Review: shock therapy with Compex SP8.0

If you follow the racing and social media exploits of any of our elite trail athletes, you may have noticed the random growth of strange white discs on their wearied post-race legs, as seen on a myriad of athlete Instagram and Facebook posts. What you’re seeing is the application of electro muscular stimulation (EMS), a new wave of self-applied treatment using old (but updated) technology that promises  to refresh your legs quicker than Kilian can knock off a suburban Park Run (can you imagine that?). Elite Salomon/Suunto runner and Skyrunning ANZ athlete representative, Caine Warburton, gives the lowdown on an EMS offering from Compex, the SP8.0. 


As our world develops in leaps and bounds it is no surprise that we are seeing ever advancing techniques, textiles and technologies popup in the running arena. When it comes to running, such advancements, for the most part, allow many more of us to achieve greater results with our bodies than we could have 20 years ago.

Electro Muscular Stimulation (EMS) is a technology that fits the bill here. EMS has been used in the medical industry for rehabilitation and recovery by physiotherapists for over 30 years, however in more recent years the value of EMS in a dedicated sports application has been proven by Olympic athletes and specifically trail runners including Salomon’s Killian Jornet and Emile Forsberg.

EMS works by replicating the natural muscle contraction by electrical stimulation disseminated by conductive electrodes placed on the body. EMS has many sporting applications such as strength training, power, endurance, muscle hypotrophy, recovery, pain management and more. However, in this review we will focus solely on its application in terms of recovery and rehabilitation.

The brand Compex started working with medical EMS in 1986 under the guise of medical giant DJO GLOBAL and was the first to facilitate personal (at home) EMS use in 1996. Improvements in technology and processes have resulted in the latest offering, the completely wireless SP 8.0 model.TJ0_7387

The SP 8.0 is the top of the range sports-orientated electrostimulaor on the market. It features wireless connection to four separate stimulation modules, 40 pre-set training programs, 4 separate stimulation channels, a rapid 2hr charge battery time and a 3-year warranty.

Although the SP 8.0 has many applications such as strength and endurance training, when it comes to recovery and rehab it has 17 dedicated programs for anything from training recovery and massage to tendinitis programs.

The Recovery/Massage programs in the SP 8.0 include:SP_8.0

  • Training Recovery: To recovery after a physical effort.
  • Competition Recovery: To recover after intense muscle fatigue
  • Reduce Muscle Soreness: To reduce the duration and intensity of muscle soreness Ie DOMS
  • Relaxing Massage: To generate a relaxing effect
  • Reviving Massage: To relieve feelings of tiredness

The Recovery/Massage programs are, like any good recovery activity, designed to increase the muscle blood flow thus decreasing toxic waste by-products in the muscle and increasing the distribution of nutrients to the (now stressed and damaged) muscle. To achieve this the individual programs, use a variety of low intensity (shallow) muscle contractions/twitches in a range of sequences and frequencies.

Compex claims that the benefits of these programs include (when compared to traditional training alone):

  • Reduction in lactic acid by 25% (Warren CD, Brown LE, Landers MR, Stahura KA – Strength Cond Res. 2011)
  • Increase in blood flow by 300% (Zicot M, Rigaux PF, 1995) Mt Buller

The pain management and Rehabilitation programs in the Sp 8.0 include:

  • Pain Management TENS: To alleviate all types of localised pain
  • Reduce Muscle Tension: To decrease muscle tension/tightness
  • Muscle pain: To create analgesic actions to block pain
  • Neck pain: To treat pain in the neck
  • Back pain: to treat pain in the back
  • Lumbago: To block the transmission of acute lower back pain
  • Epicondylitis: To decrease persistent elbow pains (tennis elbow)
  • Tendinitis: To decrease persistent tendinitis
  • Heavy Legs: To eliminate a heavy legs sensation
  • Cramp prevention: To assist to prevent cramps
  • Muscle Atrophy: to regain muscle volume lost via inactivity or injury.
  • Reinforcement: To complete rehabilitation once muscles have reached normal volumes.

To help the average runner to get the most out of electrostimulation use, Compex has developed a range of technologies known as Muscle Intelligence (MI) that are included on the SP 8.0 model. The first of these is MI-Autorange, which does the thinking for you and automatically scans your muscle and sets the optimum intensity of contraction for the outcome of the program.

MI – Range scans and indicates the optimum range of stimulation while MI – Tens used during a Tens (pain relief) program automatically decreases the intensity if a muscle contraction is created.

Practical use:

I found the Compex to be surprisingly easy to use despite its wide range of applications and in depth medical background. The user interface is very straight forward and even uses pictograms to indicate where electrodes should be placed and in which body position programs should be conducted. However understanding how each programs works and what it is best used for in detail needed some user manual referencing.

For the Recovery and Rehabilitation programs (as described above) the focus is on more gentle contractions or tingling (Tens) style stimulation compared to the intense deep contractions of strength training, as such its little surprise that most of these programs feel really nice when applied to the muscles.



Personally, I have used the programs: Training Recovery; Heavy Legs; and Reduce Muscle Soreness. All have aided recovery after a hard training session in preparation for the next day. I noticed that my legs felt looser and peppier the next day, more so than they usually would. While I am yet to really test the effectiveness of the Cramp Prevention program (as I haven’t raced recently) this program is one of the most interesting, as cramp effects many runners.

During the time of this review I have been working around some tendinitis in my ankle which I have been using the Tendinitis and TENS programs on regularly. While tendinitis is a difficult beast to shake I am getting noticeable pain relief using the TENS style programs on the Compex, although I have noted that electrode placement can be difficult to get right when working around bony structures such as the ankle.


After 12 weeks of using the Compex SP 8.0 I can definitely see its advantages as a recovery/rehabilitation tool alone, I am waking up fresher and getting that extra bit out of my hard training sessions. The programs are well set up and are effective at reducing soreness and promoting muscle recovery by increasing blood flow and blocking pain.

The other major advantage of the Compex is that I can fit it around my hectic life. In the busy schedule of a Dad/Husband/Fireman/Elite Athlete recovery is usually the first thing to go out the window when time runs out, but with the Compex I have found I can achieve some effective training recovery after everything is done while I watch TV and relax at night or during my lunch break at work.

There is no denying that the EMS provided by Compex can be a valuable addition to an effective training program and assist runners to achieve more with their running. However, it won’t replace contemporary recovery measures, you will still need to stretch and when needed ice!

REVIEWED BY Caine Warburton, Skyrunning ANZ Athlete Representative, elite Salomon/Suunto runner and blogger at


Price: Compex Sp 8.0 $1725 RRP
Local Retailer: Find Your feet
Manufacturer Website:
Scientific studies:


Screenshot 2016-04-11 21.50.21




Editorial: Yin to the Yang

Editorial: AU Editor Chris Ord looks at the balance, or lack of, in his trail running lifestyle. This editorial appears in the current edition (17) of Trail Run Mag, downloadable for FREE here

Mt BullerIn my natural state, I am chaotic, unorganised, and essentially a lazy individual.

But sometimes life demands more of you.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still that same person sitting on the couch, eating fish and chips and ice cream watching endless episodes of Breaking Bad, wondering if my shed will be suitable to run an easy-money meth lab.

But somehow, today, life as a runner has demanded a little more of me. A little more organisation. A little more responsibility. A little more effort.

And, as a runner, it is demanding a lot more attention to detail than perhaps my personality has inclination toward. Attention to detail like, umm, training.

Essentially I’m on a mission to balance my running life of unpredictable, unstructured and unplanned running yīn with, for the first time, equal amounts of rigid, structured, charted-training-plan running yáng.

Now my yīn (shady side) is like Darth Vader’s force within (powerful and looking for total domination); the yáng (sunny side) is like pre-Yoda coached Luke Skywalker, all wide-eyed naïve and a little lost.

Barely two weeks in and I’m fumbling with the demands of scheduled training like Luke fumbles with the realization he’s related to Princess Lea. It’s awkward to watch.

My yīn approach to trail running has long been one of as-and-when-the-whim-strikes I’ll go for a training run. Trust me, the whim never struck at 5am. And if it did, I missed it, being fast asleep and all.

The whim that did win out on occasion is the one that had me entering long(ish) trail events without sufficient lead-in training. That mostly ended in all sorts of agonizing wrongness (particularly embarrassing was the needless call out of ‘medic!’ at the finishline of Shotover Mountain Marathon). I am responsible for all my own embarrassing demises, of course, and that is one thing I do take full responsibility for. Indeed I usually document it, see TRM Edition 12 for the Shotover tale.

But the time has come to see if there’s any Jedi lurking within. Reason being, I have committed to an expedition run in the high Himalayas. It’s a project that would be fine to approach with a death-by-cramp-at-altitude-wish if it were just me up there. But on this expedition I will be responsible for guiding other runners. And if there’s one thing that will make me sit up at 5am on a crisp winter morning, it is the realisation that I’m to be responsible for other people’s lives as they trot up to 5000 metres at a rate of incline that risks death from cerebral or pulmonary edema. Even tapping that out makes me sweat more than my scheduled hill repeats ever will. It also induces me to do them. At 5.05am.

And so in search of my inner-Jedi, I have sought some Yoda-wisdom where the Force I’m aiming to tap into is conditioning and strength. While I can (mostly) blag the distances and I’ve completed a wilderness first aid course so medical knowledge is covered, it’s the strength and abating of injuries and cramps that I need to tackle. The latter is my Death Star nemesis (exhibit A: a near-death banshee screaming session as seen in Run The Planet, a TV show pilot that underscored my ill-preparedness, in that instance at 93km in a desert. Google it. Not in a workplace. Swearing involved).

So the yáng to my yīn has materialised in the form of not just one structured approach to training, but two, the other side of my personality being always to put in three chillis when the recipe says one and generally over-salt everything.

And while I wouldn’t say that I am yet to latch onto Skywalker’s singleminded focus (The Force is a long way from my grasp), I have managed to jump on the Bulletproof Legs bandwagon, a program from the crew at Brewsters Running. Then there’s an adjunct program from Lee Harris, a mid-east based Brit who is a multiday running machine and owner of Lifestyle Fitness Management. His knowledge about holistic training methodologies and a focus on core strength gives me faith he understands where I need to get to with this new-fangled yáng approach.

To my own disbelief, I’m enjoying the structure and routine. It’s a work in progress, my idea of ‘routine’ a long way from winning any Anally Retentive OCD award, but on trail I am seeing, even in these early days, results. Whowouldathunkit?

Even better, I’m enjoying the yīn side of my running more so thanks to the late arrival of yáng. On an impromptu jungle run in the Otway Ranges, south west Victoria, we ran in with not enough water (there were waterfalls so we were safe), no food and no idea how long we’d be in there for. The reward was one of the most stunning waterfalls I’ve seen standing proud in an ancient forest far from any human impost. It was wild and remote goodness, off the chart. What made it possible and enjoyable was the fact that I’d been training. The foundations are only a brick session or two in. And the Otway run topped out at roughly 200 metres above sea level, not 5000, so we’re not on training parity just yet. But I love that my new yáng is complementary to (rather than opposing) my beloved yīn. Light cannot exist without shadow. Performance cannot exist without training (it’s finally sunk in). And for my money, a training program will never be truly leveraged without the chaos of a whimsical wilderness run where anything can happen, but the legs are bulletproof enough to withstand it.

Your getting-more-balanced editor, Chris Ord

Check out the latest edition of Trail Run Mag by downloading for FREE here.

Mt Buller

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 4.19.46 pm


Making Moves on Strava

Suunto today announced that it is joining forces with Strava, the online network connecting the global community of athletes.

From today, Suunto’s Ambit watches can be used with Strava’s service, which lets members share and compare their GPS-tracked activities with friends. In addition, sports enthusiasts will also now be able to buy select Suunto products through the Strava shop.

To celebrate the partnership, Suunto and Strava have launched the Suunto Sisu Challenge. Inspired by the Finnish word for bravery and determination, the challenge is an invitation for Strava members to push their limits and run 65 km (40 miles) between May 17th and June 1st, 2014.

Members who complete the challenge within the 16 day period will have the opportunity to buy an Ambit2 R, Suunto’s GPS watch for runners, and receive a free Suunto heart rate belt and a three-month Strava Premium membership. Premium membership provides in-depth analytics including heart rate analysis and other tools to help athletes stay motivated, train effectively, and have fun.

“This partnership between Suunto and Strava has been requested by Suunto fans and we are delighted to be able to offer this to running and cycling enthusiasts,” said  Janne Kallio, head of digital marketing at Suunto. “It provides a great new added value for all Suunto owners and gives Strava members a new range of product options. I can’t wait to start racing with my Suunto Ambit2 in local Strava segments.”

“We are excited to partner with Suunto and welcome their community of athletes to Strava with the Suunto Sisu Challenge,” said David Lorsch, vice president of strategy and business development at Strava. “Suunto’s watches give runners and cyclists everything they need to take full advantage of the motivational tools offered exclusively through Strava Premium membership.”

Suunto’s compatibility is based on automatic data transfer between, Suunto’s online sports community, and Strava. Any running or cycling data tracked with a Suunto GPS watch, is automatically transferred to Strava from

To find out how to get started with Strava, go to In just a few steps you can ensure all your Moves are automatically synced to both Movescount and Strava.


Gear: new Suunto Ambit2 R

Suunto launches new Ambit2/S GPS watches