Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)
Q. I am a complete beginner to bodybuilding. I began weight training last week and have experienced very sore muscles the days after my workouts. Is this high level of soreness common, does it reduce over time and is there anything I can do reduce the muscle soreness?
A. The muscle soreness you are experiencing is very common among those who weight train, and is called “Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness”, or “DOMS” for short. This muscle soreness is commonly experienced between 24 and 72 hours after the muscle has been exercised.
The reason why DOMS is experienced is not currently fully known. There are a number of reasons put forward, with muscle swelling from the repairing process a likely candidate. Muscle fibres are repaired and increased in size as an adaption to cope with the applied stress from weight training. This repair process results in cell swelling, which applies pressure to nerves, leading to the soreness experienced. Another explanation given is the DOMS is experienced from the damaged muscle fibres as a result of intensive training. The two explanations above seem to offer more insight than the other held belief regarding lactic build up causing DOMS. Lactic build up is fairly quickly reduced post training, and is also present in training which result in very little DOMS, indicating there is more to the formation of DOMS than merely increased lactic build up in the muscle.
The majority of weight trainers will have experienced varying levels of DOMS, and a visit to various message boards shows how common DOMS is, even for experienced lifters. Those new to weight training will usually notice DOMS from their first few weeks of training, and the muscle soreness can be quite severer. DOMS will likely decrease over time, and many reach a stage in their training in which they hardly experience any DOMS at all.
An introduction of a new exercise into a routine, a change in repetition ranges, or a new training stimulus may encourage DOMS again, and those who implement “negatives” into their training often experience DOMS for several days afterwards! If you are unsure on what negatives are, they are repetitions in which only the downward phrase of the exercise is completed, in a very slow and controlled manner. In fact, this is a notable factor in the formation of DOMS – the muscle soreness is often experienced from eccentric training (when the muscle is lengthening under stress), which results in greater damage to the muscle fibres.
Reducing DOMS is not an exact science, and is commonly based on experience. Some state the use of stretching, warm ups, and cool down periods reduce DOMS. There is not a great deal of evidence to support this view. Contrast showers has been said to reduce DOMS, if implemented post workout. Contrast showers are showers which have sudden changes in temperature, from hot to cold, stimulating blood flow and removable of waste products and swelling. Research into contrast showers is inconclusive.