JP Mullowney

We’ve all been there, the day (or whole week) after a tough leg workout, hobbling around like someone twice our age, barely able to straighten our knees due to the pain. While many people accept that soreness following a tough workout is a necessary evil on the road to better health, many of us do not understand what causes it and if it truly is necessary for our fitness goals.

What causes exercise soreness?

First things first, the soreness that is experienced following a workout is called “Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness” or “DOMS” for short. So what causes DOMS? Well, at some point you have likely heard someone suggest that it is due to lactic acid accumulation in the muscle. While this is a commonly held belief, it has largely been debunked as studies show lactic acid levels in muscle return to normal approximately one hour post exercise and DOMS persist for up to 72 hours in many cases (Cheung, Hume & Maxwell, 2003). The currently accepted theory on the cause of DOMS suggests that high force muscular contractions (such as those experienced during a workout), damage muscle and connective (tendons and ligaments) tissue. The damage results in a localized inflammatory response at the site of the muscle damage resulting in the extended soreness and associated swelling and pain in the region (Cheung, Hume & Maxwell, 2003).

Is soreness necessary for my goal to get swole?

In short, no. Muscle soreness is a very poor indicator of workout quality. Several studies (Nosaka, Newton & Sacco, 2002; Rodenburg, Bar & De Boer, 1993) have found that self-perceived delayed onset muscle soreness severity correlated very poorly with more established measures of muscular fatigue.

So how do I know if I had a good workout then?

The easiest way to ensure your workout is a productive one is to use the “overload” principle. Simply put, your goal each week is to progress in some way from the week before. This may involve adding 5 more pounds to an exercise or performing a few more reps with the same weight.

The Take Home Message:

Post-exercise soreness is called “Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness” or DOMS. It is likely caused by a localized inflammatory response that occurs as a result of resistance training. While common convention suggests that soreness indicates workout quality, numerous studies suggest that it is not a very reliable measure for this purpose.

References:

Cheung, K., Hume, P.A., Maxwell, L. (2003). Delayed onset muscle soreness: Treatment Strategies and performance factors. Sports Medicine, 33(2), 145-164.

Nosaka, K., Newton, M., Sacco, P. (2002). Delayed-onset muscle soreness does not reflect the magnitude of eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, 12(6), 337-346.

Rodenburg, J.B., Bar. P.R., De Boer, R.W. (1993). Relations between muscle soreness and biomechanical and functional outcomes of eccentric exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology, 74(6), 2976-2983.

Prepared for the JKC blog by Coach Thomas.

Photo credit: JP Mullowney

I chose JKC because I row/coach teams in the St. John’s Regatta and was looking to add strength training to our program. My wife is also running friends with Julia, so I got to meet Jon a few times and heard lots of good things. I like JKC over other gyms because of the level coaching I receive and the gym atmosphere. The energy in the gym helps me through the tough workouts.

lisa jumping onto a box

JKC was recommended to me by a fellow runner. I was experiencing injuries, and feeling weak and fragile. When I started with JKC, Jon asked me about my goals and my focus. I wanted to concentrate specifically on running, and preventing injury. Jon developed a program for me that has enabled me to focus on my form and strength and has been flexible enough to enable me to train for many different races. I have been training with JKC for six years, and during that time I have enjoyed Jon and Thomas’s expertise in a very warm and supportive atmosphere.

I had spent a fair bit of time in gyms in my teens and twenties but I turned away from the gym to focus on activities that I enjoyed more. What keeps me at JKC is that I do really enjoy it. I always feel that I’ve accomplished something when I leave at the end of my workout. The environment is really positive and focused on challenging yourself whatever your level of comfort and fitness. I’ve also seen results that I’m really happy with; having someone who really knows what they’re talking about to guide your workouts makes them way more effective and focused than just “going to the gym”.

Shortly after I started at JKC, I sustained a fairly major injury that took me off my feet for several months. When I started to get back to activity, it was very difficult. Jon and Thomas worked hard to tailor my workouts to my goals and what I could do. With their help, I’ve been steadily building back strength and function.

I’ve always struggled with both my weight and anxiety throughout my life. As a writer you live a pretty sedentary lifestyle filled with both realistic and unrealistic deadlines, so I needed something to get me off my butt and to get me moving. JK has been a godsend during this past year and a half in particular. The pandemic has been tough, but workouts with both Thomas and Jon have really helped reduce the stress and strain of a global pandemic, and added an anchor of normalcy back into my life — which has been worth its weight in gold.

JKC has created an incredibly inclusive environment that’s filled with all kinds of supportive folks from all kinds of different backgrounds. For folks like myself, being surrounded by people with such athletic ability can be intimidating in most gyms. It can actually be a deterrent, and it sometimes has been for me. But, at JKC it’s far from that — it’s inspirational. Everyone supports one another. Which is something that’s not easily found in this day and age, inside of a gym or out. Not to sound like a total cheeseball here, but it really feels like a family.

I’m 29 and I just had my 3rd Liftiversary 🥳 at JKC. I chose to train here because of the great word on the street and the fact that at lululemon, we’re encouraged to support our local community. My day-to-day routine is very busy, and I love showing up and having to think very little about my workout. The vibes are always good, my music choice is usually accommodated, and the bys are incredibly supportive and compassionate, helping me reach my goals (even when I had a broken hand). I also get to be my weird self, and am embraced fully.

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