Exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD) is commonly experienced following either a bout of unaccustomed physical activity or following physical activity of greater than normal duration or intensity. The mechanistic factor responsible for the initiation of EIMD is not known; however, it is hypothesised to be either mechanical or metabolic in nature. The mechanical stress hypothesis states that EIMD is the result of physical stress upon the muscle fibre. In contrast, the metabolic stress model predicts that EIMD is the result of metabolic deficiencies, possibly through the decreased action of Ca(2+)-adenosine triphosphatase. Irrespective of the cause of the damage, EIMD has a number of profound metabolic effects. The most notable metabolic effects of EIMD are decreased insulin sensitivity, prolonged glycogen depletion and an increase in metabolic rate both at rest and during exercise. Based on current knowledge regarding the effects that various types of damaging exercise have on muscle metabolism, a new model for the initiation of EIMD is proposed. This model states that damage initiation may be either metabolic or mechanical, or a combination of both, depending on the mode, intensity and duration of exercise and the training status of the individual.