What is DOMS caused by weightlifting

What is DOMS (and how to prevent it)?

6 min read

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18 Jul 2023

Grab your cheat sheet

  1. What is DOMS?
  2. What causes DOMS?
  3. How to prevent DOMS

It doesn’t matter if you’re new to exercise or a seasoned pro; if you’re pushing hard for your goals, you can expect to experience sore muscles.

You might find it off-putting if you’re new, but rest assured, it’s a good sign. If you feel sore after a hard exercise routine, you’ve worked hard and will be even stronger for the workout. 

The soreness is usually a dull but manageable pain, rather than the kind of pain you’d expect through injury and is a sign that you should rest and revolver for the muscles to repair and build. The symptoms of repairing muscles aren’t usually immediate and can surface a day or two after. 

If you're looking to achieve muscle growth in as short a time as possible, we'll need to deal with DOMS pain and post-exercise soreness as best as we can.

What is DOMS?

To progress through strenuous exercise, our muscles need to grow stronger, and to do this, we need to make them stronger by working hard enough to tear them so they can rebuild and grow. Although these tears in the muscle tissue are microscopic, we can still expect some pain and discomfort. 

This pain is known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), and it’s our body’s response to intense exercise. It usually happens when trying a new exercise or a workout that is harder than usual, and the soreness can occur hours or even days after the activity has finished. DOMS can often be confused with a lactic acid build which occurs when you build up an exercise to a particular level of exertion. 

Lactic acid builds up when muscles don’t get enough oxygen to break them down, which causes cramps and muscle fatigue. The discomfort you experience with lactic acid build-up is usually immediate and temporary; it stops when the exercise ends. DOMS, on the other hand, occurs sometime after the workout has ended.

What causes DOMS?

DOMS is primarily caused by tears in muscle fibers, brought about by an intense workout or a new exercise where we are using a new muscle group. The muscles tear due to the stress of the training, and it’s our body’s way of saying that our muscles aren’t quite strong enough for this level of stress and it needs to build stronger ones. 

Weightlifting causes sore and damaged muscles

When this occurs, the muscle tissue releases enzymes to repair the tears, and this is what causes the soreness and inflammation. 

And remember - DOMS will get you no matter your fitness level. 

But is there anything we can do to reduce or eliminate the discomfort of DOMS, reduce pain and speed up muscle repair so we can move onto the next level of our workout more speedily? 

How to prevent DOMS

It’s essential, when considering ways in which to reduce DOMS that we remember why we feel pain. Yes, we want to eliminate pain from our bodies as soon as possible, but we should stop momentarily to remember that pain is a warning sign. It’s our body telling us there’s something wrong. In the case of exercise, it’s a way of holding up a ‘stop’ sign to let us know that we are in danger if we go any further at that moment. 

The trouble is that we will likely end up in more pain or risk injury. As DOMS is a delayed reaction to exercise, it’s a sign that our muscles are repairing, and any activity should cease or be limited until the pain goes away. 

Having said that, if you’re working on particular areas of your body, you can work on other parts while you have DOMS. For example, if you have DOMS in your arms, you can still work on your legs. Let’s look at ways in which we might be able to treat DOMS to get to our fitness goals more quickly.

Try low-cardio exercises

Light cardio can help DOMS as it helps to increase blood flow and heal muscle stiffness. You should start with some light stretching, brisk walking, and a light jog if you feel confident. Remember not to push too hard. This active recovery aims to get your heart rate up but not damage your body, as this is the repair stage.

Consume the right food

What you eat and drink will undoubtedly affect reducing DOMS. Packing in protein is always a good idea, and fatty fish such as salmon and tuna are perfect. Not only do they contain quality protein, but also Omega-3 fatty acids, which are ideal for reducing inflammation and reducing muscle soreness. 

Omega 3 helps relieve muscle soreness after workouts

Starchy fruit and vegetables should also be high on your list, and studies have revealed that drinking coffee before your workout can also mean less soreness after a tough workout.

Relax with a massage or a bath

A bath of ice or Epsom salts is a great way to soothe aching muscles and something which many professional athletes swear by. The magnesium contained in Epsom salts is great for relaxing muscles and assisting recovery. If you can take the cold, an ice bath is another great way to get things moving faster on the road to recovery. The cold water constricts your blood vessels, slowing blood flow and is a great way to reduce inflammation and assist pain and stiffness. Massaging the area also helps with circulation and allows oxygen to get to the affected areas more quickly.

Use a foam roller

Foam rolling relieves muscle tension; rolling them out can ease the pain and help reduce DOMS. Using a foam roller regularly helps reduce the soreness you experience in future workouts. 

A foam roller can massage tight and sore muscles

Using it as part of a warm-up and cool-down gives your muscle tissue that extra bit of TLC.

Keep well hydrated

Keeping yourself topped up with water before, during, and after workouts means the body can build new muscle tissue effectively. Water helps protein synthesis, and without an adequate supply, the process will take much longer, and soreness will likely occur for a while afterward.

Get plenty of sleep

It’s often overlooked, but it can’t be understated that not getting enough sleep will cause muscle soreness to hang around longer and delay recovery after a hard workout. A lack of proper sleep decreases your pain threshold, which means you’re most likely to feel muscle pain more intensely than you would with a decent night’s sleep. Additionally, it also increases the intensity of the pain you experience. Getting at least eight hours of sleep should be high on your priority list if you want to relieve muscle soreness and reach your target shape in record time.

Want to stop DOMs…

There are many ways to reduce the effect of DOMS and aid muscle recovery, but all of them can be stuck under one banner - “Self-care.” 

Working out will head you in the right direction, but it’s also essential to look after yourself, with particular attention being paid to diet, sleep and light exercise.

Crazy Bulk’s fantastic range of supplements is another great way to accelerate your recovery. Their range will enable you to transform your body with highly potent, hardcore bodybuilding supplements for bulking, cutting, strength and performance.

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