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Is Soreness A Sign of A Good Workout?

Limit the DOMS you feels post workout

How many times have you heard this statement: “I had the best workout yesterday, but now I can hardly move.” As an ACE certified personal trainer, I can say that I have heard it a few times myself and I have also been the one to say it as well.

muscle sorenessDOMS is thought to be a result of micro trauma to muscle fibers

The soreness one feels a day or two after a workout is known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or better known in the fitness industry as DOMS. DOMS is thought to be a result of micro trauma to muscle fibers due to eccentric (lengthening) exercise and is felt 24-48 hours post workout. There are varying levels of DOMS. “Good” DOMS is a gentle reminder that you have done something active the previous day and does not interfere with the quality of your movements. “Bad” soreness is when the pain is so intense that you modify how you move, sit or reach. It indicates that you have damaged the muscle or connective tissue and may need to see a physician or physiotherapist to have it assessed.

“Good” DOMS is a gentle reminder that you have done something active the previous day

Is there any way to limit the DOMS one feels post workout, but still get in a great workout? The answer to this question is “Yes” and the 3 strategies are really quite simple.

1. Start Slowly

When beginning an exercise program, it is wise to avoid lifting the greatest amount of weight you can as this could lead to injury. During the first several weeks, the goal should be to master the correct form for each exercise. To do this, you need to start off with a light weight as the movements themselves will most likely be a challenge. You may experience some mild stiffness or “good” soreness for a day or two, and that is a good thing.

Once you have the form down and you can perform the desired number of repetitions (without DOMS), then you can begin slowly increasing the resistance. This process should be planned out and methodical to ensure safety. If this is something you are not experienced with doing, a certified personal trainer can certainly help you out.

2. Limit Eccentric Based Exercises

Eccentric contractions occur when a muscle is lengthened versus a concentric contraction when a muscle is shortened. For example on a bicep curl, the concentric contraction is when you are curling the dumbbell up, and the eccentric contraction would be when you are lowering the weight to the start.

Eccentric based training is used when an individual is trying to increase his/her strength with a particular exercise. For example, if you are not able to do a pull up without assistance, a great way of being able to lift yourself up is to get assistance on the way up, and then lower yourself down (without any help), and under complete control, as slowly as possible.

By reducing the amount of eccentric based training you will be doing more concentric type of training. An example of how to alter your workout to this type of training would be to replace the leg press with a sled push or running up hill instead of running downhill.

3. Adequate Protein Intake

When we workout, we are creating a catabolic state (a breaking down effect) within our bodies. By consuming sufficient protein, we move into a more anabolic state (a building effect) and allow ourselves to rebuild and repair the micro tears to the muscle. Without consuming sufficient protein, we will be consistently in a catabolic state and this will limit the potential progress you could be seeing.

If you are curious to see if you are eating sufficient protein for your height, weight and training schedule, I recommend speaking with a personal trainer knowledgeable in sports nutrition to have them look at your food diary. Once your trainer has a look at what you have been eating, he/she can make recommendations of how to adjust your diet.

If you experience DOMS that lasts more than 24-48 hours post workout, I recommend trying some of the suggestions above to see if they can help to reduce the pain you are feeling. The expression “No pain, no gain” does not apply in this case and certainly is not a reflection of a “good” versus “bad” workout.

This was inspired by the following blog: http://breakingmuscle.com/mobility-recovery/3-ways-to-prevent-post-exercise-soreness

Written by: Lisa Gervais, BCRPA, ACE Certified Personal Trainer, Supervisor of Fitness Leaders, Personal Training Certification Full Time Diploma Program Coordinator

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