We have previously quantified the extent of myofibrillar disruption which occurs following an acute bout of resistance exercise in untrained men, however the response of well-trained subjects is not known. We therefore recruited six strength-trained men, who ceased training for 5 days and then performed 8 sets of 8 uni-lateral repetitions, using a load equivalent to 80% of their concentric (Con) 1-repetition maximum. One arm performed only Con actions by lifting the weight and the other arm performed only eccentric actions (Ecc) by lowering it. Needle biopsy samples were obtained from biceps brachii of each arm approximately 21 h following exercise, and at baseline (i.e., after 5 days without training), and subsequently analyzed using electron microscopy to quantify myofibrillar disruption. A greater (P < or = 0.05) proportion of disrupted fibres was found in the Ecc arm (45 +/- 11%) compared with baseline values (4 +/- 2%), whereas fibre disruption in the Con arm (27 +/- 4%) was not different (P > 0.05) from baseline values. The proportion of disrupted fibres and the magnitude of disruption (quantified by sarcomere counting) was considerably less severe than previously observed in untrained subjects after an identical exercise bout. Mixed muscle protein synthesis, assessed from approximately 21-29 h post-exercise, was not different between the Con- and Ecc-exercised arms. We conclude that the Ecc phase of resistance exercise is most disruptive to skeletal muscle and that training attenuates the severity of this effect. Moreover, it appears that fibre disruption induced by habitual weightlifting exercise is essentially repaired after 5 days of inactivity in trained men.