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The Effect of External Counterpulsation on Running Performance and Recovery

26 Aug 2020
Randall Cooper
For runners looking for new ways to optimise their post-exercise recovery process, a new study in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance looked at an interesting method – external counterpulsation.

So what is external counterpulsation (ECP)?

ECP is a non-invasive procedure that is believed to help stimulate the growth of new blood vessels in the heart and improve the blood flow in existing blood vessels. It works by lying the recipient down on a table and fitting pressure valves to their calves and thighs, which then inflate and deflate based on the recipient’s heart rhythm. This results in increasing the pressure on the blood flow through the aorta so that the heart receives extra oxygen-enriched blood. 


Photo: ECP in action with the Brisbane Broncos

The researchers subjected 13 healthy young adult males to two experimental trials in which they completed strenuous exercise (including a 1.2-km shuttle run test) twice, with half the group resting normally and the other half conducting 20-minute ECP in between both trials.

The group that underwent ECP displayed significant benefits in their second exercise trial compared to the control group, completing their 1.2k shuttle run in shorter time and enjoying significant perceived recoveries.

The trial strongly indicates that even just 20 minutes of ECP can allow athletes to significantly improve their recovery from strenuous exercise and boost their subsequent within-day performance, positioning ECP as a viable alternative for athletes looking to optimise and accelerate their recovery process, especially those with congested training or competition schedules.

However, at roughly $40,000 USD per machine, you’d better start saving.

Link to the paper: click here.

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