Ever go to the gym and wake up the next day feeling like you can’t move? That sore- wow I worked out hard yesterday- feeling? Well, you can thank DOMS for that.
DOMS stands for delayed onset muscle soreness. The science of why DOMS occurs isn’t exact, but a lot of research points to the major cause being microtrauma to the muscle being worked. This is especially true in exercises that require a lot of eccentric muscle contractions, or the “lengthening” of the muscle being worked. Typically this soreness is felt 6-8 hours post-exercise but the effects can be felt for up to 48 hours (Levy, 2015). DOMS is not caused by a buildup of lactic acid or metabolic waste in the body as many believe. “DOMS appears to be a product of inflammation caused by microscopic tears in the connective tissue elements that sensitize nociceptors and thereby heighten the sensations of pain (Schoenfield & Contreras, 2013).”
It’s a common misconception that being sore after a workout means that you will gain muscle. DOMS is not an indicator of hypertrophy (building muscle size). In fact, there are really 3 factors for hypertrophy to happen: mechanical tension, metabolic stress, and muscle damage (Levy, 2015). What does this all mean in the long run? DOMS indicates that there is damage done to the muscle which, although necessary in building muscle mass, does not mean that you are. Being too sore can cause you to take more rest time, becoming very counterproductive. “First, severe soreness can significantly decrease force-producing capacity, which will be detrimental to performance in subsequent workouts. Second, motivation levels can take a hit when you’re hindered by crippling muscle soreness (Levy, 2015).”
Being sore is normal. Being so sore you cannot move is not. Make sure you aren’t overtraining and your exercise regimen is suited for your goals. If you are not sure, seek the help of a trainer. Remember- train smart!
Blog post by Nikki Courtney.
Levy, W. DOMS: The Good, the Bad, and What It Really Means to Your Training (Breaking Muscle). http://breakingmuscle.com/strength-conditioning/doms-the-good-the-bad-and-what-it-really-means-to-your-training. (2015)
Schoenfeld, B.J. and Contreras, B. “Is Postexercise Muscle Soreness a Valid Indicator of Muscular Adaptations?” Strength and Conditioning Journal, vol. 35 No. 5 pp. 16-21 (2013)