- Warm-up BEFORE you stretch. Perform an active warm-up that prepares your body for exercise with exercise increasing your heart rate, and getting your muscles ready to perform.
- Incorporate cardiovascular exercises AND strength training.
- Incorporate multi-joint, compound exercises where you are training more than one muscle group and moving multiple joints at a time. You will become more efficient with your time and it is more effective for your body.
- Utilize free weights instead of machines when given the opportunity. They provide a greater range of motion, more variety, and can create a more dynamic workout.
- Always move slow and controlled on the eccentric motion of your weight training exercises and power through the concentric movements. The majority of your strength gains come on the eccentric movement not the concentric.
- Train high intensity and short duration.
- Listen to your body and rest. Research has shown that you can actually gain more strength and muscle by periodically dialing down your training.
- Set realistic goals and stick to them!
- Don’t forget proper nutrition.
- Rehydrate and drink plenty of water during your workouts and throughout the rest of your day.
*BONUS---Make it fun!
Did you ever wobble home after an intense leg workout with your quads feeling like rubber? Did the sensation get worse when you discovered that there was no way to make it over the edge of the tub that separated you from a soothing shower? Of course, at times like these simply negotiating the doorstep can be seemingly impossible. But if you make it this far and manage to crawl to the safety of your pillow, the next morning gets even worse! Your legs feel like two stuffed Italian sausages-Mamma Mia! As the day marches on, the soreness only intensifies. You sit down and your glutes feel as though they are going to burst. Does any of this sound familiar? If you ever experienced these symptoms relative to any body part, most likely you have already been formally introduced to the dreaded “delayed onset muscle soreness” also known as DOMS.
What is DOMS?
Very often DOMS is confused with “acute muscle soreness” (AMS). AMS develops during or directly after an arduous workout performed usually to the point of total muscular fatigue. During intense exercise activity the muscle becomes tired due to lack of adequate blood flow and oxygen. This causes a buildup of metabolites in the working muscle such as lactic acid. This type of soreness is transient and will diminish after exercise once adequate blood flow and oxygen returns to the muscle.
DOMS on the other hand, hits you like an unsuspecting hurricane. Twelve to forty eight hours after the muscle destruction hits, you’ll be left with tenderness, and stiffness. Gradually DOMS intensifies and may peak between twenty-four to forty eight hours. This muscle tenderness has been known to last anywhere from two to seven days after exercise. DOMS is a physiological phenomenon, which occurs most often after intense or excessive training bouts. Some people feel as though their workout wasn’t effective unless they can’t walk for several days. The rest of the sane population tries to avoid pain. Crazy, but true. DOMS is normal. A little muscle discomfort a few days after exercises is okay. Although keep in mind that regularly popping aspirin on a daily basis might be a clue that you are over training. If your pain persist for more than seven days or increases despite your efforts, you should consult your physician.
Why Am I So Sore?
DOMS has been investigated for many years as to the underlying cause for this uncomfortable condition.
Theory #1: Scandinavian researchers suggested that an accumulation of lactic acid in the muscle caused an immediate soreness which lingered days after causing a delayed irritation after exercise, thus DOMS. This theory has been a huge misconception over the years and has since been disproved. Current research has validated that it requires approximately one hour of rest after intense exercise to remove relatively all lactic acid from muscle and blood. Therefore make sure to incorporate an adequate rest period between your working sets.
Theory #2: In 1961 deVries suggested that ischemia (lack of oxygen to the muscle) and accumulation of lactic acid caused a “feedback cycle of pain” during exercise. This meant that during intense activity the muscle would remain in spasm over several days resulting in DOMS. Since then research has proven that during DOMS there is no evidence of muscle spasms. There goes that theory!
Theory #3: The most recent research suggests that DOMS is a result of microscopic tearing of the muscle fibers and/or connective tissue during exercise. This trauma causes muscle damage resulting in soreness, and inflammation associated with DOMS. The damages to the muscle fibers are repaired in the same way a muscle strain is repaired. Regeneration of these fibers and repair of connective tissue proceed according to its normal repair process, the soreness diminishes and your ready to train hard again.
Effects of DOMS
- Muscle soreness, weakness, stiffness, inflammation, and edema.
- Flexibility and range of motion limited due to tenderness and rigidity.
- Strength is inhibited as a consequence of muscle soreness and fatigue.
- Incorporate an effective warm up and cool-down into each training session. Five to ten minutes of low-impact aerobic activity is sufficient. An appropriate low impact cool-down at about 50-60 percent of your maximum heart rate response helps clear lactic acid buildup. Examples: treadmill, walking, biking, and/or ski machine.
- Include an extensive, full body stretching routine utilizing static stretching techniques. Do not bounce or use ballistic stretching as this may cause muscle strains. Proper stretching should be performed at the beginning and end of each workout.
- Avoid making sudden changes in the type of exercise you do and the length of time you do it. Some research suggests that gradually increasing the intensity and duration of your training sessions rather than jumping right into advanced movements may lessen the effects of DOMS. In other words if you are planning on running marathon you shouldn’t run twenty miles on your first run. Begin the first few weeks with smaller runs and build up to longer distances.
Deal With It!
DOMS tends to resolve itself with time, but that could take anywhere up to seven days! In order to speed up the recovery time you might want to consider some helpful measures.
- Suck it up? Some fitness professionals believe the working through the pain may increase blood flow to the affected muscles, which they believe helps to ease DOMS. On the other hand , I believe that you are just adding fuel to the fire. Instead consider taking a day to rest. It won’t kill you, I promise!
- Ice it! Mild icing of swollen areas may provide temporary relief for your muscle discomfort.
- Stretch! Gentle stretching helps to loosen tight muscles by reducing inflammation and increasing mobility.
- Rub it out! You may find massaging yourself might be a bit masochistic when you are sore, not to mention boring therefore an appointment with a licensed massage therapist would be the best alternative.
- What’s up Doc? Check with your own physician as to whether a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDS) medications (i.e. aspirin, ibuprofen) might be helpful to temporarily help to reduce the pain of soreness.
- What’s new? Some research has shown that vitamin C may help to decrease soreness due to its powerful antioxidant effects.
- Ross, CAPT Michael. Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness. Work Out Now, Pay Later? The Physician and Sportsmedicine. Vol. No. 1999.
- Kisner, Carolyn. Colby, Lynn Allen. Resistance Exercise. Therapeutic Exercise. Foundations and Techniques- 3:63-65, 1996.
- Freeman, Nerissa. Muscle Injury and Healing. The Kiai Echo. Summer 1997.
by Melissa Swain, MS, CES
[American Health and Fitness for Men. No.6, December/January 2001-2002]
A recent study published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research (2011; doi: 10.15191JSC.obo13e318237e7b3) suggests that athletic performance improves when a client gets to choose their own music. “This study demonstrated increased performance during an explosive exercise and an altered mood state when listening to self-selected music,” the researchers reported.
So in addition to your New Years Resolution of hitting the gym hard and working on your bikini body, add some new tunes to your iPod and rock that body right!
Yours in Health,