We examined the extent of morphological alterations and the myosin heavy chain (MHC) distribution in the rat soleus muscle after a 4-week period of spontaneous recovery or retraining after hindlimb suspension (HS). Moreover, we tested the hypothesis that dantrolene sodium, which affects the flux of calcium over the sarcoplasmic reticulum membrane, was able to attenuate muscle damage. Three groups of rats were submitted to 3 weeks of HS, followed by either 4 weeks of unrestricted cage activity (HC, n = 7), or running training for the same period and were compared to age-matched animals (C, n = 8). Trained rats were treated with either placebo or dantrolene sodium (HTP, HTD, n = 8 each, respectively). Four weeks after HS recovery, the percentage of myofibres with internal nuclei (%in) was determined by histological staining with hematoxylin and eosin. %in was affected by the individual rat (P < 0.001), and was higher in the mid-belly region of the muscle (P < 0.05). Muscle damage, as estimated by %in, was more extensive in trained rats (i.e. HTP and HTD) than in HC animals (23% and 12%, respectively). Moreover, dantrolene sodium tended to exert a protective effect on training-induced muscle injury. A 12% increase in type I MHC was observed in both HTP and HTD rats, in comparison with group C animals (P < 0.001). The relative proportion of type-I MHC was inversely correlated with %in (r = -0.65, P < 0.001). Running recovery led to an increased citrate synthase activity in comparison with that of C or HC rats. In conclusion, the present findings demonstrate that running recovery from HS increases the incidence of muscle damage, and that dantrolene sodium administration has only limited protective effects against exercise-induced muscle injury.