Have you ever trained legs so hard you that would rather crawl than walk, let alone sit or stand?
That must be a sign that you worked out hard, right? Well yes, to feel that sore you did have to push your boundaries, but if you feel like this after every workout, we need to talk.
Turns out there is a name for it– Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). DOMS usually begins around six hours after exercise and can last for up to forty eight or more. DOMS tends to occur when you first begin a new workout program, or when you dramatically increases the intensity of your current workout. If you are new to exercise, you can relax because its a normal part of your body adapting to your new workout plan.
As you progress through your workout program, not only do you get stronger, but your work capacity also increases. This is why after repeating a leg day that gave you DOMS, you may not feel much. This does not mean the workout was not effective, but that your body is better at dealing with the workload.
Contrary to popular belief, DOMS does not come from lactic acid build up but rather micro tears that occur in the muscles fibers as a result of exercise; how much tearing depends on the exercises performed. If you are not used to the exercise, chances are DOMS is in your future.
Specifically, eccentric (or negative) phases of an exercise are what causes the most soreness. The negative is where the muscle targeted is lengthened after the contraction in the concentric phase. Science mumbo jumbo aside, the concentric is the work part of a movement where most people struggle.
Think about your traditional bicep curl. When you curl the weight up towards your shoulder – that is the concentric phase. When you lower the weight – that is the eccentric or negative phase. Interestingly enough, the negative phase is the one that people tend to pay the least attention too, which is why if you claim to never be sore a more controlled negative may be what you need. NOTE – Almost every movement has a concentric and eccentric phase. Although lower body soreness seems to be the most intolerable and memorable, any area of your body can experience DOMS.
So if DOMS is a result of pushing boundaries, it must be a great gauge of whether the workout was effective right? No. Being sore after a workout is NOT the only way to determine its effectiveness. In fact, if you always seek that you can prevent results. Being sore all the time is not a good thing. For one, soreness limits your body’s ability to produce force, which can lead to less than fulfilling workouts. Soreness can also decrease your motivation to exercise. Chances are if you are sore, you need to rest more than you need a limit pushing workout.
If you repeat a previously debilitating workout and you feel functional that is a sign that your body has adapted to be able to handle the workload. In other words, you’re getting STRONGER!
To summarize, soreness is not necessary for results. Much like a scale is not the best at determining fat loss, soreness is not the best at determining workout effectiveness because they both only provide one fraction of a bigger picture.
So what do you do if you are debilitatingly sore? First relax, the soreness will go away.
However, these are some tips to speed up the process:
- Hydrate – Drinking water will help processes in the body that can aid in healing sore muscles.
- Protein – Protein helps rebuild broken down tissues. Eating more protein can help sore muscles heal.
- Glutamine – An amino acid that is specific to healing broken down tissues.
- Tissue work – Foam rolling and stretching can help increase blood flow to sore areas and with it the delivery of nutrients that can aide in recovery.
- Move – This may be the most difficult but you need to lightly exercise the affected area. Emphasis on LIGHTLY, this will also help increase blood flow.
- Rest – Never workout a sore muscle too hard. You not only increase your chances of injuring yourself but you risk overtraining. Come back stronger another day.