Changes in biceps brachii muscle hardness assessed by a push-in meter (PM) and strain elastography (SE) were compared between eccentric (ECC) and concentric contractions (CON) of the elbow flexors to test the hypothesis that muscle hardness would increase greater after ECC. Ten men performed 5 sets of 10 ECC with their non-dominant arms and 5 sets of 10 CON with their dominant arms using a dumbbell corresponding to 50% of maximum voluntary isometric contraction (MVIC) force at 90º elbow flexion. Before and 1–4 days after the exercise, MVIC force, elbow joint angles, upper-arm circumference, and muscle soreness as muscle damage makers, and biceps brachii muscle hardness at maximally extended elbow joint by PM and SE were measured. Changes in these measures over time were compared between ECC and CON. All muscle damage markers showed greater changes after ECC than CON (p < 0.001). Muscle hardness assessed by PM and SE increased (p < 0.05) and peaked at 4 days post-ECC with 154.4 ± 90.0% (PM) and 156.2 ± 64.2% (SE) increases from the baseline, but did not change significantly after CON. The changes in muscle hardness post-ECC were correlated between PM and SE (r = 0.752, p < 0.001). A correlation (p < 0.001) between the normalized changes in resting elbow joint angle and changes in muscle hardness assessed by PM (r = − 0.772) or SE (r = − 0.745) was also found. These results supported the hypothesis and suggest that the increases in muscle hardness after ECC were associated with muscle damage (increased muscle stiffness), and PM and SE detected muscle hardness changes similarly.
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