This study investigated the magnitude and duration of the protective effect of low-intensity eccentric contractions (LowEC) against damage induced by maximal eccentric contractions (MaxEC) of the knee flexors (KF) and extensors (KE). Young men were assigned to 8 experimental groups and 2 control groups (n = 13/group); the experimental groups performed LowEC of KF or KE 2 days (2d), 1 week (1wk), 2 weeks (2wk), or 3 weeks (3wk) before MaxEC, while the control groups performed MaxEC of KF or KE without LowEC. The 2d, 1wk, 2wk, and 3wk groups performed 30 LowEC of KF or 60 LowEC of KE with a load of 10% of maximal voluntary isometric contraction strength on a resistance-training machine, and all groups performed 30 MaxEC of KF or 60 MaxEC of KE on an isokinetic dynamometer. Several muscle damage markers were measured from before to 2 days after exercise (LowEC) or from before to 5 days after exercise (MaxEC). No significant changes in any variables were evident after LowEC. The changes in all variables after MaxEC were smaller (P < 0.05) for the 2d and 1wk groups (e.g., peak creatine kinase activity: 1002 ± 501 IU/L; peak muscle soreness: 13 ± 5 mm) than for the control group (peak creatine kinase activity: 3005 ± 983 IU/L; peak muscle soreness 28 ± 6 mm) for both KE and KF. There were no significant differences between the 2d and 1wk groups or among the 2wk, 3wk, and control groups. These results show that LowEC provided 30%–66% protection against damage induced by MaxEC of KF and KE, and the protective effect lasted 1 week.
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