High-intensity eccentric contractions induce performance decrements and delayed onset muscle soreness. The purpose of this investigation was to study the magnitude and time course of such decrements and their interrelationships in 26 young women of mean(s.d.) age 21.4(3.3) years. Subjects performed 70 maximal eccentric contractions of the elbow flexors on a pulley system, specially designed for the study. The non-exercised arm acted as the control. Measures of soreness, tenderness, swelling (SW), relaxed elbow joint angle (RANG) and isometric strength (STR) were taken before exercise, immediately after exercise (AE), analysis of variance and at 24-h intervals for 11 days. There were significant (P < 0.01, analysis of variance) changes in all factors. Peak effects were observed between 24 and 96 h AE. With the exception of STR, which remained lower (P < 0.01), all variables returned to baseline levels by day 11. A non-significant correlation between pain and STR indicated that pain was not a major factor in strength loss. Also, although no pain was evident, RANG was decreased immediately AE. There was no relationship between SW, RANG and pain. The prolonged nature of these symptoms indicates that repair to damaged soft tissue is a slow process. Strength loss is considered particularly important as it continues when protective pain and tenderness have disappeared. This has implications for the therapeutic management of patients with myopathologies and those receiving eccentric exercise for rehabilitation.