Purpose Unilateral resistance training increases muscle strength of the contralateral homologous muscle by the cross-education effect. Muscle damage induced by second eccentric exercise bout is attenuated, even when it is performed by the contralateral limb. The present study compared the effects of unilateral eccentric training (ET) and concentric training (CT) of the elbow flexors (EF) on maximal voluntary isometric contraction (MVC) strength and muscle damage of the contralateral untrained EF. Methods Young men were placed into ET, CT, ipsilateral repeated bout (IL-RB), and contralateral repeated bout (CL-RB) groups (n = 12 per group). The ET and CT groups performed unilateral EF training consisting of five sets of six eccentric and concentric contractions, respectively, once a week for 5 wk by increasing the intensity from 10% to 100% of MVC, followed by 30 maximal eccentric contractions (30MaxEC) of the opposite EF 1 wk later. The IL-RB group performed two bouts of 30MaxEC separated by 2 wk using the nondominant arm, and CL-RB group performed two bouts of 30MaxEC with a different arm for each bout in 1-wk apart. Results The MVC increased (P < 0.05) greater for the trained (19% ± 8%) and untrained (11% ± 5%) arms in ET when compared with those in CT (10% ± 6%, 5% ± 2%). The magnitude of changes in muscle damage markers was reduced by 71% ± 19% after the second than the first bout for IL-RB group, and by 48% ± 21% for CL-RB group. Eccentric training and CT attenuated the magnitude by 58% ± 25% and 13% ± 13%, respectively, and the protective effect of ET was greater (P < 0.05) than CL-RB, but smaller (P < 0.05) than IL-RB. Conclusions These results showed that cross-education effect was stronger for ET than CT, and progressive ET produced greater contralateral muscle damage protective effect than a single eccentric exercise bout.
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