Mika A, Mika P, Fernhall B, Unnithan VB: Comparison of recovery strategies on muscle performance after fatiguing exercise. Am J Phys Med Rehabil 2007;86:474–481.
The objective of this study was to assess the influence of different relaxation modes: stretching (ST), active recovery (AR), and passive recovery (PR) on muscle relaxation after dynamic exercise of the quadriceps femoris.
Ten healthy male volunteers between 24 and 38 yrs of age participated in this study. After the warm-up, subjects performed three sets of dynamic leg extension and flexion (at an angle of 20–110 degrees) at 50% of previously determined maximal voluntary contraction (MVC), with 30 secs of rest between sets. Immediately after completing the leg exercise, one of the relaxation methods was applied, in a randomized order (AR, PR, ST). Then, subjects performed isometric knee extension at 50% of MVC to the point of fatigue, and surface electromyogram (EMG) of the vastus lateralis muscle was measured.
After AR, the mean MVC was significantly (P < 0.05) higher than after PR and ST. Moreover, there was no difference in MVC between AR and baseline (P > 0.05). Total time of the effort during EMG measurement was significantly lower for all three recovery modes than at baseline. During the effort after both PR and ST, there was no significant increase in motor unit activation, but a significant increase was noted after AR (P < 0.05). There was no difference in frequency between any of the recovery modes and baseline (P > 0.05).
The results of this study suggest that the most appropriate and effective recovery mode after dynamic muscle fatigue involves light, active exercises, such as cycling with minimal resistance.