The conclusion at a glance:

  • Researchers concluded that "phototherapy (with lasers and LEDs) improves muscle performance and accelerates recovery when applied before exercise." [1]
  • the vast majority of clinical studies reviewed showed a "significant improvement in key performance measures" such as maximum repetitions, speed and endurance.
  • Time to exhaustion during various exercises "increased significantly compared to placebo."


Great base of clinical research shows that Red light therapy promotes muscle recovery

The healing and regenerating effects of red light therapy on muscle recovery have been demonstrated in numerous studies and it is supported by many world-class pro athletes and trainers who swear by red light therapy for daily muscle recovery at the highest competitive level.

In 2015, researchers conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of numerous randomized, placebo-controlled studies on red light therapy and muscle recovery and performance. Based on the study, the authors concluded that red light therapy "improves muscle performance and speeds recovery." [1]

Less pain and damage after intense workouts: In 2014, red light therapy was tested for muscle recovery in healthy young men after "damaging eccentric exercise". The light therapy group showed a significantly reduced loss of muscle strength, less muscle soreness, and less movement restrictions, and this was demonstrated up to 4 days after harmful exercise. [3]

Recovery from demanding workouts: Researchers in the 2014 study cited above found that light therapy reduces muscle soreness after strenuous exercise, and also that a single red light therapy treatment immediately after damaging exercise was effective in reducing muscle pain and loss of strength. [3]

Less delayed muscle soreness: Delayed muscle pain (DOMS) is pain and stiffness that you feel 24 to 72 hours after a workout or strenuous activity. A double-blind, randomized study assessed light therapy, exercise, and DOMS and concluded:

  • "The light therapy group showed a significant reduction in pain associated with DOMS."
  • "The McGill Pain Questionnaire showed a significant difference in pain scores over the 48 hour period."
  • Conclusion: Light therapy "offers a beneficial effect for patients who may experience DOMS after a training session." [4]

A trial in 2014 assessed skeletal muscle performance and recovery after exercise for healthy men. The researchers found that pre-exercise light therapy "significantly increases performance, decreases delayed muscle soreness, and improves biochemical markers associated with skeletal muscle damage." [2] This is in line with previous research showing that pre-exercise red light therapy delays the onset of muscle fatigue. [5]

Fight inflammation: Research shows that red light therapy also helps reduce inflammation that can lead to cell damage. [6-7-8]

Less walking damage: In 2012, it was concluded that runners in the light therapy group experienced reduced “exercise-related oxidative stress and muscle damage”. Researchers stated that the modulation of the redox system (reduction of oxidative stress) by light therapy likely delayed and reduced skeletal muscle fatigue after running. [9]

Less knee fatigue: A recent 2018 study found that red light therapy before and after exercise reduced knee muscle fatigue. [10] Similar results from a 2010 study of knee muscle fatigue found that pre-exercise light therapy was an effective way to prevent the increase of muscle proteins in the blood serum. "[10]

Lower creatine kinase levels indicate less muscle damage with light therapyCreatine kinase (CK) is an essential enzyme in your body that you make in greater numbers in response to muscle and tissue damage. As a result, it is often used in blood tests to assess muscle damage. [11]

Many studies have shown a sharp decrease in CK levels for light therapy groups versus placebo and control groups.

A recent 2018 systematic review and meta-analysis was conducted in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine to assess the muscle effects of light therapy, especially in terms of creatine kinase levels after exercise. After reviewing 14 studies, the authors concluded that light therapy has a positive effect on the control of creatine kinase activity. [12]

Red Light therapy beats cryotherapy for muscle recovery in clinical trials: A 2016 study evaluated both cryotherapy and red light therapy for muscle recovery. Researchers found that light therapy alone was "optimal for post-exercise recovery," with reduced DOMS and creatine kinase activity versus placebo or cryotherapy. They concluded that light therapy by itself led to "full recovery to baseline values ​​from 24 hours after high-intensity eccentric contractions." [13]

These positive results build on previous research. For example, a 1990 study assessed numerous soft tissue injuries and concluded that light therapy was an effective method of recovery, with significantly longer healing times. [14]

Research shows that pro football and rugby players recover faster with red light therapy: Recent clinical studies of professional rugby and soccer players assessed men's stamina, speed and ability to recover from demanding matches and training. Researchers found that red light therapy accelerated players' recovery times, leading the authors of both studies to recommend red light therapy for athletic recovery.

The results in the rugby field were consistent with the results in the laboratory: rugby players who received light therapy treatments saw a “significantly reduced percentage change in blood lactate levels (p ≤ 0,05) and experienced fatigue (p ≤ 0,05). " [15-16]

A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial tested pro-volleyball players and found this about the light therapy group:

"Post-exercise levels of biochemical markers decreased significantly: blood lactate, creatine kinase and C-reactive protein levels." [17]

Women feel less pain from exercise in the postmenopause:
Light therapy has been shown to be clinically effective in reducing muscle soreness in a wide range of populations, with especially encouraging results for postmenopausal women combining red light therapy with exercise.

In addition to improving quadricep performance, red light therapy was also found in 2014 to "reduce peripheral fatigue in postmenopausal women." [18] Infrared LED therapy associated with treadmill training has also been shown to improve muscle strength and slow leg fatigue in postmenopausal women. [19]

Faster recovery for postmenopausal women: As with the study of the prevention of muscle fatigue, postmenopausal women showed impressive results of muscle recovery with red light therapy. In 2013, a team of researchers analyzed exercise tolerance and muscle recovery in 30 postmenopausal women over 6 months. One group received short-wave infrared light therapy and did the treadmill training, the other only the treadmill.

Researchers found that "recovery time showed a significant decrease only in the LED group." They concluded that light therapy and exercise "can improve maximum performance and post-exercise recovery in postmenopausal women." [20]

Your strength increases with this therapy

Here are more reasons why so many professional strength trainers include red light therapy in their routines.

Harder strength training: in A 2016 test showed the effects of light therapy on men 18 to 35 years old who did strength training. Men in the light therapy group "showed significant changes" in maximum torque for both leg extension and leg muscle exercises.

Researchers concluded, "The application of phototherapy provides improved strength gains when applied before exercise. The application may be of additional benefit in post-injury rehabilitation where strength improvements are needed." [21]


In 2011, researchers who tested light therapy and strength training on healthy young men concluded: "Strength training associated with light therapy can improve muscle performance compared to strength training alone." [22]

Stronger legs: That above increase amounted to a 55% increase in leg press tests, much higher than the non-therapy group. The men who received light therapy were "the only group to show an increase in muscle performance in the isokinetic dynamometry test compared to baseline." [22]


Stronger grip: A 2014 placebo-controlled study found that red light treatments reduced the maximum repetitions of hand and grasping exercises by 52%, as measured with an isokinetic dynamometer. [23] Numerous other studies have also shown significant increases in grip strength during exercise after light therapy treatments. [24]


Scientific sources and medical references:

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