Purpose: With lengthening (eccentric) muscle contractions, the magnitude of locomotor-muscle mass and strength increase has been demonstrated to be greater compared with shortening (concentric) muscle contractions. In healthy subjects, energy demand and heart rate responses with eccentric exercise are small relative to the amount of muscle force produced. Thus, eccentric exercise may be an attractive alternative to resistance exercise for patients with limited cardiovascular exercise tolerance.
Methods: We tested the cardiovascular tolerance of eccentric exercise in 13 coronary patients (ages 40-66) with preserved and/or mild reduced left ventricular function. Patients were randomly assigned to either an eccentric (ECC; N = 7) or a concentric (CON; N = 6) training group and trained for 8 wk. Training workload was increased progressively (from week 1 to 5) to an intensity equivalent to 60% [OV0312]O(2peak).
Results: On average, maximum power output achieved with ECC was fourfold compared with CON (357 +/- 96 W vs 97 +/- 21 W; P < 0.005), whereas measures of oxygen uptake and blood lactate were significantly lower (P < 0.05 each), and ratings of perceived exertion were similar for ECC and CON. During a 20-min session of ECC and CON, central hemodynamics was measured by means of right heart catheterization. During ECC, responses of mean arterial blood pressure, systemic vascular resistance, pulmonary capillary pressure, cardiac index, and stroke work of the left ventricle on average were in the normal range of values and similar to those observed during CON. Compared with baseline, after 8 wk of training, echocardiographic left ventricular function was unchanged.
Conclusion: The results indicate uncoupling of skeletal muscle load and cardiovascular stress during ECC. For low-risk patients with coronary heart disease without angina, inducible ischemia, or left ventricular dysfunction, ECC can be recommended as a safe new approach to perform high-load muscular exercise training with minimal cardiovascular stress.