Abstract Background Previous studies reported divergent results on nutraceutical actions and free radical scavenging capability of ginseng extracts. Variations in ginsenoside profile of ginseng due to different soil and cultivating season may contribute to the inconsistency. To circumvent this drawback, we assessed the effect of major ginsenoside-Rg1 (Rg1) on skeletal muscle antioxidant defense system against exhaustive exercise-induced oxidative stress. Methods Forty weight-matched rats were evenly divided into control (N = 20) and Rg1 (N = 20) groups. Rg1 was orally administered at the dose of 0.1 mg/kg bodyweight per day for 10-week. After this long-term Rg1 administration, ten rats from each group performed an exhaustive swimming, and remaining rats considered as non-exercise control. Tibialis anterior (TA) muscles were surgically collected immediately after exercise along with non-exercise rats. Results Exhaustive exercise significantly (p Conclusions This study provide compelling evidences that Rg1 supplementation can strengthen antioxidant defense system in skeletal muscle and completely attenuate the membrane lipid peroxidation induced by exhaustive exercise. Our findings suggest that Rg1 can use as a nutraceutical supplement to buffer the exhaustive exercise-induced oxidative stress.