but they'll typically last 15-30 uses). Then, follow the placement guide and apply the pads.
Now, for the Sport Elite, you'll snap the electrodes right on the pads, making sure the red cable (positive electrode) is on the pad over the "motor point of the muscle" and the black cable (negative electrode) is placed on the "muscle trajectory." Don't worry. This sounds complicated, like you're jumping a car, but everything is color-coded and spelled out on the online manual.
For the Wireless, you connect the pods onto the pads by sliding them onto the metal applicators; they'll snap right into place.
The biggest difference you'll notice between the two is in the control unit. The Wireless device is superior in its usability. The LED screen lights up when you power on, giving way to the pre-made settings. Choosing which setting you want, the area of your bodyyou're working, and adjusting the intensity of the resistance is intuitive and seamless. The Sport Elite takes a bit longer to get used to. Sometimes you'll power the device off when you're trying to get a program started, so it takes some putzing around to get used to the controls.
When you're done, you just snap or slide the electrodes off, and stick the pads back on their plastic for storage. The Wireless electrodes fit into their own docking unit.
When I met with Hearn, I tested the Wireless USA unit. With electrodes in place on our biceps, we went through the Resistanceprogram together. Now, to reach a significant percentage of working fibers, you need to hit a minimum intensity of 30 mAmp (the red zone, about 250 mAmp, will deliver surprising soreness). Sitting in chairs with hands resting on our thighs, palms facing up, Hearn started the workout, using resistance level 3. The current is strong; Hearn describes it as a biting sensation—and that's no joke. Your arms will probably jerk uncontrollably at first in response to the buzzing energy coursing through your body. (Mine did.) These contractions should be powerful, but you don't want them to be intolerable or overpowering.
From here, the program begins. You only need about 6-10 contraction phases for a solid strength and performance workout, Hearn says. During the stronger "work" contractions, we completed bodyweight arm curls. During the "rest" phases, I relaxed my armsand rested my hands on my thighs; the intensity automatically drops to 50 percent during each rest phase to promote blood flow and improve recovery rate. Once the work phase begins again, Hearn raised the stimulation energy to recruit a higher number of musclefibers. The idea is to keep raising the intensity after each bout. FYI, the ceiling is 999 mAmp on power.
The workout only lasted a few minutes. "In two days, your biceps will be more sore than you've ever felt before," Hearn says. He wasn't kidding. The next day, a significant amount of soreness was sinking in; by day 2 I had a hard time extending my arms out straight. It's like the first time you ever did a significant lifting session, or tried a brand new program for the first time.
I was equally as impressed during the Massage and Active Recoveryprograms, too.
How to Use During a Workout/Everyday Life
Electrical stim devices can be used every day. Use them to prime your muscles during a warmup and activate muscles that have become dormant from sitting all day before a heavy lifting session. If you want to work out with a stim device, you can use it 3 days per week per muscle group, Hearn says.
"Traditionally you'd use a device like this two hours after training—but before bed is ideal," says Drew Little, C.S.C.S., a performance specialist at Michael Johnson Performance, an elite training facility in McKinney, Texas. That's because men have a big spike in growth hormone and testosterone at night, which helps burn off fat and build more muscle. "Shower, so your skin is clean for the electrodes, muscles are warm, and your blood vessels are open, as this will lower the resistance to the electric current, make for a cleaner contraction, and provide better recovery and stimulation," Little explains. Now, if you did a high-intensity sprintor heavy squat, you don't want to complete a program on a device thats just as intensive. "Post-workout, use programs that have a short duration of work and long periods of rest—like a 1:4 or 1:5 work to rest tatio—compared to ones that are 1:1," he suggests. The concentric contraction won’t fatigue your muscles, because it pumps blood in, then releases, which is what your heartdoes.
You can also use a device in tandem with resistance training. On legday, before your workout, set the electrodes on your quads or glutes. Complete 6-8 (max) contraction cycles on a resistance level 3 or 5; squat or lunge for 8 seconds on, 4 second off. Then complete the remainder of your leg workout. After, throw on the Recovery Plus program for about 7 minutes to clear lactic acid. Or, use a device after your workout. Do your typical leg day routine. Next, apply Compex first to your quads, and choose resistance, strength, or explosive strength. Turn the intensity up with each contraction, and then do the same for hamstrings.
Want bigger calves? Put a bar on your back and do calf raises with the electrodes in the proper place; that's more than enough to blast your weaknesses.
If you're a baseball player, playing in a rec league with some buddies or competing competitively, use the Massage or Pre-Warmup programs to keep your muscles ready to go during breaks.
If you're traveling, use the Massage or Pre-Warmup programs tokeep oxygen flowing through your legs on a flight.
Strain something during your WOD? Pop on the electrodes with ice or stim and complete Massage or Active Recovery.
*You don't want to use a device like Compex on the resistance setting every day. To periodize your training, Little suggests doing 10-15 treatments as a strength stimulus if you lift heavy weight (that's 3-4 weeks). Then give your body about a month break, only using the device for recovery. This will revert your body back to its natural tendency, so you can progress and further gains the next time you use a resistance program again.
If you're serious about your overall fitness and recovery, this is a sound investment. The Compex Sport Elite Muscle Stimulator Kit is $649.99 and the Compex Wireless USA Muscle Stimulator Kit is $1,149.99. For the ease of use and added mobility, opt for the Wireless.
Virtually every human being has experienced the bodily responses associated with strenuous activity or physical exertion. Heavy breathing and muscle fatigue are not unique to athletes alone, although high-performance individuals certainly experience strain to an exceptionally higher degree. Regardless of intensity, however, the science is the same and a basic biological understanding of how our human bodies respond to physical stress is important to understand how to best recover.
When we perform a physically strenuous activity, our lungs will demand to breathe more rapidly as the body fights to supply the working muscles with oxygen as fuel. The body prefers to generate energy aerobically, or through this exchange of oxygen from our environment into our muscles, but activities of higher intensity will require energy production at a higher rate than what we can deliver through oxygen intake alone. When the body cannot deliver energy through oxygen alone, the body will use what is called pyruvate, a breakdown substance of glucose (blood sugar), and convert it to lactate to be used by the body which in turn is converted back to glucose again. This is called the anaerobic process, or the Cori cycle. This type of activity is limited, however, and this type of energy production can generally only last for seconds to a few minutes, during which time lactate will accumulate to high levels. But what does that matter?
High levels of lactate in the body will increase the acidity of muscle cells and create an environment that inhibits the breakdown of glucose, the very activity that lactase itself makes possible. Although this may seem counterintuitive, it is a defense mechanism of the body to prevent extreme damage through high levels of intensity in physical activity.
This build up of lactic acidity is commonly referred to as a muscle “pump” and is the burning sensation associated with high repetition or high intensity activity. When the pain or discomfort of this physical response finally causes us to stop, the body will enter a state of recovery in which it will clear the lactate build up and restore the body to a physical state ready for another anaerobic bout.
So how can this knowledge positively impact our training? On one hand, increasing our aerobic conditioning will improve athletic performance by extending our bodies capabilities of using oxygen - an easier, more available and more enduring source for energy production. Training mentality is also important in not always shying away from the “pump” and enduring intense discomfort for longer periods of time. Finally, however, intentional practices of physical recovery to flush out lactate buildup as quickly as possible are incredibly beneficial to a performing athlete in a high-intensity sport, especially if an athlete has consecutive events or training sessions and must recover as quickly as possible.
The Active Recovery program of Compex is designed for exactly the purposes of immediate recovery from these type of physical events. Although the full duration of the program is 24 minutes with electric frequencies that start from high to low, it will effectively flush out lactic buildup in just 6 minutes. Not only does this program clear out lactate, but promotes fresh blood flow to the area to bring in vital nutrients and even oxygen back to the area. For these reasons, this program is best used and most effective immediately post workout or event to maximize recovery in the most minimal amount of time. In competition, this can be a tremendous advantage to the athlete performing back-to-back events so that they are biologically as fresh as possible for the next event.
When it comes to performance, the greatest athletes recognize the vital necessity and incredible benefits of intentional recovery methods. Alongside proper efforts in nutrient timing, hydration and mobility, using electric stimulation with a Compex device provides an edge from off of the competition floor and will help you perform to your greatest physical abilities you may have yet to imagine.
Electric muscle stimulation, or neuromuscular electric stimulation (NMES), is a common modality of physical therapy and rehab treatment. For serious athletes, however, it is also used as a powerful tool for training and physical recovery to optimize performance. More commonly referred to as e-stim or muscle stim, an NMES device delivers electronic pulses to motor nerves through electrodes placed on the skin, causing a motor response to achieve a number of desired results.
An e-stim device allows you to contract up to 100% of your muscle fibers, an effect that is virtually impossible with exercise alone. Compex devices can add quality to your training in ways that traditional methods of exercise, mobility or recovery can’t and will give you an added edge to your sport or training. The broad variety of programs offered with Compex will allow maximal contraction of Type 1 (slow twitch, endurance) and Type 2 (fast twitch, power) muscle fibers for a better quality of performance and improved worked capacity in any domain.
Use the Compex Warm-Up or Potentiation programs to increase the efficiency of your warmup and thoroughly prep your body for training or an event. The wireless unit is especially convenient to move through exercises as you follow a quick prep program.
Not only can Compex be used in addition to your training sessions, but it can be used for accessory work or even as a stand alone workout. Boost your performance by recruiting more muscle fibers by adding the Compex device to your workout routine, an extra session at home, or during travel. The Compex device can also be beneficial to reeducating muscle groups to contract correctly and can be used to target problem areas or muscle imbalances and deficiencies that you struggle to balance and correct with conventional methods.
The twitches of muscles produced by your Compex recovery programs help to promote blood flow that brings vital nutrients to sore and fatigued areas that assist in healing and recovery. It can also be used to alleviate muscle spasms by breaking the pain spasm cycle, allowing it to relax.
Using a Compex device is easy with low effort for high rewards. The Compex program instructions are simple to follow and will benefit any athlete or training enthusiast driving for the next level. E-stim is a powerful tool to move you beyond your routine!
Whether looking for a tool to boost your fitness and strength or recover from an injury quickly, electric muscle stimulation (EMS) can help you achieve your goal. With that comes many questions, like what exactly is NMES and TENS? This is a common question we get at events when we are demonstrating the Compex’s uses and benefits. To avoid further confusion, we want to clarify the differences between NMES (NeuroMuscular Electrical Stimulation) and TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation). Many people have been in physical therapy and may have had an experience with TENS and NMES devices, but were not educated on the difference between these types of stimulus.
TENS vs NMES
TENS and NMES target different nerve groups of the body. TENS is specifically targets the sensory nerves, which are responsible for sending pain signals to the brain. NMES targets the muscle itself, specifically through the motor nerves. This allows the NMES machine to create a muscle contraction to recruit more muscle fibers when training; warming up or recovering. Sensory and motor nerves fire at different frequencies, which is why NMES and TENS devices affect the body differently.
TENS - Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation
TENS is the use of an electrical current to stimulate the nerves for therapeutic purposes. TENS stimulates the sensory nerves, suppressing the pain signals that are being sent to the brain to give the user relief. In other words, TENS “tricks” the brain to ignore the pain for a short duration of time by applying a non-painful stimulus to the same area.
NMES – NeuroMuscular Electrical Stimulation
NMES uses electric muscle stimulation (EMS) to cause excitement in the muscle tissue. This stimulus is designed to mimic the same type of signal the brain sends to the muscle when working out. There are two types of muscle fiber: slow twitch and fast twitch. Both muscle fibers contract at different frequencies. Compex Electric Muscle Stimulators offer various pre-programed settings which target the specific muscle types differently by adjusting the frequencies and work to rest cycles. To learn more about the variety of settings, click here. The training settings are set to run in time intervals that depend on the goal of the muscle stimulus. For example, an Endurance Program will run at a lower frequency to target slow twitch fibers, have a longer contraction time and a shorter rest cycle. The more you increase the intensity of the device, the more muscle fiber you recruit. This is how users see big strength gains, increases in vertical and reduce the risk for injury.
Check out the article in Men's Health and Fitness all about the safety of NMES written by Brittany Smith. www.mensfitness.com/life/entertainment/healthy
Is This Healthy?
Athletes are using personal neuro-muscular electrical nerve stimulation to get an edge in the gym and unleash their full potential. We investigated whether it's safe and if you should try it, too.
Is This Healthy?: Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation Devices
Short answer: Yes. With very few side effects, and potential to supercharge recovery, muscle, and strength gains, using an at-home neuro-muscular electrical nerve stimulation device can be valuable for pretty much anyone.
The practice of zapping muscles to stimulate contractions was first introduced in the early 50s among European countries, like Russia, for space programs, in order to prevent muscle atrophy in astronauts, says Drew Little, C.S.C.S., a performance specialist at Michael Johnson Performance, an elite training facility in McKinney, Texas. More literature came out on the technology in the 70s before it made its way to the U.S. and Canada in the 80s and 90s.
How It Works
When you attach a device—like what's offered from companies such as Compex, pictured above, to a muscle and begin a program (for more on the types of programs you can do—and to read our review on two Compex devices—click here), an electrical current travels through the electrodes, down your nerve fibers, sets off their motor neurons, then stimulates a strong muscle contraction, mirroring what your nervous system typically does on its own, only to a greater extent. Now, you can attach a device during a warmup to prime your body for lifts, use it during a workout to elevate bodyweight or weighted moves for better results, pop it on in lieu of a workout with a resistance setting, or use post-workout to speed up and kickstart the recovery process.
NMES devices stimulate and contract 100% of your muscle, something your body can't voluntarily do; your body caps stimulation at about 45 percent for normal guys and around 65 for weightlifters as a protective mechanism to prevent injury. So, your body prevents you from lifting something monstrously heavy, like a car, so you don't obliterate your body (though there are "freak" instances and scenarios where this is overrided and adrenaline kicks in so you can surpass this maximum).
A NMES device also hastens the amount of time it takes to trigger slow and fast twitch muscle fibers. "During a squat or bench press, depending on the load, your body will recruit slow-twitch muscle fibers first (which takes about 20 milliseconds), then roll into the fast twitch (which takes 50-60 milliseconds)," Little says. "But a NMES device bypasses that pathway, so all muscle fibers are recruited at the same time."
You stimulate hard-to-get-to muscle fibers quicker and more effectively than you can with traditional weightlifting; plus, it puts less strain on your joints. And, unlike a TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) unit, which delivers very small doses of electric currents to relieve pain, you can use a NMES device to accelerate your results in the gym, from warmup to cool down. Find out more about how to use it here.
Who Should Use NMES
Cyclists, runners, triathletes, lifters, baseball players, football players, basketball players, and other athletes—beginner or advanced—can use these devices to get faster, go longer, jump higher, get stronger, reduce chronic pain, enhance circulation, prevent imbalances, and strengthen the core. Basically any guy who wants a bit of an edge when it comes to health and fitness should try one out.
This doesn't mean you should quit your gym membership, though. It's best used to enhance your regimen, not replace it.
There are few negative side effects. "There's a rare possibility electrical burns can happen with poor pads or faulty, damaged wires, or that someone uses the device incorrectly," says physical therapist Chris Kolba, Ph.D., C.S.C.S., at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
For instance, you should never apply any muscle stim device to your neck, head, or chest. Severe spasms can close your airway and make it difficult to breathe; scientists don't know the effects of stimulation on the brain; and electrical currents to the chest can throw off and disturb rhythms to your heart.
"The only other kind of complication that can come from this type of device is if people have pacemakers and cardiac conditions; you need to get permission from your medical provider to see if it elevates your risk of heart attack," Little adds. People with epilepsy, have recently had acute trauma, fracture, surgery, and some other conditions shouldn't use a device either. Speak with your healthcare provider before starting anything new.
And while there aren't particularly harmful outcomes from using NMES, there are times when the device can hinder your progress and goals. "You want to periodize your training regimen with a device, so you're not using resistance programs 52 weeks a year," Little explains. To keep your body from adapting, you need to provide new foreign stimuli. In other words, you can over-use a device like this for strength, power, and resistance (though using it daily for recovery, warmups, and cool downs is perfectly fine).
Kolba concludes: "I prefer foam rolling, soft tissue and mobility work, sleep, nutrition, and a proper strength and power program for significant gains." That said, a device could help enhance and assist all of the above. For a more in-depth profile of how to incorporate a device in your regimen, read our review on two of Compex's most high-tech devices.
Introducing the first US wireless electric muscle stimulation device designed to enhance performance and speed recovery. For over 20 years Compex has been the global leader in electrotherapy, with products beneficial for muscle recovery, injury prevention and intense training programs. Now with the release of the Compex Wireless USA athletes can experience freedom from wires which raises the training experience and allows athletes to take their workout to the next level.
Professional athletes of all sports from running, functional-fitness and cycling, to basketball and football can integrate Wireless USA into their daily training routines to achieve peak performance and desired results.
From fast recovery to muscle-strength gains and endurance improvements, the use of Wireless USA provides athletes and fitness enthusiasts with an intelligent tool to supercharge their performance and prevent future injuries. The device recruits specific motor nerves by targeting muscle fibers that cannot be reached through traditional workouts and training.
“Compex has been a key tool to enhance my performance since I started training,” said Josh Bridges, 2014 CrossFit Games Competitor. “It allows me to activate all my muscle fibers, dig deeper and ultimately get stronger for competition day. With the introduction of Wireless USA, I’m now able to have more freedom and increase the usage of NMES in my training.”
Additional Compex enthusiasts include: Chad Mendes (UFC), Steve Weatherford (NFL), Andy Potts (Ironman), John Wellborn (Strength Coach), among others.