Why do I experience muscle soreness after training?

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What is DOMS?

Virtually anyone who has ever performed some kind of exercise will have experienced the soreness that occurs 12-48 hours later. This soreness is called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and is the inflammatory reaction caused by micro injury of muscle fibers. DOMS is associated with symptoms of pain, tenderness, stiffness, muscle weakness and discomfort.

Pictured: DOMS is often associated with training legs

What causes DOMS?

DOMS most frequently occurs as a result of unfamiliar exercise (i.e. starting a new exercise program or changing your current exercise routine) & excessive muscle use (i.e. increasing duration or intensity of exercise), however DOMS is predominantly induced by eccentric muscle contractions.

Eccentric Muscle Contraction:

During an eccentric muscle contraction, the muscle fibers lengthen as they contract due to an opposing force greater then the muscle generates. Eccentric muscle contractions can be considered as a means to decelerate the body part or weight, examples include running downstairs or downhill, and the downward motion associated with lowering weights, squats, push ups and pull ups.

Pictured: Nathan Roe (left) & Eddy Ung (right) performing chin ups- the lowering phase of the chin up is associated with eccentric muscle contraction

Treating DOMS:

Although not conclusive, massage has been found to help recovery from training by promoting blood and lymph circulation and increasing joint flexibility. Messaging aids muscle tissue recovery by promoting oxygen and nutrient delivery and eliminating waste such as lactic acid, and this has been shown to be more effective when combined with rest.

DOMS are extremely prevalent within the world of weight training, but the science behind it is not. Hopefully now you have a better understanding of what DOMS is, and why it occurs. 

Stay tuned for when we discuss the relationship between DOMS and hypertrophy!

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Huan, J., Kim, M., Yang, H., Lee, Y., & Sung, Y. (2014). Effects of therapeutic massage on gait and pain after delayed onset muscle soreness. Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation, 10, 136-140.

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