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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Virtually every human being has experienced the bodily responses associated with strenuous activity or physical exertion. Heavy breathing and muscle fatigue are not unique to athletes alone, although high-performance individuals certainly experience strain to an exceptionally higher degree. Regardless of intensity, however, the science is the same and a basic biological understanding of how our human bodies respond to physical stress is important to understand how to best recover.
When we perform a physically strenuous activity, our lungs will demand to breathe more rapidly as the body fights to supply the working muscles with oxygen as fuel. The body prefers to generate energy aerobically, or through this exchange of oxygen from our environment into our muscles, but activities of higher intensity will require energy production at a higher rate than what we can deliver through oxygen intake alone. When the body cannot deliver energy through oxygen alone, the body will use what is called pyruvate, a breakdown substance of glucose (blood sugar), and convert it to lactate to be used by the body which in turn is converted back to glucose again. This is called the anaerobic process, or the Cori cycle. This type of activity is limited, however, and this type of energy production can generally only last for seconds to a few minutes, during which time lactate will accumulate to high levels. But what does that matter?
High levels of lactate in the body will increase the acidity of muscle cells and create an environment that inhibits the breakdown of glucose, the very activity that lactase itself makes possible. Although this may seem counterintuitive, it is a defense mechanism of the body to prevent extreme damage through high levels of intensity in physical activity.
This build up of lactic acidity is commonly referred to as a muscle “pump” and is the burning sensation associated with high repetition or high intensity activity. When the pain or discomfort of this physical response finally causes us to stop, the body will enter a state of recovery in which it will clear the lactate build up and restore the body to a physical state ready for another anaerobic bout.
So how can this knowledge positively impact our training? On one hand, increasing our aerobic conditioning will improve athletic performance by extending our bodies capabilities of using oxygen - an easier, more available and more enduring source for energy production. Training mentality is also important in not always shying away from the “pump” and enduring intense discomfort for longer periods of time. Finally, however, intentional practices of physical recovery to flush out lactate buildup as quickly as possible are incredibly beneficial to a performing athlete in a high-intensity sport, especially if an athlete has consecutive events or training sessions and must recover as quickly as possible.
The Active Recovery program of Compex is designed for exactly the purposes of immediate recovery from these type of physical events. Although the full duration of the program is 24 minutes with electric frequencies that start from high to low, it will effectively flush out lactic buildup in just 6 minutes. Not only does this program clear out lactate, but promotes fresh blood flow to the area to bring in vital nutrients and even oxygen back to the area. For these reasons, this program is best used and most effective immediately post workout or event to maximize recovery in the most minimal amount of time. In competition, this can be a tremendous advantage to the athlete performing back-to-back events so that they are biologically as fresh as possible for the next event.
When it comes to performance, the greatest athletes recognize the vital necessity and incredible benefits of intentional recovery methods. Alongside proper efforts in nutrient timing, hydration and mobility, using electric stimulation with a Compex device provides an edge from off of the competition floor and will help you perform to your greatest physical abilities you may have yet to imagine.
Electric muscle stimulation, or neuromuscular electric stimulation (NMES), is a common modality of physical therapy and rehab treatment. For serious athletes, however, it is also used as a powerful tool for training and physical recovery to optimize performance. More commonly referred to as e-stim or muscle stim, an NMES device delivers electronic pulses to motor nerves through electrodes placed on the skin, causing a motor response to achieve a number of desired results.
Top E-Stim Picks
An e-stim device allows you to contract up to 100% of your muscle fibers, an effect that is virtually impossible with exercise alone. Compex devices can add quality to your training in ways that traditional methods of exercise, mobility or recovery can’t and will give you an added edge to your sport or training. The broad variety of programs offered with Compex will allow maximal contraction of Type 1 (slow twitch, endurance) and Type 2 (fast twitch, power) muscle fibers for a better quality of performance and improved worked capacity in any domain.
Use the Compex Warm-Up or Potentiation programs to increase the efficiency of your warmup and thoroughly prep your body for training or an event. The wireless unit is especially convenient to move through exercises as you follow a quick prep program.
Not only can Compex be used in addition to your training sessions, but it can be used for accessory work or even as a stand alone workout. Boost your performance by recruiting more muscle fibers by adding the Compex device to your workout routine, an extra session at home, or during travel. The Compex device can also be beneficial to reeducating muscle groups to contract correctly and can be used to target problem areas or muscle imbalances and deficiencies that you struggle to balance and correct with conventional methods.
The twitches of muscles produced by your Compex recovery programs help to promote blood flow that brings vital nutrients to sore and fatigued areas that assist in healing and recovery. It can also be used to alleviate muscle spasms by breaking the pain spasm cycle, allowing it to relax.
Using a Compex device is easy with low effort for high rewards. The Compex program instructions are simple to follow and will benefit any athlete or training enthusiast driving for the next level. E-stim is a powerful tool to move you beyond your routine!
Check out the article in Men's Health and Fitness all about the safety of NMES written by Brittany Smith. www.mensfitness.com/life/entertainment/healthy
Is This Healthy?
Athletes are using personal neuro-muscular electrical nerve stimulation to get an edge in the gym and unleash their full potential. We investigated whether it's safe and if you should try it, too.
Is This Healthy?: Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation Devices
Short answer: Yes. With very few side effects, and potential to supercharge recovery, muscle, and strength gains, using an at-home neuro-muscular electrical nerve stimulation device can be valuable for pretty much anyone.
The practice of zapping muscles to stimulate contractions was first introduced in the early 50s among European countries, like Russia, for space programs, in order to prevent muscle atrophy in astronauts, says Drew Little, C.S.C.S., a performance specialist at Michael Johnson Performance, an elite training facility in McKinney, Texas. More literature came out on the technology in the 70s before it made its way to the U.S. and Canada in the 80s and 90s.
How It Works
When you attach a device—like what's offered from companies such as Compex, pictured above, to a muscle and begin a program (for more on the types of programs you can do—and to read our review on two Compex devices—click here), an electrical current travels through the electrodes, down your nerve fibers, sets off their motor neurons, then stimulates a strong muscle contraction, mirroring what your nervous system typically does on its own, only to a greater extent. Now, you can attach a device during a warmup to prime your body for lifts, use it during a workout to elevate bodyweight or weighted moves for better results, pop it on in lieu of a workout with a resistance setting, or use post-workout to speed up and kickstart the recovery process.
NMES devices stimulate and contract 100% of your muscle, something your body can't voluntarily do; your body caps stimulation at about 45 percent for normal guys and around 65 for weightlifters as a protective mechanism to prevent injury. So, your body prevents you from lifting something monstrously heavy, like a car, so you don't obliterate your body (though there are "freak" instances and scenarios where this is overrided and adrenaline kicks in so you can surpass this maximum).
A NMES device also hastens the amount of time it takes to trigger slow and fast twitch muscle fibers. "During a squat or bench press, depending on the load, your body will recruit slow-twitch muscle fibers first (which takes about 20 milliseconds), then roll into the fast twitch (which takes 50-60 milliseconds)," Little says. "But a NMES device bypasses that pathway, so all muscle fibers are recruited at the same time."
You stimulate hard-to-get-to muscle fibers quicker and more effectively than you can with traditional weightlifting; plus, it puts less strain on your joints. And, unlike a TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) unit, which delivers very small doses of electric currents to relieve pain, you can use a NMES device to accelerate your results in the gym, from warmup to cool down. Find out more about how to use it here.
Who Should Use NMES
Cyclists, runners, triathletes, lifters, baseball players, football players, basketball players, and other athletes—beginner or advanced—can use these devices to get faster, go longer, jump higher, get stronger, reduce chronic pain, enhance circulation, prevent imbalances, and strengthen the core. Basically any guy who wants a bit of an edge when it comes to health and fitness should try one out.
This doesn't mean you should quit your gym membership, though. It's best used to enhance your regimen, not replace it.
There are few negative side effects. "There's a rare possibility electrical burns can happen with poor pads or faulty, damaged wires, or that someone uses the device incorrectly," says physical therapist Chris Kolba, Ph.D., C.S.C.S., at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
For instance, you should never apply any muscle stim device to your neck, head, or chest. Severe spasms can close your airway and make it difficult to breathe; scientists don't know the effects of stimulation on the brain; and electrical currents to the chest can throw off and disturb rhythms to your heart.
"The only other kind of complication that can come from this type of device is if people have pacemakers and cardiac conditions; you need to get permission from your medical provider to see if it elevates your risk of heart attack," Little adds. People with epilepsy, have recently had acute trauma, fracture, surgery, and some other conditions shouldn't use a device either. Speak with your healthcare provider before starting anything new.
And while there aren't particularly harmful outcomes from using NMES, there are times when the device can hinder your progress and goals. "You want to periodize your training regimen with a device, so you're not using resistance programs 52 weeks a year," Little explains. To keep your body from adapting, you need to provide new foreign stimuli. In other words, you can over-use a device like this for strength, power, and resistance (though using it daily for recovery, warmups, and cool downs is perfectly fine).
Kolba concludes: "I prefer foam rolling, soft tissue and mobility work, sleep, nutrition, and a proper strength and power program for significant gains." That said, a device could help enhance and assist all of the above. For a more in-depth profile of how to incorporate a device in your regimen, read our review on two of Compex's most high-tech devices.