Garrett: End of the second session on the third day, her husband and I were going to help her put on her shoes and socks. She said, “Wait a second. Let me give it a shot.” She actually bent down. For the first time in several years, she put on her own shoes and socks because now she had enough muscle activation and control on her trunk and hips that she could bend forward and support herself through that greater range of motion. So, even just those little steps were really cool.
Ben: I have a master’s degree in physiology, biomechanics, and human nutrition. I’ve spent the past two decades competing in some of the most masochistic events on the planet from SEALFit Kokoro, Spartan Agoge, and the world’s toughest mudder, do 13 Ironman triathlons, brutal bow hunts, adventure races, spearfishing, plant foraging, free diving, bodybuilding and beyond. I combine this intense time in the trenches with a blend of ancestral wisdom and modern science, search the globe for the world’s top experts in performance, fat loss, recovery, hormones, brain, beauty, and brawn to deliver you this podcast. Everything you need to know to live an adventurous, joyful, and fulfilling life. My name is Ben Greenfield. Enjoy the ride.
Hey, folks. It’s Ben. Today’s episode was a little funky because my guest and I had to fight through an ice storm at my property to be able to record. I had to stop the recording multiple times. I really wanted to record this one because it’s very, very interesting, how to use the biohack of the electrical muscle stimulation to amplify your workouts and your recovery. I own this unit that’s extremely powerful. I’ve got a lot of people asking me about what I use for electrical muscle stimulation for actual hypertrophy, muscle building, muscle retraining rehab, so I had to get this guy in the show. I warn you, we got broken up a few times. We had a poor connection, but I’m bringing it to you anyways. My audio editor who’s a complete ninja makes it sound pretty good.
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Hey, folks. It’s Ben Greenfield. Literally, about 45 minutes ago, I finished a workout. This workout was different. It was what many people might call almost like a bio hacked workout. I used an electrical muscle stimulation device that is very unique, that uses a very unique current, and that can simulate literally hundreds of pounds on your muscle, on any muscle that you want. It can also be used to scan your entire body for injuries to retrain muscle groups that your brain has lost its ability to recruit. It’s a very, very interesting device. I’ve experimented with a ton of electrical muscle stimulation devices from, gosh, two years into my triathlon career, I bought one. It’s been, I guess, maybe, 13 years that I’ve had some form of electrical muscle stimulation. This one is just different. So different that I wanted to get the guy who invented it onto the show to talk about how it works, how you can use electrical muscle stimulation where it fits and not, just for things like rehab and recovery, which I think a lot of people think that it’s for. Not just for sitting on the couch and trying to get six-pack abs while watching Netflix and eating Cheetos, as I think a lot of advertisements for electrical muscle stimulation for your abs is trying to make you believe. Instead, really, I want to delve into the science behind these EMS devices, how they work, and specifically this device that I’ve been using.
My guest on today’s show is Garrett Saltpeter. He has a background in engineering and neuroscience and has taken a lot of the technology that he learned as an engineer and focused it specifically on physical therapy and something called functional neurology, which we’ll get into today. His work has been able to help people do things like get out of wheelchairs and walk again. He also works with pro athletes. He’s helped me go through a few different injuries and not only find where the injuries originated, which in many cases, were in a different spot than I thought, but helped me to rehab those injuries using his devices. For those of you who have seen me on the Internet, I’ll put a few videos on the shownotes, which you can access over at bengreenfeldfitness.com/neural. That’s N-E-U-R-A-L, neural. bengreenfieldfitness.com/neural.
Some of you may have seen me at paleo effects with a crazy EMS device attached to my leg. Some of you may have seen me twitching my chest and covering my arms with these patches. I’ll put links to a couple of relatively entertaining videos in the shownotes if you want to see what this thing looks like. Go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/neural for that.
Garrett, this thing is called a NEUBIE, I believe. Your company is called NEUFit, is that correct?
Garrett: Correct, yes.
Garrett: NEUBIE is an acronym for neuro bioelectric stimulator. NEUFit is the name of our business and a really very meaningful word for me, because one, it describes what we’re doing; and two, it speaks to my strong convictions that if we get more neurologically fit as humans, if we upgrade the quality and function of our nervous systems, then that has profoundly positive consequences in many areas of life. It can help us recover faster from injury and surgery, it can help us certainly with our fitness and athletic performance, it can help us cognitively, emotionally, psychologically. It can help us in so many areas. With choosing that name, it was my attempt to get to the heart and the core of what we’re really doing.
Ben: Did you actually personally invent this device?
Garrett: I actually did just get my first patent granted on the device, which is cool. Just happened in the last couple months. We have another one or two coming down the pipeline. We’ve made some improvements to it. Obviously, there’s a rich history of electrical stimulation. It’s not just invented out of thin air. It truly is a case of standing on the shoulders of giants. I had been using older electrical stimulation technology. As I was using that, the methods that we were using evolved over the years, as I experimented in the facility, as I learned from other mentors who had a very profound impact on me. As the methodology evolved, eventually the technology needed to catch up. We were able to take some real small but meaningful steps forward in the technology. When we had those to the other small but meaningful steps forward in the methodology in the various areas that we’re working, the combination actually proved to be very valuable. It’s a new take on some things that are out there, but a lot of the concepts are well-established and will be well known to people in neuroscience and physical therapy and strength and conditioning.
Ben: A lot of people are familiar with the Compex device or the Marc Pro. There’s a really powerful one too that I saw. I think, I originally saw it one of the bulletproof conferences, the ARP wave device. There’s just a ton of different electrical muscle stimulation devices out there, some specifically focused for rehab, some for crossover fitness and rehab, some for more fitness. Was it Keith? Is it Keith Nichols, the professional hockey player? No, it’s not Keith Nichols. I’ll remember his name, but there was just an article in The New York Times about this professional hockey player who swears by electrical muscle stimulation as his way to keep muscles primed without actually getting too much hypertrophy to be able to maintain strength and power without hypertrophy. It’s a popular thing and has been in the fitness industry for a long time. I think, really, the elephant in the room here is how is this any different than any other EMS devices, this NEUBIE device that’s over in my living room right now and is the reason my legs are still twitching as I’m talking to you?
Garrett: That’s a great question and a great lead-in. The most common question that we hear from people is, “It’s electrical stimulation. Is that just like my TENS unit that I got at Walgreens or the interferential unit that my chiropractor or my physical therapist has in their office? Yes, I have seen that before. I know what it does.” There are a couple of points, main points, that I like to get across to people when we’re having these types of conversations?
Ben: Before you do, by the way, not to totally derail you, that NHL player was Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks. He says during the season he doesn’t do a whole lot of heavy lifting, he just uses this machine that uses electricity to keep your muscles contracted. That’s the dude I was referring to.
Garrett: I actually know him and have done a little bit of work with him, but not that closely. It was a good article. I got to read that actually. I got to read that as well.
Ben: Cool. I’ll link to it in the shownotes. Anyways, I totally derailed you. You were explaining how this thing is different.
Garrett: The biggest thing to understand is the differences. Even though there’s some similarity, because they’re both types of electrical stimulation, compared to virtually everything else that’s out there, ours does have some unique effects. For example, it’s direct current as opposed to alternating current. Virtually, all the devices out there are alternating current. The reason for that is that even though the benefits were known for decades, there was always a problem with getting direct current into the body because it would sting and burn the skin. Some of the Soviet sports scientists, for example, in the ’70s would use direct current machines on their athletes, and they’d walk away with burns. They could do it for modern Russia, but we couldn’t really do that here in this country. A lot of the field of electrical stimulation moved towards alternating current as a matter of convenience and because of the paradigm and the lens through which they were looking.
Direct current is a major difference because it has very beneficial properties for promoting healing, regeneration within the body. A very good reference for some of the benefits of direct current is “The Body Electric,” by Dr. Robert Becker. It’s a book, get thrown around in some circles, but that’s a good one. That speaks to some of these underlying capabilities. Then, the other effect, the other difference really is in the paradigm, the way it’s applied and the effect that it has on the nervous system. Traditionally, electrical stimulation is administered to the body with the intention of making muscles contract. Just the same as if you go into the gym and do your reps and you get some benefits from that, and over a long period of time of doing those reps in the gym, you can get the benefits, the long-term benefits of exercise.
What we’re trying to do, instead of making muscles contract as much, we’re focused more on the sensory or afferent or input side. Actually, if you took our device and a traditional stim device and you put them on one on each arm, the traditional Russian stim or interferential device, for example, you turn them up the same level. Say, 50 milliamps of current.
Ben: The traditional Russian stim, by the way, just to clarify because I know people might need to wrap their heads around this a little bit more completely. The original Russian devices were using an AC current or a DC current?
Garrett: AC current
Ben: They’re using an AC current. They could get a really, really powerful contraction. Because the Russians didn’t give a shit, it resulted in skin burns. However, if you use DC, you can get a different effect on the body and still deliver a very powerful contraction without the result in skin burns.
Garrett: When we say Russian current here in this country, it’s a particular alternating current waveform. The actual Russian sports scientists experimented with multiple different types of AC and DC. When I say Russian stim, I’m using the accepted terminology here in our country.
Ben: Thanks. Thanks for clarifying. I was just thinking of a bunch of old-school Russian stim around the snow with electrodes attached and give yourself skin burns.
Garrett: Oh, yeah.
Ben: Not the stereotype.
Garrett: That device on one arm would absolutely cause the body to lock up. It would be essentially frozen and unable to move. Obviously, there’s a lot of contraction going on. At lower levels, there’s some benefit because you’re getting some mechanical pumping of blood and lymph and other fluids. When you turn it up to a high enough level to really make a difference in the nervous system and how this person is controlling their muscles, you end up having a low ceiling on what you can accomplish because you’re training the body to resist its own movements. You’re teaching the body to move like if you were driving your car hitting the throttle and the brake pedal at the same time. At the very least, you’re wasting energy, overcoming that internal resistance. Even worse, potentially, by causing muscles to shorten and stiffen, setting yourself up for injury because the shorter and stiffer they are, the less pliable muscles are. We want to be able to bend but not break. You can be reducing the body’s ability to do that. In contrast to that, on the other arm, our device, even though it’s at the same level of current and would feel just as intense because just as much energy is being delivered, you would actually still be able to move through it. For that given amount of signal, there’s less motor output and there’s more sensory input. Interacting with the nervous system in a different way, it speaks more to kinesthetic awareness and proprioception and the building blocks of neuromuscular re-education.
Ben: That makes sense. The current that you’re using on this NEUBIE device is a DC signal that can deliver a very powerful contraction or less powerful contraction for just doing it for rehab; but without skin burns, if you’re using a very high intensity. Furthermore, if you’re doing say I was doing this morning and I had electrodes hooked up with my quads, hamstrings, the VMO on the inner part of my leg and then my butt, my glute max, I turn it all the way up. Even though it’s a very intense contraction, I can actually go through a full range of motion squad while having these on. I can actually move or train my body to recruit certain muscles, rather than doing what you might see somebody doing on TV, like, again, laying on the couch with just electrodes attached to their abs, but they can’t actually do a sit-up or move while those things are contracting.
Garrett: Part of the idea here is that instead of the machine just overriding everything and doing it for you and you becoming somewhat dependent on that machine, we’re trying to do real neuromuscular re-education work by increasing the signal, if you will, from that area. We allow you, we allow the person to be able to activate their muscles more effectively on their own to get more recruitment, to get better function and coordination. We’re trying to really come at it from the perspective of instilling new and appropriate movement patterns.
Ben: Got you. When you use a current like this, like this DC current, is there any other benefit that you get from this specific type of current, aside from being able to move through a range of motion and use a very high intensity?
Garrett: Yes, there are. Just to feedback on that being able to move through it, that allows us to train the equivalent of high load eccentric contractions. If you’re talking about trying to help someone heal from an injury, for example, if there’s been any damage and the body’s attempting to regenerate tissue, if you don’t load that tissue, you’re going to get scar tissue. It’s just going to be thrown down randomly and you’re going to have restricted motion in that area. But, if you can get high-quality high load within safe parameters high load eccentric contractions along the appropriate lines of force, you’re going to stimulate the body to lay down higher-quality tissue and improve the overall outcome of a healing process. That’s one. Another major difference is actually something that we’re seeing and we’re doing some more research on now, is the difference in the effect on the autonomic nervous system. Alternating current devices seem to actually promote a sympathetic or fight-or-flight response and reduce heart rate variability. We had seen, anecdotally, several people come into our offices and have wearable devices that track HRV. We’ve seen it go up. I’ve seen myself. I know you had a great post on social media about your heart rate variability on the aura ring. The max was in the 150 plus milliseconds. I thought, “Oh, my gosh.” The max I had before that was 80 or 90. I decided to experiment a little bit. I was doing some work on the NEUBIE before going to sleep. All of a sudden, for the first time ever, I saw mine up in average 110, max 150, 160. I was getting some of those same types of responses.
Ben: Your heart rate variability went up when you were using the device?
Garrett: Yes. Obviously, the Oura ring is tracking during sleep. For that, I was doing some protocols right before sleep.
Ben: What I would expect would be, and this is what I’ve seen, a very large drop in heart rate variability during extremely stressful activities like a back squat or a highly eccentric movement pattern that is difficult, that’s tearing the body down, which is exactly what you want. You want a huge drop in HRV during the actual exercise which would be followed by a subsequent rebound and increase in your long-term HRV over time, which is why things like squats, deadlifts, sprints, et cetera, are so great for the nervous system because long-term, they raise HRV. What you’re saying is that you saw via the use of this device, which I suspect. Even though I haven’t worn an HRV strap while using it yet, I need to do that with decrease, theoretically would probably decrease HRV pretty significantly, because it’s a super eccentric contraction. If you jack this thing up, it makes you sore. You’re getting low HRV during, then high HRV after.
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We’re back in action. Garrett, I know we’d cut off there as we were talking about HRV. What are your thoughts on that, on suppressing HRV during and then seeing a result at high HRV after?
Garrett: What we’re really speaking to here is the heart of what we’re trying to do with training. What we want to do is impose a stress or a challenge to the body in the hope that it will then recover and super compensate and adapt afterwards. I absolutely agree with you that we do want to get the body to have some sympathetic activity, some sort of stress response during the time of training. Then, we want to see a shift to more parasympathetic higher heart rate variability afterwards. Some of the protocols I was doing before bed, for example, were much more mild and gentle not enough to get me in that type of stressed-out state beforehand but just enough to enhance HRV during sleep.
One of the interesting things that I observed, and I’ll be interested in hearing your thoughts on this, is that it seems a lot of people train and they think that that’s going to happen. They think that they’re going to shift into a more parasympathetic dominant recovery state after training and then it’s going to be good for their health. In reality, that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes, there’s a lot of people in your community who are endurance athletes who probably, well hopefully not the ones in your community, but I’m sure we’ve seen people out there running pounding the pavement, and you can see them panting through their mouths, they’re slumped over because they don’t have the energy to hold themselves up. They’re literally just between their breathing in their body position. They’re reinforcing a stressed-out fight-or-flight sympathetic dominant state. Actually, there’s great principle in neurology called the SAID principle, specific adaptation to imposed demand. We’re always adapting to what we’re doing and how we are in the world. For some of those people in those situations, they’re actually adapting at and getting better at being in that stressed-out fight-or-flight state. They won’t see a boost and heart rate variability after they train. A lot of times in training, people accumulate deficits and micro-traumas to the body and inflammation and, a lot of times, either they’ve gotten themselves stuck in that sympathetic state or they haven’t gotten enough actual input for the brain to fully understand that yes, it is time to shift into recovery mode to increase heart rate variability to have all the hormonal and enzymatic releases that you want. It’s a very safe and effective way to get that type of stimulus that will absolutely cause the body to shift into that parasympathetic dominant mode where it can recover, where it promotes good health, where you have better digestion and waste elimination and better control of heart rate and blood pressure and better sexual and reproductive function, all of those things will see shifts there as evidenced by greater HRV.
Ben: I think, the trick here though, if you really want to hack this and you want to test what’s suppressing and what’s increasing HRV during your actual training is you have to get real-time feedback. For that, you have to wear a Bluetooth-enabled heart rate strap. For example, I have one called Viiiiva, V-I-I-I-I-V-A. Then, you pair that with an app that collects your HRV in real time. There’s one called NatureBeat that will tell you your parasympathetic load and your sympathetic load. Then, you can just go to your normal workout and see what’s occurring to your HRV in real time. In an ideal scenario, you would want suppressed HRV during your most intensive activities. Then, you wouldn’t return to an activity that intense until you’re resting HRV, say the next morning when you wake up or the morning after has increased to a high level or you’re using something like an Oura ring, your readiness score has increased again. If you do that, it’s a very beautiful press pull cycling scenario where you’re going very, very low HRV during certain training sessions of the week, and then allowing your HRV to compensate or even super compensate. That’s just basically periodizing based on your nervous system.
Garrett: It’s amazing, the things we can do with technology these days. I think what you said there is the key that your period periodizing or auto-regulating or regulating the training based on the nervous system. The nervous system is so key. It’s paramount for everything that we’re trying to do. I think that is a very meaningful measure. I love the strategy you just laid out.
Ben: Now, speaking of technology, what I really want to delve into, this is what I found very intriguing, was this whole scanning procedure where you could hook up electrodes to certain muscles, send that DC current in and train. I actually want you to a little bit here walk me through a sample workout and what that would look like. Before, I think this is something very unique about the device, is you taught me how to scan. If my elbow hurts or my knee hurt, how to actually scan my body to figure out what muscles weren’t firing properly and where I needed to place the electrodes for the actual training or rehab session. Can you walk me through how that works with the black electrode and the red electrode and scanning the body with these different electrodes?
Garrett: Yes, absolutely. I think, this is a great part of the process and definitely worth talking about and, really, I think one of the biggest shifts or the pieces of forward progress in the realm of neuromuscular education because it helps us figure out exactly where the underlying dysfunctions are.
In order to understand how it works, I want to go back to the point that I talked about how our technology is preferentially sending more of the sensory and inference signals. If you have, instead of the sticky electrode, if you take a wet sponge, for example, or a wand or something like that and you scan around on the body, you’re going to be sending the same types of sensory signals as if those areas are moving. If it’s on your bicep your brain might think your arm is curling. If it’s on your shoulder your brain might think your arm is lifting. Something like that. We should, if we’re healthy, if our movement and neuromuscular systems are optimized, if things are working well, we should be able to process all neurological signals that correlate to all sorts of joint angles and ranges of motion and speeds of movement. As we scan around on the body, wherever things are working well, it’s going to feel pretty darn easy. It’s going to feel pleasant. It’ll be easy to handle that signal. The body will process that, no problem.
The cool thing happens when there is dysfunction present. If we try to load a particular muscle, if we’re scanning around on the leg of someone who has a knee injury, for example, and they’re trying to inhibit or not use certain parts of the quad muscle because they don’t want to move the knee too quickly or powerfully, well, it’s compromised. If we scan around and we stimulate that area, all of a sudden, we’re stimulating an area and telling the body it’s working, when the body’s saying, “No, don’t work.” There’s a tension or conflict. There’s this phenomenon where the body fights against it. It feels more intense. We would call it a hot spot or an electronic trigger point. When we find these spots, that helps us see where the underlying dysfunctions are, and then we know exactly where we need to work. Instead of just putting the pads wherever it hurts like you would do with traditional e-stim, we’re actually starting with an assessment process. This is part the NEUfit system beyond just the devices, the methods and different ways that we’re applying it. This process allows us to find exactly where some of those underlying dysfunctions are. It could be something like excessive tension where the body is trying to protect and not move and stiffen, or it could be areas where the body is trying to take the load off and not use certain muscles. It allows us to pick up a range of different aberrations or compensation patterns or different issues in the movement in neuromuscular systems.
Ben: Once you’ve actually identified these different areas where the deficiencies are, what would the actual rehab program look like? If I find, for example, when I scan and I have a hurt knee but I’m scanning with that red electrode and I’m noting that maybe there’s a lot of tension and almost a little bit of pain when I get the scanner up around, say, my upper, and I think this was the case for me last year when I was having pain on the right side of my knee, it was my left upper adductor that was actually the affected muscle.
In a situation like that, what would the rehab program look like? Do you place the electrodes into a training session on the upper adductor or the area where the pain was? How do you follow up what you’ve identified the area that’s not working properly?
Garrett: That’s exactly what we want to do. Whatever spots we find, those are the dysfunctional areas and we want to address the dysfunction. We’re not necessarily as concerned with the symptom as we are with the underlying dysfunctions. Whatever hotspots, whatever areas we find, we put the pads on there and we stimulate those areas. Another difference is that traditional e-stim treatments are usually passive. You’re usually lying down on the table. Ours are very active. We’d actually have you going through movements. If your knee hurt and it hurt during running or bicycling, we could have you do those movements or we could simulate them with lunges or step ups or different movements. There’s a couple of cool things that happen during that process. One is because we’re stimulating these dysfunctional areas, we’re teaching you to start re-incorporating them into that movement pattern and training a more efficient healthier movement pattern.
Another thing that happens is as you move, you’re creating other feedback to your brain whereas, initially, we turn it up in those areas or jump out and feel more intense, you have this reaction against the current. As you move through it, your brain starts to understand that it’s okay. It’ll reduce that protective or that threat response and actually start to change the patterns of activation. One of the coolest things that happen is that as you adapt to it, you can then go up higher on the current. Just like if you get more proficient in the weight room, you put more weight on the bar here, we want to increase the level of challenge and so we’ll go up higher on the current. We can see people are usually able to adopt a few times within the session, get up to higher levels. Eventually, you reach a plateau. Each time that happens, we’re increasing the proficiency or the threshold of the nervous system. We’re increasing the level of challenge it can handle before breaking down and resorting to those compensation patterns.
Ben: Got it. The actual workout itself. I would love for you to walk people through what the workout would be like if someone wanted to do this as a training session. Because you sent me a couple of really good full-body workouts that do upper body, lower body, and core. Sometimes I’ll split them up if I’m short on time and do just an upper body session. Like this morning. I had all the electrodes hooked up and I was basically doing a split squat, squat, and a tabletop bridge with 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off. I started each exercise at a frequency or a power of about 70 and gradually worked my way up to 100, which was teeth grittingly hard by the time you get to 100. My wife laughs because I’m grunting and groaning as I go through this thing, even though it doesn’t really look I’m doing anything. It’s incredibly difficult. Walk me through the actual workouts on these things and how those work.
Garrett: Absolutely. Thank you for that description too. It’s funny that it doesn’t look much to the outside observer, but once you’ve experienced that, you really get it. In terms of the workouts, just to establish the context, the value proposition or the part that makes it interesting is that by using the machine, we’re able to help people get a lot more recruitment with less external load, and therefore, less risk on the joints. That’s a big part of it and why it feels so intense, even if you’re just doing body weight or very low resistance exercises.
Also, a lot of times, people appreciate that it allows them to train without pain, or it makes exercise safer because when they’re using this approach to help activate the appropriate muscles, those muscles are turning on and keeping them safe and stable and protected through a whole range of motion. For people who would have to stop exercise because of pain or because old injuries constantly would come creep up and get in the way of consistent progress, this has been a good bridge back into training for some of those people. Then, for people who are healthy, being able to recruit more, being able to optimize function of certain areas, being able to get more bang for the buck, there’s a lot of benefits there.
In terms of a workout, the overall feel of it is going to be the pads are going to be on the body sending electrical impulses at certain frequencies and power levels, and we’re going to be doing various movements. In the beginning, particularly for rehab, if we’re trying to bridge back into fitness, a lot of those are very simple bodyweight movements. Air squats, lunges, push-ups, pull-ups, sometimes even open chain unloaded joint mobilizations, simple joint movements. Sometimes band, work, and then we can progress to kettlebells, sandbags, functional fitness. We can progress to lifting heavier weights, although with the machine you don’t necessarily have to lift that heavy. I think, a good way to think about it, a way I’ve described it to people is that because we’re talking about neuromuscular education, getting the muscles to work more and to work better, any type of activity that you want to do in training, this can help amplify, accelerate the progress and get more bang for the buck.
Ben: When you’re doing these workouts, like as you mentioned, this is one of the EMS units that actually results in an eccentric muscle tissue contraction. For a long time, I thought I was just using all these extra muscles, which I supposed could be part of the reason that I’m just so sore, can’t walk up like today. We’re literally talking, like I mentioned, it’s now what maybe an hour and a half after I finished that workout. I can feel, walking upstairs, the feeling I get if I’d done a squat workout, when dom sets and you’re delayed onset muscle soreness 24-48 hours later. I feel almost right away with this thing. There’s obviously not just increased muscle recruitment with muscles that you might not have used in a long time going on with this thing, just because it’s grabbing the muscles your brain might have forgotten to grab or that you are not moving properly to recruit. There’s also some eccentric muscle tissue damage occurring, a little bit of muscle fiber tearing, et cetera.
Now, because of that soreness, do you guys have recommendations on the frequency of use? If I’m sore, because this thing’s almost doing the work for me, can I hit the same muscle groups when the muscle is still sore? Should you wait until the soreness has subsided? Or, should I not be jacking up the intensity so high I’m even getting sore?
Garrett: That’s a great question. Ultimately, we have to acknowledge that it is a very powerful tool and it can make you sore. Anything with great power comes great responsibility. We’re focused a lot on training professionals on how to use this in their rehabilitation and fitness businesses. Most of the time, people are using this within a setting where there’s a professional administering the machine. It is important to follow their guidelines and do all that because it is very, very powerful.
In terms of how often you use it and getting sore and different things like that, a lot of people appreciate, particularly some of the professional bodybuilders we’ve worked with, they appreciate how they do, they must work the muscles they work to do feel sore, sometimes in just a couple of sets compared to the 60 to 90-minute workouts that you have to do for a body part in the gym traditionally, how much they can get that same type of effect in a very compressed period of time. You don’t necessarily have to be sore either to create hypertrophy to build strength. I’m not implying that if you come to a new free workout, you absolutely have to feel sore for that many days. Some people like it and we can certainly deliver it, but it’s not necessary.
In terms of how often to use it, the same paradigm that you suggested a little bit earlier I think the way to do it. You want to ideally stimulate yourself into some depressed state and then when you’re recovered, then you do it again. Sometimes, it can be broken up by body areas in a split routine, and you can hit one area of the body hard one day, different area the next day while the other’s recovering. If you’re doing a more functional whole body training, then you’re going to want to do different things, sometimes train different traits or qualities so that someone can recover while you’re training others. It depends on the goals. Most of the people who come to see us do two sessions a week. If there’s elite athletes, professional athletes, that have a particular goal, if they need to get back from an injury very quickly, or if they’re really trying to achieve something urgent, sometimes they’ll do multiple sessions per day. You can do something at that extreme. For most people, two sessions a week on this is certainly adequate and usually good sweets for sweets spot.
Ben: That seems about the most I’d be able to handle for any specific muscle group. The cool thing is, too, that you can target certain muscle groups. For example, for people who are still trying to wrap their heads around how this works, I could attach, like I mentioned, the electrodes to my glutes, my hammies, my VMO, my quads, but then once I finish those off, then I can move on to attach them to chests, rhomboids, lats, and serratus, and do a push up, pull up workout. Then, I can move on from there and attach them to external obliques, internal obliques, rectus abdominus, and erector spinae, for example. Your unit comes with all the anatomical locations for electrode placements and where to put them for certain workout. It makes this all pretty easy to be an anatomist. When I hook up to all those core muscles, then I could do, for example, a bridging-planking type of workout. The entire time, this electrical muscle stimulation device is recruiting all my muscles for me. I just have to grit my teeth and push through the range of motion.
Garrett: Absolutely. There’s a wide range. In our facility, for example, we’ll see elite athletes like yourself doing workouts like that along with children who have neurological challenges and elderly people. They’ll all have the machine on. One might be just doing very gentle movements, one might be planking, one might be jumping. There’s a wide range of applications.
Ben: Now, could this be used for neurological conditions? In many cases, nerves are firing in a manner that is not properly recruiting muscles. I know there are issues like MS where that might occur. I know people with traumatic brain injury have difficulty with muscle recruitment. There are other neurological conditions that you might know of. How would this be used in a case of training more of the nervous system or having the nervous system or addressing an issue like a concussion or TBI, is it something that shouldn’t be used in that case?
Garrett: That’s a great question. It speaks to some of the most inspirational and really exciting uses of this approach that we’ve seen recently. We’ve worked with several people, for example, who have MS. I have to say that the device itself that we use, the NEUBIE, is not indicated for the treatment of MS, but within the NEUFit system, we have strategies that have been able to help some people who have MS. We started working, for example, with Dr. Terry walls. Have you ever had her on your show?
Ben: Way back in the day, I interviewed Dr. Terry Wahls. For those of you listening in, she’s the author of “The Wahl’s Protocol” and the gal who basically healed herself of MS using a specific dietary approach, an autoimmune dietary approach.
Garrett: I think, she’s a brilliant doctor. Very inspiring story. She’s now helped hundreds or thousands of people improve their health when dealing with MS, following her strategies, her protocols. She does fabulous work to help stop the progression of the autoimmune disease and the underlying MS. One of the things that she was looking for in her program was an effective way to use electrical stimulation and start to build back up. It’s absolutely necessary and wonderful work to stop the progression of the disease. Then, once you’ve done that, how can you start to rebuild and regain function? Through some of the work with her, people have seen that she has a lot of people follow very closely what she’s doing and saw her using our device. We’ve had now several patients with MS.
One, for example, I’m thinking about a woman who came down from Wisconsin, came down to see us in Austin and spent a week with us. She was wheelchair-bound had been for a few years. We talked about what would you like to be able to do? She said, “Ultimately, I like to be able to dance and stand in the kitchen and cook, and all that.” For now, if I could even take a few steps holding my husband’s hand, instead of a walker or instead of being in my wheelchair, that would be amazing. We started working together. At the end of the first day, or at the start of the second day after having working on the first day, she came in and she said, “Look what I can do.” If she’s sitting in her wheelchair, she could lift her right leg, but she could not the first day lift her left leg. Now, she comes in and says, “Look what I can do.” Her left leg is able to lift. She can extend her knee. That was exciting. At the end of the second session on the third day, her husband and I were going to help her put on her shoes and socks. She said, “Wait a second. Let me give it a shot. So, she actually bent down. For the first time in several years, she put on her own shoes and socks, because now she had enough muscle activation and control in her trunk and hips that she could bend forward and support herself through that greater range of motion. Even just those little steps were really cool. Then, at the end of her last session on Friday before leaving town, it was bringing tears to our eyes, beautiful moment. She took some steps holding her husband’s hand and it was just incredible. She’s been continuing to do some work, because she had came to see us in person and we established protocols and went through the whole assessment process, we were able to get them a machine to continue using it at home and walk them through the protocols remotely and continue to support them so she’s continuing to make progress. Most of the time, though, it’s something that’s done in an office. Again, not usually done in home, but that is something that we’ve been able to work out with for her, because she made such good progress we wanted to continue, obviously. That seemed like the only way to do that.
Ben: What about a TBI, concussion type of issues?
Garrett: We’ve seen some really impressive results. There really inspirational results. We’ve been working with, one woman, in particular, comes to mind who, I think, by the time this airs we’ll have a little miniature video about some of her experience that I can share with you. A woman who had a traumatic brain injury from falling off a ladder seven years before we started working together and had difficulty with balance, activities of daily living. It was just making slow incremental progress for seven years. In the first few months that we started working together, the progress that was only going at a slow rate really accelerated the trajectory that she was on changed. She noticed. For example, there was a test that she did where there was a score for her ability to do activities of daily living like transferring from a chair to a bed, being able to manipulate things with the hands, standing on one’s own and then balancing. The score had, then, between the ’20s and ’30s for seven years, and all of a sudden went up into the ’60s in two months. Her neurologist was blown away. There’s still work to do.
But, because we’re influencing the nervous system in this way because we’re providing the inputs and giving the nervous system an ability to adapt and make whatever neuroplastic changes it can, there’s obviously some finite capacity to do that. Whatever that is, we want to tap into it. In this case, thankfully we’ve seen that we were able to, by doing that process, help her make some profound changes. It’s really inspiring because it gives people hope. Many times, it’s people for whom the traditional model does not have a very good answer.
Ben: Now, when it comes to people actually using this. I’m pretty savvy. You sent me some videos, you showed me how to use it, you’d put it on me before paleo FX so I’d seen it in action overseen by you. Do you have people actually buying these using them themselves and educational videos? Is this one of those things where your primary client is the physical therapist, for example?
Garrett: It’s definitely the case where a majority of our clients or the majority of people using the machine are, in a professional setting, physical therapists, chiropractors, sometimes in a fitness facility as long as they have medical oversight because it is an FDA-cleared medical device. There are people who, like yourself, use it in home because they like the efficiency or there’s not a practitioner nearby, or they’re a professional athlete and they are on the road all the time and they needed to recover at 11:30 p.m. after they play their game and there’s no one’s open at that time. There are cases where there’s a compelling enough value proposition that individuals will get them. In that case, we just want to make sure that they work with someone in person so that they can get to medical clearance to use it, obviously. Then, also, to be able to get an assessment done so that we can build protocols for that person to maximize the value of the machine. It’s not just everyone follows this recipe. It’s we want to do the assessment, we want to figure out what this person needs, what their nervous system needs, and be able to give them the most valuable protocols and the best chance at great outcomes.
Ben: Is it covered by insurance if somebody were to hunt down a physical therapist who has one of these? Please comment on that too, if there’s a directory or something where people can find someone who has one of these in the community. How can they do that? Is it covered by insurance?
Garrett: Absolutely. The best place right now to do that would be on our website which is www.neu.fit.com. It’s neu like neurological, n-e-u.fit.com. neu.com, or anything just neu.fit. Then, there’s a “Locations” tab at the top right, so you can click on locations. There are, as of this recording, probably a little bit over 50 offices around the country that have it. Many of them are physical therapy clinics and can bill some insurance, or at least have an account against the deductible. However, because it is a new process, there’s not really insurance codes that cover it. It’s an in-between where there’s a lot of places where it is offered as a cash service. It will depend on where it’s being offered.
Ben: I have one, like I mentioned. If people did want to get one for themselves and just have it in their own home and be a hack like me and use YouTube et cetera to learn how to use it, I would imagine that you probably would get on the phone or do a Skype with people or something like that. It’s a spendy device. This isn’t something you just grab off of Amazon. Are people actually allowed to own it, if it’s an FDA medical device?
Garrett: Yes, as long as we get the medical clearance. In order to have their doctor sign a script or something like that. With that caveat in place, yes, it’s possible. We do have one person on our team right now. Maybe we’ll end up having even more, but one who’s dedicated to providing support for people who have devices in home. He does a lot of FaceTime or Skype video calls with people and updating protocols and helping them get the most out of it.
Ben: Is that Chaz?
Garrett: No, that’s Austin.
Ben: Cool. You guys have a pretty good support team down there at the same time. I’ve injured anything and I just basically let you know what it is and you show me how to just suck it away with this thing. It’s pretty cool. The price point I know for the average person coming in is a little bit spendy. Remind me what the cost is on it.
Garrett: Most of our customers’ private practice physical therapy clinics, they’re buying the machine. For a whole package that includes training for them and people in their office and access to all of our materials and all of that whole package, it’s usually in the range of $18,000. It is obviously intended more for a clinical model where people can use it and generate revenue from it.
For the people who are buying it individually, what we’ve done is included different options for financing to make it more accessible. Then, also include consultation time either in person or remotely, ideally both, where we do the assessments, give them protocols, provide ongoing support, and all of that built in to, again, to build up the value proposition, help people be able to ensure and feel confident that they’re going to get the most out of the machine.
Ben: I know that you guys are offering anybody who listens in this podcast, if you are even a physical therapist or a physician, or if you’re just somebody off the streets who has a script to be able to get $1,000 off if you just have to go to neu.fit. n-e-u.fit/ben. I’ll put that in the shownotes too over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/neural, along with the videos of me using this thing. If you just want to see what it looks in trying to wrap your head around it, it’s a device that’s about the size, let’s see, what would you say, Garrett? It’s about the size of maybe a big briefcase, almost, something like that.
Garrett: If anyone remembers what a VCR is these days, something like that.
Ben: Exactly, like a big VCR for all of our old school listeners. Then, you just plug the electrodes in and you select training, you select recovery. There’s a bunch of different settings on it. If you use a little dial to set up the power. I found it pretty intuitive to use. Obviously, it’s something that you want to know what you’re doing when you start it because it really does pack a punch when it comes to recruiting a lot of muscles. I really dig this thing, especially for injuries. Probably that and the pulsed electromagnetic field therapy I have are the two top things I use when it comes to injuries with my active lifestyle, I seem to experience a lot.
Garrett, thanks for coming on the call and sharing all this stuff with this, man. This is a fascinating device. When it comes to electrical muscle stimulation, I really think it’s the creme de la creme, if you really want. That enough power to be able to operate as a professional athlete or rehab with a lot more efficacy, than you’d find in most EMS devices.
Garrett: Thank you. It’s an honor to be on here and talk about it with you. Hope it stimulates some thought in the people who are listening to this. We’re certainly happy to talk further. Please check out that link, neu.fit/ben, and reach out to us through there, or on social media. My team and I would love to interact with you and talk more about how this type of approach might be able to impact your life or your business, or both.
Ben: Awesome. Awesome. Shownotes at bengreenfieldfitness.neural. You get $1,000 bucks off this thing if you go to n-e-u.fit/ben. I’m Ben Greenfield along with Garrett Salpeter, signing out from bengreenfieldfitness.com. Have an amazing week.
Well, thanks for listening to today’s show. You can grab all the shownotes, the resources, pretty much everything that I mentioned over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com, along with plenty of other goodies from me, including the highly helpful “Ben Recommends” page, which is a list of pretty much everything that I’ve ever recommended for hormone, sleep, digestion, fat loss, performance, and plenty more. Please, also, know that all the links, all the promo codes, that I mentioned during this and every episode, helped to make this podcast happen and to generate income that enables me to keep bringing you this content every single week. When you listen in, be sure to use the links in the shownotes, use the promo codes that I generate, because that helps to float this thing and keep it coming to you each and every week.
I recently posted the following to my newsletter weekly roundup:
“I only did two workouts this week and was sore as hell. You can view both my workouts in .pdf format by clicking here for Workout 1 and clicking here for Workout 2. The workouts were supplied to me by the wicked smart guys over at Neu.fit and I performed them while wearing the NEUBIE, which is NeuFit’s patent-pending electro-stimulation device. NEUBIE is an acronym for “NEURO-BIO-ELECTRIC STIMULATOR.” The NEUBIE can find neurological deficits in the human body with incredible precision, and has two main benefits – 1) it provides direct current (DC), and 2) it matches the signals the nervous system already sends naturally on its own. Using DC is important because it has numerous, positive biological effects. DC fields accelerate the body’s own physiological processes of healing, repair, and regeneration. Although this has been known for a long time, most devices out there are alternating current (AC). These devices are cheaper and easier to engineer, and most people don’t know the difference. Unfortunately, they don’t have anywhere near the effect at the cellular level. The NEUBIE is admittedly expensive but incredible for rehab or for training. It now holds a hallowed place in my gym. You can contact NEUFit here and mention my name for $1000 off your purchase, or you can travel to Austin, Texas to have these guys work on injuries or re-train your muscles in their gym. Ask for Chaz or Garrett if you call these folks.”
Here are a few video demos of me using this very unique electrical muscle stimulation device:
Known as “The Health Engineer,” my guest on today’s show Garrett Salpeter has taken his training in engineering and neuroscience and used it to create NeuFit. By combining next-generation technology with protocols from physical therapy and functional neurology, NeuFit helps people tap into the power of their neurology.
For most people, that leads to improved function and a quicker recovery from an injury/surgery or reaching fitness goals faster than they ever thought possible. For a few, this work has even meant being able to get out of a wheelchair and walk again.
Now practitioners all over the country are adding the technology into their medical, physical therapy, and fitness practices and Garrett is passionate about teaching NeuFit to them so that this work can impact as many lives as possible.
During our discussion, you’ll discover:
-What exactly a “NEUBIE” is and some history behind Garrett’s business…7:50
-How the NEUBIE is different from other EMS devices…11:15
- Direct current rather than alternating current
- Better for regeneration and healing in the body
- The Body Electric by Dr. Robert Becker
- Focused on sensory (afferent) rather than muscle contraction (efferent)
- “Russian Current” is a particular waveform based on tests conducted in the 1980s, in Russia
- Less motor output, more sensory input
- Neuromuscular reeducation
- Being able to move through the contraction expedites the healing process
-Ben and Garrett’s thoughts on suppressing Heart Rate Variability (HRV) during the stimulation, and the resultant high HRV after…24:00
- You want to stress the body, then let it recover and super compensate
- SAID Principle: Specific Adaptation to an Imposed Demand
- You need real-time feedback
- Suppressed HRV during most intense workout is ideal
- Auto-regulating training based on the nervous system
-A scanning procedure that allows you to figure out which muscles need the most work…28:40
-What a typical rehab program looks like and what to expect in terms of sessions and results…32:08
- Address the dysfunction, not the symptom
- Active treatments; not lying down
- Reincorporating the movement patterns
- Creating other feedback to the brain; reduces threat response
- Go higher on the current, sometimes in the same session
-How to use the NEUBIE for a full body workout…35:00
- You gain more recruitment with less external load and less strain on the joints
- Allows to train without pain, makes exercise safer
- Simple bodyweight movements: bands, joint movements
- Progress to heavier weights, kettlebells
-Why you’re so sore after using the NEUBIE; if and when you should use it while you’re sore…38:08
- Most often used by professionals, under professional supervision
- Bodybuilders are pleased with the results after just a few sets vs. a long workout in the gym
- Not required to be sore to build strength
- Stimulate yourself into a depressed state; when recovered, do it again
- Typical schedule: 2x/week, sometimes multiple times a day in extreme cases
-How the device can be used for neurological issues…43:30
- Book: The Wahl’s Protocol
- MS patient experienced very positive results after 2 days working with Garrett
- Had enough muscle control to lift legs, tie shoes
- Took several steps holding her husband’s hand
- TBI and concussions:
- Woman with TBI, making slow progress for 7 years; made remarkable progress with the neubie
-How easy is it for a layperson to obtain and use the neubie…50:15
- Recommended to work with a trained professional, preferably in a clinic
- Find a directory of therapists who use the NEUBIE at fit
- Not often covered by insurance
- You can own one with doctor’s approval (FDA covered device)
- Packages designed for clinics as well as for individuals
-And much more
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