Product Review: The Marc Pro

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a few months now but crazy life keeps getting in the way, having to train, Thanksgiving late, Christmas then New Years. It all just stacks up and I didn’t want to just throw together something off hand without giving it the proper thought and collecting the right information. I think this information is important when talking about the Marc Pro because it doesn’t have the same level of acceptance and understanding that things like Progenex or compression tights do, but in my mind it can be equally important, especially if you are training under high volume regularly, competing, or dealing with chronic injury. The Marc Pro is great for all three of these.

If you’re looking for a review of the Marc Pro Plus, check mine here.

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If you’re interested in buying a Marc Pro – use the discount code “GRIZZLY” at checkout for an extra 5% off.

What is it?

So let’s get into what a Marc Pro is, and what it isn’t. Most people will confuse it with a TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) unit. The Marc Pro is not a TENS unit. TENS units are largely produced to reduce chronic or acute pain, the Marc Pro is not. In general TENS units simply stimulate a nerve to the point that any pain signal received by the brain is essentially temporarily blotted out. So let’s move on to what the Marc Pro is. The Marc Pro is a non-therapeutic stimulation unit intended to facilitate improved recovery, increase muscle conditioning, and reduce soreness. The logic behind it is to use the bodies own body biomechanics to do this which is one of the reasons I really like it.

The reason the Marc Pro isn’t a TENS unit is because of the type of stimulation it delivers. The Marc Pro doesn’t just send straight current pulses to the nerves, they designed it specially to send non-fatiguing stimulation that will open blood vessels, and encourage muscles to uptake nutrients and rid waste products. All of this information is on their site of course, and as always there are those who want to debate it, but the basics of the argument are similar to a recovery row, or Airdyne flush. Simply put, muscles need to contract to move fluid in and out, lymphatic fluid, blood, nutrients, everything gets moved by muscle contraction. This is the recovery piece.

Putting enough electricity through the skin in any form can cause muscles to contract; but how the body responds can vary significantly. The wrong type of current or too much current can be painful or even harmful or dangerous to the body. Some of the most common electrical stimulators on the market are cheap and can interfere with nerve signals, but have no recovery or conditioning benefits whatsoever.
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The muscle conditioning bit is a far more controversial, though there is published research demonstrating improvements – I simply don’t know enough about sports science publication to be 100% confident in it. The basics of this principle are that muscle contractions will encourage the body to adapt by creating new capillaries through the tissue as it’s used more and requires nutrients to support said use. The more capillaries a tissue has, the better waste removal, nutrient uptake, and oxygenation it will have; and thus perform better. Though even if none of this occurred, the recovery benefits would be worthwhile.

How does it work?

The nitty-gritty operation mechanics of the Marc Pro are pretty easy, it’s basically the same as using a roll of tape and a volume knob, so if you can operate both of those then you can probably operate one of these. The only real part that requires work is the pad placements, but given a ton of options in their user manual, it really becomes a pretty practiced routine. You can pretty easily know for what workouts and types of soreness certain pad placements are good for, that being said 99% of the time I’m using it on my legs.

You can check out placements and user videos here

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Pro’s

  1. Highly Portable
  2. Affordable
  3. Easy to Use
  4. Decreases recovery time, improves latency between training
  5. Injury Treatment

Con’s

  1. Expensive
  2. Controversial?
  3. A Bit Strange
  4. Pad placement can be iffy, and individualized

Conclusion

Let’s touch on these pro’s and con’s quickly before coming to any final conclusions. First the pro’s. The Marc Pro unit is tiny, especially when compared to something like a Normatec boot. It fits in a case about the size of one of my shoes. It easily fits in a backpack, gym bag, car trunk, whatever. Making it super portable for traveling to competitions or just in general. It’s affordable, not cheap. We need to spend a minute or two here – it’s not cheap, it’s a large investment. Then again so is an Airdyne. The difference, is that they have an interest free payment program that let’s you afford it probably for less than you already pay for Crossfit. When you consider it in that light, it’s remarkable that more people don’t use these. It’s roughly $60 a month for a year for so much utility. The recovery aspect of the Marc Pro alone makes it worthwhile, there’s no way I could sustain a 35 minute Airdyne session in the AM, then go train strength and gymnastics, and another metcon PM and get the most out of it. It opens up entirely new realms of training.

Now for some of the con’s, which really aren’t con’s in the long run but we’ll take a look anyways. It’s expensive, I touched on this, but spread reasonably, it shouldn’t be an issue for most. The efficacy is controversial, for every article I find about benefits even in larger scale publications like GQ and Outdoor Living, there’s another one saying it’s just an expensive TENS unit and it didn’t work. I don’t care what the research says on this one, I’ve had mine almost 6 months and I wouldn’t want to train without it, if that’s not a strong enough endorsement for you, then I’m sorry. The last two you can get over pretty easily, you look weird sitting around with wires on your legs bouncing up and down, you just do. The pad placement takes some practice, everyone’s physiology is different where the muscle bellies are, where the nerves are, etc. That would be true for a lot of products so it’s barely a con.

In the grand scale of this list, it’s pretty easy to see on which end of the spectrum I land. The Marc Pro is an incredible device, well made and constructed, easy to use, affordable, and has a remarkable amount of utility. Obviously it isn’t for everyone. If you’re not training at least 5-6 times a week, if you don’t compete, and if you’re not injured, it would be hard to find the justification for the cost. With the growing popularity of competitive exercise I can see a lot of people suddenly finding this a great product.

95/100 – A solid A.

If you’re interested in buying a Marc Pro – use the discount code “GRIZZLY” at checkout for an extra 5% off.

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  4. I have a few questions! I have one of those pulsating massage units for “paralyzed muscles/ recouping” Anyway its like a TENS unit in its design and Similar to this unit it the way it tenses the muscles.

    The only noticeable difference I can see to the unit Marc Pro is they market at the design for Athletic performance and Recovery. I am wondering tho are they similar? Because the unit I have is actually designed to Contract and Relax the muscles too… is that just not as effective as this because that is designed for no athletic use? or would my unit I already have serve a similar/ somewhat rewarding effect or no?

    • The differences go beyond marketing. It was actually designed from the ground up for a different purpose and that’s the real contrast. A TENS unit is normally designed to give a squareform pulse, in other words you go right from 0% to 100% and then back down to 0%. The Marc Pro was designed to give a decaying waveform pulse that works you through the full range of contraction, but ends up spending significantly less time at 100%. The result is that you get the contraction, the blood flow, fluid and oxygen exchange, but none of the cramps or contraction based fatigue. At a very basic level, yes, they both use electricity to contract a muscle, but that’s like saying all cars just use gas to get you somewhere. Clearly there are many different types, styles, uses, for cars. Similarly, there are many different ways to get electricity to contract a muscle and the Marc Pro was designed to do it in a way that helps an athlete recover.

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