Background: Loss of muscle strength and cross-sectional area is a well-recognized consequence of spaceflight. Existing countermeasures have not been fully effective in preventing muscle weakness and atrophy in microgravity. Resistance exercise programs that consist of both eccentric and concentric actions have resulted in strength and muscle mass gains in ground-based studies.
Hypotheses: 1) A concentric/eccentric combination exercise regimen (with a bias of either concentric or eccentric exercise) will result in a greater strength gain than concentric exercise alone; and 2) an eccentrically biased regimen will result in the greatest strength gain of all.
Methods: The 31 subjects were randomly assigned to one of three isokinetic exercise groups (CON-ECC: 75% concentric and 25% eccentric; ECC-CON: 75% eccentric and 25% concentric; CON: 100% concentric); each subject trained the right leg 3 d per week for 5 wk. Pre- and post-training isokinetic concentric/ eccentric strength tests and DEXA scans assessed changes in muscle strength and/or mass.
Results: All three groups showed an increase in eccentric muscle strength with the CON group showing the smallest gain (10.1%). Significantly larger gains were noted in the two combination groups (19.5%, 18.1%; p < 0.042), with the largest gains in eccentric strength. No significant change was noted in muscle mass.
Conclusions: A resistance exercise protocol which includes eccentric as well as concentric exercise, particularly when the eccentric exercise is emphasized, appears to result in greater strength gains than concentric exercise alone. Findings suggest eccentric exercise may be an important component of the in-flight resistance exercise protocol for long-duration spaceflight.