Chronic eccentric arm cycling improves maximum upper-body strength and power
Eccentric contractions, the lengthening of muscle while producing force, are a common part of our everyday movements. This study presents a challenge to the accepted notion that eccentric work causes obligatory muscle injury while demonstrating that an increase in muscle strength, via eccentric work, can occur with little demand for oxygen. Nine healthy subjects, ages 18-34, were randomly placed in either an eccentric or a concentric training group. Both groups trained for 6 wk while progressively increasing training frequency and duration. Significant gains in isometric leg strength were seen in the eccentrically trained subjects only. While training, the oxygen consumption required to do the eccentric work was equal to or less than that required to do the concentric work. The results demonstrate that by progressively increasing the eccentric work rate, significant isometric strength gains can be made without muscle injury and with minimal increase in metabolic demand for oxygen. The potential clinical implications of an eccentric training program that uncouples skeletal muscle strength improvements from the demand for oxygen are alluring.