Effects of electromyographic biofeedback on quadriceps strength: A systematic review

Adam S. Lepley, Phillip A. Gribble, Brian G. Pietrosimone

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Quadriceps strength is a vital component to lower extremity function and is often the focus in resistance training interventions and injury rehabilitation. Electromyographic biofeedback (EMGBF) is frequently used to supplement strength gains; however, the true effect remains unknown. Therefore, the objective of this investigation was to determine the magnitude of the treatment effect for EMGBF on quadriceps strength compared with that of placebo and traditional exercise interventions in both healthy and pathological populations. Web of Science and ProQuest databases were searched, and bibliographies of relevant articles were crossreferenced. Six articles measuring isometric quadriceps strength in response to EMGBF training were included and methodologically assessed using the Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro). Standardized effect sizes with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated from preintervention and postintervention measures for EMGBF, placebo, and exercise-only interventions. Separate comparisons were made between studies assessing different intervention length (<4 and ≥4 weeks) and patient populations (pathological and healthy). Articles included received an average PEDro score of 6.5 6 0.84. Homogeneous EMGBF effect sizes were found in all 6 studies (d = 0.01-5.56), with 4 studies reporting CI that crossed 0. A heterogeneous collection of effect sizes was found for exercise alone (d = 20.12 to 1.18) and placebo (d = 20.2 to 1.38), with 4 and 1 studies having a CI that crossed 0, respectively. The greatest EMGBF effects were found in pathological populations (d = 0.01-5.56), with the strongest effect found in the subjects with knee osteoarthritis (d = 5.56, CI = 4.26-6.68). As a group, effects were the strongest for EMGBF compared with that of placebo and exercise-only interventions, yet definitive evidence that EMGBF is beneficial for increasing quadriceps strength could not be concluded because of the 4 studies demonstrating a wide CI.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)873-882
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Strength and Conditioning Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2012


  • Knee injury
  • Knee joint musculature rehabilitation
  • Knee joint osteoarthritis
  • Muscle strength
  • Physiological feedback

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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