Remember that day you worked out your biceps a little longer than usual, using different machines, adding on more weight and increasing your reps? And then a day and a half later you woke up and realized your arms felt really stiff and felt like you were moving them like a robot? Yeah, that’s the day you experienced muscles soreness aka Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).
DOMS normally happens for two reasons: you either began a new exercise regimen after a long period of not working out, or you went harder than usual in the gym (or in an exercise regimen). Dr. Matthew Isner, contributor to Bodybuilding.com, best describes it as “a phenomenon of muscle pain and soreness that is felt 12-48 hours following exercise, particularly at the beginning of a new exercise program, after a change in sports activities, or after a dramatic increase in the duration or intensity of exercise…”
So, technically, it’s normal to feel muscle tenderness, and sometimes, even pain. The good thing about it is that once the body adapts, continuous repetition of the same exercise exerted for a particular muscle group will not cause the same amount of pain or discomfort. Pretty cool, right?
Preventing or Avoiding DOMS
Some experts say that extensive stretching can help, but if it’s been a while since a particular exercise has been done, then you can expect to experience a little bit of soreness. Paul Ingraham, who used to be a registered massage therapist, explains in his article on DOMS that his patients would request sessions for massages for the soreness but there was nothing he could do about it. He states, “Massage therapists certainly often claim to be able to do so, but without evidence or justification.”
However, in Dr. Matthew Isner’s article on Sore Muscles, he gives information on a study that was published in the Journal of Athletic Training in 2003 which conducted an assessment on ten healthy subjects, both men and women, with no prior experience or injuries on a muscle group. They engaged in muscle resistance training, and according to the article, massage therapy proved to help with DOMS. Dr. Isner informs that the study concluded massage therapy was effective in alleviating DOMS by approximately 30% and also, reduced swelling; but even with that it had no effects on muscle function.
My opinion: Sure, massage might work, but at the end of the day, your more than likely still going to feel very sore. Especially, if it’s been a while, or you haven’t worked out a particular muscle group in a while.
Now, how do you know if your muscles are sore or if you actually pulled something?
Some people have a high tolerance for pain, while others who are just starting out on their fitness journey will more than likely feel the different changes that their body goes through and perceive it as pain. The key to deciphering whether the “pain” is actually pain or just extreme soreness lies in listening to your body.
I know that for me, once my body tells me “Hey, Alba! YOUR DONE, STOP IT!” I’m usually compliant. You have to use not only your good judgement, but get acquainted with your body so that you know how far you can push yourself. And as time goes, if strength is what your pursuing, continue to push little by little. Time is you friend!
My most recent sore muscle groups?:
- LEGS (I mean, who doesn’t go hard on leg day???)
- ARMS (I worked out my biceps last week and the next 3-4 days were just the worst!)
- CHEST (I thought I was saw immediate definition the day afterwards. That’s how seriously sore I was.)
Remember guys, if your sore it is possible that your putting in that work and getting that body right, or you pulled something! Hopefully, it’s the first one, happy lifting 😉