We’ve all experienced the agony. The impossibility of trying to get out of your car, walk down stairs or even just move normally after an extra hard workout. Or perhaps you’ve just begun exercising in a new way or have come back from an exercise vacation and your body feels as if it has gone into shock….😰
💪🏼This soreness is called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS for short), and despite being satisfying for some, it can put your exercise dreams on hold while trying to recover normal ability to function.
SO WHAT IS IT??
DOMS is (primarily) caused by a small degree of muscle strain (nothing serious) and predominantly caused by exercise that exceeds the ability of the target muscle. In human-speak this means, the muscle/s you are using are not used to this level of weight/activity or strain. 🤾🏼
WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE?
🚷As you may have experienced, the symptoms of DOMS range from slight muscle discomfort to severe pain that limits range of motion or your ability to move as you normally would.
Generally, DOMS becomes noticeable around ~8 hours post-workout and becomes its worst between 48-72 hours later, although the exact time course can vary. People who are new to working out often have the most pronounced DOMS. Interestingly, there is no difference in DOMS between genders, even for beginners🆘
WHAT DOES THE SCIENCE SAY?
The tricky thing is that DOMS is not always an accurate indicator of how hard you have worked when exercising. MRI studies have shown that it is possible for severe DOMS to develop with little or no findings of muscle strain, and for severe muscle strain to occur without DOMS. Confusing right!?! 😅
It is important to note that the majority of these studies were done on “untrained” subjects, undertaking large amounts of unfamiliar eccentric exercise. This means these findings are unlikely to closely reflect the circumstances of most people who workout. However, it does give us some insight into what happens in the muscle after exercise when experiencing DOMS.✅
IF I HAVE DOMS DOES THAT MEAN I AM BUILDING MUSCLE?
💀 The ‘no pain – no gain’ idea is incorrect, when it comes to muscle growth. You do not need to experience DOMS to be building muscle tissue. However, if you experience DOMS it does not mean the muscle is not growing. As always, “it depends”.
DO I EXERCISE WITH DOM?
🧘🏼There is some evidence to show DOMS may negatively affect workouts by altering motor patterns in subsequent workouts. This could cause reduced activation of the desired muscle you are attempting to use. Because of this, DOMS could actually hinder your next workout.
In addition, severe DOMS can decrease force capacity by up to 50%. It is important to note that exercising while having DOMS does not seem to make muscle damage worse, but it may interfere with the recovery process. This is why it is important to take things a bit lighter and focus on form and control your movements when training with DOMS. 🚵🏼
HOW CAN I MANAGE DOMS?
🏋🏼♂️One of the best ways to decrease the risk of DOMS is to slowly progress into a new exercise program. Focusing on form and technique under the watchful eye of an experienced health professional is a great way to start, rather than worrying about loading up lots of weight or moving really quickly.
This approach will allow your body time to accumulate to the new demands as well as leave room for future adaption. Basically, going out too hard too early could lead to DOMS which may reduce your ability to move well later. Incorporating proper warm-ups, developing adequate mobility throughout your body and avoiding excessive fatigue when working out also decrease your risk of pulling up sore. ✅
Overall, the consensus among researchers is that there is no single component that causes DOMS and it is unique to each individual. Delayed onset muscle soreness can provide some insight into how hard you worked when exercising, but don’t use it as a stand alone marker for a good workout.💪🏼💪🏼