Electrical stimulation-induced changes in performance and fiber type proportion of human knee extensor muscles

Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1996;74(4):311-7. doi: 10.1007/BF02226926.


The purpose of the present study was to look at the changes in the performance of human knee extensor muscles (KEM) induced by 6 weeks of low-frequency (8 Hz) electrical stimulation (LFES). KEM performance of 20 sedentary (before and after stimulation), ten active, and five endurance-trained subjects was evaluated during 25 consecutive 10-s isometric contractions, each separated by a rest period of 5 s. The mean force maintained during six consecutive 10-s contractions was expressed as a relative percentage of that of the first contraction. The mean performance of the first series of six contractions was not altered in response to stimulation, whereas that of the other four series was significantly increased. No significant difference was noted among the three groups in terms of KEM performance during the first series of six contractions. However, after the first series of six contractions, KEM performance of endurance-trained subjects was better in comparison to the other groups. Citrate synthase (CS) activity, capillary number per type IIA and IIB fibers, and the percentage of type IIA muscle fibers determined from vastus lateralis samples were significantly increased in response to the stimulation protocol. No significant change was observed in the proportion or capillary number of type I fibers, or in the areas of type I, IIA, and IIB fibers. The present study provides evidence that resistance to fatigue of human skeletal muscle can be significantly altered in response to 6 weeks of transcutaneous low-frequency electrical stimulation. The improvement in KEM resistance to fatigue of the sedentary subjects was such that, at the end of the stimulation protocol, resistance to fatigue was similar to that of active subjects. However, the ability of endurance-trained subjects to withstand fatigue was still superior compared to that of the other untrained or active subjects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Knee / physiology*
  • Male
  • Muscle Fatigue / physiology*
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*