Both regular gym-goers and those who are new to working out will be familiar with the sore feeling that comes the day after training. You often hear people say, “I’m going to feel this in the morning.” They are referring to the muscular soreness that occurs after an intense workout. “Why do I feel sore after working out?” you may ask yourself. Well, it has to do with something called DOMS.
What Causes Muscular Soreness (DOMS)?
Delayed onset muscle soreness, also known as DOMS, is not what you feel during and straight after your workout. It actually comes on 24-48 hours after you finished working out.
What happens when exercise intensely? You cause micro tears in your muscles. This is true whether it’s resistance training or a high-intensity cardio-based workout. You experience most of this damage during the eccentric phase. This is when your muscles are lengthening against resistance. For example, when you do a bicep curl, reducing the weight would be the eccentric phase, as the bicep muscle is lengthening. The bicep muscle is resisting the lengthening, which causes the micro-injury.
Do your muscles get sore because of too much lactic acid? There has long been a theory about muscle soreness. People believed that soreness after exercise was due to lactic acid buildup in the body. However, it is now known that lactic acid results from the burning of energy stores in your muscles during an intense workout. It’s then processed out of your body within an hour or two of exercise.
Then, 24-48 hours later, it is your muscles’ nociceptors (the pain receptors in the muscles), that are activated. This is when you start to feel aches, stiffness, and soreness in impacted areas. This activation reduces as the muscles heal. Also, in some cases, they grow bigger and stronger when supported by the correct nutrition.
There is a huge misconception where people believe they have to be sore after every workout to build muscle, get stronger, and make progress. That’s simply not true! There is little evidence that you need to be sore to build lean muscle tissue. You do not need to feel sore after working out.
Can I Reduce DOMS?
Research has shown that you can minimise DOMS. You can do this by regularly exercising. For example, exercise four times a week. The body starts developing exercise-induced analgesia. This means it prevents pain coming on as it has experienced. It becomes used to the rapid bursts of exercise it has already been through. Other ways of reducing DOMS include stretching, massage, warming up properly before training, and good hydration.