There are many recovery techniques that help speed recovery by boosting blood flow to and from fatigued muscles. These include massages, ice baths and compression garments. But there’s another tool in the fight for faster recovery: muscle stimulation. For over three decades, the medical industry has been using muscle stimulators to aid in injury recovery, but the benefits for athletes have been an insider’s secret.
During the 2011 Tour de France, injuries plagued Team RadioShack. The team’s chiropractor, Jeff Spencer, used Marc Pro muscle stimulators on the riders to not only help improve their day-to-day recovery, but also to prevent their injuries from requiring them to pull out of the race. The list of teams using Marc Pro devices on their athletes goes well past just RadioShack and includes such powerhouse teams as the Lakers, Heat, Packers, Colts, Yankees—the list goes on and on.
There are a handful of muscle stimulation devices currently on the market, but some advertise such bold claims of muscle building and six-pack abs while sitting on the couch. Marc Pro keeps their claims a little more reasonable and believable. The electrical pulse of the Marc Pro causes the muscle to contract, which dilates the blood vessels, allowing for increased blood flow and the delivery of nutrients and removal of waste. All this results in reduced recovery time. After a few weeks of consistent use (five days a week for 30–60 minutes), Marc Pro claims one of the biggest benefits of the device occurs—angiogenesis, the growth of new blood vessels. More blood vessels equal better performance.
The rechargeable device is about one-third the size of this magazine in your hands and has two independent channels—A and B. Two adhesive electrode pads that stick to your skin connect to each channel and are placed on either the same muscle or on different muscle groups. Fortunately, the Marc Pro comes with a comprehensive user’s guide to find the best pad placement for the desired muscle, and once you use it a few times it becomes intuitive. Once the pads are in place, it’s time to crank it up. A dial for each channel controls the intensity level of the pulse; the higher intensity gives a harder muscle contraction. If you’ve never used a muscle stimulator before, it’s an interesting initial experience when your muscles are contracting involuntarily. It’s not painful whatsoever—just different.
We had the benefit of a long-term test with the Marc Pro, approximately nine months. As much as we would like to ride to fatigue each day, time constraints don’t usually allow us to, but we made the Marc Pro a daily habit, regardless of our level of activity for the day. It was easy enough to throw on the electrode pads when sitting at the desk and let the Marc Pro do its thing without it affecting us in the least, usually letting it pulse away for 45 –60 minutes. Initially, there weren’t any noticeable changes from day to day when doing our one- hour lunch hammer fests. It was after a big weekend of riding that we began to notice subtle differences, like reduced soreness and feeling less lethargic in the evening after a big ride. One of the testers rode all the stages of the Amgen Tour of California last May, and that’s when he was sold on it. Thirty hours in the saddle over seven days is hefty for anyone, especially for someone used to 10 or fewer hours a week of saddle time. The Marc Pro became a staple for surviving the week, just as important as eating and drinking. The most amazing thing noticed was its ability to prevent muscle issues. The tester had always suffered from a tight hamstring after a couple of days of hard riding, but addressing that area daily helped keep those issues at bay, allowing him to make it to the finish every day.
We can’t confirm that we’ve increased our number of blood vessels over the past nine months since using the Marc Pro, but the fact that we’re all fighting to be the first to use it post-ride should give you an idea if we think it’s of real benefit. It’s an investment for sure, but when you figure a massage is about $60 an hour, the Marc Pro starts to become justifiable, especially since it’s something that can be used daily or multiple times a day. It comes in a nifty carrying case complete with a wall charger and six packs of electrode pads. With clean skin, we’ve been getting about a month’s worth of daily use out of each pack of electrodes. A four-pack of replacements costs $9.