Struggling with stairs the day after a workout. Hurts to laugh. Painful to type.

These are all common side-effects of DOMS – Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. Our trainer, James Burrows, explains what causes it and methods to reduce it, in our DOMS – Explained article.


DOMS – Explained.

Newcomers to training or even experienced athletes who are exposed to a new training stimulus often report muscle soreness, referred to as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

When performing an exercise, the lowering phase which is referred to as the eccentric contraction, has been shown to cause the most damage to the muscle. For example, during a squat the lowering of the body into the squat is the eccentric contraction.

Research has indicated that post exercise soreness or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness occurs primarily by the eccentric action, over any other type of muscular action.  Furthermore, the research demonstrates that adaptation to the exercise can minimise the occurrence of DOMS. The micro damage of connective tissue has also shown to play a significant role in DOMS, however, DOMS is still a poorly understood phenomenon.


What are the effects of DOMS?

A single training session of intense eccentric exercise can cause DOMS. Furthermore, a trainee should expect DOMS for a period of 24-72hrs post workout, which will dissipate after several days.

Eccentric exercise has been shown to produce greater increases in muscular strength and size than the concentric contraction (lifting phase). This is due to greater muscle tissue damage produced during eccentric contractions.

With the onset of DOMS the trainee can expect to see a reduction in number of attributes, such as:

  • Reduced strength
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Decreased range of movement around the joint
  • Swelling of the muscle.

DOMS is commonly characterised by a sensation of a dull, aching pain, felt during movement.

The magnitude of DOMS is influenced by intensity, volume, velocity and length of the eccentric contraction, alongside the trainee’s experience of training and exposure to the specific exercise.

The effects of DOMS over an eight-week period, training three sessions per week, diminished after two to three weeks of training, indicating that eccentric adaptation had taken place.

Methods to reduce DOMS

Delayed onset muscle soreness is still a very misunderstood subject, and as such prevention methods or methods to reduce DOMS are speculative rather than definitive.

It has been suggested that various forms of stretching such as static and dynamic may help reduce inflammation and aid recovery, therefore reducing the effects of DOMS.  Appropriate nutrient and vitamin intake post exercise has been shown to reduce DOMS, but is not conclusive.  Athletes have been known to take and benefit from ice baths, prior to a regular shower or bath, post exercise, however the research again is inconclusive as to the benefits.

It’s possible to be reduce DOMS if you keep doing the work. Anything new will cause it, especially with greater loads or high volume sessions. You may feel a little stiffness in subsequent sessions but not the same level of DOMS you’d get from the very first time.

Here at Embody in conjunction with our bespoke tailored nutrition plans, all our clients are given post-workout protein shakes after each session. A review study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition in September 2007 cited research that consuming a protein shake post resistance training reduced the symptoms of DOMS, as it accelerates the healing of the muscle fibres.

Clients also have access to our resident Sports Performance Therapist who can perform a variety of manual manipulation, massage and stretching techniques to reduce the impact of delayed onset muscle soreness.