It’s been a long time since I’ve done a kit review here, but I thought I’d get to the keyboard to write up Amit my new Compex electric muscle stimulator.
Compex manufactures electrical devices that simulate muscles in the body through the application of a current, applied by sticky pads. They are similar to TENS machines that you can buy in your local pharmacy, but are designed to recruit more muscle fibres than a TENS machine. They also have different programs for different muscle groups and training goals, but I’ll come on to that shortly. First, let’s look at their range.
The range of products that Compex offers can be overwhelming at first, and I spent hours researching the devices. The Fit range didn’t do enough for me to differentiate it from lower end devices. The SP range was what I focused on. SP 2.0 only had two channels, limiting options for the programs the device offers. The SP 4.0 offers 4 channels and more programs, but with that many channels, I was concerned about the number of wires. The Compex SP 6.0 hot the sweet spot for me: 4 channels and no wires. Sure it didn’t have as many programs as the SP8.0, but when was I ever likely to use all of the functionality? This was always likely to be an extra tool in my training/recovery arsenal, but not the only one. And for those who are curious, the SP 8.0 WOD is just an 8 with a camo colourway and a higher price tag!
Straight out of the box the Compex 6.0 was impressive. A USB chargeable controller, four remotely controllable activation units, lots of sticky pads to affix the units to your body, plus a charging station and handy carrying bag. The pairing between the controller and units was seamless, but the placement of sticky pads takes some trial and error. If you are working on your back, you’re likely to need someone to help with the placement.
The units click onto the sticky pads, and each has its own button to power it on: the controller will advise on placement based on the training program, and will tell you when to turn on the units. The controller also turns the units off for you when you turn the controller itself off: a nice touch.
Why did I go for a Compex with four channels? So I could make use of some of their more elaborate programs which require the placement of multiple units on one side of the body, so you can with both sides (e.g. quads) at the same time, halving the time taken compared to a 2 channel Compex.
The first time I used the Compex, I went for a leg workout, lasting about half an hour. The Compex detects the appropriate level of current to apply (which can be manually adjusted per channel), starting with an easy warm up before the main workout, where you are then advised to increase the current to your “maximum”. I did so with gusto, ignoring warnings from other reviews that I was going to enter a world of pain.
The workout was satisfactory, or so I thought. Afterwards, removing the units didn’t take too long. Placing them back into the charging station is a bit fiddly, but fortunately they don’t need to be charged after every use. The sticky pads do smart a bit if you apply them to hairy body parts! After the workout, I could feel that my legs had been exercised, but I it was only the following day that DOMS really started to set in, and I struggled to walk for a few more days after! The advice that I’ll repeat now is to respect the Compex and start off easy with it. On my arms and abs, there’s a similar delay of muscle soreness, so get to know your limits so you are not out of action for days!
Would I recommend buying one? It’s probably not an essential piece of kit at the amateur enthusiast level, but it’s a respectable unit that blows away any cheap competition. I’ve found myself working on my abs during video conference calls (video off so others don’t see me wincing!) and the recovery programs are also good before a big effort on the bike. After a few months of use, it’s still operating as it should. The sticky pads are a faff but there’s no alternative to that. In summary, this is a high end device that can help supplement your training and recovery, and is just portable enough to take with you on trips away.
Let me know if you end up buying one!