When I first hooked up to the Compex Sport Elite, a muscle stimulator intended to facilitate timesaving and productive workouts, I was shocked by how well it functioned. The stimulation process itself, as I later learned, is quite intricate: The device delivers electronic pulses to your nerve fibers via cables and electrodes (sticky pads you put on your body that conduct electricity), sparking muscle contractions. These contractions work the muscle more deeply, which “means enhanced efficiency and enhanced results.”

This was my first time experimenting with muscle stimulation, and suffice it to say, I wasn’t quite prepared for what would happen. I had two electrode pads plastered to my right quad and was instructed to do squats, while the machine helped build more and more resistance. My muscle shook tremendously as I upped the level of intensity, and I could sense that this little tool was going to work. It only took a few arduous reps for me to come to the realization that this thing was legit. Compex meant business.

The Sport Elite offers a tremendously wide range of services, all meant to support the athlete. The device consists of warm-up modes, which prepare your muscles for strenuous exercise in the same way stretching does, but quicker; workout modes, such as the resistance setting I initially tested; and recovery modes that squeeze the blood from capillary beds and flush lactic acid from the body at a rapid pace. Thus, it is possible to use the product for each phase of a standard workout. It is advised, however, that Compex be employed intermittently during a broader training routine to enhance certain exercises, not as a workout replacer.

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To dive further, there are multiple programs corresponding to each phase discussed above. For warm-up, there is both a pre-warm up and a potentiation function. For exercise, there are four separate approaches: strength, explosive strength, resistance and endurance; and for recovery, there is the active recovery program, the recovery plus, and the massage. All of these facets bring something slightly different to the table (as you can read about here), addressing specific needs for the athlete.

Zeroing in on the exercise programs, the people at Compex emphasized to me how all of their stimulators (not just the Sport Elite) enable something that no athlete can possibly replicate on his or her own: up to 100 percent muscle contraction. Not even the LeBron’s of the world can recruit more than 60 percent of the muscle group they are exercising. Think about it: When you do curls, you’re getting some lift from your wrist, some from your elbow and sometimes even a tad from a dip in your shoulder. This means that the bicep isn’t being worked to its full capacity. What Compex can do is eliminate the minor skirmishes, facilitating a perfect set of curls that works 100 percent of the muscle, expediting the time needed to build-up strength.

So let’s consider this in the context of what a basketball player might want to develop. Hook the machine up to your quads, glutes and calves amidst a training session. Do squats, lunges, step-ups, etc. Over time, the 100 percent contraction applied to these muscle groups will enhance them significantly, translating to a heightened vertical leap.

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Perhaps the coolest thing about Compex is how it can assist injured athletes. During rehab, those with significant injuries are usually advised not to lift weights that strain the afflicted area. Compex devices circumvent this issue, allowing one not only to help relieve an injured hamstring, but also strengthen the muscle in the process.

Each Compex comes with a tutorial video and a number of pamphlets displaying where electrodes should be placed on the body. These products are more complicated than one might anticipate, and users should understand what they’re doing before getting to work. Safety guidelines can be found here.

My experience provides one very real warning about Compex: Depending on the program, the contraction at a high level can lead to immense soreness. After all, you’re getting far more work on the area than you’re used to. When I spoke to the people at Compex, they emphasized that their products, which are FDA-cleared, are safe and effective when used properly. They can, however, give you that profound soreness.

But most athletes desperately crave this soreness. Most athletes know that this soreness means the work is paying off. Most athletes can’t live without this soreness.

No pain, no gain.

That’s Compex.

Compex products can be purchased online here.