(BSc Sports and Exercise Science, MSc Physiotherapy, L1 Crossfit Personal Trainer)
What is DOM’s? How do we recover from it quicker?
Anyone and everyone who has exercised at one point or another in their life has experienced delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS for short. It is that achey feeling you feel in your muscles 2-3 days post exercise, and it can often be quite painful – limiting your movement to a point where stairs seems like Everest, or you find yourself looking for a toilet with grab rails to help you into position! However, some people actively look for DOMS, and feel that they haven’t worked hard enough unless they experience it. Other people, on the other hand, refuse to workout for the next week if they get any soreness after a workout. So who is right – is DOMS something to be afraid of or encouraged? And what the hell is it anyway? ‘
The science behind what exactly causes DOMS is not 100% clear, but most people agree that it is caused by microtears to the muscles, which leads to inflammation as they heal, causing the pain. What is clear is that lactic acid accumulation is not a component of this process, and should not be blamed for your DOMS. What we know for certain is that DOMS arises in the first 24hours post-exercise, and typically peaks 48hours after exercise. It leads to a temporary decrease in force production for the first 48hours post-exercise, and has been linked to an increased incidence of injuries in athletes (important to think about with regards to sports performance). Also, eccentric training (lengthening the muscle with tension applied – for example the lowering phase of a bicep curl) leads to more DOMs than fast concentric work. So is it bad for you? In a word, no. However, as discussed above – it will limit your effectiveness in any subsequent exercise or sport sessions over the next two to three days, which will limit the amount of work you can get through. Also, through its inhibition of certain muscles and reduction in range of movement, it can lead to further injuries – so try to avoid playing a football match the day after doing a heavy legs squatting session!
So what can you do to reduce DOMS quickly to get back into the gym? Here are a few tips:
1) Warm-up and cool down before and after your gym session. Having an effective warmup and cool down has been shown to reduce DOMS in untrained individuals versus individuals who received neither. Your warmup should include the areas of your body you are about to workout, and you should be at least breathless by the end of it. Cool down should involve stretching, and a lot of: 2) Foam Rolling: If you don’t know what a foam roller is, find out. Buy one, and make it your friend. Foam rolling has consistently shown to be effective at improving range of movement in tight athletes the day after high intensity workouts, and reduce DOMS. For individuals looking to workout regularly, they should be spending five minutes daily with their foam roller. 3) Hands on treatment/Acupuncture: If your DOMS is particularly bad, speak to your friendly local physio about manual treatment and acupuncture to hasten your recovery. Both are effective. 4) Active Recovery: Research has shown that lightly exercising the area the day after a heavy session can reduce the recovery time. For example, after a heavy squatting day, jump on a stationary bike the next day for a gentle 20minute cycle. Your legs will thank you! 5) Nutrition and Hydration: Being well hydrated, and feeding your working muscles with good fuel should be the cornerstone of any workout program. Don’t waste your time in the gym if you are not paying attention to this outside of the gym. You will recover quicker, and you will make more progress if you do!
It is unlikely that you will avoid DOMS altogether when you start a new strength program. It is not something that you should be afraid of, or that should keep you away from the gym. However, pain does not need to be present in order for you to achieve progress in your conditioning. If anything, intentionally causing DOMS will only limit the amount of work that you can do in subsequent sessions, potentially slowing down your progress. The ultimate goal of any training program is to find the optimal balance between work and recovery. We want to be able to do the most amount of work that we can safely and fully recover from. If you figure out that ratio for yourself, you will be going a long way towards being crowned the GORadiance Champion 2014! Recover well!