How to reduce muscle soreness after your exercise sessions

What is DOMS?

DOMS stands for delayed onset muscle soreness. It is a soreness in the muscles that can occur after training. It is commonly experienced in people who first start training due to their muscles never experiencing that type of repetitive movement or loading, along with people who have not performed this type of exercise in a very long time.
The pain increments can vary from a slight discomfort to not being able to move properly. Many can relate to that feeling of sitting down after a leg session. If you are hoping to avoid this feeling it is important that you start with the appropriate dose of exercise so that you do not experience major discomfort, and this does not create negativities towards the benefits of exercise.

Why does it occur?

The reason we train is to adapt our bodies positively, change our muscle shapes to achieve desired aesthetic or physical abilities relevant to our set training goals. The body must adapt to a stimulus for this change to occur. The reason as to why we will experience muscle soreness is due to the muscle’s response of the exercises performed. Muscles are often slightly torn which promotes the body to overcompensate this soreness and build a positively stronger muscle. This is what creates adaptation and allows the desired results to occur.

The stress and strain curve can represent this pattern, as well as what can happen if we receive too much of a stimulus resulting in a decline of performance or ability to train on consecutive days. For example, if you experience a highly painful delayed onset muscle soreness after your very first exercise session, it is likely that you will not feel like training again in the coming days.

This can establish negative feelings towards the benefits of exercise.

How to prevent DOMS from occurring

There is only one way to prevent DOMS from occurring.

This is by using the DOSE response relationship theory.

The DOSE relationship refers to the amount of exercise we are receiving, this can be via the number of reps, sets and amount of weight provided in a certain exercise or exercise session. The dose relationship is the only way to actually prevent delayed onset muscle soreness.

This graph demonstrates the quantity line as the dose of exercise that is prescribed. Generally, it is common to start a beginner with a somewhat low dose of exercise for the first week to ease them into regular exercise sessions. This means starting with low reps, low sets, and low weights.

It is always better to underestimate your fitness level when first starting out in a program as this allows a steady increase in the overall dose to occur sooner. For example, when performing a large muscle group exercise such as lunges, it may be ideal to start with a smaller rep and set range particularly if you are experiencing leg fatigue during the initial stages of performing the exercise.

The overall key to avoiding excessive DOMS post exercise is to start with lowering your hurdle so it is easy to step over and day by day you can build up your momentum. Remember momentum equals results.

(References: Cheung, K., et al. (2003), Connolly, D. A., et al. (2003), Ernst, E. (1998))
Rose Walklate