Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)
ARE YOU GETTING THE D?
DOMS, THAT IS.
Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is something that every lifter will experience at some point. Psychologically we associate them with a killer session, however is this true physiologically? There are many questions surrounding this topic such as whether or not they are an indicator of an effective workout, how to recover from them faster and also whether or not you should train if you’re experiencing DOMS. Keep reading and you’ll find the answers to these and more.
WHAT ARE DOMS?
In short, delayed onset muscle soreness is an inflammatory response to the microtears in the connective tissue which occurs as a biproduct of training. Microtears are essentially a very small injury and this provokes the body to respond in a pro-inflammatory manner.
DOMS normally occur 12-72 hours after the session and the pain is localised to the site of the muscle(s) trained. In addition to the dull ache of the muscle, there can be swelling caused as an inflammatory response as well as muscle stiffness.
Exercises that emphasise the eccentric portion of a movement are generally associated with the most DOMS. The eccentric portion of a lift occurs when your muscle is being stretched by a weight; the lowering phase of a movement. Examples of this are the lowering phase of an ezibar for bicep curls or the lowering phase of a squat.
DOMS AND GAINS
So here we go, the big question. Are DOMS an accurate indicator of a great session and do they lead to growth? The answer is no.
DOMS simply mean that you have outdone your current training capacity. This may mean you have pushed in reps, weight, intensity, duration or all of the above. Essentially, you’ve just shocked your body, and this is why DOMS normally occur in new trainees, after having some time off of the gym, training with a new partner, trying a new split etc.
DOMS unfortunately do not mean that you're stimulating more muscle growth; it means that your body has been put under a higher amount of physical stress and in response, the body starts to utilize its resources to come back to an equilibrium, issuing inflammatory responses.
DEFICETS AND DOMS
If you have ever been in a calorie deficit or you’ve been skimping on the nutritional component of your lifestyle, you may have noticed that you experience more intense DOMS and the recovery time is a lot longer. This occurs because your capacity to handle physical loading has decreased due to “insufficient” calories and/or micronutrients to recover optimally.
In addition to this, and a point not enough of us focus on, is that inadequate prioritisation of pre and post workout nutrition has the ability to increase DOMS and recovery time by making your body less equipped to handle physical load and recover from it.
WHEN THE D GOT YOU GOOD.
Let’s be honest, DOMS suck, fearing the stairs for 3 days after an intense leg sesh isn’t fun. Here are some quick points on how to recover faster.
1. Pre and Post Workout Nutrition. It is absolutely essential that we focus more on this. Muscles require nutrients in order to recover efficiently and also to grow. DOMS can be alleviated with quality carbohydrates and protein rich foods which minimize inflammation and digestive distress. After my workout I always supplement with the ONEST WHEY ISO PRO. ONEST WHEY ISO PRO provides 24 grams of highly bioavailable, rapidly-absorbed whey protein isolate in every serving, so you spare no time giving your body exactly what it needs to maximize your gains. If you want to know more, click here: https://onesthealth.com/collections/recovery/products/whey-iso-pro
2. Active Recovery Techniques. Foam roll, mobility work, stretch, walk, yoga etc., whatever form of recovery you enjoy, start implementing more of it. By participating in these forms of activities you are gently moving, stretching and increasing blood flow to the muscles and this drives nutrients in to the muscles faster and aids in the recovery process.
3. Magnesium and Epsom salt baths work wonders for relaxing the muscles. Magnesium sprays or baths generally work best as they are directly absorbed through the skin, helping reduce soreness and improve muscle function.
4. Quality Sleep. Hands down the most overlooked aspect of training and recovery. For optimal recovery we require 7-9 hours sleep a night.
TO TRAIN OR NOT TO TRAIN
A question I am asked by clients all of the time is “can I train if I am sore”? Yes. You absolutely can within reason.
It is important to note that everyone is at a different space in their weight training journey. A beginner, for example, may only need 3 sessions a week, whereas an athlete or bodybuilder can handle much more of a physical load. Within this reasoning too, we need to be aware that there are varying degrees of muscle soreness.
If the muscle is just slightly tender and slightly swollen with no real loss of mobility and strength, you can obviously train, in fact it may be beneficial. You’ve all heard the saying “walk it out”, well the same bodes true for our muscles. This is often known as a “feeder” session. Essentially, by training those muscle groups again lightly the following day, it increases blow flow and nutrient transportation to the site which can speed up healing. Training a sore muscle does not disturb the repair process or further damage the muscle tissue, no. Remember that repairing of muscles isn’t happening at a singular point in time, your body is always repairing and healing itself.
If, on the other hand your DOMS are debilitating to the point where you have next to no range of motion and your strength is impacted, opt to train a different body part that isn’t as impacted or take a rest day.
TO REITERATE1. DOMS are not an indicator that you have had a good workout and thus will experience more muscle gain.
2. You can stimulate muscle growth without DOMS.
3. Calorie deficits and nutrient deficiencies can lead to higher levels DOMS, this however does not mean you are growing more mass.
4. To reduce DOMS prioritise pre and post workout nutrition and recovery techniques.
5. Extreme DOMS can have a negative effect on performance by reducing mobility and strength so train a different body part or rest.
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