Rosie Scott of Third Space Sports Medical reviews the best tech to keep your muscles feeling fresh
The Theragun is the new darling of fitness enthusiasts everywhere. And for good reason, if you believe the hype. With a variety of attachments, this futuristic drill is tuned to a scientifically-calibrated speed of 40 percussions per second, pummeling your body for a myriad of benefits.
These include: accelerating recovery and muscle repair, relieving stiffness, tightness and soreness, clearing lactic acid, and it even helps in activating muscles before a workout, rather than just recuperating post-session.
Essentially this is a sophisticated massage device that has the capability to reduce the sensitivity of pain receptors and improve the drainage of inflammation from your limbs, meaning you can get back in the gym more quickly.
I like the feeling, it makes me feel powerful, my muscles feel good and, as a recovery tool it means I can hit the next Formula 3 class sooner than expected. I wouldn’t necessarily trust it as a warm up tool before I was doing something at high-intensity, but before yoga – absolutely.
Another favourite amongst CrossFitters and athletes, Compex is a world leader in portable electrical muscle stimulators (EMS). Electrostimulation works by reproducing a voluntary muscle contraction. Again, typically used for physical preparation, muscular recovery, injury prevention and pain treatment in fitness, Compex is unique because it has muscle intelligence (MI). This automatically personalises the stimulation settings depending on the physiology of each user. It is also very user-friendly and is backed by clinical trials, proving its effectiveness.
So What Does The Research Say?
Increases muscle strength by up to 27%
Increases muscle volume by up to 8%
Decreases lactic acid by up to 25%
Sadly this doesn’t mean that you can just hook this up to your legs, never run again and still outpace everyone. Compex is a great supplementary tool to make your legs stronger and build endurance with continued use, but it won’t replace your workout. The reason being, it doesn’t improve the other parts of your physiology necessary for running, for example your cardio system.
While it has comprehensive instructions and it is easy to use, it’s quite a faff and takes a lot of time when you can only train or recover one set of muscle groups at a time. That being said, if you have the time to give, it would be a great addition to your training. It could also be a great training tool when injured. Used correctly, it could stop muscle wastage.
It looks like a sleeping bag for your limbs. They’re designed to squeeze your legs/arms from toes/fingers with the aim of reducing any post-workout inflammation and getting you back under a barbell ASAP.
The NormaTec system is comprised of a control unit, and separate attachments that can go either on your legs, hips, or arms. The most popular are the legs. The unit uses compressed air to massage your limbs and speed up recovery by mobilising fluid from your limbs toward your core, reducing painful inflammation.
The problem is, your body produces inflammation for a reason. This tool forcibly removes it (far more than a regular massage) and so you’re left with no indication of whether the muscles are fully healed or not. You could then be back training with micro-tears in your muscles still there, which can slow progress down and increase injury risk.
The price tag is hefty. It may help you to recover faster and get you back in the gym feeling good, but this at the price of your body being able to recover properly, and will leave you vulnerable to injury later down the line. The research isn’t quite there and so, in my opinion, the jury remains very much out on this futuristic kit.