Improvement of Performance and Reduction of Fatigue With Low-Level Laser Therapy in Competitive Cyclists

Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2018 Jan 1;13(1):14-22. doi: 10.1123/ijspp.2016-0187. Epub 2017 Dec 28.


Evidence indicates that low-level laser therapy (LLLT) minimizes fatigue effects on muscle performance. However, the ideal LLLT dosage to improve athletes'performance during sports activities such as cycling is still unclear. Therefore, the goal of this study was to investigate the effects of different LLLT dosages on cyclists'performance in time-to-exhaustion tests. In addition, the effects of LLLT on the frequency content of the EMG signals to assess fatigue mechanisms were examined. Twenty male competitive cyclists participated in a crossover, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. They performed an incremental cycling test to exhaustion (on day 1) followed by 4 time-to-exhaustion tests (on days 2-5) at their individual maximal power output. Before each time-to-exhaustion test, different dosages of LLLT (135, 270, and 405 J/thigh, respectively) or placebo were applied at the quadriceps muscle bilaterally. Power output and muscle activation from both lower limbs were recorded throughout the tests. Increased performance in time-to-exhaustion tests was observed with the LLLT-135 J (∼22 s; P < .01), LLLT-270 J (∼13 s; P = .03), and LLLT-405 J (∼13 s; P = .02) compared to placebo (149 ± 23 s). Although LLLT-270 J and LLLT-405 J did not show significant differences in muscle activation compared with placebo, LLLT-135 J led to an increased high-frequency content compared with placebo in both limbs at the end of the exhaustion test (P ≤ .03). In conclusion, LLLT increased time to exhaustion in competitive cyclists, suggesting this intervention as a possible nonpharmacological ergogenic agent in cycling. Among the different dosages, LLLT-135 J seems to promote the best effects.

Keywords: athletes; cycling; exhaustion time; phototherapy; spectral properties.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bicycling / physiology*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Exercise Test
  • Humans
  • Low-Level Light Therapy*
  • Male
  • Muscle Fatigue / physiology
  • Muscle Fatigue / radiation effects*
  • Physical Endurance / physiology*
  • Quadriceps Muscle / physiology
  • Quadriceps Muscle / radiation effects