DOMS (or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) is that horrible, painful type of stiff that you will sometimes get after working out. I don’t mean just the usual type of “nice” stiffness. I’m talking about those times when you struggle to sit down onto the toilet or when you can’t even brush your hair. That’s DOMS and it usually shows up 24-48 hours after you’ve worked out. As horrible as it is, it is normal and everyone will experience it at some time in their training journey. At the moment, we don’t know any ways (apart from not training at all) to stop it completely but there are a couple things you can do to limit the struggle a bit, which I’ll outline below.
“…it usually shows up 24-48 hours after you’ve worked out.
One of the reasons we don’t know how to stop DOMS is because we don’t really know what causes it. For years, the standard answer was that it was excessive lactic acid build up which caused the intense soreness. Later studies have shown that this is actually nonsense. What it’s most likely caused by is a large amount of micro-tears in the muscle. This is completely normal and it’s part of how the body adapts and gets stronger. These muscle tears are trauma and cause inflammation which we most likely experience as DOMS. Our body responds to these tears by repairing them stronger and bigger than before which is how we adapt to training.
It is likely that there’s more to DOMS that we haven’t figured out yet.
Even though we don’t really know the process of it in the body we do know of some types of exercise that are more likely to cause it than others. Slow movement through the up and (specifically) the down part of a movement are known to cause excessive DOMS. Also doing multiple sets to failure can cause it. Funnily enough, paused repetitions and heavy movements don’t cause as much.
The best ways to deal with DOMS is really just through good recovery. Hydration, nutrition and sleep are your go-tos. Making sure you get good amounts of these 3 and in good quality will go a long way to mitigating that horrible, can-barely-move type of stiffness.
“Hydration, nutrition and sleep are your go-tos.
With hydration I recommend sipping on water continuously throughout the day after your training. If you train in the evening, having a good amount after you workout is your best option.
With nutrition, getting a good amount of quality protein and some carbs after you workout will help. In this scenario fat won’t really assist in lessening the DOMS.
Sleep is probably the most important of the three. 8 hours should be the goal but I’ve found that after some particularly hard sessions sleeping for longer can help with recovery.
We’re not going to be able to completely get rid of DOMS but being cognisant of your recovery can help limit it.