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Blog Fitness Buzzword Explained: DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness)


Fitness Buzzword Explained: DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness)

  • by Michelle
  • February 22, 2012

Have you ever had the feeling the day after (or in most cases 2 days after) a workout where you roll out of bed and regret doing so because every muscle and joint in your body is screaming at you? For the most part, anyone who has done any kind of semi-vigorous activity has experienced this feeling before, especially those who have done weight training.  This stiff, sore, “it hurts to move feeling” is best defined as delayed onset muscle soreness aka DOMS.  I decided to use this weeks article to answer some questions I get regarding this common problem.

1. What causes DOMS?

Muscle soreness is most commonly felt when you begin a new workout regimen, change your current routine, or drastically increase the intensity or duration of your workouts.  The phenomenon of DOMS is basically caused by microscopic tears in your muscle fibers, with the amount of tears (and soreness) depending on how hard or how long you worked out for.  More muscle damage is caused by eccentric muscle contractions (forcing the muscle to work against resistance while lengthening).  Many think that it is the build up of lactic acid in the muscles that causes DOMS, but the body is actually able to flush this lactic acid out of the muscles within a few hours after exercise.  Therefore, the muscle stiffness up you feel right after a workout could be caused by lactic acid build-up, but the long term muscle tenderness to touch and decreased range of motion occurring 24-72 hours post-workout is caused by damage to the muscle fibres.

2. What is the best treatment for DOMS?

People will find different strategies that work best for them to reduce the discomfort caused DOMS.  Some of the best suggestions I can offer are to wait it out, sports massage, light stretching of affected muscles, perform light aerobic exercise to help loosen up stiff muscles, ice bath, or warm bath with Epsom salts.  If I can offer one word of advice it would be to learn from your mistakes and next time use the tips below as preventative techniques to reduce DOMS following your next workout.

3. How do I Prevent DOMS?

Although there is no proven way to prevent DOMS from, there are some strategies you can use to reduce its severity.  I have found that using a foam roller as part of my cool down following intense interval training or weight training works quite well.  Some other theories are: progress slowly and allow your body to adapt before increasing workouts drastically, perform a proper dynamic warm-up prior to exercise, cool down with light aerobic activity and gentle stretching post workout, begin a weight training regimen with lighter weights/body weight and higher reps (10-12) to let the body adapt before increasing weights and decreasing reps over a period of a few weeks.

4.I don’t get sore after my workouts anymore, what does this mean?

This means your body has become used to your workout routine and it might be time to increase your weights, intensity, or duration of exercise to continue to make progress.

4. Is it ok to workout again if I’m experiencing DOMS from a previous workout? 

This soreness you are experiencing is due to microscopic tears in your muscles following a workout, meaning your muscles need to recover (this is how they grow and get stronger).  Allow your muscles 1-3 days to recover, depending on the severity of the soreness in your muscles.  If you want to train everyday or more frequently be sure to plan your workouts to target different body parts or alter workout intensities each day in order to allow for proper recovery.


Email Michelle@CORE-Condition.com if you have any questions related to delayed onset muscle soreness or Ideas on how to tweak your current exercise program.


Michelle Roots BA KIN, CSCS, PES