Take control of post-workout muscle soreness and prevent a relapse into holiday mode.
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is an unfortunate by-product of exercise. As the New Year begins, many of you have no doubt taken a break from training or have decided to initiate a new exercise regime. You can almost guarantee that you will experience DOMS as a part of starting or resuming an exercise program.
Unlike the pain you may experience during exercise
which is generally mild, DOMS occurs, as the name suggests, post-exercise, and usually peaks around 48 to 72 hours after a hard exercise session. Contrary to popular belief, there is little scientific evidence to suggest that DOMS is caused by lactic acid. The type of exercise you do may well be a clearer indicator of whether you will develop DOMS or not.
Eccentric contractions have been shown to cause the most severe DOMS. These involve contracting and lengthening the muscle at the same time. If you have ever done a hard set of lunges, you will know the pain in your hamstrings and gluteal muscles you experience was brought on by the eccentric nature of this exercise. The exact mechanism is not clear, however eccentric contractions cause a larger amount of structural damage to muscles at a cellular level compared with concentric contractions (contractions while a muscle is shortening). The cause of the pain experienced may be from the breakdown of the muscles or by the rebuilding process or a combination of the two. The good news is that all exercise causes muscle damage to some degree and muscle damage equals muscle growth!
So, in preparation for your new program, here are some tips for success for your first few sessions of exercise:
• Back off the weights, sets and reps until your body adapts again (you will know after the first session where you
stand and how much strength you may have lost).
• Avoid running up and down hills until you have started a base of fitness on flat surfaces first.
• Use machine-based weights as opposed to free weights to control your movement and keep it in a closed chain
(a fixed starting and finishing point).
• Train your body parts across separate days so you can rotate them and allow one part to recover on the day/s
you are training another.
• Be careful with exercises such as lunges and chest flyes where you are working quite hard in a lengthened
position against the resistance.
• Don’t avoid eccentric exercises. They are still an important part of strengthening and building muscle. Use a stepby-
step plan to introduce these exercises and build up once your body has adapted to training again.
• Use ice and cold water for recovery as they have a natural anti-inflammatory effect. Hot showers and deep
massages may feel good at the time but they can exacerbate the body’s inflammatory response.
Experiencing DOMS is normal. It’s essential to give your body adequate time to repair before training again and ask an exercise professional to help you to set an appropriate training load on your next visit to the gym.