What is DOMS?

It’s 5am and you are the first person in the gym.  The sun hasn’t even given a thought to coming out yet, but you are all caffeinated up and ready to rip.

After 90 minutes of hardcore mayhem, your body tells you it’s done and you throw the towel.  


You walk away feeling victorious with your head held high and a grin from ear to ear.  Then the next day comes…

You crawl out of bed and waddle across the room, and are in so much pain you can barely tie your shoes.  You are being victimized by a common term in the fitness industry known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness – better known as DOMS.  That Mickey Mouse grin you walked out of the gym with has suddenly turned upside down.

DOMS tends to flare up about 48 hours after your workout, but it can be sooner.  And it can also last for five or more days.  This varies, depending on the individual.

DOMS VS Lactic acid build-up

Before I more forward, let’s be clear about something.  Lactic acid build-up and DOMS are two different things.

Lactic Acid

– The burn you feel in your muscles during a set of reps is lactic acid build-up.  It’s temporary.  I always hear people saying days after a workout, “I have to go flush this lactic acid out of muscles to reduce the pain.”  Nope.

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

– The pain you are experiencing is DOMS, and it is caused from small muscle fibers being torn down, which leads to inflammation.  It’s similar to getting bruised or injured.  You tore your muscles down in a workout and now they’re unhappy with you so they ache.  The good news is, they will heal and become stronger and bigger.

In the worst of cases, DOMS can be so severe that you literally can barely move.  This obviously makes daily tasks more difficult like getting in and out of your car, getting out of a chair, playing sports and putting groceries away.  That’s why I’m going to give you some key tips to keep DOMS at bay.  Or at least keep it as suppressed as possible.

Cure: take a gnarly shower.

There really is no other way to describe what I’m about to get into other than gnarly.  I warn you ahead of time.  This is not for the weak.  If you can’t withstand extremes in temperature, then you may not hold up.  But it’s worth a shot.

Immediately after your workout, jump in the shower and turn the water up as cold as you possibly can.

Hold it for as long as you can, then do the complete opposite—turn the heat up as high as you can tolerate and once again, hold as long as you can.  Alternate back and forth for a good three to five minutes, then finish with your normal showering ritual.

doms top tips_2

This is one of those fluky things that has been known to reduce muscle soreness and speed up recoveries from workouts.  You will often see some hardcore crazies jumping into a bathtub filled with ice cold water AND ice—a process known by the scholar as cryotherapy.

If you think you have the stones to do this, then have it.  I commend you.  I know I don’t, but I also know that this is a very effective way to reduce muscle soreness.  Play around with both options and see what works best for you.

Get a massage immediately following your workouts.

During a massage, a therapist kneads your muscles like a big blob of dough.  This process helps keep your muscles loose and limber, while simultaneously flushing out toxins.  The fewer toxins you have in your body, the less you will be subjected to inflammation and muscle soreness.

Make sure to drink plenty of water before and after your massage sessions too.  This further helps flush impurities from your system.

Stretch well before and after your workouts.

Stretching helps keep your muscles lengthened and supple, which can prevent soreness from occurring.  Just be sure to do the right type at the right time.  Before you workout, perform dynamic stretches, which are performed in motion.  These acclimate your body to movement while gradually raising your core temperature.  Leg swings, windmills, walking lunges and spinal rotations are examples of these.

Save the static stretches for the end.  These are the ones that you hold for a period of time.  Focus on stretching all of the major muscles you worked in your session and hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds.

Do active recovery drills in your workouts.

I use the term “fast and loose” and “shaking out the tension” interchangeably.  Either one means to shake your arms and legs vigorously between sets to recover faster.  You are literally shaking lactic acid out of your muscles.  Although lactic acid is the short-term burn you feel, it can still lead to long-term muscle soreness since it’s a toxin.

I suggest shaking out the tension coupled with hopping up and down on your toes for an extra bang for your buck.  Aim to do this in between every set, especially the ones that really rock your world.

Use a blend of key nutrients in a post-workout drink.

Turmeric, ginger and cayenne all have major benefits to the body.  One that stands high on the list is a reduction of inflammation.  If you were to whip up a smoothie or greens drink after your workout, add these to it for a little zing.  Not only will this help with muscle soreness, but it will also contribute to overall joint health.

Now  you have an array of options to choose from.

Go give some or all of them a try and report back to me after a few weeks.  I’m curious to know how you make out.  If you have any more questions or need further assistance in the meantime, I’m always available.

Connect with Expert Kevin Rail

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