This brief review focuses on the time course of changes in muscle function and other correlates of muscle damage following maximal effort eccentric actions of the forearm flexor muscles. Data on 109 subjects are presented to describe an accurate time course of these changes and attempt to establish relationships among the measures. Peak soreness is experienced 2-3 d postexercise while peak swelling occurs 5 d postexercise. Maximal strength and the ability to fully flex the arm show the greatest decrements immediately after exercise with a linear restoration of these functions over the next 10 d. Blood creatine kinase (CK) levels increase precipitously at 2 d after exercise which is also the time when spontaneous muscle shortening is most pronounced. Whether the similarity in the time courses of some of these responses implies that they are caused by similar factors remains to be determined. Performance of one bout of eccentric exercise produces an adaptation such that the muscle is more resistant to damage from a subsequent bout of exercise. The length of the adaptation differs among the measures such that when the exercise regimens are separated by 6 wk, all measures show a reduction in response on the second, compared with the first, bout. After 10 wk, only CK and muscle shortening show a reduction in response. After 6 months only the CK response is reduced. A combination of cellular factors and neurological factors may be involved in the adaptation process.
(C)1992The American College of Sports Medicine