Controversy remains about whether exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD) and the subsequent repeated bout effect (RBE) are caused by the stretching of an activated muscle, or the production of high force at long, but constant, muscle lengths. The aim of this study was to determine the influence of muscle fascicle stretch elicited during different muscle contraction types on the magnitude of EIMD and the RBE.
Fourteen participants performed an initial bout of lower limb exercise of the triceps surae. One leg performed sustained static contractions at a constant long muscle length (ISO), whereas the contralateral leg performed a bout of eccentric heel drop exercise (ECC). Time under tension was matched between the ECC and ISO conditions. Seven days later, both legs performed ECC. Plantar flexor twitch torque, medial gastrocnemius (MG) fascicle length and muscle soreness were assessed before, 2 h and 2 days after each exercise bout. MG fascicle length and triceps surae surface electromyography were examined across the bouts of exercise.
We found that both ECC and ISO conditions elicited EIMD and a RBE. ISO caused less damage 2 h after the initial bout (14% less drop in twitch torque, P = 0.03) and less protection from soreness 2 days after the repeated bout (56% higher soreness, P = 0.01). No differences were found when comparing neuromechanical properties across exercise bouts.
For MG, the action of stretching an active muscle seems to be more important for causing damage than a sustained contraction at a long length.
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Analysis of variance
Backward downhill walking
Exercise-induced muscle damage
Maximal voluntary contraction
Before the exercise bout
Repeated bout effect
Root mean square
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The authors would like to thank to all participants of this study for their time and effort, especially those within the Centre for Sensorimotor Performance, School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences, The University of Queensland.
This research was supported by an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant (LP140100260).
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The University of Queensland Human Research Ethics Committee provided approval for this research (2015000064).
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Pincheira, P.A., Hoffman, B.W., Cresswell, A.G. et al. Cyclic eccentric stretching induces more damage and improved subsequent protection than stretched isometric contractions in the lower limb. Eur J Appl Physiol 121, 3349–3360 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-021-04787-1