You’ve probably experienced muscle soreness after an intense workout. The reason for this is that during strength training there are microscopic tears within our muscle. Scientists believe that the tears in our muscles, along with inflammation are what cause muscle pain after a hard workout.
Do not worry – these tears are actually good and make you stronger. They occur most often on the eccentric (the lowering) movement of our exercise. Think of a bicep curl. Lifting the dumbbell is the concentric movement and lowering it is the eccentric movement. It is the eccentric movement which causes the muscle to tear and then your body initiates the repair and re-building response to develop the muscle. The repairing process results in muscular growth and increased strength. . Have you ever wondered why your trainer wants you to lower your weights down slowly instead of letting gravity pull you down? This is why. Tears lead to repairs which leads to more strength.
DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) is your body’s way of telling you to rest and recover. Listen to your body. If you have muscles that are very sore after a particular workout, rest those muscles. After you repeat a workout over several weeks, you will notice that you are no longer sore. This is your body adapting to the stimulus. This is why it’s important to constantly change your workouts by adding extra weight, changing the reps, rest, timing or movements. Our bodies are always adapting to change and we need to continually alter our fitness program to see progress.
DOMS usually hits the hardest 24-48 hours after exercises. Some people live for it and others dread it. For some, the feeling of muscle soreness after a hard workout feels like an achievement and a reward for pushing hard. If you are in this category then you may feel discouraged if you are pushing really hard in your workouts and not feeling that soreness the next day.
The truth is that DOMS is not an accurate gauge of an effective workout. If you feel DOMS then yes, you have successfully damaged your muscle which leads to growth and increased strength but it is not a definitive measurement of improvement. You could have an awesome workout and not be sore the next day. According to Brad Schoenfeld, an internationally renowned fitness expert, “You don’t need to experience muscle soreness after a training session to build muscle, and you probably shouldn’t rely on it as an accurate indicator of productiveness.”
There is still a lot of unknowns when it comes to DOMS. Genetically some people feel it more often than others. Some muscle groups are more prone to it than other. As long as you are pushing yourself to your own limits and constantly challenging yourself then you are on the right fitness path.
If you have DOMS and need relief, there treatments that can ease your discomfort. Foam rolling is one great way to reduce muscle soreness. Other treatments include Epsom Salt baths, sleep, increased protein intake and omega-3 supplementation (to reduce inflammation). These are simple ways reduce muscle soreness after a hard workout.