I’ve had many times where I would have a really good leg workout or an arm workout, and I would wake up the next day with that muscle group being sore.  The level of soreness would vary depending on the intensity of the workout.  Some days the soreness was bearable, and some days it was all I could do to even walk, let alone walk up some stairs.  I would think that my legs were revolting against me or asking me what they did to deserve this.

There is a term called “DOMS” that stands for (D)elayed (O)nset (M)uscle (S)oreness and refers to muscle soreness that happens 12 to 48 hours after a workout.  It’s not an immediate soreness.  You do a workout and feel good for the rest of the day, but you wake up the next morning and the soreness has found you….it’s too late.

So what is going on that is causing your muscles to be sore after your workouts?  How does this happen?  I’ll share three different causes:

1. CONNECTIVE TISSUE DAMAGE – This goes all the way back to 1997 that suggests DOMS occurs because the stress of weight training causes disruptions in the connective tissue of the muscle and tendinous attachments.  They came to this conclusion when they noticed that hydroxyproline was higher in those with soreness than those who were not.  Hydroxyproline is a metabolic product of connective tissue damage.

2. SKELETAL MUSCLE DAMAGE – This study goes all the way back to 1986.  The idea is that the stress from weight training causes tears in your muscle fibers, called microtrauma, and will lead to DOMS.  A special note here as well:  the eccentric contraction has the greatest chance of microtrauma.  I wrote more about the eccentric contraction in a previous blooooog called “eccentricity” if you want to check it out.

3. SPASMS – I’ve heard of the previous two causes, but I’ve never heard of this one.  It says that DOMS is caused by Ischemia during a workout.  So, being the clueless person that I am and not knowing what in the world that word means, I looked up “ischemia.”  It means, “an inadequate blood supply to an organ or part of the body.”  The lack of blood to the muscle causes a build-up of pain-causing substances instead.  These pain-causing substances causes spasms that in turn cause more ischemia, and this contributes to the soreness you feel 12 to 48 hours later.

LACTIC ACID?   One explanation I have heard is that the build-up of lactic acid causes DOMS.  It is true that lactic acid causes soreness, but it is not DOMS.  Lactic acid is a by-product that accumulates in the muscle and causes that muscle to fatigue during an exercise.  This can also lead to an acute soreness that can last up to one hour following your training session, but it will dissipate after that.  Another interesting fact about lactic acid is that it is carried by the blood to the liver and is then converted to glucose and returned as blood glucose to the muscles.  Basically, the lactic acid can be reconverted into energy.  Neat stuff.

EASING THE DOMS – there are some things you can do to ease the intensity of DOMS. They’re not a cure by any means. One good way to reduce the DOMS that will follow a workout is to stretch after your workout.  I’m talking low to moderate stretching, not aggressive stretching.  Aggressive stretching can do more harm than good by causing more microtrauma.  You can also massage the muscles to help reduce the DOMS.  Stretching or massaging after a workout helps to get rid of the waste products in your muscles. Eating a sufficient amount of protein throughout the day will help to ease DOMS. Your muscles need to repair themselves, and protein can help to do that. If you find that the protein you eat in a day is not enough to meet your requirement, whey protein supplementation can help to meet your requirement.   Also, going out and doing a light activity can help, like an easy bike ride or going for a walk…..something to get those muscles moving just a little bit.

Hopefully this bloooog will help you understand what DOMS is and how you can make it a little easier.  Please feel free to contribute more to the conversation, as well as giving a “like” or a “share.”

Until next time,


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