Electric muscle stimulation (EMS) has been widely used in the rehabilitation of musculoskeletal injuries. Patterned electrical neuromuscular stimulation (PENS), a specific form of EMS, has been developed to better educate muscles to contract properly. The physiological efficacy of PENS has not been quantifiably identified. OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study is to determine the acute effect of one PENS training session (3 sets of 10 1-sec repetitions) on maximal isometric knee extensor (MVIC) torque production and surface EMG (sEMG) in healthy nonathlete college students. DESIGN: A randomized repeated-measures design was used in this study. METHODS: Twenty-two male college students participated in the study. All participants completed two training sessions, one with PENS and one without, in a randomized crossover design. RESULTS: One bout of PENS training significantly increased MVIC (3.1% ± 1.7%, p = 0.03) which was greater than the change in MVIC of the control group (p = 0.03). Control training did not alter MVIC but resulted in significant decrease in average sEMG amplitude (-7.8% ± 1.6%, p ≤ 0.01) and peak sEMG amplitude (-10.4% ± 2.7%, p ≤ 0.01). These reductions in sEMG following control training were significantly different from the PENS group (p = 0.03 and p ≤ 0.01). CONCLUSIONS: The findings suggest that strength training in conjunction with PENS can enhance torque production after just one bout of training. The increase in torque with no change in sEMG amplitude can be explained by increased motor unit synchronization or decreased cocontraction of antagonist muscles.



College and Department

Life Sciences; Exercise Sciences



Date Submitted


Document Type





patterned electrical neuromuscular stimulation (PENS), maximum voluntary isometric contraction (MVIC), motor unit recruitment, median frequency, synchronization