Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS): FAQ

delayed onset muscle soreness

Why do I feel pain after training? Why muscles are sore the next day? Do I need to do something about this? Do I need to do something if on the contrary – I feel no delayed onset muscle soreness?

Anyone who has had a good frolic with an iron at least once has noticed that the muscles are sore, especially after the first workout. And usually the next day, but it happens that the maximum pain is reached even on the second day after training.

The Lion Health decided to finally sort everything out. Find everything an average gym-goer should know about delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) below.

What is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)

If you work well on machines or free weights, the last repetitions of the exercises will cause a burning sensation. Lactic acid is to blame for it, which accumulates in the muscles at the time of exercise, as a by-product of physiological processes. With each subsequent contraction of muscle fibers, the concentration of lactic acid increases, which increases pain and burning. After the bar is thrown onto the platform, the blood quickly flushes the lactic acid out of the muscles. The burning sensation passes rapidly (and, as if nothing had happened, it returns with the next set, of course).

The second type of pain, in honor of which this text was written, usually occurs the next day after training and lactic acid has nothing to do with it. This pain is called delayed onset muscle soreness aka DOMS.

It is most often experienced by beginners or, for example, “old people” who have changed the training plan. In general, those who received unusual loads and, as a result, delayed muscle pain.

muscle anatomy

Why Do We Get Sore Muscles?

To explain in human terms: during training, muscle micro-tears occur, in fact, with serious exertion, you inflict micro-injuries on yourself. More often than not, the body reacts to these tears with pain.

Actually, the healing of muscle fibers after such injuries provides an increase in strength and volume. There is an active release of hormones and protein synthesis, which is a building material for muscles. As a result of such recovery processes, the muscles increase their weight and volume.

Why Don’t We Feel Pain Immediately, But the Next Day or Even the Second?

Micro inflammation is the cause of local microinflammation, which appears after some time, usually the next day. This means that the body is actively working on the damaged area. If there are many gaps, inflammation can peak on the second day after training. There is nothing wrong with this inflammation for your health.

Do I Need to Endure or Fight Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness?

You can be patient, happy for yourself that you did a good job in the gym, but if the pain is unbearable, you can do something about it.

Different sources recommend various procedures of a heating-massage type:

  • a bath, 
  • a warm shower, 
  • a warm (but not hot) bath with sea salt, 
  • massage
  • light warming up recovery workouts. 

It is also recommended to warm up and cool down and stretch after training.

All these actions are aimed at improving blood flow in the muscles, which contributes to their early recovery and pain relief.

how long does delayed onset muscle soreness last

Is DOMS a Sign of a ‘Good’ Workout?

Not at all! DOMS is not an indicator of muscle growth or strength. Pain is a sign that you have done a good job that is considered “new” for your muscles, that the muscles have received significant stress for them. But muscle growth, development of strength, endurance depend on recovery. If the muscles are not allowed to recover, there will be no progress.

Is it Okay to Train If the Pain Is Still There?

If the muscles have not recovered, and you have suffered them to tear again with iron and a heavy load, this can have negative consequences. If the body sustains new injuries without having time to recover, this can cause a state of overtraining. This means a lack of progress in terms of weights and volumes, poor health, and psychological state.

Well, in general, you will not just waste your time, but with harm to your health.

Should I Skip Going to the Gym If Feel Sore?

It depends on you. Of course, you shouldn’t load sore muscles. And here there are two main options for action: split workouts (loading different muscle groups for a week) or light warming up recovery workouts after a heavy load.

Exercise can not only damage the sore muscles, but vice versa, it can help recovery. The only question is the extent and nature of the load.

Exercise improves blood flow and speeds up metabolism, and therefore muscles recover faster. But the load should not be extreme and not the next day. Roughly speaking, if you squat well, you don’t need to break new records in a couple of days, when the pain has not yet passed, but warming up the quads on a treadmill can help them recover.


Am I Doing the Right Thing If There Is No Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness At All?

In strength sports, there is a famous motto: NO PAIN – NO GAIN (“No pain – no growth”). And, roughly speaking, this is exactly the case, if, of course, you want an increase in strength and muscle volume. If there is no pain, then usually this means that either the load on your body was weak, too familiar.

Over time, delayed muscle pain dulls, the body gets used to it, and it is a sign of getting enough stress. But this pain does not disappear at all.

After 2-3 weeks, DOMS will not cause significant inconvenience, and most will even start to like it. The pain will also return when changing training plans, mastering new exercises, which is necessary for progress. Some adherents of the gym sect even have a principle – that training should never be repeated.

However, there are exceptions everywhere: occasionally there are people with well-trained muscles and powerful recovery systems, who may not have pain even after significant exertion.

In addition, if you do not plan to build strength or mass of your muscles, do fitness with a light load, do stretching, or just exercise, then with moderate exertion, your muscles may not feel sore at all. And that’s okay too. It all depends on your goals.

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