If you have been working out for a while, you may have heard of the term DOMS. You might be wondering what it means, or maybe you’re not. Either way, I’m going to tell you. DOMS is an acronym that stands for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. The easiest way to describe this is basically DOMS is the soreness you experience 24-48 hours after you work out.
(Oh so that’s what it is… That shit sucks!)
Yes it does, trust me I’ve had my fair share of soreness too, but hold on, there’s actually a huge benefit to this!
DOMS stems from eccentric muscle contraction (lengthening of muscle) which causes microscopic tears in muscle fibers. These tears are what cause that sore feeling for the next day or so after working out.
(That sounds counterproductive, I want to get bigger, if working out causes my muscles to tear, then why even bother?)
Let me drop another knowledge bomb on you: hypertrophy. Hypertrophy is the enlargement of an organ or tissue from the increase in size of its cells (aka, in this case, muscle growth). Research shows that in order for hypertrophy to occur, the muscles have to tear on a microscopic level, ergo DOMS.
(Oh ok, well why would I want to be in pain though? This sounds like a painful process.)
Yes, anything worthwhile will take tremendous energy and might cause some momentary pain. The good thing about DOMS, in terms of physical relief, is that it only takes 48-72 hours to subside. During this frame of time, the second day after a workout is usually the one where you are most sore. But don’t worry, just think of it as your body being hungry for more iron in the gym, that’s the way I think about it 😉
All in all, DOMS really isn’t all that bad. Even though the soreness might be a tad bit annoying, overall it is your body’s way of thanking you for keeping it healthy and your reward is muscle regrowth in the form of DOMS. Just make sure you keep at it every week though. Because 2 weeks after DOMS with no additional strength training, your strength actually decreases. This is why periodization and timing, of your workouts are so important. During these two weeks prior to strength loss is the time period where numerous microscopic processes occur to benefit the body, which will physiologically make you seem weaker, but again, this is just the body’s way of recovering.
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Cheung, K., Hume, P.A. & Maxwell, L. Sports Med (2003) 33: 145. https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-200333020-00005