DOMS-Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness: What is it? Why does it happen? What do I do to help it?

So, you’ve recently begun an exercise program of some sort (or maybe just attended one class), it is now the next day and you’re feeling a little sore in your arms, legs, maybe the abs, no big deal right?  Then day TWO comes and you really feel the muscle soreness.  Delayed muscle soreness has a name, it is called “DOMS” meaning Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.


Some people experience muscle soreness differently and the amount of and intensity very from person to person.  In my experience those that are not use to or familiar with DOMS are more apt to give-up or quit exercising because they don’t like the feeling or believe they have somehow injured themselves. (If you are unsure always consult a doctor).

Then there are a few crazy people (myself included) that enjoy the feeling, knowing it means a good workout just occured!

So what exactly is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness?

The most likely cause of DOMS is microscopic tears in the muscles (I know sounds intense) or a breakdown in muscle tissue that happens when working out.  Typically this will happen when a new exercise is introduced; or when performing an activity that the body is not use to yet.

Intensity can very per individual and also depends on what activities and how intense the activities performed were.  If DOMS occurs and is limiting range of motion, or making it difficult to move in general, it is a good idea to do some light moving (walking, range of motion, stretching), drink plenty of water, and rest the body.

Gentle movement is a good idea as this will help increase blood flow to the muscles and promote healing of those tiny muscle tears.

Should I continue exercising if I am sore?

The answer to this depends on how intense the muscle soreness is.  Sometime DOMS can be so intense it is actually debilitating.  If this is the case, extra rest, plenty of water and gentle movements is a better idea than hitting the weights hard too soon.

If exercise is performed without proper rest, the body is actually more apt to injury.  Only YOU know how your body is feeling.  If it is too painful/uncomfortable to move at regular speed then let it rest.  If exercise can be performed without having to compromise proper form, then continuing with exercising is probably okay.

Preventing DOMS:

The only way to truly avoid DOMS is by avoiding doing anything NEW that the body is not use to.  DOMS can occur by just doing more walking than on an average day.

It is a good idea to ease yourself into new activity; maybe go half speed or begin with light weight, see how your body will react, and then slowly progress as the body tolerates.  Some muscle soreness is a good thing.

You see, when the muscles “tear” or “breakdown” they have to rebuild.  When they rebuild, they get stronger.  This stage of building strength, usually happens in the rest period of your exercise program–(48-72 hours).

Once DOMS does not occur anymore, it may be time to step up your game.  Either by increasing weights (resistance), increasing intensity, or just simply changing up the routine.

Our muscles are like our brain, they have a memory.  Once the muscles get accustomed to a certain exercise routine, they begin to just maintain, not progress.  Progression is another topic, for another day–so be sure to follow for more articles as they pertain to fitness.

Want more on the topic, check out this article by 

As Always,

Be Good, Look Good, Feel Good,

-mamaletsdoit, In Laymen’s Terms

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Mamaletsdoit, In Laymen's Terms

I recently quit my full time, well paid, Physical Therapy Assistant job to become a stay-at-home mom and raise my own FOUR children! I couldn't be happier about my decision. Now I want to still be able to provide others with my knowledge and help people understand basic ideas and gain exercise knowledge for a better, healthier, and physical lifestyle, this is why I have created "mamaletsdoit, In Laymen's Terms." Here you will find information about proper exercise techniques, theories behind exercises, stretching, etc. plus much more including strengthening your mind. Disclaimer: I am a licensed & certified professional and do have knowledgeable information to provide to you; HOWEVER, you should never apply or take this information in supplementation of your own physician, PT, or medical professional. Consult your physician before starting ANY type of exercise routine; never perform exercise that causes you pain.

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