Why am I so sore after working out!?
By Coach Josh | June 15, 2016
Soreness after a workout is not always a sign that it was a good/effective workout and it is not directly related with muscle growth or strength gain.
The soreness you feel is often referred to as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS for short.
It is caused by micro tears in the muscle, lactic acid produced during exercise, and other metabolic byproducts that build up in the muscle.
DOMS and recovery are tied very closely, yet the relationship between the two is often oversimplified. Recovery is as important to any training program as the program itself. Without the proper muscle fiber regeneration, your muscles can not adapt to the added stress you are introducing to them. The existence, or non-existence, of DOMS can be a good sign of how effective your training program may be and determine how you approach recovery.
Didn’t I just say soreness is not a good indicator of how effective your workout is, and in the same breath say you can use DOMS to evaluate the effectiveness of your workout? Let me explain…
The oversimplification of the DOMS/Recovery relationship comes from the belief that soreness is due solely to those micro tears in your muscle fibers. The belief is that the sorer you are, the more muscle tears you have requiring your body to rebuild, stronger.
But this is not entirely true.
The level of DOMS you feel is a function of more than just tears, but involves how sensitive your pain receptors are within your muscular connective tissue. This is why you are more sore when you first begin a training regimen compared to the soreness you feel after training consistently for a few months.
Think of it like this: if soreness was a simple indicator of an effective workout, all elite level athletes would consistently be experiencing crippling DOMS. So why don’t elite athletes experience DOMS the way the rest of us do? Their muscles have already adapted, they recover faster, and their pain threshold has increased over time. Their tolerance has increased.
How can you increase your tolerance?
There are a few things you can do, including more consistent training, proper nutrition, adequate sleep, and appropriate mobility and recovery drills. In this way, DOMS can be a good indicator that you should address one or many of these methods in your training.
Stretching, warming up, and training frequently can significantly reduce DOMS.
So what is the best thing to do when you are sore? Get your body moving again! If you are sore because you did squats, deadlifts, lunges, and box jumps in one workout, we do not recommend you do similar movements the next day.
Those movements in particular are high impact movements that stress the connective tissues (ligaments, tendons, etc.) which heal at a slower rate than muscle. In this case you would want to think about doing more of an upper body workout, with some bodyweight leg movements and lower body cardio to get the blood flowing, followed by some light stretching.
Recovery should be an integral part of your workout program. If your goal is to get stronger, be healthier, and feel better, recovery is probably the most important factor. How you approach recovery can influence your progress. Active recovery is preferred over sedentary recovery so don’t let DOMS be an excuse to limit your training frequency, only your intensity. And as always, just train smart!