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 originally chose JKC to help me rehab following back surgery. JKC was the first gym where a trainer took the time to help me identify my goals and tailor my workouts to achieve them in a safe and doable manner. 🏋🏼 Jon & Thomas are both highly professional and knowledgeable. 👨🏼‍🎓 With their guidance and informative explanations 🗣 they have enabled me to reach my ever evolving goals. At JKC I’m guaranteed fun 😆, interesting 🙃 and diverse workouts, with Jon & Thomas forever supportive and encouraging. 👏🙌👍👊

Courtney Sharpe

Nutritional Coaching by Julia Howard

For the past two months I have worked with the JKC team and have never felt better! In addition to a personal fitness plan, JKC’s holistic nutritionist, Julia, worked with me and around my busy schedule to educate me on healthier food options and meal planning. I maintain a daily food log which Julia reviews and provides feedback on and we also have weekly chats to discuss my nutritional goals and potential improvement areas. Julia also helped me to identify and work around dietary constraints which have caused digestion issues for years!

Julia and the rest of the JKC family have helped me get my confidence back! I love starting my days with a good sweat and a healthy breakfast. I understand what foods make me feel my best and my body is well on its way to becoming more lean, fit and happy! I would totally recommend Julia and the entire JKC team!

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.

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