I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t greet the opportunity to test the Marc Pro Muscle Recovery and Conditioning Device with some hesitation. I’m not sure if this hesitation emanated from a primordial fear of applying electricity to my body, or if it instead teetered on snake oil skepticism. But, in the midst of this internal dialogue, I remembered, oh yeah, I used to use something just like this in physical therapy after a reconstructive knee surgery.
With my fear subsided, I remembered just how effective it is to have a tool like this in your recovery war chest. In other words, I was excited to try it.
Admittedly, unpacking the Marc Pro’s carrying case feels more like unwrapping a medical kit than a recovery tool. It features a host of literature, about half of which is dedicated to warnings running the gamut of heart failure to your esophagus closing involuntarily. Then, there are slates of reusable electrodes, two connection wires, an AC charger cable, and the device itself. At the time, it felt like it was only missing a syringe. What can I say, I’m cynical by nature.
I have to say that, at first, the vast amount of warnings were off putting. It seemed like there were a myriad of awful ways for the Marc Pro to kill you. In actuality, though, you just need to keep the electrodes the hell away from your heart and neck. Well, and never, ever use it if you have a pacemaker. But after I was done reading, and I made mental note of the proper muscle groupings to apply the electrodes to, the thought of death by recovery quickly slid away.
The Marc Pro sends electrical pulses via four electrodes that you place at the muscle groupings of your choosing. “MARC” is actually an acronym for “Muscle Activated Recovery Cascade.” The electrical impulses create non-fatiguing muscle contractions that stimulate the production and activation of Nitric Oxide in the body. Essentially, this chemical dilates the blood vessels, which, in turn, leads to an increase in oxygenated bloodflow and nutrients to the desired area. As a result, post-exercise residual waste and deoxygenated blood is “flushed” from the fatigue areas. And by performing this task without any added fatigue, the recovery process is heavily accelerated. Marc Pro’s research has shown that a process called angiogenisis occurs. Basically, this means that your muscles develop more capillary blood vessels over time, which equates to the receiving of more oxygenated blood come race day.
Like all things recovery, you have a relatively short window after exercise to make the most of it. After rides, I would take a quick shower, put my shortest of short shorts on, and get ready for electricity time. First, you need to get situated, because it’s a real pain in the ass to walk around carrying the device while it’s hooked up to your body and zapping you — kind of like a Frankenstein shuffle. This means that you need your food, water, book, or whatever, right at your disposal before you plug in.
Once you’re set up, it’s time to start connecting. It’s a really simple process to connect the main unit to the electrodes. However, I first made the mistake of having them on at a low pulse before I applied them to my legs, resulting in a quick jolt to the finger — kind of felt like I reached into a mouse trap.
Instead of making the same mistake as me, keep the power off, apply the electrodes to the muscle groups that you need worked on, and slowly turn up the juice on the two dials of the device to a threshold that feels comfortable. To start, you might want to keep the output at 3, but after a couple of sessions, you’ll feel more inclined to pump it up — I’m steady rollin’ at 7.5. In terms of duration, the manual says that you should hold a session for around an hour per muscle group, but given that you can only work two muscle groups per leg at a time, I’ve been doing two sessions at 30 minutes apiece. This way, I’m able to tackle the quads, hamstrings, and calves.
When it comes down to overall comfort, the process really isn’t uncomfortable at all. Yes, your muscles are going to contract and release to the point that it looks like something is trying to escape your body from the inside out, but it’s actually rather soothing. And once the session is done, you’ll feel a little wobble legged for about 10 minutes. Just something to keep in mind if you have to drive anywhere immediately after.
The short answer is yes. Admittedly, though, I’m no scientist, so I don’t blame you if you take this admission with a grain of salt. On big days, a Vega Nutrition shake, food, and an hour with the Marc Pro nearly eliminates next-day lethargy. I beg you to remember that it’s not some miracle product, though. If you rode hard enough and long enough to feel sore the next day, you’re still going to experience some residual effects of your ride. But on the whole, the difference in recovery time between Marc Pro sessions and those without it is very noticeable.
Time. The hour of time doing nothing is the biggest drawback, well that and really weirding out your wife for said hour. It’s understandable that there isn’t an on-the-go version of this product, but it’s still kind of a drag. Outside of this, the electrodes are a little painful to remove if you’re not shaved down, but the tackiness is appreciated given their four-plus-time usage. A positive spin is that it gives you a credible excuse to shave your legs. Then again, the initial oddity of your quads involuntarily undulating actually makes this a pretty terrible excuse.
It works, but it’s not for everyone. If you’re seriously racing, which I’m not, this is an indispensable tool for your strength training and recovery. For the more plebian rider, though, you’d benefit more from an extra hour in the saddle, not on the couch recovering. Regardless, we all need a little help recovering after a big day out, and I can say with confidence that the Marc Pro will accelerate just that.