This week I am at week 10/52 of my next body transformation and really enjoying the intensity – physically and mentally – of my athlete style training program to build strength and lean muscle mass. The topic for this week’s post is DOMS – as many clients who have experienced progression in their training program with me are either alarmed or curious to understand the pain they are feeling after their session.
DOMS is the abbreviated term used to describe the pain and stiffness felt post exercising, Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.
* What is DOMS all about?
There are several theories about what causes DOMS however none are universally accepted and it is still a topic that is not that well understood in the scientific and fitness worlds.
Some say it is caused by a build up of lactic acid (the waste product produced by the body when training – when you feel “the burn” i.e. the lactic build up). Others say its a result of tissue breakdown (cells being damaged). Some say its an inflammatory response from the immune system. Possibly it could be a combination of all these things?
It is a bit of a mystery and as you can see there are many explanations for it. However, it can be very frustrating as the pain and lack of ability to carry out normal function may continue for most of the week. DOMS occurs to the best and fittest of us, any time we tend to exercise differently or different muscle groups.
DOMS is thought to be caused primarily by eccentric exercise (the lengthening phase of a muscle contraction, i.e. the downward movement in a bicep curl) and can present itself anywhere from 8 to 48 hours post workout, DOMS can be felt for the next few days, it’s not unusual for it to last up to 5 to 7 days in some extreme cases, particularly if you are a beginner to exercising.
Note: It is normal, so don’t worry!
* Why Weights Training brings on DOMS?
Weight training exercise consists of two types of movement:
- Eccentric or negative phase; and
- Concentric or positive phase.
Most of this post will revolve around the eccentric phase, as most all of the microtrauma* happens here. *Microtrauma is simply the tearing of the muscle’s fibers and connective tissue. The fact is, much fewer fibers are involved during this – eccentric – phase. Therefore, each fiber is subjected to greater forces during exercise.
Conversely, the concentric phase recruits far more fibers, and more metabolic activity takes place here. So as more fibres are recruited in the concentric phase this means greater depletion of muscle energy – adenosine triphosphate “ATP”, as well as muscle glucose “glycogen”.
The combination of the two – depleted ATP and glycogen – lead to altered cellular calcium. This happens during and after the actual exercise. The cellular calcium eventually leads to the activation of enzymes that break down cellular proteins, with the inclusion of contractile proteins… In turn, increased mitochondrial calcium decreases cellular energy production. So at the end of all this, there’s now muscle debris and swelling begins. Fluid enters the cells to make way for the immune system’s “clean up”. The immune response now triggers the release of free radicals and this also damages the muscle.
Now, the muscles are damaged and their ability to store fuel (glycogen) is compromised. The two now make it necessary for proper recovery before the next training session. It’s commonly accepted that a muscle can reach full recovery after 7 days. Some studies even indicate the process can take up to 14 days!
This is where proper real foods nutrition and supplements comes into play. It’s long been said that there is a 30 minute “window” after intense exercise. For those of you still novice to the training world – this window represents the time to get protein into the system. Science has since learned this window is nowhere near this long… The time to get protein into your system is much closer to 12 minutes. Using a high quality whey protein is necessary such as our Be Fit Hub Pure Whey Protein Powder. Whey protein has the highest biological value for humans based on it’s amino acid profile, as well as it’s speed of digestion and assimilation into our cells. Getting these raw materials in you immediately ensures proper muscle protein synthesis.
It doesn’t end there as the muscles still need to replace muscle glycogen. Be mindful at this point the muscle’s ability to refuel itself is compromised… You may have visions of you shoveling loads of carbohydrates down your throat… Umm no – not quite… Yes, eating ample amounts of carbohydrates throughout the day will lead to muscle recovery. It just can’t happen in one fell swoop! BE AWARE loading carbohydrates indiscriminately will only cause fat deposition. REALITY IS what the body can’t store, the liver converts to fat. You are best to have a qualified Personal Trainer and Nutrition Coach complete a Nutrition Plan for you where your macronutrients are specific to your training and body composition goals i.e. tone or athlete intensity training.
* Should you continue to train with DOMS?
Some would argue that DOMS is a warning sign to slow down or stop and after many years of exercising and experiencing DOMS this is NOT TRUE! But whilst rest is important for the muscles to repair, further activity can and I feel does alleviate the soreness (though causing more pain afterwards) – this is a “chicken and egg” situation. There is no evidence that further training has any adverse effect on recovery therefore it is unlikely that DOMS is a warning sign to stop training and it is safe to continue. At the end of the day the best cure for stiff muscles is to keep them mobilised to keep the blood and oxygen flow pulsing thru.
You can reduce the effect of DOMS by ensuring that you warmup prior to any workout and cooldown as well as stretch the worked muscles at the end. The warmup will prepare the muscles for activity rather than shock them. The cooldown and stretches will aide the muscles to recover and repair better before your next workout and prevent injury from occurring.
* Other TIPS to help minimise DOMS:
Split Program – Your Personal Trainer can change your program intensity or split your program up into a 2 or 3 way split working different body parts on different days.
Overall, you should look to change your program every 4-6 weeks regardless as the muscles will become used to the exercises and eventually the effectiveness of the exercise and the effect of DOMS will reduce.
Active Recovery – This does mean your body is still moving LOL… It means not resting but doing gentle exercise. So light jogging or walking the day after can help.
Gentle massage – Refrain from remedial or sports massage or you will end up on the ceiling of the treatment room, just light, long strokes that release the toxins in the muscles, no digging in!
Ice… or ice baths – or a swim in the ocean – this is my favourite remedy!!! Sore muscles usually mean inflammation in the muscle so cooling down always seems to soothe.
Anti inflammatory – May help, just the over the counter stuff like Voltaren, Aspirin or Ibuprofen.
One important thing to remember is that DOMS happens to the best of us. It doesn’t mean you are unfit and need to workout more! Top athletes suffer from DOMS, from marathon runners to body builders. It’s just a sign that you have pushed your muscles to their limit, damaged them a little, but the ensuing recovery will see them build and grow stronger and this is what we want!
BE BRAVE, BE BOLD and TRAIN like a WARRIOR… Then you will really know the true meaning of DOMS – when you feel your fitness progress and see your overall tone improve!!! xx