Similar recovery of maximal cycling performance after ischemic preconditioning, neuromuscular electrical stimulation or active recovery in endurance athletes


This study investigated the efficacy of ischemic preconditioning (IPC) on the recovery of maximal aerobic performance and physiological responses compared with commonly used techniques. Nine endurance athletes performed two 5-km cycling time trials (TT) interspersed by 45 minutes of recovery that included either IPC, active recovery (AR) or neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) in a randomized crossover design. Performance, blood markers, arterial O2 saturation (SpO2), heart rate (HR), near-infrared spectroscopy-derived muscle oxygenation parameters and perceptual measures were recorded throughout TTs and re-covery. Differences were analyzed using repeated-measures ANOVAs and Cohen’s effect size (ES). The decrement in chron-ometric performance from TT1 to TT2 was similar between recovery modalities (IPC:-6.1 sec, AR:-7.9 sec, NMES:-5.4 sec, p = 0.84, ES 0.05). The modalities induced similar increases in blood volume before the start of TT2 (IPC: 13.3%, AR: 14.6%, NMES: 15.0%, p = 0.79, ES 0.06) and similar changes in lactate concentration and pH. There were negligible differences between conditions in bicarbonate concentration, base excess of blood and total concentration of carbon dioxide, and no difference in SpO2, HR and muscle O2 extraction during exercise (all p > 0.05). We interpreted these findings to suggest that IPC is as effective as AR and NMES to enhance muscle blood volume, metabolic by-prod-ucts clearance and maximal endurance performance. IPC could therefore complement the athlete’s toolbox to promote recovery.

Journal of Sports Science and Medicine