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Are DOMS Always A Good Thing?

DOMS, a.k.a delayed onset of muscle soreness, is something most of us will be familiar with. It is that pain you get after a training session where you think you might have been hit with a bus, cling for dear life to the handrail walking down the stairs, and when you think you might suffocate yourself trying to get a sports bra off. Yep, we have all been there. We also tend to be masochist’s and love the pain. Often to the point that if we aren’t sore after a workout we think it wasn’t very good. But is this really true? Can we have a good workout and feel no pain afterwards? Well, let’s take a deeper look.   When will you most likely experience DOMS? If you have been out of the gym for a while, if you are brand spanking new to the gym, or if you have just started a new programme.   Is it a good thing? No, there is no evidence to say that soreness is related to how good a workout was. There is also no evidence to say that if you’re sore then you have a higher chance of increased hypertrophy (muscle gain). In fact, DOMS is not great for hypertrophy because in some cases it causes you to miss a training session, decrease your reps and/or the weight you lift.   How can we help prevent it? In an ideal world, we should be aiming for no pain at all following a workout. By increasing the frequency you train a muscle group, the less soreness you will experience. BUT this is very individual and some people will always have more tenderness than others, regardless of training age. I personally train legs four times per week (yes, don’t judge me, I’m on a weird programme right now), and I experience little-to-no leg pain because I have built up quite a resistance. If I took a break and didn’t train legs for a few weeks I can guarantee that I would be crippled after my first session back.   How can we speed up recovery? Foam rolling can sometimes help. Cryotherapy has no evidence to help with muscle soreness. Don’t waste the dolla billz. Likewise, cold water immersion (ice water baths) also no evidence to show it helps with DOMS, but some evidence does show they can actually REDUCE muscle growth. Caffeine, taurine, omega-3 supplements have SOME evidence but I would save the money and just concentrate on getting your body more accustomed to an increased training volume and/ or your new programme.   Should I still train? If you can’t move and the DOMS are so bad your range of motion is restricted and you won’t be able to lift as heavy as usual then take a rest day. If you are going to attempt to train then have a good warm up and maybe add a bit of foam rolling. If you are new to training then just embrace this initiation period. Everyone goes through it but I promise the more frequently you train the easier it gets and eventually you will be missing the burn.     Blog written by #gngang member Emma Cowley More about Emma

Emma has a Bachelor of Science degree in physical education and biology and a Masters of Science in sport and exercise science and medicine, which both earned her a first class honours and a university class award. Additionally, she is currently doing a Ph.D. in the Dept. of Exercise Metabolism + Adaptation too.

She is also a qualified personal trainer, Olympic Weightlifting coach and AfN Nutrition coach. She has gathered the requisite scientific knowledge through her academic background, which compliments her practical experience acquired through training and coaching.

Emma is currently the UK-Ireland Education Manager for a European Health company where I work with healthcare leaders across Europe, including Oxford University, Cambridge, Imperial College and Trinity College Dublin, to support in the development of novel and innovative health educational projects.
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