Muscle Soreness

What is Muscle Soreness?

Muscle Soreness (DOMS _ Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) is defined as the pain and stiffness felt in muscles several hours to days after unaccustomed or strenuous exercise.

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness Ranges in Intensity.  One process is called exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD), and a manifestation of it this is commonly called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) which most exercisers become very familiar with at some point, according to the ACSM.   Additional studies performed at the University of Brazil claim DOMS typically develops 12-24 hours after a hard workout, peaking 24 hours after training and often lingering 48 hours after.  Since your muscles adapt to the force of a specific workout over time, what starts as DOMS will likely turn into regular, manageable muscle soreness after a few weeks since your muscles conform fairly quickly to the force of a specific workout over time.

Why do we get Sore?

The Sore feeling we get can come from any activity whether it be exercise related or not.  We have gotten sore from doing pretty much any daily activity that simply includes any physical movement we are not accustomed to.  It can be from spring cleaning your house, yard work, shopping spree, etc.  It is when you push your body beyond what you do in your normal day-to-day activity that truly causes the soreness.  I am the first to admit that even activities I normally do get me sore from time to time.  It is a true fact that doing the same activity all the time can make soreness worse because your muscles are hung on muscle memory of how to do the activity.  Leading you to put on the hurt on them especially if you don’t have the requisite fitness base.

When muscles are required to work harder than they’re used to, or in a different way, it is believed to cause microscopic damage to the muscle fibers, resulting in muscle soreness or stiffness.  DOMS is often mistakenly believed to be caused by lactic acid build up, however, lactic acid is not involved in this process.  Most soreness comes from the breakdown of fast-twitch muscle fibers.  Our bodies have both slow-twitch and fast-twitch fibers.  Slow-twitch fibers have a low recruitment factor, which simply means they get fired up at low outputs.  Fast-twitch fibers have a high recruitment factor, meaning it takes something more intense to get them going.  Fast-twitch fibers are repaired much more slowly than slow-twitch fibers.

Hypertrophy means muscle growth.   Almost all training programs target this, even weight loss programs, because changing a your body requires you to lose body fat.  It is a known fact that the quickest way to lose body fat is to gain more muscle.  Muscle requires more work from your body, even at rest, so your body will take the nutrients from the foods you eat and store them in muscle tissue rather than adipose (or fat) tissue.  To create hypertrophy, you need to overload your muscle fibers progressively to keep breaking them down.  As you get fitter, you engage higher-threshold muscle cell motor units to keep the overload coming.  Breaking down exactly the number of muscle cells your body can replenish right away is nearly impossible.  What this means, in order to advance your level of fitness, you are going to need to break down more muscle fibers than you initially intended to do so.  When this happens, you get sore.

Furthermore, the more varied the exercise you do, the more you’ll find areas where your body is out of balance because it means some muscles are stronger than others. When you do new exercises, your stronger muscles are forced to do extra work as the weaker ones catch up.  This results in both the strong and weak muscles being overworked while they sort out the balance problem.  This is the first step of Muscle Confusion.

Signs your Fitness Program is working

  1. Sore – you are breaking down more muscle fibers than you initially intended to do so.
  2. Slow – while your muscles are growing, your ability to move quickly lessens; hence making you slow.
  3. Hungry – this is because your body cries out for nutrients when it’s in breakdown mode, even when you’ve eaten all you can.

These signs are and should only be experienced at the early stage of any workout program or a new cycle of training.  If you aren’t experiencing them at all, it means you’re ready and need to ramp your training up to the next level.  But if they persist beyond four weeks, you’re overdoing it and risk over-training or injury. You may also experience them each time you transition to a new phase.  In this case, though, they should be gone before you move into the next phase.  No pain, no gain is just plain wrong when it comes to your workouts and exercise-based muscle soreness — you can still build muscle without those tell-tale aches and lingering discomfort. 

Most Common Symptoms of DOMS Can Include:

  • Slight swelling of the affected limbs
  • Stiffness of the joint accompanied by (temporary) reduction in the joint’s range of motion
  • Tenderness to the touch
  • Temporary reduction in strength of the affected muscles (lasting a couple days)

It is common in anyone regardless you are male, female, child or adult.  The level of the soreness depends on the intensity and the variability of your fitness program or activity.  It also depends on how much will power your put into the routine and your fitness level in general.

You MUST remember that a little exercise soreness is fine as long as it’s minor and temporary; lasting only few days.  When your muscle soreness becomes chronic —lasting more than a few days, for instance — or if the discomfort is particularly severe, it can be a sign of over-training — and the need to see your health practitioner!  So be aware of the difference and be safe with your form in any activity.

Can you adapt to Muscle Soreness?

Yes, indeed you can.  This is true because your muscles adapt tot the force of a specific workout routine over time.  It may start as DOMS but with consistency it will turn into regular, manageable soreness from any exercise routine or activity after a few weeks.  Keep in mind that the reason you feel soreness is due to doing something different and you did it intensely.

I will admit I do have a LOVE-HATE relationship with it! Who agrees with me?  I mean come on it is horrible after leg days or any first week of any routine and to have to go grab something and it seems to prefer to land on the floor giving you an extra squat for the day.  Also feeling like a T-Rex with little arm mobility on upper body days is simply not fun!  Though honestly I LOVE the feeling because it simply means I did the routine right.  I accomplished something new and targeted the muscles I want toned! So for me its a sign of accomplishments and my reward for getting it done!

Helpful Tips:

  1. Start Slow – Whether exercise is new to you or not remember to begin an exercise program with a lot of enthusiasm, but try your best to go at a reasonable pace.  If you’ve never exercised, or it’s been a long time since you have, go much easier than you feel you are capable of on Day 1 and ramp things up at a pace you can increase intensity little by little as you progress into the routines; that is of course based on how you feel.
  2. Minimize Eccentric Motion – Concentric contraction is the shortening of the muscle, while eccentric contraction is the lengthening part of the movement.  DOMS is almost entirely related to the eccentric part of the movement.  So do reps a little quicker than instructed and little by little you can add the tempo indicated to elongate the eccentric motion.
  3. Hydrate – It is important that you hydrate yourself on a daily basis whether you workout or not.  Dehydration can also make you sore.  Adding exercise increases your water needs; A lot.  Hydration is your body’s first defense against, not only soreness, but also most illnesses and other maladies.
  4. Get Post-workout Fuel – It is important to add the right nutrients to fuel your body.  While you workout you loose a lot of nutrients and need to make sure you provide your body with them to recover from the intense workouts.
  5. Pick the Correct Workout Program – It’s worth noting that the more you stretch yourself with your choice of workout, program, or even each individual workout, the more you increase your chances of getting sore.  The right program—or a trainer/coach—should ease you into exercise at a pace your body can handle, which is always the better choice.
  6. Move – We all know that the last thing you want to do, when everything hurts is to move.  Movement is exactly what you need to do though!  Trust me I know! Especiall on leg day or lets not talk about upper body days that leave you like a T-Rex Feeling (with little arms) because you can barely move your arms.  All movement promotes blood circulation, and the more blood you circulate around your body, the quicker you’ll heal.
  7. Use Circulation Techniques – You can also induce circulation with some other techniques, all of which will help alleviate the soreness.  In extreme cases, physical therapists are loaded with various devices to aid recovery, but here are three you can do at home.  While none of these will rid you of soreness alone, each one you can put into practice improves your chances of relief.

Ice and heat – Though ice slows circulation over time, it’s a fantastic circulation tool when used strategically.  Your body is almost a hundred degrees. Rubbing ice on (or submerging for short periods of time) affected areas causes blood to rush from that area.  Applying a little heat brings it back.

Hot/cold showers – Alternately turning your shower on hot, then cold, and pointing it at sore muscles causes a similar effect.

Restoration poses – These are movement-free poses designed to circulate blood in and out of targeted areas.

Nutrition – The better you eat, the better your body works, period.  When you have excessive breakdown, which you do when you’re sore, every nutrient helps.


What NOT to do if you are sore:

DO NOT take NSAIDS ( Non-Sterodial Anti-Inflammatory drugs) which include Advil, ibuprofen, or any over the counter pain reliever.

While they are a common tool for recovery and pain relief, especially for recreational athletes, studies have repeatedly shown that they don’t aid in muscle recovery and, in fact, may exacerbate muscle breakdown.  Plus, they come with a slew of other side effects.  Therefore, they should be avoided as much as possible.  Understandably, you may want to use them to mask the pain in the most acute stages.  Just know that it’s masking, and not solving, the recovery process.















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