The purpose of this study was to compare an electrostimulated to an active recovery strategy after a submaximal isometric fatiguing exercise. Nineteen healthy men completed three sessions (separated by at least 4 weeks) which included a knee extensors provocation exercise consisting of 3 sets of 25 isometric contractions. Contraction intensity level was fixed respectively at 60%, 55% and 50% of previously determined maximal voluntary contraction for the first, second and third sets. This provocation exercise was followed by either an active (AR) recovery (25 min pedaling on a cycle ergometer), an electrostimulated (ESR) recovery (25-min continuous and non-tetanic (5 Hz) stimulation of the quadriceps) or a strictly passive recovery (PR). Peak torques of knee extensors and subjective perception of muscle pain (VAS, 0-10) were evaluated before (pre-ex), immediately after the provocation exercise (post-ex), after the recovery period (post-rec), as well as 75 minutes (1h15) and one day (24h) after the exercise bout. Time course of peak torque was similar among the different recovery modes: ~ 75% of initial values at post-ex, ~ 90% at post-rec and at 1h15. At 24h, peak torque reached a level close to baseline values (PR: 99.1 ± 10.7%, AR: 105.3 ± 12.2%, ESR: 104.4 ± 10.5%). VAS muscle pain scores decreased rapidly between post-ex and post-rec (p < 0.001); there were no significant differences between the three recovery modes (p = 0.64). In conclusion, following a submaximal isometric knee extension exercise, neither electrostimulated nor active recovery strategies significantly improved the time course of muscle function recovery.
Three sets of submaximal isometric contractions at 60%, 55% and 50% of MVC induced an early fatigue without DOMS but did not lead to exhaustion.
In comparison with passive recovery, active and electrostimulated recovery did not lead to significantly higher MVC torques 24h after the exercise bout.
No significant differences were demonstrated between the effects of passive, active and electrostimulated recoveries on muscle pain after repeated submaximal isometric contractions.