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I tested this £1550 leg recovery system favoured by NFL and NBA athletes — it's worth the price if you're looking to seriously boost post-workout recovery time
- A high-quality muscle recovery system is easy to use and transport and helps you both recover from workouts and activate muscles before training sessions.
- I like the NormaTec Pulse 2.0 Recovery System because you can customize your experience based on intensity and zones of your body, it made hitting the pavement day after day easier, and it's compact enough to bring with me on the road.
- Though it's quite expensive (currently starting at £1550 from Best Buy), it's backed by a two-year warranty, supported by an app, and it's the system that professional athletes rely on.
I like to exercise. Still, there are mornings when I'll roll out of bed and my body begs me not to slip on my running shoes. Though I crave my endorphin fix, I find it's best to listen to my body. Fortunately, I've found a hack to please both my body and my addiction to running.
The NormaTec Pulse 2.0 Recovery System uses air pressure strategically applied to different parts of your body to help loosen up your muscles and improve blood flow. This is a system that is used by NBA, NFL, MLB, and Olympic athletes to recover after events and get the juices flowing before workouts. I had the chance to use this high-end device daily for a few months. Here are my experiences.
I tested the NormaTec Pulse 2.0 Leg Recovery System, which features sleeves that cover your legs. Each sleeve has five zones going from the feet to the hips. It works by pulsing air and holding it in each zone in sequence. This helps enhance blood flow, reduce soreness, and speed up recovery.
The pulsing provides dynamic compression, which mimics the muscle pump of the legs. This encourages the movement of metabolites and fluids out of the limbs post-workout. The sequential pulsing reduces fluid backflow. And as opposed to static compression, which can be detrimental to normal circulatory flow, the Pulse 2.0 releases pressure once it's no longer needed to prevent backflow.
The system consists of the following:
- The NormaTec Pulse 2.0 device, which pumps the air and controls the pressure and time
- Hosing, which connects the main unit to the body attachments
- Power supply to plug into a wall outlet
- Leg, hip, or arm attachments. Arm attachments are included in the Full Body Recovery System, but lower-body and leg-only systems can also be purchased. (I tested both the leg and hip attachments.)
Here are some other features of the Pulse 2.0:
- Designed, engineered, and assembled in the United States
- 30 to 110 mmHg pressure range
- Calibration phase for fitting your body each session
- Zones are hand-sewn with triple-reinforced stitching
- Premium zippers
- Weighs 3.5 pounds
- Two-year warranty
I was intimidated by the device at first, but the quick start guide made set-up simple, and the design is intuitive. First, plug the control unit into a power source to charge it up. Next, attach the hosing. Then, find a comfortable spot. You can use the Pulse 2.0while sitting in a chair, but I found it much more comfortable to elevate my legs on a sofa, bed, or ottoman.
Once you find your spot, gather everything nearby that you'll want during the massage — your phone, a drink, a book — and zip the legs up. Attach the legs to the hose, set the time and intensity level you want, and press start. I started at level 3 intensity for 25 minutes but have since worked my way up to level 6 for 45 minutes, which I've been happy with for about a month now. I recommend starting low.
The set-up process took a total of 10 minutes from the moment I opened the box until the pressure began building around my legs.
If you would like to add more time to your recovery while using the Pulse 2.0, you can do so in five-minute increments. Additionally, you can adjust the pressure, which will pause the system for 10 seconds as it recalibrates.
What makes the muscle recovery system stand out
The moment the Pulse 2.0 started working its magic, I was reminded of those blood pressure machines you find at your pharmacy. Only, instead of squeezing my upper arm, it was going to town on my legs. It slowly worked its way up and down my lower body.
At 250 pounds, I'm carrying a little too much extra baggage to be an elite runner. Still, I like to pound the pavement about four to six times a week for efficient exercise. I found the Pulse 2.0 made it easy for me to bust out runs morning after morning.
Now one of my favourite pastimes is to lie down on my sofa or bed with a good book and run the Pulse 2.0 for about 45 minutes. It provides me with a good excuse to take a break from my busy days and just relax.
The Pulse 2.0 is mainly designed for serious athletes, physical therapists, and team trainers. NormaTec's site features photos of top athletes, including Justin Verlander, Dwyane Wade, Chloe Kim, and others. To get the opinion of a real athlete, I turned to my friend Ted Westbrook, who is a competitive long-distance runner.
After a grueling 20-mile training session, Ted zipped on the leg attachments. He reported that it felt soothing. And after hitting the road again the next morning, he let me know that his legs didn't feel like he'd just run 20 miles the day before. They felt much fresher. He now insists that I bring the Pulse 2.0 with me whenever we meet up.
I like that the system can run on battery for up to two hours. This makes it incredibly portable. And it cleans up easily. You just use a damp cloth to wipe it down every so often.
Cons to consider
I would prefer it if the system had some audible indicator when the timer runs out. As it is, the timer counts down, and the big LCD display is easy to see. But if you're not looking at the display, you don't know when it gets to zero. And the pump keeps feeding in air for a few minutes more. Again, this isn't a major problem, but there were a few times when I was engrossed in a book and failed to notice that the Pulse 2.0 was done.
I only found the app to be marginally useful. It didn't add much functionality, and for the most part, I didn't use it. However, you may find it useful if you want to track your sessions, adjust which zones are being used, or have easier access to control the unit.
The bottom line
The NormaTec Pulse 2.0 is a one-of-a-kind device that the pros rely on to recover after games and hardcore training sessions. It also provides a high-tech warm-up. Its price may put it out of reach for most casual athletes though. Below, we will look at whether it's worth buying and which attachments you should choose.
Should you buy it?
With the price starting at £1550 for the leg recovery system, I would only recommend the Pulse 2.0 for serious athletes, physical therapists, and sports trainers. Though I enjoy it immensely, I would not buy the device as a casual runner on a writers' salary.
However, I could see athletic teams, running clubs, or even groups of friends sharing the cost of the system and taking turns with it.
Which attachment should you get?
As mentioned above, there are three attachment options: legs, hips, and arms. The leg attachments appear to be the most popular since running is a major part of just about any sport. I tested both the leg and hip attachments, and I was drawn to use the leg attachments about 90% of the time. The hip attachment was nice when I was having specific hip pains.
The arm attachments are best suited for pitchers, quarterbacks, and other athletes engaged in arm-intensive activities, such as weightlifting.
Overall, I enjoyed testing the Pulse 2.0. It's an excellent tool for giving top athletes that extra edge. And even as a casual athlete, I find it incredibly useful for muscle recovery and warming up. If you can afford it, give it a shot.
Pros: Aids in faster muscle recovery, helps warm muscles up pre-workout, rechargeable battery with two-hour runtime, lightweight design, two-year warranty
Cons: Expensive, difficulty changing settings mid-session