The purpose of this study was to compare the changes in the symptoms of exercise-induced muscle damage from a bout of plyometric exercise (PE; 10 × 10 vertical jumps) performed in aquatic, sand and firm conditions. Twenty-four healthy college-aged men were randomly assigned to one of three groups: Aquatic (AG, n = 8), Sand (SG, n = 8) and Firm (FG, n = 8). The AG performed PE in an aquatic setting with a depth of ~130 cm. The SG performed PE on a dry sand surface at a depth of 20 cm, and the FG performed PE on a 10-cm-thick wooden surface. Plasma creatine kinase (CK) activity, delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), knee range of motion (KROM), maximal isometric voluntary contraction (MIVC) of the knee extensors, vertical jump (VJ) and 10-m sprint were measured before and 24, 48 and 72 h after the PE. Compared to baseline values, FG showed significantly (p < 0.05) greater changes in CK, DOMS, and VJ at 24 until 48 h. The MIVC decreased significantly for the SG and FG at 24 until 48 h post-exercise in comparison to the pre-exercise values. There were no significant (p > 0.05) time or group by time interactions in KROM. In the 10-m sprint, all the treatment groups showed significant (p < 0.05) changes compared to pre-exercise values at 24 h, and there were no significant (p > 0.05) differences between groups. The results indicate that PE in an aquatic setting and on a sand surface induces less muscle damage than on a firm surface. Therefore, training in aquatic conditions and on sand may be beneficial for the improvement of performance, with a concurrently lower risk of muscle damage and soreness.
Keywords: aquatic setting; muscle soreness; plyometric exercise; sand surface.