Abstract Aim: This study hypothesized that heat shock protein (HSP) translocation and upregulation is more probable to occur after eccentric exercise than after concentric exercise or repeated eccentric exercise. Methods: Fourteen young, healthy, untrained male subjects completed two bench-stepping exercise bouts with 8 weeks between bouts, and were compared with a control group (n = 6). Muscle biopsies collected from m. vastus lateralis of both legs prior to and at 3 h, 24 h and 7 days after exercise were quantified for mRNA levels and/or for HSP27, αβ-crystallin and inducible HSP70 content in cytosolic and cytoskeletal protein fractions. Results: The first bout of exercise reduced muscle strength and increased muscle soreness predominantly in the eccentric leg (P < 0.05). These responses were attenuated after the repeated eccentric exercise bout (P < 0.05), suggesting a repeated bout adaptation. Increases in inducible HSP70 and HSP27 protein content in cytoskeletal fractions were observed exclusively after eccentric exercise (P < 0.05). For HSP27, an approx. 10-fold upregulation after first-bout eccentric exercise was attenuated to a an approximately fourfold upregulation after the repeated eccentric exercise bout. mRNA levels for HSP70, HSP27 and αβ-crystallin were upregulated within approximately two to fourfold ranges at time points 3 and 24 h post-exercise (P < 0.05). This upregulation was induced exclusively by eccentric exercise but with a tendency to attenuated expression 3 h after the repeated eccentric exercise bout. Conclusion: Our results show that HSP translocation and expression responses are induced by muscle damaging exercise, and suggest that such HSP responses are closely related to the extent of muscle damage.