Comparison of swim recovery and muscle stimulation on lactate removal after sprint swimming

J Strength Cond Res. 2009 Dec;23(9):2560-7. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181bc1b7a.


Competitive swimming requires multiple bouts of high-intensity exercise, leading to elevated blood lactate. Active exercise recovery has been shown to lower lactate faster than passive resting recovery but may not always be practical. An alternative treatment, electrical muscle stimulation, may have benefits similar to active recovery in lowering blood lactate but to date is unstudied. Therefore, this study compared submaximal swimming and electrical muscle stimulation in reducing blood lactate after sprint swimming. Thirty competitive swimmers (19 men and 11 women) participated in the study. Each subject completed 3 testing sessions consisting of a warm-up swim, a 200-yard maximal frontcrawl sprint, and 1 of 3 20-minute recovery treatments administered in random order. The recovery treatments consisted of a passive resting recovery, a submaximal swimming recovery, or electrical muscle stimulation. Blood lactate was tested at baseline, after the 200-yard sprint, and after 10 and 20 minutes of recovery. A significant interaction (p < 0.05) between recovery treatment and recovery time was observed. Blood lactate levels for the swimming recovery were significantly lower at 10 minutes (3.50 +/- 1.57 mmol.L-1) and 20 minutes (1.60 +/- 0.57 mmol.L-1) of recovery than either of the other 2 treatments. Electrical muscle stimulation led to a lower mean blood lactate (3.12 +/- 1.41 mmol.L-1) after 20 minutes of recovery compared with passive rest (4.11 +/- 1.35 mmol.L-1). Submaximal swimming proved to be most effective at lowering blood lactate, but electrical muscle stimulation also reduced blood lactate 20 minutes postexercise significantly better than resting passive recovery. Electrical muscle stimulation shows promise as an alternate recovery treatment for the purpose of lowering blood lactate.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Athletic Performance / physiology
  • Competitive Behavior / physiology
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lactic Acid / blood*
  • Male
  • Muscle Fatigue / physiology*
  • Recovery of Function / physiology*
  • Rest / physiology
  • Swimming* / injuries
  • Swimming* / physiology
  • Time Factors
  • Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation / instrumentation
  • Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • Lactic Acid