Elite athletes will try anything to get the edge over the competition and there is no denying that Electrostimulation works. But would you see the difference using a Compex machine?
Electrostimulations is and has been a part of physiotherapy and pain management for many years. But today elite athletes are using electrostimulation as part of their training to optimise recovery, strength, muscle gains and even prevent injury. The most common and well-known brand is Compex machines.
Compex machines do not work by magic but instead replicates what your body already does. Electrostimulation reproduces the processes that occur when your brain tells your muscle to contract. When you want to squeeze your biceps it sends a signal through an electrical current through the nerve fibres to the muscle which then reacts to the signal by contracting. Compex machines achieve exactly the same thing but it comes from the machine rather than the brain because your brain cannot tell if the signal is from your brain or from a machine.
Because of Compex (leader in Electrostimulation machines) will claim that their machines have the ability when used correctly can improve;
Strength + 27%
Vertical Jump +14%
Muscle Volume + 8%
Reduce Lactic Acid -25%
On top of this they there are other functions aimed at recovering the muscle post-workout as you are having a sports massage in a particular area which is then claimed that it enhances recovery. Which could be highly beneficial if you trainer shoulders the day before back.
Who endorses these machines?
Phil Heath aka Mr Olympia (at time of writing) – Claiming that he uses them pre, during and after workouts to enhanced recovery and increasing muscle density and strength.
Mat Fraser aka Fittest Man on Earth – Claiming that he uses it pre and post-workout to enhance recovery but has also helped with muscle activation and strength.
A huge number of cyclists and triathletes are advocates for it all saying the same thing.
Above we have said how it works, what the claims are and what athletes say about it (some, of course, paid athletes). But what does the actual science say?
‘Physiological Changes in Muscles and Nerves Electromyostimulation Training Effects on Neural Drive and Muscle Architecture Gondin et al. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 2005, Volume 37(8) pp. 1291-1299’
They divided 20 subjects into an electrostimulated group and a control group. After 8 weeks of an EMS training program of the quadriceps with a Compex Sport device the findings where that maximum strength had increased by 27%, more muscle fibres were able to be recruited, increased muscle mass (although we are unable to find how much) and the majority of the changes occurred from week 4-8.
‘Effects of an Electrostimulation Training Program on Strength, Jumping, and Kicking Capacities in Soccer Players Billot et al., Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, May 2010, Vol. 24(5), pp. 1407-1413’
A French study which again used a Compex Energy Device for 5 weeks on the Quadriceps. 20 male football (soccer) players were divided into an EMS group and received 2 sessions of 12 minutes per week and the other had 0 sessions with the machine. The findings were that strength was increased as well as ball speed performance. However, the abstract of the study we have does not say how much so it could be 1000% or 1%.
‘EFFECT OF THREE DIFFERENT BETWEEN-INNING RECOVERY METHODS ON BASEBALL PITCHING PERFORMANCE Warren et al., Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, March 2011, Volume 25(3), pp. 683-688’
A Californian study which compared 3 forms of recovery after pitching in baseball:
- No Activity for 6 minutes
- Jogging for 6 minutes
- Electrical muscle stimulation for 6 minutes
Electrical muscle stimulation produced the highest reduction in blood lactate levels as compared to other recovery methods which had no significant effect. The athletes also said they felt better recovered from the Electrical muscle stimulation compared to other methods.
How much do these machines cost?
Anywhere from £300 to £1200 which equates to a lot of food and supplements. If you are looking for that extra edge, then Electrical muscle stimulation devices could be the answer especially if you suffer greatly with DOMS.