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Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise:
Basic Sciences: Original Investigations

Partial Protection against Muscle Damage by Eccentric Actions at Short Muscle Lengths


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Purpose: This study investigated the hypothesis that maximal eccentric actions at a short muscle length would fail to confer a protective effect against muscle damage induced by maximal eccentric exercise at a long muscle length.

Methods: Eleven males performed 24 maximal eccentric actions of the nondominant elbow flexors over a short extension range from an elbow joint angle of 0.87–1.74 rad (S-ECC) followed 4 wk later by eccentric actions at a long range of 2.27–3.14 rad (L-ECC). A second group of 11 males performed L-ECC on two occasions using the nondominant arm separated by 4 wk. Changes in maximal isometric strength, range of motion, upper arm circumference, muscle soreness, plasma creatine kinase and aspartate aminotransferase activities, and B-mode ultrasound images were compared between bouts and between groups by two-way repeated measures ANOVA.

Results: All measures changed significantly (P < 0.01) after the first bout; however, the effects were significantly (P < 0.01) smaller after S-ECC compared with L-ECC. The second bout resulted in significantly (P < 0.01) reduced changes in all measures compared with the first bout in the subjects who performed L-ECC on both occasions. The subjects who performed S-ECC in the first bout displayed significantly smaller changes after L-ECC than those seen after L-ECC alone, with the degree of attenuation being around 50–70%.

Conclusion: Contrary to the hypothesis, S-ECC provided partial but effective protection against L-ECC. This result suggests adaptations associated with the repeated bout effect were also produced after S-ECC, but the degree of adaptations was not as strong as that by L-ECC. Eccentric exercise at a short extension range can be used as a strategy to present severe muscle damage.

©2005The American College of Sports Medicine


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