Muscle soreness or stiffness after exercise is very common. Often called DOMS or Delayed Onset of Muscular Soreness because the soreness tends to peak around 48 hours after your workout.
Muscle soreness differs from one person to the next depending on many factors including the type of exercises performed, experience with the movement, intensity, duration and genetics.
Muscle soreness is NOT a sign that the workout was effective or that you will grow more muscle so you should not feel alarmed if after a while you no longer feel sore following a workout.
What is Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness?
Most researchers seem to agree that DOMS are the result of an inflammation caused by microscopic tears or muscle strains in the body’s tissue.
So as you exercise and subject your tissue to excessive or unfamiliar movements tissue is traumatised and this results in a soreness as the tissue heals.
Problems that Muscle Soreness can cause:
Extreme muscle soreness can be very debilitating and can demotivate you from exercise so excessive DOMS should be avoided at all costs.
Muscle strength has been shown to be reduced during muscle soreness and this can be attributed to swelling and even altered muscle firing patterns as the body works hard to repair the injured muscle tissue.
DOMS in certain areas of the body can be more difficult to deal with than others. In particular, the legs (hamstrings and quads) can be very debilitating especially when walking up and down stairs.
Exercises that produce DOMS
It has been discovered that it’s the eccentric, or muscle lengthening, part of any movement that tends to cause the most amount of muscle soreness.
You will get more muscle soreness lowering a weight to the floor that you will from picking it up.
It is interesting to note that you are always stronger during the lengthening or eccentric part of any movement and many strength building programs will use negatives to build additional strength in a movement pattern.
Negatives can be used effectively by beginners to master many exercises that they can’t complete fully like pull ups or even push ups.
Although most exercises have the potential to cause DOMS here’s a list of some of the most common culprits:
- Lunges due to the deceleration, especially forward lunges
- Kettlebell Swings due to the weight absorption at the bottom part of the swing
- Single Leg Deadlifts caused by the slow lengthening of the hamstrings under load
- Ab Roll Outs due to the lengthening of the Rectus Abdominis as you near the floor
- Pull Ups if you lower your body to the floor from the top position slowly
- Downhill running due to the hamstrings working hard as your natural brakes
- Jumping exercises that require the body to absorb impact from the ground
Watch the Kettlebell Single Leg Deadlift below:
How to Prevent Excessive Muscle Soreness
As muscle soreness is caused predominately by the eccentric, or lengthening, part of any exercise it is important to not overload this part of the movement during early exposure to the exercise.
Beginners should not use a weight that is too heavy too soon and they should not prolong the eccentric part of the movement.
A tempo of 2 secs up and 2 secs down would be more appropriate than 1 sec up and 3 down
It is also important to balance the workouts appropriately so as not to use too many eccentric heavy exercises together in one workout.
Most importantly build up intensity gradually especially with unfamiliar exercises.
How to Recover Quicker from Muscle Soreness
If you are suffering with delayed onset of muscle soreness then general mobility will make them feel less sore, often a light workout, light cycling, or light rowing will help but you must avoid intense workouts of the type that caused the problem in the first place.
Here’s a light hip mobility routine that may help sore quads or hamstrings:
Performing a light cool down after unfamiliar exercises and taking a cold shower following exercise can help but there is no concrete research to back this up.
As DOMS are caused by microscopic tears and trauma to the tissue static stretching or massage during the early stages should be avoided as it could aggravate the problem.
Final Important Note about DOMS
DOMS should not occur during your workout or in your joints and should be easing off after 48 – 72 hours, if not then there could be something more serious going on so you should seek help.
Have you experienced DOMS? What exercise has been the worst cause for you? Let me know below…