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How you can recover like an elite athlete with these 6 recovery devices. Step up your game today

Athletes will try anything to get an edge on the competition.[1]

And their interest in any recovery device sparks our curiosity. Because we all know that if we used the same devices to recover. Then we would all be superstars.

And luckily for us. These recovery devices get more accessible every day. Check out these 6 recovery devices creeping up from behind the scenes of sports science.

1 – Whole Body Cryotherapy

Found at selected spas, gyms and health centers across the USA. Check your area for a trial session that typically costs between $50-100. Get lucky and you could stumble upon a free trial.

Frigid air blast your whole body during treatment inside a liquid nitrogen gas chamber. Inside the chamber the air temperature drops to between -180°F to -250°F. This results in a drop of a person’s skin surface temperature to 30-50°F. Your treatment last for roughly 2-3 minutes. And this helps the body promote healing and release endorphins.

The Dallas Mavericks believed it gave them a key edge during their 2011 championship run.[2] And many athletes swear that the endorphins it promotes after a tough workout help them bounce back the next day because you feel good. If you got the time, money and a location near you. Then Google will provide you with some options.

(Received permission from The Locker Minneapolis, LLC to embed the above video in this article for syndication on 9-23-14)

2 – Sequential air compression devices

Both legs rest inside giant boots. Divided into multiple chambers from the foot to the upper thigh. A generator pump fills chambers with air applying intermittent pressure to different sections of the leg. With the goal of applying pressure to the foot area. And gradually moving pressure up the leg towards the heart to help cycle blood and promote recovery. You can get your fix with NormaTec Recovery Systems, Recovery Pump Boots and Revita Pump for approximately $500. A version for your arms, shoulders and chest cost roughly $350.

Used by basketball athletes like: Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal, Ray Allen, Blake Griffin and Steve Nash. And used by football athletes like: Larry Legend aka Fitzgerald, Vernon Davis and Patrick Willis.

(Received permission from NormaTec to embed the above video in this article for syndication on 8-22-14)

3 – Altitude chambers

These units get pricey to buy. But you can rent one for roughly $175 per week. Unfortunately, the rental comes with a four week minimum. And only 8 payments go towards the overall cost of purchase.

Ideal for endurance athletes. And used to help increase your red blood cell count to boost your blood’s oxygen carrying capacity. An altitude chamber replicates living in high altitude elevations. Which helps you recover faster.

Live high, train low. And then reap the rewards when competing.

Hypoxico, the go to brand for altitude chambers (rental details mentioned above). Their units work by adding more nitrogen to the air. Which results in a lower percentage of oxygen consumed per breath.

While you can also use them for any daily leisure activities. You want to use their units when you sleep. You begin the acclimation process at 5,000 feet of altitude when sleeping. And then you add 500 feet of altitude per night until you reach 9,000 feet. The level that maximizes high quality sleep with the benefits of altitude living.[3]

Used by athletes like: Michael Phelps, Larry Fitzgerald, Dwayne Wade, Lebron James, BJ Penn, and Manchester United.

They also make a portable mask unit, as does GO2Altitude, that you can use with stationary exercises. This type of intermittent hypoxic training makes your workouts harder. As you breathe less oxygen during exercise. [4]

If you plan on using an altitude training system. Then you should also purchase a pulse oximeter for safety and effectiveness reasons. This will allow you to monitor and measure your blood oxygen saturation percentage (SaO2%) and heart rate. You want a blood oxygen saturation percentage below 95% when you sleep.[5]

And do beware of the elevation training masks available on Amazon Marketplace and other places. Armed with a misleading name. These mask only restrict the amount of air you inhale. So you breathe less air, but you still end up breathing in your normal amount of oxygen per breath. Therefore, they will not help increase your red blood cell count or lower your blood oxygen saturation percentage (SaO2%) when using them.

What do these elevation training masks do?

These elevation training mask help you to train and strengthen your diaphragm muscles. By forcing you to draw deeper breaths. When you constantly take in deeper breaths during your workouts. You train yourself on how to take in a larger volume of air with greater ease. You can get your own elevation training mask for roughly $80. However, these masks do create an unhealthy increase in carbon dioxide intake.[6]

4 – Electric muscle stimulators (EMS)

EMS devices can help you recover from your workouts. You can find lots of options that fall into the $65-$215 price range when searching for EMS or TENS devices on-line. You will find that using EMS in a pulsing mode for 10-20 minutes after your workout stimulates circulation. Even at a very low intensity.[7]

While EMS devices get compared to active recovery. Active recovery wins when comparing them head to head. Active recovery like jogging, biking, swimming and walking improves your physiological recovery. By increasing blood flow, oxygen supply and heart rate variability (HRV). EMS improves your perceptual recovery. If you ranked a few recovery methods. Active recovery beats EMS, and both beat passive recovery like resting and watching tv.[8]

Now, if you want a quality device that can do it all. You’ll need an EMS device with enough juice to maximize fast twitch muscle fiber recruitment, increase muscle strength, increase muscle mass, aid recovery and prevent muscle atrophy.[9] Then you will need to pony up the cash for a high grade EMS unit. Which will fall in the $500-$900 range. Compex, Globus and Marc Pro, some of the top brands in the EMS market.

5 – Compression garments

What started as Allen Iverson’s shooting sleeve.[10] Morphed into 1,195 product results on Amazon Marketplace. A bit of a cop out, but surprisingly scientifically sound for recovery.[11, 12]

Typically worn during and after workouts because they feel good, which then helps enhance post-workout recovery. Graduated compression garments provide maximum pressure at the wrist or ankle area. The pressure lessens as you move up the arm or leg. With the goal of pushing the blood furthest from the heart towards it. Wear your graduated and medical grade compression garments for 2-3 hours after your training session to help you recover.

Under Armour, one of the leading brands in compression. Helped popularize shooting sleeves in the NBA and carried that momentum into all sports. Now they make full body compression. Their Recharge full body compression suits cost roughly $90 for either the top half or the bottom half. And roughly $180 for both. Find compression gear from other top brands like Skins, Zensah and Zoot.

6-Heart Rate Variability (HRV-measurement of time between heartbeats)

From costly and inconvenient to cheap and convenient. Apps have taken HRV monitoring mainstream.

You’ll need a bluetooth enabled heart rate chest strap sensor (Polar, Wahoo and Garmin; priced between $40-$60) and a HRV app (iThlete-$9.99, Sweetbeat-$4.99-$9.99, HRV Logger-$4.99, Smartbeat-Free, and BioForce-Free) to get you started.[13] The one negative with this setup. The battery in the heart rate sensor does not last for ever and will need replacement, which adds a hidden future expense.

HRV to recover

More convenient than chest sensors. This finger sensor easily takes your HRV

Use your HRV data to learn how your brain interacts with your heart. And use that data to optimize your workouts. Tracking your HRV daily will help show you how your body responds to daily stress. The best tool to prevent and diagnose overtraining.[14] As you get to monitor your body’s response during overreaching periods by comparing your HRV to your own unique baseline data.

Make sure you record your HRV from the same position (sitting, standing, or laying down) every day. Preferably standing.[15] If you don’t use the same position, you will collect different data points and decrease its accuracy. Also make sure you take your HRV at the same time everyday. Preferably right after you wake up and go to the bathroom. It takes one week of data to establish your baseline.

You want to take your HRV for 1 minute.[16] Then you can compare your HRV results to your baseline data. And you can track how everyday stress impacts your body, and the quality of your recovery from the previous day. Because HRV fluctuates daily due to many stressors, also pay close attention to your weekly mean HRV changes.

Understand that grueling workouts, lack of sleep, excessive alcohol intake, insufficient/poor nutrition, travel, and high every day stress levels will lower your HRV. A low HRV decreases your stress tolerance. Which increases your chance of injury and sickness. If you develop a trend of decreasing HRV over a period of time, you run the risk of overtraining. Low HRV should tell you when you need to reduce your exercise load.

A high HRV increases your stress tolerance. And gives you the green light to train harder that day. It may even lead to improved athletic performance. Increase your HRV by:

  1. Getting 7-9 hours of sleep with consistent sleep and wake times.
  2. Eating quality food.
  3. Reducing your daily stress.
  4. Using light active recovery cardio like swimming, biking, jogging and walking.
  5. Taking cold showers.[17]

An ideal recovery tool for endurance athletes. And a useful piece of the recovery puzzle for weight trainers. HRV monitoring, currently used by sports teams like the Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Angels, Anaheim Ducks and Gonzaga University Athletics. Also by MMA Pros and Olympic Athletes among others.[18]

But wait, there’s more.

This doesn’t even cover other devices that you can use to recover like an elite athletic. Such as palm cooling devices to actively recover on your rest periods or after workouts, and allow for increased volume of work.[19] Cooling vest to recover against the heat, and enhance your overall endurance in hot environments. Zero gravity treadmills to help with injury recovery; check Google for options in your area. Hyperoxic recovery during workouts, on rest intervals or post-workout via the use of an oxygen mask or oxygen cans (Boost Oxygen) to supply yourself with a dosage of pure oxygen.[20] And lastly, light-emitting diode therapy (LEDT) to help recovery by using concentrated light to penetrate beyond the skin’s surface and enhance healing.[21]

Now tell us what we missed in the comments below.

Then go sign up at to discover other recovery devices that creep up from behind the scenes. And get ready to brush that superstar shine off your shoulders.


To read other articles or for additional information, definitions, citations, references, sources and footnotes please see the original article at

I’m a hit and miss writer, Tom Peashock (@allnaturalped), who specializes in workout recovery.

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I have no relationship, association or affiliate link to any company or product mentioned in this article. We do make negative pressure compression sleeves that use palm cooling/heating to enhance recovery. The first recovery product to also address adaptation through heat training and blood flow restriction (BFR).


1-Halson, Shona L.”Recovery Techniques for Athletes.” Sports Science Exchange. Vol. 26, No. 120, 1-6. 2013. Article:

2-Bucher, Ric. “Old Mavs, new tricks.” ESPN The Magazine. The Walt Disney Company. 25 July 2011. <>

3-Oestrike, Brian & Miller, Bart. “Interview with Brian Oestrike – CEO of Hypoxico Altitude Training Systems, 7:25-8:16.” Cycling Strong. Cycling Strong. 25 Oct 2013. <>

4-Scott, Brendan R.; Slattery, Katie M.; Dascombe, Ben J. “Intermittent hypoxic resistance training: does it provide added benefit?” Frontiers in Physiology. Volume 5: 397; 2014. Full text:

5-Oestrike, Brian & Miller, Bart. “Interview with Brian Oestrike – CEO of Hypoxico Altitude Training Systems, 11:17-11:32.” Cycling Strong. Cycling Strong. 25 Oct 2013. <>

6-Granados, Jorge; Jansen, Lisa; Harton, Halie; and Kuennen, Matthew (2014) ““Elevation Training Mask” Induces Hypoxemia But Utilizes A Novel Feedback Signaling Mechanism,” International Journal of Exercise Science: Conference Proceedings: Vol. 2: Iss. 6, Article 26. <>

7-Francis, Charlie. “The Truth About EMS. Electronic Muscle Stimulation: Facts and Fallacies.” T NATION. T NATION LLC. 31 May 2001. <;jsessionid=B601F6FECCF31EFB4632C2DE9EEB8412-mcd02.hydra>

8-Maffiuletti, Prof Nicola. “Electromyostimulation Recovery,Related Strategies.” 20:05-23:11; 35:24-37:28. ASPETARQatar. 27 March 2013. <>

9-Thibaudeau, Christian. “Electromyostimulation (EMS).” T NATION. T NATION LLC. 10 April 2004. <>

10-Kang, Jay Caspian. “Object of Interest: The History of the Allen Iverson Sleeve.” The New Yorker. Condé Nast. 6 May 2014. <>

11-Hill, Jessica; Howatson, Glyn; Someren, Ken van; Leeder, Jonathan; Pedlar, Charles. “Compression garments and recovery from exercise-induced muscle damage: a meta-analysis.”  Br J Sports Med. 11 June 2013. <>

12-Pruscino CL, Halson S, Hargreaves M. “Effects of compression garments on recovery following intermittent exercise.” Eur J Appl Physiol. 2013 Jun;113(6):1585-96. Abstract:

13-Flatt, Andrew A.; Esco, Michael R.”Validity of the ithlete (TM) Smart Phone Application for Determining Ultra-Short-Term Heart Rate Variability.” Journal of Human Kinetics. Volume 39, pages 85-89. 2013. Full text:

14-Moussa, Adel. “Are You Overtraining? Two Scientifically Proven Methods to Test Yourself – Method 1: Heart Rate Variability Analyses.” SuppVersity – Nutrition and Exercise Science for Everyone. 1 December 2013. <>

15-Flatt, Andrew A. “Standing vs. Supine ithlete HRV Measurement.” ithlete. HRV Fit Ltd. 6 November 2012. <>

16-Esco, Michael R.; Flatt, Andrew A.”Ultra-Short-Term Heart Rate Variability Indexes at Rest and Post-Exercise in Athletes: Evaluating the Agreement with Accepted Recommendations.” Journal of Sports Science and Medicine. Volume 13, pages 535 – 541. 2014. Full text:

17-Becker, Todd. “Track your HRV to boost adaptive reserves.” Getting Stronger. 21 July 2014. <>

18-Jamieson, Joel. “When To Go Hard and When To Rest with MMA Strength Coach Joel Jamieson.” 49:51-51:12. Barbell Shrugged. 28 May 2014. <>

19-Kwon, Young Sub. “Effect Of Palm Temperature On Fatigue During High Intensity Bench Press Exercise.” Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010 Aug;42(8):1557-65. Abstract: Full Text:

20-Demirhan, Bilal. “Effects of Three Weeks of Oxygen Supplementation on Oxygen Saturation and Recovery Parameters of Elite Wrestlers.” Archives of Biological Sciences. 66 (3), 1253-1260, 2014. Full text:

21-Ferraresi C, Parizotto NA, Pires de Sousa MV, Kaippert B, Huang YY, Koiso T, Bagnato VS, Hamblin MR. “Light-emitting diode therapy in exercise-trained mice increases muscle performance, cytochrome c oxidase activity, ATP and cell proliferation.” J Biophotonics. 2014 Nov 6. <>

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