Force matching errors following eccentric exercise Academic Article uri icon


  • During eccentric exercise contracting muscles are forcibly lengthened, to act as a brake to control motion of the body. A consequence of eccentric exercise is damage to muscle fibres. It has been reported that following the damage there is disturbance to proprioception, in particular, the senses of force and limb position. Force sense was tested in an isometric force-matching task using the elbow flexor muscles of both arms before and after the muscles in one arm had performed 50 eccentric contractions at a strength of 30% of a maximum voluntary contraction (MVC). The exercise led to an immediate reduction of about 40%, in the force generated during an MVC followed by a slow recovery over the next four days, and to the development of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) lasting about the same time. After the exercise, even though participants believed they were making an accurate match, they made large matching errors, in a direction where the exercised arm developed less force than the unexercised arm. This was true whichever arm was used to generate the reference forces, which were in a range of 5-30% of the reference arm's MVC, with visual feedback of the reference arm's force levels provided to the participant. The errors were correlated with the fall in MVC following the exercise, suggesting that participants were not matching force, but the subjective effort needed to generate the force: the same effort producing less force in a muscle weakened by eccentric exercise. The errors were, however, larger than predicted from the measured reduction in MVC, suggesting that factors other than effort might also be contributing. One factor may be DOMS. To test this idea, force matches were done in the presence of pain, induced in unexercised muscles by injection of hypertonic (5%) saline or by the application of noxious heat to the skin over the muscle. Both procedures led to errors in the same direction as those seen after eccentric exercise.


publication date

  • October 2004