About 3 weeks back, I tweaked my left knee. I was practicing some medicine ball cleans after I took a Crossfit Level 1 Trainer weekend seminar and on one of rise ups from the clean, my left knee must have drifted inward and I got a twinge of pain on the outside of the knee. I was hoping it would go away, but it didn’t. It lingered and was making my leg not feel correct.
I then remembered reading about how therapists were using the ARPwave electrostim machines to help people heal faster from knee injuries. I had already tried out their Search & Destroy (S&D). But going for only a session or two on a given problem didn’t give me longevity on the solution. The problem seemed to get better for a while and then it came back.
Also since I train with an ARPwave POV, we often talk about how to reinforce a training state for a long period of time. If an athlete can get to max power on the ARPwave POV and complete 40 sessions at this power with no compensation, they can maintain this heightened training state for as long as a sports season, maybe longer.
With this in mind, I thought back to the fact that my previous S&D sessions seemed to provide a solution to the physical problems I had, but it was short lived. I also thought to the fact that some people will rent one of their therapeutic machines, the RX100 or Trainer, and live with it for many weeks. Putting two and two together, I figured that if I were to rent a machine and use it nearly every day for many days until the problem was solved, then I could get more completeness in the treatment and longevity in the results.
I rented a Trainer from ARPwave Austin. Via a Skype video call, they led me through In-Balance technique (mimicking a technique that chiropractors do with physical manipulation), then S&D on the left leg. S&D found some “hotspots” on the top of my rectus femoris, and along my vastus lateralis, and another lesser “hot” spot on my vastus medialis (VMO). Choosing the two hotter spots, I put stim pads on them:
Now came the fun part. My movement was to squat 5 times, and then increase power, over a period of 5 minutes on one polarity and then repeat with reverse polarity. At maximum frequency of 500 pulses per second (PPS), my muscles quickly contracted into big knots as I increased power! When I reached my current tolerance, I would then perform 5 squats. Adaptation (amazingly) occurs within the 5 squats, and now it doesn’t feel so bad any more. I crank the power again and once again my leg muscles seize up. Then I force my way through 5 squats, finding that it gets easier with each rep. I adapt once again! I crank the power again, grimacing at the new higher level. I repeat the squat reps, and adding power in between sets.
I should also say I learned my lesson from my first times with S&D – if you don’t eat enough, you’ll be horribly sore for days after. So now whenever I do S&D, I drink a protein drink of about 37g of protein (2 scoops BCAAs 10g, 3 scoops Muscle Synthesis 22g, 2 Tbsp Upgraded Collagen) before and after the S&D. Then I also try to eat .75lb – 1lb of beef or lamb in the meals following. By doing this, I manage to stay soreness-free and am able to be recovered enough to do S&D the next day.
I did this on as many days as possible following. There were definitely days off in between, but I tried to do it every day. Each day, I managed to reach max power a little earlier until I could just put it up to max power on the first try. The rectus femoris hotspot disappeared very quickly, and I switched to working the VMO instead.
My VMOs deserve some further discussion. The first inkling I had there was trouble with them was running the NYC Marathon and then the LA Marathon. In both times, I was pushing hard but miles before the finish, my right VMO cramped out on me. Then, during training with EVOultrafit and my POV, I always found that my VMOs, if they were part of an electrostim pad placement, limited my ability to take high power. As soon as I reached a certain level, they would seize up and prevent me from moving.
It turns out that as a training tool, the POV tries to get your muscles to be used to firing at a higher rate and with stronger contractions, thereby allowing it to perform at a higher level.
I was not surprised that a hotspot was also found on the left VMO, and so after my rectus femurs hotspot disappeared, I switched to working on my VMO. Sure enough it seized up, but going through the S&D protocol, I was able to more quickly increase power and adaptation to high rates of contraction and contraction strength.
After reaching max power on the ARP Trainer on the first interval of movements, I moved onto the strengthening phase.
This involved putting the pads on both sides of my body, first putting them on the original hotspots on the left leg, and then mirroring them on the right leg. So now, I was going to hit up my right VMO but without having the benefit of going through some days of Trainer work on it. As soon as I powered up my first strengthening phase, I marveled at the difference in feeling between my left VMO, which was just sitting there taking the power, and my right VMO, which had seized up but was adapting quickly.
Strengthening involved three movements:
1. Stomp Squat – you are sitting, then stomp both feet on the ground to shoot yourself to standing.
2. Isometric Hamstring Curls – you are sitting, then try to pull your feet into the ground via your hamstrings as well as curl the heels back.
I did 1 and 2 alternating for about 10 minutes. In between each pair of movements, I would attempt to increase power a little more until I was at maxa power. After the 10 minutes, I would jump into:
3. Standing Leg Extensions – stand on one leg, bring other leg up to horizontal. Kick out foot, pause for 1 count, then bring back. Repeat on both sides.
This I did for 5 minutes. Once again, I was supposed to increase power, but by this time I had already adapted to max power and just did these straight through.
I did strengthening until I could achieve max power on the first interval. The limiting factor was my right VMO which had to come up the adaptation curve.
The last piece was a sprint test, to make sure there was no more pain at all. I was to run sprints, 10 at 50% effort, 10 at 75% effort, and then 10 at 100% effort. If there was any pain of about 2 out of 10 or above, I was to stop and keep going at strengthening.
So I got on my old running shoes, not looking forward to this as I had not run at all since 2012! I managed to get up to 100% for 6 reps, at which time my right groin was getting super tight. Not wanting to risk a groin pull, I stopped (and also because my times were starting to rise and I could not keep up 100% effort). It was, however, good enough evidence that the process was completed and that I could be back in action.
My thinking now is that while some issues can be resolved with only one session of S&D, there are some issues that require more regular time with the protocol. It was definitely worth it to rent the machine first to address my left knee tweak, and then get my VMOs to a higher level of performance.
I am really curious, however, on whether or not my right VMO will cramp out again during a marathon. This will have to wait – too busy to train for such a long event, and I hope I can maintain its level of performance until I get time to train again.
Now that I had this ARP Trainer here, I decided to keep it for a few more weeks and address another nagging problem: my left shoulder which gets sore during wide grip pullups and swimming. Stay tuned for part II.