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Compex Electric Muscle Stimulator with TENS Blog

Get Stronger, Faster, Without Working Harder.

  1. Debunking the Myths around Compex Muscle Stimulators

    NMES Myths

    There are many myths, misconceptions and concerns around electric muscle stimulators and rightly so. Using a device that sends an electric current through your body sounds dangerous and painful. But medical devices like the Compex Electric Muscle Stimulator are reviewed by governing bodies, and are designed to perform very specific functions that are mirrored after the body’s own processes and are very safe.

    Let’s dive into some of the most common questions and concerns (for a full list of all FAQs, click here).


    Q: What does a Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulator (NMES) like Compex do?

    A: The principle of electrostimulation is very simple; it reproduces the processes that occur when our brain orders muscles to contract. It works almost like a relay race; when we decide to contract a muscle, our brain sends an electrical current down through our nerve fibers. Once it reaches the muscle, the terminal motor neurons fire and stimulate the muscle fibers to contract.

    When you use an electric muscle stimulator, the signal is sent directly to the motor neurons using brain-like electrical pulses. In fact, muscles cannot tell the difference between a contraction triggered by the brain and one caused by a NMES device. The difference is that with a NMES device, you bathe the entire length of the motor neurons. The result is a more thorough and complete muscular contraction. There is also less impact on bones and joints since the stimulation is coming from the device and not from an activity such as weight lifting.


    Q: Are there any side effects when using a NMES device?

    A: Side effects are limited; Compex is a very safe device. However, if you are looking to build strength and start off with too high of a setting, you can experience soreness, the same way you would if you work out too hard at the gym. There has also been reports of skin irritation from the pads.

    It should also be noted that improper use of a muscle stimulation unit can easily lead to skin burns, according to research published in "The Journal of Arthroplasty" in 2005. Dr. Daryl Lawson states that if a strong electrical current is delivered through a small electrode, the skin is exposed to a higher concentration of electricity per unit of area, which can cause burns. Again, start off slow and figure out what levels are best for you and that you’re most comfortable with.


    Q: What about other NMES devices that claim they can help you lose weight? Some claim to give you six-pack abs!

    A: While a NMES device may be able to strengthen, tone or firm a muscle, no NMES devices have been cleared at this time specifically for weight loss, girth reduction, or “six pack abs”. Both the FDA and FTC have cracked down on companies making false claims about their NMES products.

    Using these devices alone will not give you "six-pack" abs. Stimulating muscles repeatedly with electricity will result in muscles that are strengthened and toned to some extent but will not, based on currently available data, create a major change in your appearance without the addition of diet and regular exercise.

    However, in a study of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients, there was a marked increase in their caloric output from using Compex. Because of their condition, regular exercise was not an option. While Compex does not entirely replace exercise, for patients who cannot engage in more strenuous activity, Compex can be used to strengthen muscle, increase definition and muscle size, and increase caloric output.


    Q: Does using a NMES device give you an unfair advantage?

    A: Not anymore than having a dedicated training and recovery program does. While the use of Compex has been proven to increase performance, it does so by increasing muscle actions that the body already performs during a workout. The difference is that they are much more targeted and allow for more muscle contraction of specific muscle groups and muscle fiber types. The body can't tell if the signals for a contraction are from the brain or Compex. Compex stimulates the entire nerve vs. just part of it.


    Q: Are there any sports currently banning / restricting their use?

    A: At this time, the use of NMES devices has not been banned or restricted.


    Q: Is the use of a NMES device a “quick fix? How soon will I see results?

    A: Depends on your definition of “quick fix”. While the effects of recovery are felt instantly, using Compex to build muscle doesn't happen instantly.

    If you are using Compex for building strength, expect to start to feel and see results in 2-3 weeks. If you are looking to use Compex to increase the amount of enzymes needed to deliver energy for contracting muscle, it will take about 6 weeks. If you are using Compex to increase tone, you should see results in about 3-4 weeks.


    Q: What if you only use NMES without exercising?

    A: Even without exercise, NMES devices will strengthen your muscles. However, you will not receive the added benefits of an exercise program such as cardiovascular health. It is recommended that a NMES device be included as part of your overall health or fitness plan.


    Q: Are there any side effects when using a NMES device?

    A: Side effects are limited; Compex is a very safe device. However, if you are looking to build strength and start off with too high of a setting, you can experience soreness, the same way you would if you work out too hard at the gym. There has also been reports of skin irritation from the pads.

    It should also be noted that improper use of a muscle stimulation unit can easily lead to skin burns, according to research published in "The Journal of Arthroplasty" in 2005. Dr. Daryl Lawson states that if a strong electrical current is delivered through a small electrode, the skin is exposed to a higher concentration of electricity per unit of area, which can cause burns. Again, start off slow and figure out what levels are best for you and that you’re most comfortable with.


    Q: What parts of the body is NMES most effective on? Is there anywhere on the body where I shouldn’t use an NMES?

    A: NMES units can be used on almost all parts of the body. However, stimulation should not be applied on the neck. A severe spasm of the muscles may occur and the contractions may be strong enough to close the airway or cause difficulty in breathing. In addition, stimulation on the neck could also have adverse effects on the heart rhythm or blood pressure.

    The effects of stimulation of the brain are unknown. Therefore, stimulation should not be applied across the head and electrodes should not be placed on opposite sides of the head.

    Electrodes used for electrical stimulation should not be applied across the chest because the introduction of electrical current into the chest may cause rhythm disturbances to the heart.

    While we are discussing the chest, you should use caution when using a NMES if you have an implanted pacemaker. Implanted pacemakers and heart defibrillators can mistake EMI from the electrical muscle stimulator for a physiological signal coming from the body itself. This causes the devices to respond to the signal -- pacemakers do so by changing their rate, and implanted defibrillators may deliver an unnecessary shock.

    In addition, do not use Compex if you have the following medical conditions:

    • Epilepsy
    • Following acute trauma or fracture
    • Following recent surgical procedures
    • Critical ischemia of lower limbs
    • Abdominal or inguinal hernia
    • Cancerous lesions


    Q: What sports tend to be benefit the most from NMES? Is it just for athletes?

    A:  NMES units are for anyone looking to build strength, increase performance, or recover faster. You do not have to be an athlete; NMES units are recommended for anyone looking to achieve their fitness goals.

    Compex is recommended for anyone participating in a sport that requires strength like lifting, endurance like triathlons, or anyone in a competitive sports league that needs to speed up recovery time between games or matches.


    Q: Is there a particular age group that benefits the most from NMES?

    A:  Compex has been used for children as young as 10 years old; however not without adult supervision. Compex can be used by young people for recovery but also to build strength. In some ways, it is safer than the weight room because there is no pressure placed on growth plates, bones or joints.


    Q: Are NMES systems are really expensive?

    A: No. Depending on which model you choose, they are relatively affordable. Compex models start at $399.99 USD.


    Q: Can you use a NMES device everyday?

    A: Yes, but remember with any training program, recovery is an important part of the process. Luckily Compex can be used for both training and recovery depending on setting.


    Q: What is the difference between Compex Muscle Stimulators and ones used for medical purposes like muscle re education, physical therapy or to prevent venous thrombosis?

    A: There are a lot of different types of electrical stimulators that stimulate nerves. Physical therapists often use one called Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or TENS. TENS units use a different kind of wave / frequency that stimulates sensory nerves instead of motor nerves like Compex. TENS units work with sensory nerves to block pain. When using a TENS device, you’ll feel a buzzing but no contraction of the muscle.

    Compex is a NMES: Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulator. Compex works on a “all or nothing” principle. Once the motor neuron fires, the muscle fibers that it innervates will contract. The nerve cell and the muscle fibers it innervates is called a motor unit. One nerve cell will innervate anywhere from 10 to 1000 muscle fibers depending on the muscle fiber types, e.g. slow twitch vs. fast twitch. Either all of the motor unit fires, or none of it does. The strength of a contraction is determined by how many motor units fire synchronously.

    When the pulse is sent, you will feel a twitch, a variety of twitches or very short contractions when running warm up or recovery programs. This type of response is common in the MarcPro unit, which is for recovery only. Compex not only delivers the recovery twitches, but also delivers twitches to warm the muscle up before an activity. On top of that, Compex has as many as four programs that contract the muscle for seconds at a time; enough so that when repeated throughout the length of a program, increased strength is developed after 10 sessions.

    When you compare Compex with other similar products, the technology is the same, but the range of frequencies is different. Compex has 4 circuits. What that means is that four different muscle groups can be stimulated at the same time. A lot of muscle can be covered each time a program is run.

    The muscle is the conduit for the current. At the proper frequency and pulse duration, it will stimulate motor nerves and only motor nerves. The Compex can be very powerful – more powerful than other popular NMES devices. It has the ability to penetrate deeply to contract more muscle than can be achieved with a maximum voluntary contraction. When the current penetrates more deeply, you stimulate more motor nerves and more muscle fibers. However, you choose the degree to which the muscle contracts. The stimulation levels are finely graded so you can select the exact level of current you want based on your comfort level.

    Compex delivers a biphasic square wave of electricity. What that means is instead of a gradual build up, the current comes almost instantly so the nerve does not accommodate or hesitate. It sounds like it would be more painful this way however, this type of wave is actually more comfortable. Without the hesitation, the nerve and muscle fibers are stimulated at a lower level of energy.


    Do you have more questions about Compex or electric muscle stimulators in general? Please ask away in the comments!












  2. Why Triathlon Participation is on the Rise



    Triathlon, the multi-sport event made up of running, swimming and biking, has seen an increase in participation over the last several years.


    Since the first U.S. triathlon took place in San Diego, California in 1974,  athletes have been taking up the challenge and most recently, race organizers have seen a surge in participation.


    According to USA Triathlon, their memberships were increasing at a steady 4% between 2009 and 2011. Then in 2012, that rate of annual and one day memberships increased by 5.6% for a record high of over 510,859 total memberships.


    At Compex, we too have been working with more and more triathletes, helping them to recover faster and to reach their personal race goals using electric muscle stimulators.


    But why the increased interest in triathlons?


    While it’s difficult to pinpoint, one overarching reason could be that anyone can do it.


    Whether you complete a sprint triathlon (500m swim / 20k bike ride/ 5k run)  or an Ironman race (4k swim / 180k bike ride /full marathon run), there is an immense feeling of achievement after completing a triathlon.


    Not only are more adults participating in triathlons, but young people are trying it out as well. According to a report compiled by the Outdoor Foundation, in 2013 the median age of a triathlete was around 30 years old; however, colleges across the country are starting their own triathlon clubs. The clubs compete at  individual conferences against other schools in the fall in order to qualify for the national championship later in the spring. There has also been a tremendous increase in non-traditional or off-road triathlons. These races often switch up events -- for example, adding paddling in place of swimming or mountain biking in place of road cycling -- appealing not only to athletes but outdoor enthusiasts. Since 2009, participation in non-traditional triathlons has increased 199%.


    Maybe the most simplistic reason for the increase in triathlon participation is that there has also been increased interest in healthy living and personal fitness. Racing in a triathlon seems less daunting when you are already an avid runner, a frequent gym goer, or just an all around active person. Triathlons give the fitness focused person a chance to up their game, to challenge themselves and reach new goals. After all, training and competing in a triathlon is definitely a full body workout.


  3. Father’s Day Gift Guide for the Fit Dad

    Father’s Day 2014 is almost here. Struggling with what to get your fitness-minded father (or husband if you’re helping your kids with gifts for dad)? Of course, we recommend one of our Compex Muscle Stimulators. It’s the perfect gift if your father is a marathon runner, a triathlete, a hardcore bike rider, or a CrossFit competitor.

    In addition, we’ve put together a list of potential gifts for the fit and focused.


    Nike+ SportsWatch GPS

    This super customized watch is a great gift for runners and fitness fanatics alike. This watch tracks distance and calories, let’s you create workout reminders and set fitness goals. Oh and it also tells time.

    ($120, store.nike.com)



    Race bib holder

    For a more heartfelt gift, the Etsy shop Running on the Wall has a number of mounts to display race bibs and metals. Running is a way of life for many and even the completion on one marathon is an event to be remembered.

    ($29, www.etsy.com/shop/runningonthewall)



    Rx Jump Rope

    Looking for quality fitness gear without all the fuss? RX Smart Gear RX Jump Rope is the way to go. The custom built jump rope features ergonomically contoured handles and an industrial grade multidirectional swivel axis bearing system that produces a near frictionless rotation.

    ($43, rxsmartgear.com)



    Reebok Men's CrossFit Shoes

    Who doesn’t like a quality pair of shoes? Reebok’s line of CrossFit sneakers has various styles for the CrossFit enthusiast to the CrossFit pro.

    ($65- $175, shop.reebok.com)




    Really, what more do you need?

    ($26, www.rokfit.com)

  4. Breaking a World Record with the Help of Compex

    Some people can jump. Others can really jump. Brandon Talbot is among the latter.

    This Saturday, May 17, 2014, Brandon will attempt to do the impossible. From a standing, stationary position he will jump--I mean, really jump--to a height never achieved before and break potentially not one, but three records.

    The first record is jumping onto a platform from a standing still position. According to the Guinness World Record site, the current record is 1.48 meters (4 feet, 10.27 inches) and held by Jonas Huusom of Denmark who achieved this August 2011. This is the equivalent of jumping from the pavement onto the roof of a 2014 Honda Accord.

    The second record is vertical jumping from a standing still position. There doesn’t seem to be an official category for this on the Guinness World Record site, and it’s debated between who holds the title: some say American footballer Justin Bethel, others say stuntman Kevin Jordan, while others more say Frenchman Kadour Ziani; all of whom are said to have jumped 1.52 meters (5 feet). This is the equivalent of walking up to diminutive actor, Danny Devito, shaking his hand, and jumping up on top of his head.

    The third record hasn’t officially been claimed either, and that’s the highest vertical achieved from jumping off of one foot.

    Brandon hasn’t exactly been training for these records all his life. He grew up in Saint George, UT but didn’t play sports until he was in his twenties when he discovered his love for beach volleyball. Following his passion, Brandon moved to Huntington Beach in sun-soaked Southern California to pursue his dream of becoming a professional beach volleyball player – a sport that favors high jumpers capable of driving the ball down sharply over the net.

    While training in Orange County, California he was introduced to Compex, a DJO Global company, by trainer Rick Stassi. By incorporating Compex into his training routine, in just a few short months, Brandon added seven inches to his vertical leap, putting him in the upper echelon of athletes not only in his chosen sport of volleyball, but across all disciplines.

    We are beyond excited to see how Brandon does this weekend and we hope you are too. We are already drafting our next blog and will be sure to let you know how he does. For all the details, follow Compex on Twitter @CompexCoach using hashtag #guinnessjump or on the Compex Facebook page. Lastly, if you’re in the Orange County area, come cheer him on at the Athletic Republic Orange County located at 2100 E Wilshire Ave, Santa Ana, CA 92705.

  5. Compex March Workout with World Champion Ironman Coach Siri Lindley

    Ready to spring forward with your fitness in 2014?  World Champion Ironman Coach Siri Lindley presents how Team Sirius uses Compex muscle stimulators for a more effective workout.

    Compex is fortunate and excited to work with Siri Lindley and Team Sirius.

    Siri is not only a Word Champion Triathlete in her own rite:

    • She coaches an amazing group of professional triathletes to World Championship records and wins across the globe.
    • Siri was voted the 5th most influential person in triathlon this year by Triathlete Magazine.

    Siri, Team Sirius, and Compex have partnered to share a workout that incorporates a "Sirius" style hill run workout followed by a Compex recovery session that gets you ready for more in a hurry.  Check it out!

    The Compex Muscle Stimulator's electrical impulses reproduce the body's natural process of voluntary muscle contractions.  When these impulses fully trigger the motor nerves, the muscle responds with a deeper and more complete contraction. A muscle cannot tell the difference between the signal for a voluntary contraction from the brain versus a signal from a muscle stimulator

    The results are:

    • a more efficient workout regimen
    • less risk of injury to joints and tendons
    • minimized cardiovascular fatigue

    The Benefits of Compex Muscle Stimulators include:

    • Quickly improve strength, endurance, speed and power
    • Tone muscle
    • Build up more muscle with each contraction
    • Customized workouts for your individual needs
    • Thoroughly warm up to decrease injury
    • Faster recovery from workouts


    Train, Recover and Compete like the Pros do with Compex.

    Learn more about Compex.

  6. Compex Masters Team wins Nationals!

    The Compex Masters Racing team recently won the USATF Cross Country Nationals for the Mens’ 40-49 age group division. The team averaged and impressive 33:20.10. The top masters men’s runner was Peter Magill, 49, covering 10k in 32:36.0. Second was his Compex Racing teammate Christian Cushing-Murray, 43, who ran 32:47.8. Congratulations! usatf-2010-masters-champions-compex-racing1

  7. Read what Olympic Silver Medalist and Ironman World Champion says about Compex...

    Active Recovery!


    Active Recovery & Compex

     I get asked the following question quite frequently...” How have you been able to race so long?” Well if only I knew the answer to that..LOL... But  here is a try at answering it.




    For one I really do love what I do. Triathlon is one of the hardest sports to train for. It is very hard to master just one and Triathetes have to master 3 sports.So just when you think you have figured it out there is always something new to master. I am also a huge believer in making sure you recover properly from your workouts. I often tell the other athletes that I coach that Rest is training as well. Yes it is OK to take a day off put the feet up and feel what is like to be like everyone else. Thanks goodness you get to train again tomorrow.

    Finally it is the extra little things that really count. For instance I am a firm believer in Massage, ART and my Compex. I must admit I love my Compex the most. I can use it any where whether I am sitting on the couch watching TV, in the car traveling to a race or even laying in bed. Its the easiest form of training. Why? Because you really don’t have to do anything. Can’t think of anything easier than that. Place the pads in the desired areas and I am ready to go.

    Michellie Jones

    "I’m a long time user and believer in Compex. It’s significantly enhanced my ability to train, race and stay healthy. My workout sessions are much more efficient because I can push harder and recover quicker."

  8. Check out Team Compex!

    Compex is dedicated to providing athletes the ability to optimize their workouts to obtain the highest possible levels of speed, endurance, strength, and recovery using state-of-the-art Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation (NMES) technology. Team Compex is comprised of 50 top age group athletes who primarily compete in the sports of triathlon, running and cycling. They possess a strong passion for their sport and are dedicated to not only representing Compex through their athletic achievements, but also act as brand ambassadors in their local communities. We're proud of our athletes! Check them out at http://www.teamcompex.com/Team_Roster.htm

  9. Want to see how the Compex works?

    If you're unsure of how Compex works when it comes to the stimulation of the muscles, check out our video guides.  These videos will show you how to use a Compex device, how the electrostimulation technology works, and testimonials from professional athletes who train with Compex.

  10. Compex works for me...Olympic Silver Medalist Michellie Jones

    Michellie Jones, 2000 Olympic Triathlon Silver Medalist, 2006 Ironman World Champion


    "I’m a long time user and believer in Compex. It’s significantly enhanced my ability to train, race and stay healthy. My workout sessions are much more efficient because I can push harder and recover quicker."

    Michellie Jones, 2000 Olympic Triathlon Silver Medalist, 2006 Ironman World Champion

    See why other professional athletes say "Compex Works for Me" >

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