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  1. What Is a Muscle Stimulator

    What Is a Muscle Stimulator

    Your body contains 650 different muscles that provide your body with the strength, shape and tone to deliver ultimate athletic performance, from explosive dunks to sprinting several meters in a matter of seconds. Building muscle can be something of a mystery. You lift weights, you maintain the right diet, and your muscles grow, right?

    Unfortunately, it’s not always that easy. Whether you’re hitting a plateau or just not getting the results you’re looking for, building and maintaining strength and muscle mass sometimes requires that extra push. That’s where muscle stimulators come into the picture. What are muscle stimulators? What does a muscle stimulator do? Read on to learn more.

    Understanding Muscles

    While you know your muscles contribute to strength, mass and every basic movement and activity that you perform, they are also essential to maintaining good posture and transporting blood and other fluids throughout the body.

    The average human body has 650 known, scientifically named muscles, though this number can grow to over 800 if you break down some of the individual muscle groups. These muscles typically make up one-third to one-half of your total body weight. There are three main types of muscles. Visceral muscles are found inside blood vessels and some organs. They are the weakest muscles and work to move things through your system. Visceral muscles in your intestines, for instance, move food through your digestive system. These are involuntary muscles, meaning you can’t consciously control them.

    The cardiac muscle is what keeps your heart ticking, allowing it to pump blood throughout your body. Cardiac muscle tissue is also involuntary and controlled by a combination of hormones, brain signals, and its own internal systems. As you can imagine, cardio exercise is good for cardio muscles.

    Skeletal muscle is what you know and love. These muscles connect to (usually) two bones across one joint, allowing them to move. Skeletal muscles are the only voluntary muscles. They are responsible for every conscious movement you perform and are susceptible to growth and muscle atrophy based on use or disuse.

    How Muscles Grow

    Each muscle is actually comprised of hundreds of thin fibers known as myofibrils. When you lift weights, do a pushup or otherwise perform an activity, those fibers contract and retract. If the weight you are trying to lift is heavy, your brain sends signals to your muscles to generate the force necessary to lift the weight up.

    If the object is heavier than you’re used to or if you perform the action repeatedly, you essentially expose your muscles to stress, which creates a controlled muscle tear. This explains the soreness after a solid workout. When your myofibrils have torn, the body activates the immune system to repair the damaged fibers, often making them stronger and larger in the process.

    Unfortunately for your muscles, the human body is good at adapting. That means that maintaining the same workout routines day after day is good for keeping your muscles in shape, but it won’t do much in terms of building up your muscle mass.

    Another component of muscle growth is metabolic stress. Metabolic stress results in the increase of components called metabolites, like lactate, phosphate, and hydrogen. If you’ve felt that burning sensation during or after a workout, you’ve experienced metabolic stress. The accumulation of metabolites essentially causes cells around the muscle fibers to swell. This form of muscle growth, known as sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, makes your muscles look bigger, but it does not actually contribute to your strength.

    The fact is, while we know how muscles tear and rebuild themselves to get bigger, research still isn’t sure of the best, most optimal way to build muscle mass through exercise. That gets even more complicated taking into account the fact that everyone has different metabolic and muscle growth rates. Some people do better with fewer reps and heavier weights, while others might be better with moderate weight and more reps.

    The Role of Electric Muscle Stimulators

    So what do muscle stimulators do? Do muscle stimulators work? As the label says, these are devices that work to stimulate muscles through electrical impulses. Most electric stimulators comprise of a main device that creates the electric impulse and a series of electrodes consisting of pads that are attached to the skin, near the muscles that you want to stimulate.

    Electric muscle stimulation (EMS), sometimes known as neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES), involves delivering controlled pulses of electricity to your motor nerves. These pulses are meant to simulate the same signals sent by your brain to your muscles, thus causing a muscle contraction.

    Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is similar in concept, but this specifically aims toward stimulating nerves, not necessarily muscles. Put another way, EMS and NMES target motor nerves, while TENS targets sensory nerves.

    Benefits of Electric Muscle Stimulators

    There is a wide range of benefits to electric muscle stimulators as well as applications for athletes and exercise enthusiasts of all experience levels.

    Building Strength

    Applying electric muscle stimulators during training offers an extra level of workout for your muscles. Electric muscle stimulators can engage a greater percentage of muscle fibers at once, allowing you to get even more out of every rep and set. That’s just plain efficient and ultimately equates to:

    • More muscle mass
    • Increased strength
    • Improved endurance and physical stamina

    Electric muscle stimulators also allow you to engage muscles that may not normally receive much attention. That can provide greater physical support and stability.

    Warming Up and Cooling Down

    Warming up your muscles before you exercise is essential to more effective workouts. Warming up is also known to reduce the risk of injury during workouts and physical activities in general. Electric muscle stimulators give you an easy and efficient way to warm up your body so that your muscles are plenty ready for the crux of your routine.

    Once you have finished with your workout, muscle stimulators offer an easy tool for a cool-down session. Cooling down your body post-workout can keep stiffness and soreness to a minimum and keep the blood flow circulating through your muscles.

    Weight Loss

    On its own, electric muscle stimulation likely will not have a huge impact on weight loss, which generally requires exercises that engage your heart, lungs, and multiple muscle groups, all at once. However, when combined with your existing cardio training regimen, electric muscle stimulation can give you the extra edge to burn more calories and fat, leaving you leaner and stronger.

    Muscle Recovery

    One of the hardest parts of any workout is the recovery period, but it’s also necessary to building your muscle fibers back up. Electric muscle stimulation can help to facilitate the recovery process. The gentle stimulation can help to bring blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the muscles while expediting the flushing away of toxins. All of that equates to faster recovery. The process may also help to release endorphins, which can help to dull any soreness or pain.

    Proponents also suggest that EMS works via the gate control theory, which states that the non-painful input from the muscle stimulator can prevent pain sensations from traveling to your central nervous system. That may essentially keep any muscle pain or soreness at bay for an easier recovery process.

    Using Your Electric Muscle Stimulator

    Using a muscle stimulator is generally easy. Simply apply the adhesive pads and follow the instructions for the most optimal settings. Compex muscle stimulators offer a wide range of unique programs for every step of your workout. Beginners should start with the lowest, easiest settings until they get used to the system.

    What are muscle stimulators used for? Muscle stimulators are by no means a replacement for traditional workouts or getting in a “workout” while you’re lounging on the couch. They are a complement and enhancement to your existing training and exercise routines, helping to support your recovery while building muscle strength, stamina and speed. Shop through our Compex muscle stimulators and see the results for yourself.

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  2. Do Muscle Stimulators Really Work

    Do Muscle Stimulators Really Work

    First, let’s ask the question, what is a muscle stimulator? While once reserved for rehabilitation and physical theory, electric muscle stimulators have become more widely used by professional athletes and amateur enthusiasts alike, offering a new tool to enhance workouts and deliver greater physical performance. Of course, considering the sheer amount of fad diets, health trends, and fitness gimmicks, some healthy suspicion is appropriate. Do muscle stimulators really work? Read on to learn more.

    How Your Muscles Work and Grow

    While your body is also home to cardiac and smooth muscles, skeletal muscles are what you care about. These are the muscles connected to your bones that help you lift, push, pull and perform all of the other movements in your everyday life. Skeletal muscles are the muscles that you can consciously control.

    Contraction is the basic movement of any skeletal muscle. That contraction starts with a signal sent from your brain to motor nerves that tell your muscles to contract. For example, performing a basic curl begins with the brain signaling the nerves in your bicep to contract.

    You get the basics of how a muscle works, but how do muscles grow? Muscles are actually comprised of hundreds of thin fibers known as myofibrils. Working out causes those myofibrils to expand and contract. Lifting something heavier than you’re used to or otherwise putting your muscles through intense exercise creates enough physical stress in your myofibrils to actually damage and tear them. That’s why your muscles feel sore after a workout.

    Your immune system notices that damage and begins the process of repairing and rebuilding those fibers. However, instead of bringing those fibers back the same as they were, muscle fibers get fused together, forming new protein strands that also happen to be thicker, denser, and higher in number. That leaves you with increased mass, improved tone, and a general increase in muscle strength.

    Research has yet to know the most optimal way to build muscle, and considering we all have different metabolic rates and fitness needs, 

    Do Muscle Stimulators Work?

    How do you use a muscle stimulator, and are they effective? Muscle stimulators comprise of electric muscle stimulation, also known as neuromuscular electrical stimulation, works off all the same principles that go into basic muscle movement. EMS devices generally comprise a machine that generates electrical impulses and a series of electrodes that attach to your skin. The electric impulses mimic the same signals that your brain sends to your motor nerves, causing your muscles to contract. Settings on the muscle stimulator allow you to control the intensity of these electric pulses, which affects the level of muscle contraction.

    So electric muscle stimulators are at least effective in getting your muscles to contract, but can they do more than that to improve your fitness? In a meta-review, researchers looked at 89 different trials related to the use of electric muscle stimulators and their effects on trained and elite athletes. The results of the study found that EMS was resoundingly effective in enhancing physical performance parameters, which included improvements in:

    • Maximum strength
    • Power
    • Speed strength
    • Vertical jump height
    • Sprint times

    Another study looked at the effects of electric muscle stimulation on jump height in teenage athletes. Over an eight-week training program that combined EMS with plyometric exercises, the teen athletes showed statistically significant improvements in vertical jumping abilities.

    This all shows that electric muscle stimulators do really work. It’s also important to understand that the best results come when muscle stimulators are used in conjunction with existing workout routines and training regimens. While some studies do show that electric muscle stimulation can help with weight loss when used on its own, the effects are limited and tend to taper off. Muscle stimulators on their own have an isolated effect compared to lifting weights, running laps, or performing any other full-body workout that involves strengthening the heart, lungs, and multiple muscle groups.

    How Muscle Stimulators Can Help You

    Electric muscle stimulation benefits you when used in conjunction with an existing workout. But, how can the treatment specifically help you?

    Enhanced Muscles and Strength

    Adding electric stimulation to your training engages a higher percentage of muscle fibers, essentially maximizing your muscle effort to get the most out of every single repetition and movement. That ultimately equates to a more efficient, well-balanced workout.

    Your skeletal muscles are comprised of two different types of fibers. Type 1 is known as slow-twitch fibers. These are more efficient at using oxygen to generate fuel for steady, extended muscle movements and can go for much longer without fatigue. This makes slow-twitch fibers much more attuned for extended endurance and stamina. Type 2 fibers are known as fast-twitch fibers. These tend to fatigue more quickly, but fast-twitch fibers are capable of generating greater force and firing more rapidly, equating to greater power and explosive muscle strength.

    Training these different muscle fiber types isn’t always easy or particularly well understood. Higher reps and exercises requiring slower movements can target slow-twitch muscles, while fast-twitch muscles thrive on fast movements and power exercises. However, many electric muscle stimulators, like those from Compex, work out both types of muscle fibers to give you the best of both worlds: muscular endurance and explosive power.

    Regulating Weight

    As mentioned, EMS on its own generally won’t have an extended effect on weight. In terms of physical activity, weight loss and maintenance requires cardio and full-body workouts. Muscle stimulators are far too isolated on their own to have a huge effect on calories, but incorporating EMS into your training can put you over the edge and add an extra level of intensity to burn calories and reduce fat.

    Warming Up and Cooling Down

    Warming up before a workout has been shown to not only prepare your muscles for a better workout but also reduces the risk of injury. A proper workout gets the blood flowing to the muscles, increases your heart rate, and loosens up the joints. With an electric muscle stimulator, you can warm up more efficiently and optimally, allowing you to prepare your body for your workout.

    Cooling down following your workout is just as important. Going straight from working out to resting is like slamming the brakes in your car. Instead, you want to gently and gradually bring your body back down. This reduces your heart rate, decreases muscle spasms and cramping, and removes the buildup of lactic acid and other waste products in the muscles. Cooldowns can also reduce muscle soreness and support recovery.  A muscle stimulator can provide an easy and effective means of cooling your body down after your exercise routine.

    Muscle Recovery

    The hardest part of building muscle is the recovery period. While it’s a necessary step in rebuilding your muscle fibers to grow bigger and better, it also involves a lot of downtime. Electric muscle stimulators can speed up your muscle recovery by supporting greater blood flow, oxygen, and nutrients to your muscles while encouraging the flushing of toxins that contribute to soreness and cramping.

    EMS can also help to keep pain from muscle soreness down, which won’t necessarily speed up recovery, but it can make getting through your day-to-day a lot easier. Part of this comes from muscle stimulators encouraging the release of endorphins, which make you feel good and dampen pain. Muscle stimulators may also relieve pain through the gate control theory. This states that the electric pulses from a muscle stimulator may actually interrupt the pain signals sent to your brain.

    Do muscle stimulators really work? Many studies and anecdotes show that electric muscle stimulators are effective in strengthening and improving physical performance at all skill levels, but it’s important to understand that EMS shouldn’t be used as a replacement for a solid workout. Combine your training with a muscle stimulator for the best results. If you want to see for yourself, take a look through the Compex store to find the right muscle stimulator for your needs.

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  3. How to Use a Muscle Stimulator

    How to Use a Muscle Stimulator

    Improving your strength, muscle mass, and endurance often comes down to how hard you grind and the nutrition you put in your body. For years, athletes of all skill levels and backgrounds have been leveraging one tool to give them the edge in improving muscular tone, size, and strength: electric muscle stimulators. They are easy to use and support more efficient workouts. Learn more about how to use electronic muscle stimulator devices below.

    How Electric Muscle Stimulators Work

    From professional ballers to at-home yoga enthusiasts, electric muscle stimulators help to build muscle and make training sessions much more efficient and effective. If you are asking, what is a muscle stimulator, and how does it work? Well, the design of electric muscle stimulators is deceptively simple. Most muscle stimulators comprise a device that sends electric pulses through a series of wires into electrodes. These electrodes are attached to your skin, transmitting the electric pulse directly to your motor nerves. The mechanics mimic the way that your brain sends signals to your muscles, which cause the muscles to contract, resulting in muscle flex and movement.

    On their own, electric muscle stimulators have received mixed results, but when combined with existing training regimens, these devices have offered positive results. In a fairly comprehensive meta-study, researchers looked at 89 trials involving electric muscle stimulators in trained and elite athletes. Study periods ranging from three to six weeks showed significant gains and improvements in several parameters, including:

    • Maximum strength
    • Power
    • Speed strength
    • Sprint times
    • Vertical jump height

    What’s interesting is that, despite their already high level of fitness, these trained, elite athletes improved their strength to the same degree as untrained subjects used in the control group.

    How to Use Electric Muscle Stimulators

    The best part about electric muscle stimulators, aside from their proven effects, is how easy they are to use. Start by attaching the pads to the muscle or muscle group that you want to target. For example, if you are working on your biceps, attach the electrodes to your bicep. Use our electrode placement guides to determine where exactly you should be attaching each electrode. Proper pad placement will provide the best results.

    From there, select your training program of choice via the device’s settings. These can vary but should usually comprise some combination of:

    • Endurance
    • Resistance
    • Strength
    • Active recovery
    • Warm-up

    Workout with the device until the training program finishes. If you find the settings too intense, adjust the levels. Most beginners should start with the lowest settings. Remember that, while the muscle stimulator should provide an extra level to your workout, it shouldn’t be actively painful or cause discomfort.

    Electric muscle stimulators are not meant as a replacement for a workout, meaning that you should be incorporating the muscle stimulators into your existing training routine.

    Most experts also recommend not using muscle stimulators for extended periods of time. Everyone has their own limits for how long the muscle contractions occur. Furthermore, using an electric muscle stimulator too long and too often can make your muscles grow accustomed to them, resulting in plateaus.

    What Muscle Stimulators Can Be Used For

    Muscle stimulators benefits you because they offer incredibly adaptive use that extends through every step of your workout.

    Warming Up

    A proper warm-up before your workout is essential to getting your body ready and has been shown to reduce injury. Unfortunately, too many fitness enthusiasts leap right into exercise without warming up beforehand. With an electric muscle stimulator, warming up is easy and efficient. It can prepare your muscles, get your heart rate up, and keep the blood circulation flowing through your body for the workout to come.

    Efficient Training for Better Gains

    Adding electric muscle stimulators into your workouts engages a higher percentage of muscle fibers, optimizing your workout so that you get the most out of every single repetition. Muscle stimulators can also help you exercise both types of muscle fibers, slow-twitch and fast-twitch.

    Slow-twitch fibers, also known as type 1 fibers, are better at using oxygen for fuel, allowing for steadier muscle contractions over a longer period of time. Physically, that equates to muscles with greater endurance.

    Fast-twitch fibers, or type 2 fibers, are not as efficient with how they use fuel, so they tend to fatigue more easily. However, they fire more rapidly and generally have more power than their slow-twitch counterparts. That makes them better suited to strength and explosiveness.

    While certain people may require one over the other—marathon runners, for instance, benefit more from slow-twitch fibers—most athletes could use a good balance of both. Some evidence suggests that muscles will switch between the two types based on training, though research still isn’t sure how this happens. However, working out with a muscle stimulator may engage both muscle fiber types, allowing for a more balanced workout.

    Cooling Down

    Similar to warming up before a workout, cool down once you have finished training. This can play an important role in your fitness and muscle recovery. Going from intense training straight to a resting phase can be jarring for your system. A cool-down period allows your breathing and heart rate to return to normal while preventing blood and toxins from pooling up in your muscles. It’s ultimately a more pleasant, comfortable way for your heart and muscles to ease out of a training session. Muscle stimulators offer a gentle cool-down that can keep your muscles from cramping or stiffening.

    Active Recovery

    Recovery is a necessary step in training. It allows your body to rebuild and repair any damage to muscles, ultimately contributing to their mass, density, and strength. While everyone can benefit from the occasional passive recovery, most athletes opt for active recovery, which simply involves low-intensity exercise.

    Active recovery encourages blood flow to the muscles and joints and can help to reduce the buildup of lactic acid, the compound responsible for causing muscle soreness and fatigue. Active recovery also keeps up your heart rate, ensuring that you don’t lag on your conditioning.

    Using a muscle stimulator during your active recovery period can speed up the process. Integrated with active recovery exercises, EMS can bring fresh oxygen and nutrients to your muscles while promoting the flush of toxins. 

    Some muscle stimulators also incorporate TENS systems. While it may seem similar to electrical muscle stimulation (EMS), transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is designed to target sensory nerves and is more often associated with physical therapy and rehabilitation. EMS targets motor nerves, which activate muscle contraction. TENS targets sensory nerves, which determine how something physically feels. TENS programs can help provide pain relief by triggering the release of endorphins, your natural feel-good chemical.

    TENS programs may also dampen pain via the gate control theory. When you experience pain, a signal gets sent to your brain to denote the sensation. However, the electric pulses from a TENS program can actively interrupt these signals from ever reaching your brain, blocking that pain altogether.

    While dampening pain won’t make your muscles heal any faster, it can help during your recovery periods by allowing you to go through your day without focusing so much on muscle soreness and chronic pain.

    Electric muscle stimulators offer benefits for athletes and physical fitness enthusiasts of all skills, sports, and experience levels. While they can be intimidating to the uninitiated, learning how to use electronic muscle stimulator devices is actually easy and opens up a whole new world of efficient training sessions and improvements to physical performance. If you are curious and want to try a muscle stimulator for yourself, take a look through the Compex store for a wide range of devices perfectly suited for you.

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  4. Muscle Pain After Workout: How to Reduce Pain

    Muscle Pain After Workout: How to Reduce Pain

    Delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is the medical term for when you feel sore following a tough workout. The soreness is part of the body’s healing response to micro muscle tears resulting from rigorous activity. Most active people have confronted DOMS and know firsthand that it can be as frustrating as it is uncomfortable. No doubt you will want to overcome the pain and get back at your full fitness level as quickly as possible. Find out how to relieve muscle pain after working out with these 10 tips below.

    1. Get Cold

    There has been some debate over the years as to when to use cold or hot therapy when your muscles are sore. The general consensus, based on recent studies1, is that cold therapy is generally better for acute healing periods, particularly the first 24 hours after an intense workout. The reason being that cold combats inflammation, the body’s protective response to injury. Cold therapy, known as cryotherapy, can make your muscles stiff, so be sure you are counterbalancing ice therapy by staying mobile while you recover. Icing with an ice pack is ideal for localized pain. If you need a full-body cooldown, consider taking a cold shower or bath at about 55 degrees. Cold therapy sessions should last about 15 minutes.

    1. Elevate

    Elevating sore muscles above the heart can help to prevent sore muscles by combating inflammation and associated discomfort. Prop up your legs while resting on the couch or in bed. If you have just finished a leg-heavy anaerobic workout, like sprints or other explosive leg movements, elevate your legs right after cool-down. This will help recirculate the blood quickly and flush out lactate released during anaerobic exercise. You can sit next to a wall and simply raise your legs up the wall so they are perpendicular to your body. You can also do a free-standing leg inversion. A good example is the classic yoga pose shoulder stand. Lay on your back and lift your legs and hips off the floor, while supporting your lower back with your hands. This is also a great way to stretch your upper back and neck when you’re feeling sore.

    1. Compression

    You likely have seen compression garments on professional athletes and runners jogging around your neighborhood. Compression garments have become popular in recent years for improving athletic performance and facilitating recovery. Wearing compression garments after a workout alleviates discomfort and expedites healing by way of accelerating blood flow. Specifically, compression garments improve blood flow in the veins. By constricting the surrounding tissues, venous blood moves faster back to the heart. Metabolic waste is then removed more quickly and oxygen is delivered to muscles faster,  both crucial components of muscle repair.

    1. Taping

    Taping has long been used in physical therapy to support injured muscles and soft tissues and prevent further injury. More recently, taping is used as part of recovery protocols to improve lymphatic circulation to sore muscles. A taping technique that lifts up the skin and decompresses the underlying fascia allows lymphatic fluids to better circulate through injured tissues for efficient metabolic waste removal. Kinesiology taping may also change the pain signals your nervous system sends to the brain, thereby reducing perceived pain associated with sore muscles. When an area of soreness is lifted and decompressed by the tape, a different signal is sent to the brain associated with a lifting of tension.

    1. Topical Treatments

    Unlike the other mentions on this list, topical treatments do not directly assist with muscle recovery; rather, these treatments minimize or mask muscle soreness. Your local drug store likely has an entire shelf devoted to topical muscle soothers, from balms and creams to sprays and patches. These treatments typically produce hot and/or cold sensations that instantly and temporarily alleviate discomfort by altering or blocking pain signals. Formulas vary, but most topical therapies rely on menthol or camphor. Alternatively, all-herbal formulas are available and CBD-based topical treatments are seeing a boom in popularity.

    1. Take a Magnesium Salt Bath

    While there is no conclusive data on how effective magnesium salt baths are at relieving muscle pain, the anecdotal data can’t be denied. Many an athlete swear by the rejuvenating effects of a good soak in a magnesium salt bath. Despite its popularity, many people do not realize that there are actually two types of magnesium soaking salts: Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) and magnesium flakes (magnesium chloride). Epson salts are the more popular and cost-effective of the two. However, magnesium flakes are thought to be more efficacious for topical absorption. Whichever soaking method you try, the warm water will help relax muscles, thereby reducing discomfort.

    1. Drink Cherry Juice

    Studies have shown that drinking tart cherry juice following a workout can reduce muscle soreness and damage2. The antioxidant anthocyanins, found in tart cherries, is a powerful anti-inflammatory that reduces swelling and discomfort in over-worked muscles. You can simply add raw cherry juice to a smoothie, drink it straight, or take a tart cherry supplement. The idea is to get this naturally-occurring antioxidant in a concentrated form via juice or supplements, rather than trying to the equivalent in cherries. 

    1. Self-Massaging Tools

    Massage is a powerful modality to relieve sore muscles, besides of course to feeling amazing. Having a self-massaging tool for use at home, in the gym or wherever you are in need of a massage, is a must for athletes of all levels. Specifically, massage reduces painful muscle contractions, spasms, knots, and nerve compression. Manipulating muscles also increases blood and lymphatic circulation to reduce inflammation and pain and help your muscles heal. Getting into the habit of massaging yourself with a massaging tool at least a couple of times a week can be a game-changer in your recovery routine. 

    Self-care massage tools can be divided into two general categories: non-electric and electric. Non-electric includes massage balls, massage sticks, and foam rollers. These tools help loosen tight muscle tissues, but have the downside of requiring physical exertion to use them. You may need to lay against the object, as is the case with a foam roller, or press the object against you, as is usually the case with a massage stick. On the other hand, electric massagers don’t require as much effort on the user’s part. They are also more effective at normalizing and penetrating deeper into muscle tissue. 

    A percussive massage gun expedites and enhances muscle repair by providing bursts of concentrated pressure. Look for models with adjustable intensity levels to accommodate your massage and recovery needs. Our Compex massager, for example, has three levels:

    • Soft - good for small or over-worked muscles that can benefit from blood circulation and gentle manipulation.
    • Medium - ideal for medium-sized or tired muscles that need some release.
    • Firm - great for larger muscles or muscles that need deep tissue manipulation. 
    1. See a Massage Therapist

    Seeing a massage therapist carries all of the benefits of self-massage: enhanced blood and lymphatic circulation, pain reduction and improved healing times. Additionally, there is a critical relaxation component to receiving a massage. Studies show that massages elicit an involuntary parasympathetic nervous system response that allows you to de-stress, conserve energy and reduce your heart rate3. In other words, receiving a massage puts you in a relaxed state of mind that is necessary for healing. 

    Regularly seeing a massage therapist is a cornerstone to any athlete’s recovery routine. It is a key step to reduce inflammation and in helping to recover quicker after workouts. Professional massage sessions should be supplemented with at-home care, including regularly using massage tools. It’s not a matter of either/or when it comes to professional massage and self-massage; think of the two working together to keep your body and mind balanced.

    1. Keep Moving

    A common mistake people dealing with delayed-onset muscle soreness make is to become sedentary while their body heals. It may seem like your sore muscles need a time-out, but you actually want to do the opposite and keep moving around, albeit lightly. This approach to helping relieve sore muscles is called active recovery. Rather than curling up on the sofa for a day or two, which can cause your muscles to stiffen and become more tender, choose a light form of exercise. Engaging in physical activity will keep the muscles and joints loose, thereby reducing pain as you heal. Choose an activity that has little or no impact, like walking or swimming. Yoga, pilates, stretching, and light resistance training are also great forms of active recovery. Just be sure to keep it at a low intensity.

    How to Reduce Muscle Pain After Working Out

    With these ten tips on how to reduce muscle pain after working out, you’ll be back to full strength before you know it. Keep in mind that these treatments are best used in combination, not in isolation. Using two or more of these recovery methods creates a synergistic effect that will dissipate muscle soreness faster than relying on one therapy alone.

    Sources:

    1 Petrofsky, Jerrold S; Khowailed, Iman Akef; Lee, Haneul; Berk, Lee1; Bains, Gurinder S.; Akerkar, Siddhesh; Shah, Jinal; Al-Dabbak, Fuad; Laymon, Mike S. Cold Vs. Heat After Exercise—Is There a Clear Winner for Muscle Soreness. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: November 2015 - Volume 29 - Issue 11 - p 3245–3252. https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Fulltext/2015/11000/Cold_Vs__Heat_After_Exercise_Is_There_a_Clear.33.aspx

    2 D.A.J. Connolly, M.P. McHugh, O.I. Padilla-Zakour. Efficacy of a tart cherry juice blend in preventing the symptoms of muscle damage. British Journal of Sports Medicine. https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/40/8/679.short

    3 Diego M.A., Field T. Moderate pressure massage elicits a parasympathetic nervous system response. Int J Neurosci. 2009;119(5):630-8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19283590

     

  5. How to Relieve Sore Muscles Fast

    How to Relieve Sore Muscles Fast

    Stepping up the rigor of your workout, or working your muscles in a different way, can cause muscle soreness. This condition is medically known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). The longer your muscles are sore, the more likely you will be sidelined from physical activity as your body takes time to recover. When active people find themselves in this situation, the question at the fore of their mind is usually: how to relieve sore muscles fast? To get you back to form, below are eight tips on how to help sore muscles recover as quickly as possible.

    What Is DOMS?

    As the name suggests, delayed onset muscle soreness is a condition characterized by muscle soreness starting 24-48 hours after unfamiliarly difficult physical activity. Many an athlete has had this happen: they give themselves a well-earned pat on the back after a tough workout, initially thinking soreness is avoided, and are hit with discomfort and reduced mobility a day or two later. 

    While DOMS can be uncomfortable and prevent peak performance for a few days, it does have an upside: it’s a sign that your body is becoming stronger. When you push your body with a higher intensity workout than normal or move differently than usual, the exertion causes micro tears to your muscle fibers. Your body responds to the micro tears by sending lymphatic fluids and electrolytes to the area to heal the tissue. The tissue ultimately heals stronger than before the micro tears. Unfortunately, the cost of this healing process is inflammation and soreness. DOMS lasts about two to four days. Any soreness longer than five days may be a sign of muscle strain or another injury.

    How to Help Sore Muscles

    Keep in mind that any recovery modality comes with a big caveat: don’t do it if it feels uncomfortable. As your body heals during DOBS, the intensity and location of muscle soreness can alter. Be aware of these changes. You can injure your healing muscles, rather than support them, if you pursue a therapy that hurts. In other words, listen to your body.

    #1 Active Recovery

    Actively recovering from DOBS can include stretching, light resistance exercises or low-intensity, low-impact cardio like walking, jogging or swimming. The idea behind active recovery is increasing blood flow to the affected muscles. Delivering oxygen-rich blood to assist with repair and encouraging lymphatic removal of waste connected to muscle-building expedites the recovery process. Active recovery keeps the muscles and joints moving too, preventing them from getting stiff. Light cardio exercises will also help maintain endurance levels.

    #2 Eat Right

    A key element of any training program is nutrition. You probably already know that protein-rich foods like cottage cheese and fish provide muscles the fuel they need to repair. But you may not know that studies show a couple of cups of coffee can reduce muscle soreness by half. Recovering athletes may also want to reach for tart cherry juice, which reduces post-workout discomfort, expedites recovery time and minimizes muscle damage1. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, delivers similar benefits to cherry juice in improving muscle performance and decreasing muscular discomfort. Adding curcumin to your diet is easy, either by sprinkling turmeric on your food or taking a curcumin supplement.

    #3 Ice Therapy

    Icing sore muscles for 15-minute intervals sporadically during the days you are sore reduces inflammation and discomfort. Most at-home cryotherapy, or cold therapy, involves applying an ice pack to the affected area. If a head-to-toe ice-down is needed for full-body soreness, consider a cold bath or shower. No ice cubes are needed, as long as you can get the water temperature to the mid-50s.

    #4 Compression Garments

    Compression garments are tight-fitting clothing that, as the name suggests, compresses the underlying area of the body. By constricting the muscles and connective tissue, swelling is reduced and lymphatic and blood circulation is improved. There are different compression garments available for the lower and upper body, providing DOBS recovery support wherever you need it. 

    #5 Kinesiology Taping

    This type of tape is designed to lift the skin, allowing lymphatic fluids to better circulate through the area to remove waste byproducts from muscle repair. The tape is worn for about a day. Taping also has the advantage of supporting the adjacent muscles, which may be weaker than usual as they heal, thereby helping to avoid injury. 

    #6 Self-Massage Tools

    Massaging sore muscles is an effective post-workout recovery modality as any in terms of relieving discomfort and facilitating muscle recovery. Self-massaging tools come in all shapes and sizes. There are massage balls, massage sticks, and foam rollers on the non-electric side. On the electronic side, massagers may come in shiatsu, massage wand or massage gun styles.

    It probably goes without saying that an electric massager requires less effort to use than a non-electric massager; you simply hold the electric device to the area of discomfort and it does the work. Non-electric massage tools, on the other hand, require you to physically exert yourself in order to create tension against the massage device. Besides being more relaxing, electric massagers are faster and more effective in breaking up tight connective tissue and relieving soreness. The most effectual electric massager will have varying speeds and specialized movements, such as percussion.

    If you are considering an electric massager, and we recommend everyone have one from the not-so-active to the elite athlete, consider the following in the device you choose:

    1. Battery Operated - besides the convenience in not having to deal with cords while you use it, battery-operated massagers allow for go-anywhere portability. This is especially important for an active person wanting a handheld massager that can be brought to workouts or competitions. Be sure to review the battery life on the model. Some lower-end models have a short window of use before they need to be rebooted.
    2. Noise Factor - some massagers, especially massage guns, are excessively loud. A massager as loud as a blender isn’t going to provide a very enjoyable experience overall, even if it does massage you well. Consider a low-noise model for a more relaxing massage.
    3. Speed Variability - when your muscles are super sore, you’ll want a lighter touch massage than when your muscles are healthy. Your handheld massager should provide varying speed levels so you can get the exact massage you need when you need it.

    #7 Get a Professional Massage

    Spending time on the massage table is pretty much always a good idea. Having a professional massage therapist work out the knots, flush out toxins and improve the circulation in your muscles and soft tissues will go miles in hastening post-workout recovery, relieving soreness and loosening tight muscles. Keep in mind that if you are in the throes of DOBS, you should forgo a deep tissue massage. Too much pressure when you are still sore can end up hurting, rather than helping. A lighter massage will still confer the benefits of rejuvenation and improved circulation.

    Pro Tip: Professional massages shouldn’t be a stand-in for self-care massages at home. The smart athlete knows to get a professional massage regularly and maintain a self-massage routine for best outcomes.

    #8 Use an EMS/TENS Device

    Applying low-frequency electric impulses to overworked muscles via an electric muscle stimulator (EMS) unit increases blood circulation and relaxes muscles. EMS devices emit frequency through stick pads that are applied to the area of concern. Portable EMS units with multiple programming capabilities allow for muscle recovery, as well as training purposes. 

    Many EMS devices also feature transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) functionality. Rather than sending electrical impulses that target motor nerves, as in the case of EMS, TENS electric impulses block pain signals and stimulate endorphin production and release. Since an EMS/TENS machine can be used for muscle relaxation, repair, and pain management, it is a favorite recovery modality among athletes. Maybe you have used an EMS/TENS device as a patient during physical therapy and experienced its benefits firsthand. You may want to consider getting one of your own. Being able to use this highly effective treatment whenever you need it, rather than only when you see your physical therapist, is a worthwhile investment in your health.

    Combining Therapies for the Best Results

    If you find yourself torn about how to let your muscles recover faster after a workout, try combining at least two of the recovery therapies mentioned above to reduce inflammation and muscle pain. It’s best to combine modalities, creating a multi-pronged approach to improving blood flow and lymphatic circulation to weary muscles. By going for a synergistic recovery process, you will feel better sooner and be back on top of your game faster.

    Sources:

    1 D.A.J. Connolly, M.P. McHugh, O.I. Padilla-Zakour. Efficacy of a tart cherry juice blend in preventing the symptoms of muscle damage. British Journal of Sports Medicine. https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/40/8/679.short

  6. How to Relieve Sore Muscles After Workout

    How to Relieve Sore Muscles After Workout

    Athletes of all stripes confront muscle soreness following an intense workout. Besides causing discomfort, sore muscles can compromise athletic performance and set back training schedules. To put you back on top of your game, below are our tips on how to relieve sore muscles after workouts and how to recover faster after workouts. 

    How to Relieve Sore Muscles After Workouts:

    1. Use compression modalities, like taping or garments.
    2. Ice sore muscles, or take a cold bath or shower, after a workout.
    3. Go for a massage, or give yourself one with handheld massage machine.
    4. Use an electric muscle stimulator (EMS) machine to enhance healing and reduce inflammation and soreness.
    5. Try a TENS machine for temporary relief of localized discomfort.

    The Science Behind Sore Muscles

    In order to appreciate muscle recovery therapies, let’s take a step back and review why it is your muscles are sore in the first place. Despite those tales of lactic acid you might have heard in your youth, lactic acid is not to blame. Instead, it’s your body’s healing responses to the micro muscle tears that cause soreness. 

    Microscopic tears occur when muscles are pushed to perform at a higher level than usual, or are worked in a different way. This muscle damage causes an increase in fluids to the area, including the accumulation of electrolytes. Additionally, a type of lymphocyte called T-cells permeates the damaged muscles. These natural response mechanisms cause inflammation, but also repair each affected muscle tissue, ultimately building them up and making them stronger. Unfortunately, a side effect of this crucial healing process is muscle pain and discomfort. 

    Compression

    Compression is an effective way to combat the inflammation and fluid build-up associated with muscle repair. Regardless of which compression modality you choose, it works by way of this principle: muscles are constricted to reduce swelling and fluid accumulation, while at the same time promoting lymphatic circulation and blood flow to increase oxygen delivery to affected muscles.

    The two most accessible and popular compression modalities are:

    Taping - when correctly applied to lift the skin, compression taping, sometimes called kinesiology taping, facilitates lymphatic fluid movement to the affected muscle tissue. This means the white blood cells that remove muscle-building byproducts can do their job better. Taping has the additional benefit of supporting affected muscles and joints without compromising mobility. Compression tape is usually worn for 12-24 hours, during or after physical activity. The tape can be self-applied, but requires some know-how in order to maximize its benefits.

    Compression garments - you likely have seen professional athletes wearing compression garments during competition, or eyed a fellow gym member in compression gear while working out. These garments are characterized by their tight fit and spandex-like material, often a combination of nylon and elastin. Like other compression modalities, the purpose of compression garments is to reduce recovery times and alleviate muscle stiffness. Compression garments come in just about every variety you can imagine:

    • Stockings
    • Leg sleeves
    • Tights
    • Shorts
    • Tanks
    • Short sleeve shirts
    • Long sleeve shirts
    • Arm sleeves

    When choosing a compression garment you want one tight enough to actually compress, but not so tight as to feel uncomfortable or restrict movement. If you will be wearing one during a workout, be sure that they have wicking properties to keep you dry.

    Cryotherapy

    Don’t let the fancy name put you off from trying this method - cryotherapy simply means cold therapy. The idea is to immerse muscles in cold temperatures to reduce muscle inflammation and soreness. Studies show that cryotherapy is particularly useful within the first 24 hours of an injury or intense workout1. The cold approach to combating sore muscles has long been used by athletes of all levels, whether competing in Olympic or high school stadiums. While easy to use and efficient, cryotherapy does have the downside of potentially being uncomfortable and causing stiffness. 

    You may have heard of elite athletes jumping into a cryotherapy chamber, which uses liquid nitrogen to lower body temperatures. Since most of us don’t have access to this high-tech therapy, below are at-home solutions that produce the same benefits. The key with all of them is to shoot for a session of about 15 minutes within 2 hours of your workout.

    Icing - you have likely tried this method before. Simply apply an ice pack to the area of your body that is sore, or you can tell is going to be. 

    Ice Bath - your bath water doesn’t need to reach sub-Arctic temperatures to be useful. Just be sure it is down to about 55 degrees. Jumping into a lake or pool shortly after you exercise can also provide some anti-inflammatory assistance. 

    Cold Shower - start with a shower that is a comfortable temperature then slowly turn the temperature down as much as possible. If a head-to-toe cold shower is too much, just let the water run over parts of your body that feel strained.

    Massage

    When deciding how to recover muscles faster after a workout, consider getting a massage. Massage is a favorite muscle recovery tool for its dual benefits of being effective and feeling really good. Gently manipulating muscle fibers and soft tissues facilitates the biological processes connected with muscle repair. Traditional massages, like Swedish massage, and more intense massages, like deep tissue massage, both stimulate blood and lymphatic circulation. The oxygen-rich blood supplied to sore muscles speeds up their healing and minimizes soreness. Massage has also been shown to reduce swelling by way of suppressing the release of cytokines, a type of cell that regulates inflammation. 

    In other words, all types of massage confer substantial post-recovery advantages. The level of massage intensity is more of a matter of personal preference, rather than harder must be better. Athletes going for a massage within a day of rigorous exercise should consider a lighter touch massage since the muscles are in an acute recovery process. Sports massages and other deep tissue work are typically reserved for times when muscles are not sore or inflamed.

    If you don’t have the time to see a massage therapist, there are plenty of massage tools to use at home. In fact, even if you do see a massage therapist regularly, it’s a good idea to augment your time on the massage table with one of the modalities below:

    Pro Tip: Electric massagers require less physical work to use than non-electric massagers, making them extra relaxing. If you’re serious about post-workout recovery, try a variable speed electric massager made for athletes.

    Electric Muscle Stimulator Devices

    Electric muscle stimulator (EMS) units release electric impulses through pads adhered to the body, causing adjacent muscles to twitch or contract. When applied at a low frequency, EMS devices increase blood flow to the nearby area and aid in the removal of waste products associated with muscle recovery. EMS also helps muscles relax, an essential to maximize muscle healing, and one that is often taken for granted. All taken together, an EMS unit is a powerful ally in speeding up muscle recovery time after high-intensity workouts.

    You may have used an EMS unit in a physical therapy office or at a chiropractic practice. But having an EMS unit of your own can pay dividends in terms of accelerating the recovery process and easing discomfort. There are differences between the EMS units used in professional settings and what you want in a unit of your own. Here’s a couple of important considerations when choosing your own EMS unit:

    1. Useability - select a unit that you can easily wear around the house, office, gym, or anywhere else you may find yourself in need of therapy. Go with a unit that is battery operated for optimal portability, and one that gets high marks for its durability, quickness of set-up, ease of use and pad adherence. (Pads that don’t stick on are a big annoyance and not uncommon on lower-end units).
    2. Multiple Programming Capabilities - some muscle stimulator machines allow the user to adjust electronic frequencies within a limited range. This may be fine for non-athletes, but an active person in need of expediting recovery to get back to top form will want frequency programming flexibility. 

    TENS Units

    Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) units work much like EMS units in that electrical impulses are sent via pads adhered to the user’s skin. The main difference between EMS and TENS units is the type of nerves that are targeted. EMS devices influence motor nerves associated with motion and coordination, while TENS devices block pain signals to the central nervous system. TENS machines can also stimulate the production of endorphins, a neurotransmitter responsible for relieving pain and stress.

    While TENS machines do increase localized blood circulation, they generally do not facilitate muscular healing in the same way the other modalities listed above do - compression, cryotherapy, massage, and EMS units. A TENS unit is your best friend, however, in overcoming certain types of pain or discomfort, including muscle soreness.

    The good news is that you don’t have to decide between an EMS or TENS unit. Many devices feature both types of electronic frequencies, giving recovering athletes the power of expedited muscle recovery and pain blocking. Compex offers a traditional tens ems unit, as well as units with combined EMS and TENS capabilities. Our TENS devices are programmable for low-frequency endorphin release, or high-frequency pain signal blocking. As a top of the line device geared towards athletes, our TENS machines feature extensive frequency customization so you can program the exact treatment that you need to get back on the playing field.

    Finding the Right Recovery Modality for You

    While all of the recovery therapies listed above have been shown time and again to relieve sore muscles and speed up muscle recovery time after workouts, choosing the right one for you is a matter of comfort and convenience. Keep in mind that none of these therapies are mutually exclusive. In fact, combining muscle recovery treatments can create a synergistic effect for faster recovery times than only relying on one therapy.

    Sources:

    1 Petrofsky, Jerrold S; Khowailed, Iman Akef; Lee, Haneul; Berk, Lee1; Bains, Gurinder S.; Akerkar, Siddhesh; Shah, Jinal; Al-Dabbak, Fuad; Laymon, Mike S. Cold Vs. Heat After Exercise—Is There a Clear Winner for Muscle Soreness. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: November 2015 - Volume 29 - Issue 11 - p 3245–3252. https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Fulltext/2015/11000/Cold_Vs__Heat_After_Exercise_Is_There_a_Clear.33.aspx

  7. How to Loosen Tight Muscles

    How to Loosen Tight Muscles

    Tight muscles can limit mobility, range of motion, and keep you from engaging in your favorite activities. Loosening tight muscles will help you stick to your exercise regimen, in addition to making you more comfortable. Find out how to loosen tight muscles with this step-by-step guide.

    But First. Why Do Muscles Become Tight?

    There are a number of reasons our muscles become tight, the most common being:

    1. Long periods of inactivity - this doesn’t just apply to couch potatoes, but active people as well. Even if you are working out regularly, being seated at a desk for long periods of time causes certain muscles in the body to lengthen and others to shorten. Specifically, hip flexors and chest muscles become short and tight, while glutes, back, neck and shoulder muscles become elongated and weak. Assuming this position day after day creates imbalances between tight and weak muscles.
    2. During exercise - muscles can tighten during physical activity, sometimes so intensely as to cramp. Muscle cramps usually arise due to dehydration or low levels of sodium or potassium.
    3. Following exercise - delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) occurs about 24-72 hours after unusually difficult physical activity. This condition is characterized by muscle soreness and tightness. Although uncomfortable, DOMS is actually your body’s healing response to micro-tears in the muscle fibers following intense exercise. The tight feeling following a hard workout is typically related to physical activity that shortens the muscle, such as pedaling a bike or certain weight-training movements like bicep curls. 

    Heat Therapy

    Much has been written about whether to use cold or heat therapy for aching and tight muscles. Studies show that cold therapy is better in the first 24 hours after a workout1. Heat is preferred after the initial healing period and for chronic pain. The reason is that cold is better at combating the early onset of inflammation, thereby potentially reducing recovery times and pain. The downside with ice is that it can tighten muscles. On the other hand, heat relaxes muscle tissues, which eases tightness and painful trigger points. Popular types of heat therapy that loosens tight muscles include:

    1. Heating pads -this method involves applying localized heat to a part of the body. If you are trying to figure out how to loosen tight muscles in the lower back, neck, arms or other specific areas of the body, a heating pad or gel pack will serve you well. Apply heat to the affected area for at least 15 minutes. 
    2. Soaking in warm water - by soaking in a bath or hot tub, you’ll enjoy full body heat rejuvenation. If you are looking for tips on how to loosen tight muscles in legs, soaking in warm water with salt should help. Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) are a favorite way to soak among athletes and chronic pain sufferers, with many devotees claiming that the salts alleviate discomfort in muscles and joints. While there is no scientific data to show this, at the very least, soaking in warm water for at least 20 minutes will improve blood circulation and loosen tight muscles.
    3. Hit the sauna or steam room - much like soaking in warm water, getting into a sauna or steam room will provide heat therapy from head to toe. Besides relaxing tight muscles and relieving muscle cramps, full body heat therapy improves blood flow. This is essential to muscle recovery as oxygen is delivered to aching muscles and joints and muscle building byproducts are removed. 

    Stretching 

    If your muscles are short and tight, it makes sense that elongating them by stretching will help, right? While this is true, you need to be sure to stretch properly and safely. You can do more harm than good if you push yourself too hard or don’t take certain precautions. If you’re wondering how to loosen tight muscles in your arms, neck, or any other part of your body, try to stretch before and after every workout. Here are some guiding principles on how to loosen tight muscles in neck and other areas through stretching:

    1. Warm up - you want to use the elasticity of your muscles to your advantage while stretching, and your muscle fibers will be their most elastic when warmed up. To prepare yourself for stretching, try a light activity like walking. Active stretching can also work. This involves doing light movements that stretch muscles, like shoulder stretches, rotations, or the cat-cow position in yoga. You can also warm up with heat therapy. Consider stretching after you have soaked in the tub or enjoyed some time in the steam room.
    2. Go Light to Deep - while most of us know this, it bears saying: start off stretching lightly, and as your muscles become looser and you feel more comfortable, gradually go deeper into your stretches. If you feel tight, it is even more important to take it slow and listen to your body. Muscle tension, especially from working out, may mean you cannot go as deep into certain stretches as usual - and that’s okay!
    3. Stretch All Muscles in the Area - muscles move dynamically with adjacent muscles. Nearby muscles are also anatomically connected to each other, either by fascia, ligaments or tendons. As such, stretching should incorporate an entire part of the body, rather than a single muscle. For example, if your iliotibial (IT) band is tight, you will want to stretch nearby muscles, including glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps.

    Self-Myofascial Release & Deep Tissue Massage

    Your muscles are surrounded by sheaths of connective tissue called fascia. When fascia becomes restricted, often through repetitive movements, it causes knots and trigger points. As a result, connected muscles feel tense and tight. The idea behind a type of bodywork called myofascial release is to break up trigger points and release the fascia for improved mobility and reduced pain. 

    Another similar type of body work is deep tissue massage. As the name suggests, this massage technique focuses on applying pressure into the deeper layers of muscle. Much like other types of bodywork (including myofascial release), deep tissue massage enhances mobility, blood circulation, and comfort. The key difference is that more layers of muscle are affected during deep tissue massage.

    Performing self-massage regularly at home is critically important to alleviating muscle tension, muscular pain and keeping your body performing its best. The market is filled with self-massage tools that perform myofascial release, deep tissue massage, or a combination of the two. Here is a rundown of what to consider when choosing your self-massaging tool:

    1. Self-Myofascial Release Tools - the most well-known self-myofascial release tool is the foam roller. By rolling your body over the foam tube, muscles and fascia are condensed and released. Since foam rollers have long smooth sides, it is a tool best suited for myofascial release of large muscles. Other self-myofascial tools are better suited for releasing trigger points. These tools typically have smaller edges or sides that allow you to dig into specific areas of tension, such as around the shoulders. Most of these tools are not motorized, therefore requiring users to use their body weight against the tool to create tension, or manually press the tool into the body.
    2. Deep Tissue Massage Tools - there are some non-motorized self-myofascial tools that can perform deep tissue massage if enough pressure is applied. It is not always reliable and of course requires work on the user’s part. A more convenient and relaxing way to get a self-administered deep tissue massage is by using an electric massager. This is mostly because electric massagers can perform movements that penetrate deeper into muscle layers. In particular, massagers that make percussive movements apply concentrated and deep pulses of pressure. Keep in mind that some electric deep tissue massagers do not offer much in the way of myofascial release due to their intensity. If you want a massage tool that performs light and deep massage, consider massage gun with varying intensity levels.

    See a Professional Massage Therapist

    Regularly performing self-massage will do wonders in loosening tight muscles, but a massage therapist can take your recovery a step further.  Receiving a massage allows you to go into a deeper state of relaxation. Additionally, a professional massage therapist will have the skill to locate and manipulate tight muscles, trigger points and tense connective tissue that you cannot identify and treat on your own. 

    Talk to your massage therapist about what type of massage is appropriate for your level of muscle tightness and discomfort. If you are in the throes of serious muscle pain following a tough workout, you probably need a lighter massage. Deep tissue massage or sports massages are best reserved for athletes when their bodies are otherwise healthy, but in need of a therapeutic touch to the deeper layers of muscle. If you need a deeper form of therapy in order to heal a more serious injury, visit a physical therapist.

    Relaxing Tight Muscles for Mobility and Comfort

    With the right techniques and tools, you can quickly figure out how to fix tight muscles for improved mobility and comfort. Don’t forget to perform self-care techniques on muscles adjacent to the tight muscle. And since an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, be sure to warm up and stretch properly before your next workout to help avoid tight muscles altogether. 

    Sources:

    1 Petrofsky, Jerrold S; Khowailed, Iman Akef; Lee, Haneul; Berk, Lee1; Bains, Gurinder S.; Akerkar, Siddhesh; Shah, Jinal; Al-Dabbak, Fuad; Laymon, Mike S. Cold Vs. Heat After Exercise—Is There a Clear Winner for Muscle Soreness. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: November 2015 - Volume 29 - Issue 11 - p 3245–3252. https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Fulltext/2015/11000/Cold_Vs__Heat_After_Exercise_Is_There_a_Clear.33.aspx

  8. Recovery Throughout The CrossFit Games Open

    And...we’re back!

    It’s Open season once again in the CrossFit community. As you train your strength and skills to prepare yourself for your best performance yet, remember the importance in recovery as a ‘next gear’ tool to earning your success.

    The training leading up to the CrossFit Open is often a time of high energy, high volume and high stakes. This gateway competition gets increasingly more competitive each year as top athletes contend for a qualifying spot to Regionals. Even for those who are casual participants to this community affair find excitement this time of year and find themselves pushing harder through workouts. Because of this increase in volume and intensity, it means that it is equally as important to make sure that the body is adequately recovered from training, too. Though we may all try, you can’t ferociously burn the candle at both ends and expect to perform at your best.

    Recovery can mean many things, but some key practices can help you structure a responsible lifestyle that maximizes the benefit of your hard work. Though you may spend four hours in a gym, the other twenty are the ones that count.

    Time Management

    Simply learning to value and budget your time more wisely will have an impact on your sleep, work efficiency the relationship you hold to your responsibilities. How much time and energy are you wasting right now on social media? Do you drag through a 30 minute warmup everyday? If you are effective with the things you need to accomplish, you will leave more time for recovery practices and rest time.

    Visualization and Mindfulness

    The intensity of training for most athletes entering the Open season does a lot to tax the nervous system and the mind. Taking time to reflect on what is learned from training and how to increase a competitive mindset is just as important as the training itself. Take time to remember moments of success and visualize your goals.

    Joint Care

    Open prep often means repeating a lot of movements over and over in order to master efficiency. This can sometimes cause inflammation of the joints, tendons and ligaments and cause aching or soreness. Natural anti-inflammatories such as turmeric or beets can help with these pains, but also making sure that the connective tissues remain mobile.

    Soft Tissue Mobility

    Not only do our primary muscles get tight from training, but also the interconnected fascia that surrounds all of our nerves and organs, too. Exercises with a lacrosse ball, foam roller or yoga can be a good practice to maintain health of the soft tissue. Types of compression therapy or the use of an NMES device can help maintain blood flow in the tissue as well.

    Nutrition

    At some point, you will have to take responsibility for the fuel you put into your body. Supplements alone will never do the trick and learning healthy and sustainable lifestyle changes to the way you eat will help you increase the impact of your training. Find experts of the field and learn to test things for yourself to find the best building blocks for your body.

    The Open isn’t just a test of will power and strength, but about who is able to sustain health and focus through five tough weeks. Make sure you’re prepared for this years excitement by committing to your recovery as much as you do your training.

  9. Compex + Resolutions = Success

    Resistance Program

    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!

  10. Smartphone Apps for the Fitness Focused

    At Compex, we know we’re not your only electronic fitness device. Nowadays, you can get customized workouts, track your diet, map your morning run and more right from your phone. According to Business Insider, health and fitness apps grew 62% in usage between December 2013 and June 2014, compared to apps overall which grew just 33%. More and more people are using their technology to live healthier. With so many different fitness apps on the market, we’ve put together some of our favorites.

    Fitstar

    FitStar

    Fitstar is the perfect app if you’re looking for a training program. The app designs personalized workouts for you and tracks your progress. Adjustments to the workouts can be made in order to accurately track your input and results. Share those results with friends and family for encouragement or to have them help you stick to your goals. Fitstar also ties into wearable devices like the Jawbone Up or the FitBit.

    Available for free on iOS

    RunKeeper

    RunKeeper

    If you’re an avid runner, you probably already know about RunKeeper. One of the most popular running apps, RunKeeper features everything a runner needs. It tracks your distance, monitors your speed, maps your location via GPS and keeps tabs on your caloric output. If you’re into other outdoor activities like swimming, cycling or hiking, you can track those activities with RunKeeper as well.

    Available for free on iOS and Android

    Moves

    Moves app

    Staying fit is more than just going to the gym a couple times a week; it’s a lifestyle choice. Your everyday activities can contribute to your overall fitness. Track them all with Moves. Not only can you track your workouts but also how many steps you take and calories you burn doing things like running errands.

    Available for free on iOS and Android

    Yoga Studio

    Yoga Studio app

    There are many benefits to practicing yoga from building strength and increasing flexibility to relaxation.  If you find you’re not making it to your classes as much as you’d like to, try Yoga Studio. The top-rated Yoga Studio app is designed for all levels and has over 16 hours of classes ranging from 15 minutes to an hour. Each class has modifications if you need them. This is the perfect way to work on your practice wherever you are.

    Available for $3.99 on iOS

    Sleep Cycle

    Sleep Cycle

    Sleep is arguably one of the most important parts of being healthy. Sleep is not only when we recharge, but also when our muscles rebuild after workouts and our brains store all the information we absorb during the day. Sleep Cycle is a bio-alarm clock designed to help you understand how much sleep you’re actually getting and wakes your at the best time. It analyzes your sleep patterns and wakes you when you are in the lightest sleep phase. Waking up during the lightest phase of your sleep cycle helps you feel refreshed and relaxed, ready to take on the day.

    Available for $0.99 on iOS and Android

    7 Minute Workout Challenge

    7 minute workout

    Currently one of the top fitness apps in the iTunes Store, 7 Minute Workout Challenge gives you no excuse to skip your daily workout. Pioneered by Chris Jordan, the idea is to work out smarter not harder through high intensity interval training. The app comes loaded with 36 exercises and 12 additional workouts that you can customize and modify to create your own program.

    Available for $1.99 on iOS and Android

    Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker by MyFitnessPal

    MyFitnessPal Calorie Tracker

    Losing weight or maintaining your weight can be a challenge for some. MyFitnessPal makes it a little easier. Track your calories and see where you need to make changes in your diet. The app has over 3,000,000 foods loaded into it so finding what you had for lunch should be a snap.

    Available for free on iOS and Android

    Any apps we missed? Is there a fitness app you’ve been using that you’d recommend? Let us know in the comments.

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