In my journey to find the ultimate and most efficient training methods, I came across the next stop in my quest at Dave Asprey's Bulletproof Conference back in January. There I met Dr. Justin Marchegiani of Just In Health and Jay Schroeder and Charles Maka of EVOultrafit.
Both of them specialize in using electrostim devices made by ARPWave to enhance treatment of muscle and movement issues and results in training. Yes, think Rocky IV where they had shots of Dolph Lundgren training with electrostim pads stuck to his chest! This is, of course, the real thing. Apparently, the Russians had pioneered the use of electrostim in training many years back. Now here with ARPWave, they have brought this to the public here in the US and it works great. Rather than attempting the long explanation of how it works, see the ARPWave How It Works description.
Dr. Justin is a chiropractor and nutritionist and he trained under Dr. Jay Pietila in his In-Balance system which uses the ARP devices to first determine where muscle imbalances are, and, then, to treat them. The In-Balance Technique can evaluate "neurological signaling from the brain to the body" and determine if they are balanced via strategic placement of the electrodes and moving them around the body. Injuries and rehabilitation can both also be done with similar methods.
I went to Dr. Justin for several treatments and it was fascinating to see him probe my body with the electrodes, sometimes seeing myself jump in reaction. These were areas of concern and showed dysfunction and imbalances. He then stuck electrodes on those areas, turned up the power, and then had me do movements. With the power cranked, compensation patterns appear and I was forced to do the movements correctly, without compensation patterns and fighting through the intensity of the electrostimulation (see more info on ARP Therapy). The sessions were so intense that I had delayed onset muscle soreness for days after! Not sleeping enough, nor eating enough didn't help my recovery. But after about the 3rd visit, I started seeing some great results.
For example, I had a nagging problem with my TFL (Tensor Fasciae Latae) muscle, a small muscle on my hip. It always seemed to be firing and was taut all day long, which is pretty annoying. I tried everything to get it to calm down but nothing really worked. With Dr. Justin's probing, we figured out that it was not the TFL but my Sartorius muscle, which attaches in the same place as the TFL. He hooked that muscle up, stimmed the hell out of it while forcing me to walk in place and do squats. Soon after (well, after the soreness went away!) I didn't feel my TFL/Sartorius any more!
Around the same time, I began a training program with Jay and Charles at EVOUltrafit. And of course I had to own one of these electrostim bad boys myself - so I plunked down some cash to get one and wanted to see if training the EVO way would help rid myself of some nagging problems I've had, like cramping out in the last half of marathons. But also, according to Jay and Charles, the use of the electrostim machine not only prepares me physically for athletic pursuits, it also stimulates my CNS (central nervous system) and all sorts of other things start to work better, like my glands, hormones, digestion, cognition, and thinking. I didn't care about the cost - this sounded like the answer to all my problems all at once! I bought one of their POVsport devices, which is the consumer version of the electrostim devices.
A table full of POVs!
Charles Maka hooking me up
I submitted a thorough evaluation. I ran set distances, and did some physical tests. I also submitted videos of me doing some typical workouts. It wasn't pretty. They wanted to see me hop on one leg, on two legs, sprint some distances - pretty bad since I hadn't done anything for months!
They came back with a program that uses what they call "isoextremes" which are isometric hold type exercises. The four I started with are:
Me doing a wall squat hooked up with electrodes
The way these exercises are done aren't probably the way most people think they are done. For example, the lunge is not an exercise which works the quads; instead, you are supposed to pull the lead leg into a leg curl via the hamstrings, and the rear leg is supposed to have tension pulling it back and upwards. Many of these isoextremes seek to teach the body how to lengthen muscles which may normally think we'd want to tense up in order to do the isometric exercises. It also seems that these isoextremes also train the nervous system to react in the proper way to movements and absorbing force - somehow they have found that holding static positions can train the nervous system to act while moving. Pretty cool stuff!
They gave me specific electrode placements based on issues they saw in the videos. Being experienced coaches/trainers/therapists, they didn't need to see me live; they could pick out all my problems just by looking at my doing some movements. While the isoextremes can train me by doing them alone, they are more effective when combined with a POVsport unit and proper electrostimulation of the right muscles.
I then proceeded to train on their protocols. Before each workout, I would "loosen" using the POVsport. Depending on the settings, the POVsport can cause muscles to be conditioned or loosened - the waveform it generates is patented and is not like other electrostim units. I was skeptical at first but loosening works pretty well. The stim magnifies your normal loosening movements and helps warm up the body while causing muscles to release their tightness.
Each movement is about 8 minutes in duration, doing 1 minute of work with a minute of rest. At first, they were pretty unfamiliar and difficult. Adding the electrostim coursing through various muscles didn't help as my muscles were thrumming at many many times per second. In the power output of the POVsport, level 100 is the level at which the body, it it can tolerate it, will experience no compensatory patterns at all. So a goal is to get to power level 100 at some point.
I also joined up with their monthly webinar series. The first one was interesting - it's an hour of discussion and teaching through personal experiences with the POV via protocols that Jay/Charles give us, and then we observe the results after about a month. Fascinating stuff and I think necessary to really learn how to get the most out of my POV. Hooking electrodes up yourself without direction is a pretty dangerous thing - there are stories of people overloading their CNS accidentally and throwing them into a state of "restoration" which means they are mimicking a state of severe sickness and weakness! Bad news. Think I'll walk slowly and with lots of direction....
What results after about a month of EVO training?
Some tightness - my body has a "fear" reaction to this foreign stimulus of electrostim and seems to cause some tightness in their overnight protocols while sleeping. But I switched to another one they gave us during the webinar and the tightness went away!
Some of the results were masked by me getting conjunctivitis and a spring time allergy attack. Also lack of sleep from new young kids in the house doesn't help. But on days when I do get a good sleep, I can see a marked increase in ability - I think my resources get too tied up with managing the lack of sleep mostly and also the occasional malady that has hit over the last few weeks.
Interestingly enough, my deadlift movement has a new feeling. Before EVO workouts, I would deadlift my kids off the ground for practice, or my kettlebells or barbells and have to clench my glutes or "close off my sphincter" to make sure I am getting proper posterior chain activation. But after I started EVO training, all of a sudden I was feeling both glutes AND hamstring activation, which is better and exactly what I want! This is an awesome result.
Some of the lengthening aspects of the isoextremes have also worked well. On the standing push up, I can nearly relax my pecs so much and get them to lengthen upon contraction of my lats so much that I can nearly pull myself through a doorway. The wall squat seems to have gotten easier but it's still a willpower challenge. Hanging from the scapular pull up, I can lengthen my lats quite a bit, but my grip suffers a ton. Charles tells me this is natural although I wish my grip were better. The lunge seems to be working on one side better. I can really flex my glutes/hams on my left side (left leg back, right leg forward) to lengthen my hip flexor and quads, but not so well with my right leg back.
The whole thing is fascinating as an experiment in using an external device to help with my training and improving aspects of my physical condition. I am looking forward to further training with the POV unit to accelerate training and fitness, and to run a marathon without cramping!