Chronic eccentric arm cycling improves maximum upper-body strength and power

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Eccentric leg cycling (cycle ergometry adapted to impose muscle lengthening contractions) offers an effective exercise for restoring lower-body muscular function, maintaining health, and improving performance in clinical and athletic populations.


We extended this model to the upper body and evaluated the effectiveness of a 7-week eccentric arm cycling (ECCarm) intervention to improve upper-body muscular function. We also explored whether ECCarm would alter arterial function.


Participants performed ECCarm (n = 9) or concentric arm cycling (CONarm; n = 8) 3×/week while training intensity increased (5–20 min, 60–70% upper-body peak heart rate). Maximum elbow extensor strength, upper-body concentric power, and peripheral and central arterial stiffness were assessed before and after training.


During training, heart rates and perceived exertion did not differ between groups (~68% upper-body peak heart rate, ~12 Borg units, both P > 0.05), whereas power during ECCarm was ~2× that for CONarm (122 ± 43 vs. 59 ± 20 W, P < 0.01). Muscle soreness for ECCarm was greater than CONarm (P = 0.02), however, soreness was minimal for both groups (arm exhibited greater changes in elbow extensor strength (16 ± 10 vs. 1 ± 9%, P = 0.01) and upper-body power (6 ± 8 vs. −3 ± 7%, P < 0.01) compared to CONarm. Peripheral and central arterial stiffness did not change for either group (both P > 0.05).


Upper-body eccentric exercise improved dynamic muscular function while training at low exertion levels. Results occurred with minimal soreness and without compromising arterial function. ECCarm findings parallel eccentric leg cycling findings and indicate that eccentric cycle ergometry offers a robust model for enhancing upper-body muscular function. ECCarm could have applications in rehabilitation and sport training.

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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017. Publisher's version of record: https://doi.org/10.1152/jn.00671.2009

Publication Title

European Journal of Applied Physiology