Demystifying DOMs: Understanding and Managing Muscle Soreness

Table of Contents

Today I’m talking about DOMs. No, not me, although I’d love that. It stands for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. 

You’d know what I’m talking about if you’ve done any resistance training. The “holy shit, I can’t sit down on the toilet” pain after a leg day. DOMs occur after muscles are exposed to a load through a range of motion.

During resistance training, microscopic tears are formed in the muscles from the stressors of working out, namely the ‘eccentric’ portion of an exercise. After training, soreness in the targeted muscles can occur roughly 24-48 hours later and last a few days.

I still remember one of my first days at the gym. I walked around at school the next day with T-Rex arms because my biceps were sore. The level of soreness depends on the level of experience and the type of training done, which is typically why beginners get it so bad.

At the end of the day, though, it’s nothing to be concerned about; the soreness should resolve within 48-72 hours. However, I’m sorry to say the pain never fully goes away. So learn to embrace it, and you might even miss it one day. No, just me? Ok.

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMs) is a common experience after resistance training. It refers to the pain and discomfort in the targeted muscles approximately 24-48 hours after exercise, persisting for a few days. DOMs occur due to microscopic tears in the muscles caused by the stress of working out, particularly during the eccentric phase of an exercise.

The intensity of DOMs can vary based on factors such as experience level and training type, often affecting beginners more severely. While DOMs are not a cause for concern, it usually resolves within 48-72 hours.

However, some residual soreness may persist even after the initial recovery period. Embracing and appreciating DOMs is a personal experience; some individuals may even develop a nostalgic fondness for it over time.

Causes of DOMs: DOMs are primarily caused by eccentric muscle contractions, where the muscle lengthens while under tension. This occurs during the lowering phase of an exercise or when the muscle is lengthening while resisting a force. Eccentric contractions are known to produce more muscle damage, leading to a higher likelihood of experiencing DOMs.

Factors influencing DOMs: Besides exercise intensity and experience level, several other factors can influence the severity and duration of DOMs. These include individual variations in muscle fibre type, genetics, hydration levels, nutrition, recovery strategies, and psychological factors. Understanding these factors can help individuals manage and mitigate the impact of DOMs.

Adaptation and decreased severity: Over time, as the body adapts to regular resistance training, the severity and duration of DOMs tend to decrease. This adaptation is due to improvements in muscle strength, structural integrity, and the body’s ability to repair and recover from exercise-induced muscle damage. Consistency and progressive overload in training can contribute to this adaptation process.

Strategies for managing DOMs: While DOMs cannot be entirely avoided, there are strategies to alleviate their effects. Some common approaches include engaging in light exercise or low-intensity activities to promote blood flow and aid recovery, applying ice or heat therapy, using foam rolling or massage techniques, practising proper post-workout nutrition, staying well-hydrated, and getting adequate rest and sleep.

Differentiating DOMs from injury: It’s important to differentiate DOMs from acute muscle injuries. DOMs typically present as a general soreness or stiffness in multiple muscles, while an injury tends to be more localized and may include symptoms like a sharp pain, swelling, or limited range of motion. If pain persists or worsens significantly, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional to rule out any underlying injury.

By understanding these unique aspects of DOMs, individuals can better navigate their training programs, optimize recovery, and minimize the impact of muscle soreness on their overall fitness journey.

adelaide personal training

Owner & Lead Personal Trainer at Personal Trainer Adelaide

Dom Mattei is a dedicated fitness professional passionate about empowering individuals to achieve their goals. With a background in sports and resistance training, Dom believes physical activity is essential for a fulfilling life. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise & Sports Science from the University of South Australia, he possesses the knowledge and expertise to guide clients towards optimal performance. Dom’s goal is to instil confidence and discipline in clients, enabling them to pursue independent exercise routines and establish lifelong healthy habits. Through his guidance, clients excel in the gym and all aspects of life, unlocking their true potential.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in Exercise & Sports Science from the University of South Australia
Lives in: Adelaide, South Australia