The Actual Science of Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness, Defined

If you lift weights, you've probably gotten used to stiff, aching muscles.

Strangely, this stiffness and pain often occurs several hours or even days after exercise.

This is known as Sore muscles with delayed onset (DOMS).

Almost anyone who trains with intensity experiences it, and some even like it.

Others think it means their muscles are growing, others do not like it and try to avoid it, and others simply absorb it and more or less ignore it.

So is DOMS useful, harmful or harmless?

In other words, should you try to promote, avoid or ignore it?

The short answer is that it generally does more harm than good to your progress. It does not help you build muscle and you should not change your training to promote DOMS.

That said, you'll probably experience DOMS at some point if you follow an effective training plan, so do not be afraid to do so.

Ready for the longer answer?

Let's start with the definition of soreness with delayed onset.

What is delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)?

Dystrophy onset (DOMS) is a dull ache that develops several hours after exercise, usually peaking 24 to 72 hours after exercise and disappearing after four to seven days.

In general, DOMS only hurts when you move, eg. When standing, walking, stretching or exercising.

DOMS is no different from regular aching, The only difference is that it develops hours or days after training, rather than during or immediately afterwards, and it tends to be more painful.

In the worst case, DOMS can complicate the use of affected muscles.

For example, it is not uncommon for weightlifters, runners, or football players to have trouble walking for a few days after DOMS-inducing exercise.

Most of the time, though, it's a minor disorder that should not significantly affect your workout.

DOMS is often confused with muscle fatigue, but they are not the same thing.

Although these two phenomena can be uncomfortable, muscle fatigue is caused by several factors.

As you will soon learn, DOMS is caused by muscle damage and muscle fatigue owing to either by accumulating metabolic "waste products" from muscle contraction or by decreasing the ability of a nerve fiber to force a muscle to contraction.

Most often muscle fatigue is fatigue – the feeling you get after a long run. You are not really in pain, but it feels like your batteries are exhausted.

We do not have to deal with the problem of fatigue (which is still angry) debated), but the upshot is that it's caused by factors other than soreness with delay.

Summary: DOMS is a dull ache that develops several hours after exercise, usually peaking 24 to 72 hours after exercise and disappearing after four to seven days.

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What causes DOMS?

DOMS has been confusing people for over a century after their first lives described In 1902, an MIT professor named Theodore Hough, who concluded that it was ". , , basically the result of fractures within the muscle. "

More than 100 years later, his hypothesis still holds water.

The researchers do not know exactly what caused DOMS, but the most promising theory is still Hough's.

Prolonged onset muscle soreness is most likely due to small tears called "sore muscles" Mikrotrauma-in muscle cells. In other words, DOMS is caused by muscle damage.

To understand delayed onset muscle soreness on a deeper level (har har), one must first understand how the muscles contract.

You can imagine muscles like a living rope. They are like ropes made of extremely small fibers tied together into ever larger bundles.

The largest bundle is the muscle, which usually attaches and contracts two bones in the body.

The next smaller bundle is this fascicles, This is a bunch of muscle fibers, also known as muscle cells or myocytes,

The next smaller bundle is the myofibril that makes up the muscle cells.

Finally, myofibrils consist of the two smallest fibers of a muscle: actin and myosin.

These last two fibers drive muscle contraction throughout the body.

This is how the whole system looks like:

Muscle structure skeletal muscle

Actin and myosin fibers run parallel in a myofibril:


In this case the blue fibers are actin and the red fibers myosin.

When the brain orders a muscle fiber to contract, the myosin fibers form pull on the actin fibersAs a result, they slip up on the actin fibers.

Here's a great demonstration of what this looks like:

When the brain signals the muscle to relax, the myosin fibers "release" the actin fibers, causing the myosin fibers to slide along the actin fibers and relax the muscles.

Muscle damage occurs when the myosin and actin fibers are pulled apart when trying to stick together. In some cases, researchers believe that the actin filaments can be uprooted where they are normally anchored in the muscle, like a tendon that breaks off a bone.

Research also shows that a certain type of exercise is known as eccentric exercise causes most muscle damage. Eccentric training is any kind of training in which a muscle is contracted when contracted.

Take, for example, the biceps curl.

If you lift the weight up, your biceps muscle will be stressed concentric contractionwhich does not cause much muscle damage.

However, if you lower the weight towards the floor, the biceps muscle is stressed eccentric contractionbecause it still contracts when the weight pulls on the muscle.

This causes much more muscle damage than a concentric contraction, which is why eccentric training causes much more DOMS than concentric training.

The same thing happens when you walk downhill. Your thigh muscles and quadriceps contract as they stretch, causing massive muscle damage. Downhill running is so effective in this regard that it is often used to cause muscle damage studies,

Fortunately, this damage is not permanent. The body has complex, robust and efficient systems for the rapid repair of damaged muscle fibers, which is why DOMS disappears after a week at the latest.

However, this theory does not explain everything.

For one thing, why should not pain start immediately after the damage has occurred?

Scientists are not sure, but one popular explanation is that this damage affects the ability of muscle cells to process nutrients such as calcium, which causes the muscle to accumulate other compounds such as histamine, prostaglandins, and potassium.

This triggers an inflammatory reaction that leads to a delayed sore muscles.

This process can take several hours, which is why soreness is typically delayed becomes clear 12 to 24 hours after training.

However, this is only a hypothesis, and researchers are still not sure what is causing delayed onset muscle soreness.

Scientists know something Not however cause DOMS.

Some people say that delayed onset muscle soreness is caused by the buildup of lactic acid in the body, but this is the case repeated refuted since the 1980s.

There are several reasons why this theory does not stand up to scientific scrutiny:

You can to produce large amounts of lactic acid during a workout and then no DOMS occur.
Lactic acid is almost complete deleted one hour after the workout, so it makes no sense that the pain would be greatest almost one day later.
Lactic acid is an important fuel source for the muscles during intense exercise and new research shows that it probably does not even contribute to fatigue, let alone pain.

Summary: DOMS is caused by damage to muscle cells during exercise, and workouts that cause more muscle damage typically cause more DOMS.

How can you prevent and reduce DOMS?

The only surefire way to avoid DOMS is to never lift weights.

Ironically, the next best solution is the consistent lifting of weights.

Remember that the main driver of DOMS is muscle damage. If you are new to lifting weights or have taken a longer break (more than two weeks), your body is more susceptible to muscle damage from lifting weights.

This is why DOMS and soreness tend to be common to be worst when you start lifting weights for the first time or after a long break, and why it gets less and less the longer you lift weights.

In fact, the people who tend to endure the fewest DOMS are generally the most muscular, strong, and experienced lifters.

So if you want to minimize the likelihood that you will get DOMS, raise the weights consistently.

Even if you constantly lift weights, you can get DOMS if you change your exercise program significantly (eg, switch from low to high reps), but this DOMS is usually never as bad as the first start lift weights.

For example, suppose you already have DOMS. What is the best treatment for delayed onset muscle soreness?

Well, there is one Handful of strategies that might help to reduce the sharpness, but the two most effective ones are:

Time and active rest.

First, there is not much you can do to get rid of DOMS if it has already invaded you. So you only have to spend a few days with it before your muscles recover. The good news is that this only takes a few days and you usually feel much better after three days.

Second, there are some proofs This active break, also known as active recovery, can help DOMS disappear faster than a full break.

In other words, DOMS may disappear faster if you do a light exercise instead of sitting on the couch on your butt.

If you want to try this technique, do a light exercise such as running, swimming, cycling, rowing, or other low-impact activity if you do not lift weights. You could also do higher repetitions and lower weight, but cardio usually works better than weightlifting to actively recover.

Summary: The best way to avoid DOMS is to consistently lift weights, and the best way to reduce DOMS is to rest and do light activities such as walking, swimming or cycling.

Can you exercise if you have DOMS?


Even though your muscle fibers are likely to be damaged in pain, you can still work productively at DOMS.

Whether you exercise, if you have DOMS or not, depends on how bad the pain is.

On the one hand, chances are good that you can not train very productively if you have problems getting up in the morning or getting out of bed.

What is more, research shows This moderate to extreme soreness can reduce your muscles' ability to contract vigorously, which of course reduces their performance in the gym.

On the other hand, you might be surprised how little pain can affect your training.

There have been many times when I thought I was too sore to train just for great training.

In many cases, I still felt sore during the warm-up, but when I started using heavier weights, the pain disappeared. I do not know why that is, but I've found that you quickly forget sore muscles when you throw around with heavy weights.

So if you are a bit sore and unsure if you can work out, go to the gym, get warm and make at least one set. If it is very uncomfortable, your RPE is much higher than it should be and you are having trouble maintaining a good shape. Call it a day and wait for the pain to subside before you train that muscle group again.

If you feel good, your RPE is not too high and you can stay in good shape during your first heavy set. Continue as usual.

Summary: You can still do a productive workout if you are in pain. In most cases, you should be able to continue training even if you are dealing with DOMS.

The conclusion with delayed sore muscles

DOMS is a dull ache that develops several hours after exercise. When you lift weights, it occurs at a certain time.

This is usually the worst case when you start lifting weights for the first time, when you start to lift weights after a long break, or when you have significantly changed your exercise routine.

Scientists have been studying DOMS for over a century and are still not sure what the cause is. However, most evidence shows that muscle damage is the culprit.

Eccentric training that lowers a weight or stretches a muscle as it contracts (like downhill running) usually results in most muscle damage, and therefore most DOMS.

The best way to avoid DOMS is to train consistently.

You will almost certainly get DOMS after you have started a new exercise program, especially one that causes many muscle damage, such as running or lifting weights. However, after this initial break-in period you should not experience much DOMS as long as you train a few times a week.

The only exception to this rule is that you make a significant change in your exercise program, which can also lead to DOMS.

If you are already familiar with DOMS, the best thing you can do is have a light activity. Although it does not make much of a difference, simple cardio helps DOMS disappear faster than sitting around and doing nothing.

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