The effects of phototherapy (or photobiomodulation therapy) with low-level laser therapy (LLLT) and/or light-emitting diodes (LEDs) on human performance improvement have been widely studied. Few studies have examined its effect on muscular training and no studies have explored the necessary moment of phototherapy irradiations (i.e., before and/or after training sessions).

The aim of this study was to determine the optimal moment to apply phototherapy irradiation when used in association with strength training.

Forty-eight male volunteers (age between 18 to 35 years old) completed all procedures in this study. Volunteers performed the strength training protocol where either a phototherapy and/or placebo before and/or after each training session was performed using cluster probes with four laser diodes of 905 nm, four LEDs of 875 nm, and four LEDs of 640 nm-manufactured by Multi Radiance Medical™.

The training protocol duration was 12 weeks with assessments of peak torque reached in maximum voluntary contraction test (MVC), load in 1-repetition maximum test (1-RM) and thigh circumference (perimetry) at larger cross-sectional area (CSA) at baseline, 4 weeks, 8 weeks, and 12 weeks.

Volunteers from group treated with phototherapy before and placebo after training sessions showed significant (p < 0.05) changes in MVC and 1-RM tests for both exercises (leg extension and leg press) when compared to other groups.

With an apparent lack of side effects and safety due to no thermal damage to the tissue, we conclude that the application of phototherapy yields enhanced strength gains when it is applied before exercise.

The application may have additional beneficial value in post-injury rehabilitation where strength improvements are needed.