Morphology and anabolic response of skeletal muscles subjected to eccentrically or concentrically biased exercise

Lindsey K. Lepley, Steven M. Davi, Emily R. Hunt, Julie P. Burland, McKenzie S. White, Grace Y. McCormick, Timothy A. Butterfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Context: Long-term eccentric exercise is known to promote muscle growth better than concentric exercise, but its acute effect on muscle is not well understood because of misinterpreted modeling and in situ and in vitro stretch protocols. Knowing if the initial bout of eccentric exercise promotes muscle growth and limits damage is critical to understanding the effect of this mode of exercise. Objective: To directly evaluate the immediate effects of eccentric and concentric exercises on untrained muscle when fiber strains were physiological and exercise doses were comparable. Design: Controlled laboratory study. Setting: Laboratory. Patients or Other Participants: A total of 40 skeletally mature male Long-Evans rats (age=16 weeks, mass=452.1 6 35.2 g) were randomly assigned to an eccentric exercise (downhill walking, n = 16), concentric exercise (uphill walking, n = 16), or control (no exercise, n = 8) group. Intervention(s): Rats were exposed to a single 15-minute bout of eccentric or concentric exercise on a motorized treadmill and then were euthanized at 6 or 24 hours postexercise. We harvested the vastus lateralis muscle bilaterally. Main Outcome Measure(s): The percentage increase or decrease in protein abundance in exercised animals relative to that in unexercised control animals was evaluated as elevated phosphorylated p70S6k relative to total p70S6k. Fiber damage was quantified using immunoglobulin G permeability staining. One-way analysis of variance and post hoc Tukey tests were performed. Results: Rats exposed to eccentric exercise and euthanized at 24 hours had higher percentage response protein synthesis rates than rats exposed to eccentric exercise and euthanized at 6 hours (P = .02) or to concentric exercise and euthanized at 6 (P = .03) or 24 (P = .03) hours. We assessed 9446 fibers for damage and found only 1 fiber was infiltrated (in the concentric exercise group euthanized at 6 hours). Furthermore, no between-groups differences in immunoglobulin G fluorescent intensity were detected (P = .94). Conclusions: Incorporating eccentric exercise is a simple, universally available therapeutic intervention for promoting muscle recovery. A single 15-minute dose of eccentric exercise to a novice muscle can better exert an anabolic effect than a comparable dose of concentric exercise, with very limited evidence of fiber damage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)336-342
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Athletic Training
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for this study was provided by Research & Education Foundation New Investigator award (1516NIGP002 [Dr Lepley]).

Publisher Copyright:
© by the National Athletic Trainers' Association, Inc.


  • Lengthening contractions
  • Mammalian target of rapamycin pathway
  • Muscle injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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