Electromyographic analysis of exercise resulting in symptoms of muscle damage.J Sports Sci. 2000 Mar; 18(3):163-72.JS
Surface electromyographic (EMG) signals were recorded from the hamstring muscles during six sets of submaximal isokinetic (2.6 rad x s(-1)) eccentric (11 men, 9 women) or concentric (6 men, 4 women) contractions. The EMG per unit torque increased during eccentric (P < 0.01) but not during concentric exercise. Similarly, the median frequency increased during eccentric (P < 0.01) but not during concentric exercise. The EMG per unit torque was lower for submaximal eccentric than maximum isometric contractions (P < 0.001), and lower for submaximal concentric than maximum isometric contractions (P < 0.01). The EMG per unit torque was lower for eccentric than concentric contractions (P < 0.05). The median frequency was higher for submaximal eccentric than maximum isometric contractions (P < 0.001); it was similar, however, between submaximal concentric and maximum isometric contractions (P = 0.07). Eccentric exercise resulted in significant isometric strength loss (P < 0.01), pain (P < 0.01) and muscle tenderness (P < 0.05). The greatest strength loss was seen 1 day after eccentric exercise, while the most severe pain and muscle tenderness occurred 2 days after eccentric exercise. A lower EMG per unit torque is consistent with the selective recruitment of a small number of motor units during eccentric exercise. A higher median frequency during eccentric contractions may be explained by selective recruitment of fast-twitch motor units. The present results are consistent with the theory that muscle damage results from excessive stress on a small number of active fibres during eccentric contractions.