Influence of Whole-Body Electrostimulation on Human Red Blood Cell Deformability

J Strength Cond Res. 2015 Sep;29(9):2570-8. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000916.


Red blood cell-nitric oxide synthase (RBC-NOS)-dependent NO production is essential for the maintenance of RBC deformability, which is known to improve oxygen supply to the working tissue. Electrostimulation of the whole body (WB-EMS) has been shown to improve maximal strength, springiness, and jumping power of trained and untrained athletes. To examine whether these 2 parameters are associated, this study, for the first time, aimed to investigate the effects of an 18-week dynamic WB-EMS program on RBC deformability in addition to maximal strength performance (1 repetition maximum [1RM]) in elite soccer players. Fifteen test persons were assigned in either WB-EMS group (EG, n = 10) or training group (TG, n = 5). Next to their weekly training sessions, EG performed 3 × 10 squat jumps under the influence of WB-EMS twice per week between weeks 1 and 14 and once per week between weeks 14 and 18. Training group only performed 3 × 10 squat jumps. Performance was assessed by a maximal strength test on the leg press machine (1RM). Subjects were tested at baseline and after weeks 7, 14, and 18 with blood sampling before (Pre), 15-30 minutes after (Post), and 24 hours after (24-hour Post) the training. The results showed that maximal strength was significantly improved in EG (p < 0.01). Maximum RBC deformability (EImax) increased on EMS stimulus in EG while it remained unaffected in the TG. Acute increase in EImax at baseline was explained by an increase in RBC-NOS activation while chronic increase of deformability must be caused by different, yet unknown, mechanisms. EImax decreased between weeks 14 and 18 suggesting that 1 WB-EMS session per week is not sufficient to alter deformability (EImax). In contrast, the deformability at low shear stress (EI 3 Pa), comparable with conditions found in the microcirculation, significantly increased in EG until week 14, whereas in TG deformability only, increased until week 7 due to increasing training volume after the winter break. The results indicate that WB-EMS represents a useful and time-saving addition to conventional training sessions to improve RBC deformability and possibly oxygen supply to the working tissue and thus promoting general force components in high performance sport.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Athletes
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy*
  • Erythrocyte Deformability / physiology*
  • Erythrocytes / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microcirculation / physiology
  • Muscle Strength / physiology
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / metabolism
  • Soccer
  • Young Adult


  • Nitric Oxide Synthase