Comparison of the effects of electrical stimulation and cold-water immersion on muscle soreness after resistance exercise

J Sport Rehabil. 2015 May;24(2):99-108. doi: 10.1123/jsr.2013-0113. Epub 2014 Mar 12.


Context: Resistance training is a common form of exercise for competitive and recreational athletes. Enhancing recovery from resistance training may improve the muscle-remodeling processes, stimulating a faster return to peak performance.

Objective: To examine the effects of 2 different recovery modalities, neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) and cold-water immersion (CWI), on performance and biochemical and ultrasonographic measures.

Participants: Thirty resistance-trained men (23.1 ± 2.9 y, 175.2 ± 7.1 cm, 82.1 ± 8.4 kg) were randomly assigned to NMES, CWI, or control (CON).

Design and setting: All participants completed a high-volume lower-body resistance-training workout on d 1 and returned to the human performance laboratory 24 (24H) and 48 h (48 H) postexercise for follow-up testing.

Measures: Blood samples were obtained preexercise (PRE) and immediately (IP), 30 min (30 P), 24 h (24H), and 48 h (48 H) post. Subjects were examined for performance changes in the squat exercise (total repetitions and average power per repetition), biomarkers of inflammation, and changes in cross-sectional area and echo intensity (EI) of the rectus femoris (RF) and vastus lateralis muscles.

Results: No differences between groups were observed in the number of repetitions (P = .250; power: P = .663). Inferential-based analysis indicated that increases in C-reactive protein concentrations were likely increased by a greater magnitude after CWI compared with CON, while NMES possibly decreased more than CON from IP to 24H. Increases in interleukin-10 concentrations between IP and 30 P were likely greater in CWI than NMES but not different from CON. Inferential-based analysis of RF EI indicated a likely decrease for CWI between IP and 48 H. No other differences between groups were noted in any other muscle-architecture measures.

Conclusions: Results indicated that CWI induced greater increases in pro- and anti-inflammatory markers, while decreasing RF EI, suggesting that CWI may be effective in enhancing short-term muscle recovery after high-volume bouts of resistance exercise.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cold Temperature*
  • Electric Stimulation*
  • Humans
  • Immersion*
  • Male
  • Myalgia / therapy*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / methods
  • Recovery of Function / physiology*
  • Resistance Training*
  • Water*
  • Young Adult


  • Water