Kamandulis, S, Snieckus, A, Venckunas, T, Aagaard, P, Masiulis, N, and Skurvydas, A. Rapid increase in training load affects markers of skeletal muscle damage and mechanical performance. J Strength Cond Res 26(11): 2953-2961, 2012-The aim of this study was to monitor the changes in indirect markers of muscle damage during 3 weeks (9 training sessions) of stretch-shortening (drop jump) exercise with constant load alternated with steep increases in load. Physically active men (n = 9, mean age 19.1 years) performed a program involving a rapid stepwise increase in the number of jumps, drop height, and squat depth, and the addition of weight. Concentric, isometric maximal voluntary contraction (MVC), and stimulated knee extension torque were measured before and 10 minutes after each session. Muscle soreness and plasma creatine kinase activity were assessed after each session. Steep increments in stretch-shortening exercise load in sessions 4 and 7 amplified the postexercise decrease in stimulated muscle torque and slightly increased muscle soreness but had a minimal effect on the recovery of MVC and stimulated torque. Maximal jump height increased by 7.8 ± 6.3% (p < 0.05), 11.4 ± 3.3% (p < 0.05), and 12.8 ± 3.6% (p < 0.05) at 3, 10, and 17 days after the final training session, respectively. Gains in isometric knee extension MVC (7.9 ± 8.2%) and 100-Hz-evoked torque (9.9 ± 9.6%) (both p < 0.05) were observed within 17 days after the end of the training. The magnitude of improvement was greater after this protocol than that induced by a continuous constant progression loading pattern with small gradual load increments in each training session. These findings suggest that plyometric training using infrequent but steep increases in loading intensity and volume may be beneficial to athletic performance.