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 had signed up for other gyms in the past and never went or rarely went. Something always got in the way or I was just too tired and lacked motivation to go. This way I’ve made a commitment to Jon or Thomas and I try very hard to keep my sessions once I’ve booked in. JKC is different from other gyms that I’ve tried in the past because no one is there to be “seen”. We are all there to get a good workout in and go on with our lives. And it’s a small gym so you get to know everyone and it’s like a big family. When I joined JKC, I couldn’t do a chin up with an elastic band, but I’ve slowly worked up to 10 free hanging chin ups. That was big because I hate chin ups.

I started strength training at JKC in the Spring of 2021. I am in my 60’s but happy to say I feel much younger since joining this gym. I joined JKC upon the advice of a doctor. I went through some difficult medical issues last year, that’s when one of my doctors recommended strength training at JKC. I have been physically active most of my adult life but mainly running and completed many road races as I am a distance runner. Strength training has definitely benefited me by increasing my stamina and energy. It sure has enhanced my recovery over the past year. I have the added benefit of becoming a stronger runner as well.

After my children were born, I was completely out of shape. I had been active before my first pregnancy in 2008. I saw a post on social media about a charity event that was hosted at the gym. It prompted me to check out the JKC website. I was immediately impressed by the professional content and decided to give it a try. The professionally crafted and uniquely tailored work outs, as well as the sense of accountability and commitment that they foster. I have not missed a workout since joining – contrary to other experiences I have had when purchasing gym memberships. The flexibility of booking and rescheduling workouts, made easy by an online app, also contributed to my success in meeting my fitness goals.

I enjoy every session, working out with Jon, Thomas and Craig, as well as the “JKC Community”. Anytime someone achieves a personal best, I enjoy the celebration and support everyone gives each other. For me, I fondly remember achieving personal bests on bench press, chin ups and the sled push, in particular.

I recently turned 40, and I have been training at JKC since the summer of 2020. My partner Michael had already been training at JKC, so it came highly recommended. We had set up a home gym at the start of the pandemic, but needed to mix it up after the first lockdown. JKC differs from other gyms because of the personalized workouts. Jon, Thomas and Craig are great at challenging me to do more than I would on my own.

I’m 34 and started at JKC in 2015. My wife joined while I was working away in 2015 and started making amazing progress while also completing exercises I’d never perform on my own. I felt I was missing out so I signed up. JKC helps in establishing goals while also having clear direction of what to do, and how, in each session. They also measure your progress which is another means of motivation! At other gyms I wouldn’t have a clear plan and would just use whatever equipment was free, it was hard to see any results. Between setting some personal bests and making good friends its hard to identify a favorite memory.  One that does come to mind was when I hit my target goal/PB in both bench and squats in the same session, big day.

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