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Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) – What Is It?

In the early stages of a new exercise regime almost everyone will experience DOMS or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, and everyone around them will hear about it until it subsides.

We often talk about DOMS so you know what to expect and don’t convince yourself that all Personal Trainers are sadists. If it’s any consolation, we know what it feels like too.

So What Is It?

The soreness is caused by lengthening contractions of the muscle. For example, when you lower a weight in a bicep curl your bicep lengthens – this is called an eccentric contraction and if you are unused to the exercise it can stimulate DOMS.

When muscle is used to a capacity it is unaccustomed to it goes through a process of adaption involving changes on a cellular level, to muscle size, neural adaption (improved use and control of the muscle by the nervous system) and more.

Therefore, if the exercise is repeated the same degree of soreness is unlikely unless you increase the intensity of the next workout or recruit different muscles.

It is not caused by lactic acid build up (although this will make them feel temporarily sore). Lactic acid is a by-product of burning sugars for energy during intense physical exercise. Within an hour after exercise, most, if not all, of the lactic acid is removed. Building our lactic acid threshold simply means we can tolerate more of the acid, go for longer and flush it out more effectively.

If you cease exercising you will gradually lose the adaptions your body has made.

Should I Be Disappointed If I Don’t Get DOMS After A Workout?

You really only need to be focusing on continually achieving a moderate amount of DOMS post workout if you are on a mission to build muscle. This is the growth state.

Make sure you give your muscles adequate time to recover after each workout.

You are likely to feel DOMS now and then if you regularly do workouts of varying intensities. But not feeling it or just feeling it mildly after your workout doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t work hard. It may simply mean that your body has adapted to the exercises you are doing.

How Do I Manage It?

Proper nutrition to manage electrolytes and glycogen before and after exercise is important in managing DOMS as it assists the muscle to rebuild.

If you want to alleviate soreness, it helps to increase blood flow to the muscle- by doing such activities as walking, massage or a hot bath.

Nicky McKimmie Mobile Personal Training Specialist Fitness Revolution

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