Muscle soreness, what is it and how can you stop it?

Posted by Ben Simpkins on November 3, 2016

Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness aka DOMS, or its more common name, pain! If you have been training a little while there is no doubt you have fallen victim to DOMS at some point in your programme. It is usually at its worst on following on from leg day and the struggle becomes real. Walking up and down stairs hurts, trying to move the muscles results in pain and the all-time favourite activity post leg day, trying to sit on a toilet! Worst thing ever!

DOMS is often mistaken for a good workout, people think if you don’t ache then you haven’t worked hard enough and this is not true. DOMS comes from a build-up of lactic acid within the muscles that are being worked and also where the muscle tissue has been broken by lifting the weights. DOMS usually kick in within 24-48 hours after your workout and can take up to 7 days to clear.

Don’t let this put you off! It is 100% normal and needed in order to progress, most people stop getting severe DOMS as they find their comfort zone in their programmes and usually keep the reps, sets and weights the same where they are being challenged but not pushing themselves further. You must keep changing the stimulus to keep the muscles growing stronger and to help burn more calories, the only trouble is that every time you add something new to your programme you will get another hit of DOMS!

How can you stop it?

In short, you can’t, you need to push the body so you are working and creating a lactic build up and you need to lift heavy enough to tear the muscle fibres so that they can rebuild themselves a little stronger than last time. What you can do though is aid your recovery, I find the best things you can use are hot baths, good nutrition and rest along with active recovery.

Hot baths allow the muscles to relax and increase the blood flow to the given muscles this then allows the muscle to move on any residue of lactic acid and bring the muscles needed nutrients. When you are resting, your body is rebuilding and replenishing so if you don’t give yourself enough rest then the body will struggle to rebuild itself. On that note nutritionally if you are not putting the right foods in the body will struggle to help itself, it’s like trying to build a house using jam instead of concreate, it may look good but it won’t help your end goal.

What is active recovery?

This is where you perform exercise, usually a very light load on the muscle groups that are sore and there are 2 times that you can use it. Number one is straight after your session, just on some cardio kit and do 10-20 minutes’ worth just to increase the blood flow to the muscles and keep them moving. If you have done legs, use any kit, if you have worked upper body, the x-trainer may be better as you can hold onto the moving handles.

The 2nd time you can use active recovery is once the DOMS has settled in, same theory, light load on the sore muscles. So use cardio again or look at performing some light weight lifting either bodyweight or on the TRX to once again get some blood flow moving around the muscles and loosen them up.

Should you train if you have DOMS?

Yes, but not the same muscle groups, look to target another part of the body, so say you have sort shoulders and triceps you can look at exercising your legs or back and biceps. Soreness should never be an excuse to not go to the gym, even if you just get on the cardio kit and do some form of interval it is still better than nothing!

The thing you need to be careful of is your form, let’s say you have DOMS in your legs and then you want to work on your shoulders but this means you have to use the legs slightly on your moves. Be careful that you do not let the technique and form of your shoulder exercise slip just because the legs are sore.

So the main points are, lifting heavy weights will hurt, it will take the body time to recover, you can reduce how severely you feel it and you should not at any cost use it as an excuse not to train something today! Any time you think of quitting, think of this picture!

I hope you have found this helpful, let us know what gives you the worst case of DOMS in the comments below! Weighted Glute Bridge all day for me, what is yours?

Join our newsletter

Get our latest tips and tricks, direct to your inbox.