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 have never previously seen the passion and level of care that Jon and Thomas bring to everyone who works out at JKC. Their knowledge, insight and skills are extraordinary, and they work with everyone individually to ensure the best possible results. The attention to detail and to every person’s specific requirements and goals, and the incredible, constant encouragement they provide, is, in my opinion, what truly distinguishes JKC from any other program in which I’ve participated. I am extremely pleased with the progress I’ve achieved thus far, and it’s largely attributable to Jon and Thomas and the approach they take to training and working with people.

I’ve always been a gym rat, but was getting tired of the same ol’ routine. My better half was attending JKC and encouraged me to try it out. My favourite part of JKC is that is isn’t a gym – it’s a community. Jon and Thomas are awesome, and I love that every time I go I know who’s working out with me and we can socialize while working on our health. Everyone is supportive, encouraging and genuinely looks out for one another. It’s an upbeat and positive experience and I can honestly say that I look forward to each and every workout.

I chose JKC originally to help prevent rowing injuries. I’m a rower and we won the St. John’s Regatta in 2019 but I rowed through a rib stress fracture and missed significant time in the boat during the racing season. Training at JKC consistently since the pandemic helped me stay injury free this year and made me the strongest I’ve ever felt, which helped me help my team win the 2021 St. John’s Regatta! Jon adds variety and mixes the exercises up well so that the workout goes by quickly and strength is gained. The gym is very personable and I like the eclectic mix of people that are there. JKC is much more intimate and personal than other gyms.

I saw an article in Men’s Journal that quoted Jon in about 2018 while traveling and was impressed that someone in St. John’s made that international magazine.  Jon spoke about an exercise called the Farmer’s Walk and I started working that into my routine at the YMCA. I tore that article out of the magazine and kept it, meaning to make contact, but got busy. Then I had lunch with an old friend Bruce Dyke. I hadn’t seen Bruce for a while and I remarked that he looked super healthy and fit. He told me about his, and his son Cas’, experience at JKC and then I remembered the Men’s Journal article! No coincidences!

The experience is unique on many levels – great people, camaraderie, passion, purpose, and dedication. Jon and Thomas are attentive, precise and understanding.  Their teaching has unlocked a new perspective for me with what our bodies are capable of. I still appreciate the YMCA, wonderful place, but I can’t imagine working out without Jon and Thomas now.

trap bar deadlift

A few of my wonderful friends and colleagues recommended JKC. I was told by one colleague that “It’ll be the best thing you ever do for yourself” and she was right! To be honest, I didn’t have much experience in any gym setting. And NO prior weight training experience. It was always so overwhelming! But from the first day, nothing was intimidating about JKC. Each workout is set up just for me, and with my specific skills and goals in mind. There are no stupid questions, you learn as you go, and what I really love, I always feel included and important, regardless of my skills/experience.

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