What is DOMS and Why Must We Know About It?


Delayed onset muscle soreness, also known as DOMS, follows a barbell-crushing workout. Yes, it’s the feeling of champions, and you’d like more, because without it, the mind thinks you simply didn’t bring it on the gym floor. However, that’s not the case.

Simply feeling sore at the end of every training session isn’t all that’s hyped up to be for hypertrophy. If DOMS can make you by way of proper nutrition and rest and recovery, it can also break you by way of overtraining, which could negatively impact your health, causing you to miss your training sessions—and nobody wants that.

Therefore, understanding DOMS and finding the answer to what is DOMS could help you plan your regimen and rest days for maximum health benefits and no missed training days.

What is DOMS?

For anabolism to take place, there must first be catabolism, that is, first we must induce the wear and tear (microtrauma) of the muscle fibres for the body to begin the process of repairing. Let’s take a herculean legs day with a newfound one-rep max as an example—it’s a great feeling, I know.

Cue the Rocky soundtrack

Once you’re done training, you’re invulnerable and ready to take on the world. However, the next day goes a bit differently. The thought of walking seems dreadful, your gait goes from Bolt’s 9.58 to a geriatric monkey’s, stairs seem like the spawn of Satan, and it feels like the devil himself jammed your knee and hip extensors with infernal glue—god forbid you have to run. Then comes cursing the heavens and wondering why misery exists in this world.

“Hello staircase my old friend, I’ve come to walk with you again…”

This happens for a few days until you’re back in the power cage and ready to tear yourself a new one. How did that happen? Focus on what transpired in between and you have your answer.

DOMS can therefore be perceived as the bridge between muscle fibre damage and repair as well as a signal to schedule a rest day for a particular muscle group, and it takes anywhere between 24 to 48 hours post training to feel its full effects, literally.

Is It Good?

With great DOMS comes great responsibility

Like I said, for any repair work to take place, there must be damage (microtrauma), and if the subsequent rest and recovery phase is aided by the correct nutrition, this repair work happens by way of super compensation: the reason why you’re ready to smatter your legs to kingdom come the next week and the reason why DOMS is great as a rest-and-recover-well signal.

Here we go again

This is your body’s way of telling you, “I haven’t just repaired the damage you caused, I gave you something extra so that I don’t go through the horrors of last week.” We see this as a gain in lean muscle mass (them gains), and it’s the reason why poundages start feeling light. This increase in the size of the muscle cells, which is actually your body’s way of keeping the same poundage from damaging your muscle fibres, is known as hypertrophy.

Could It Be Bad?

When correct nutrition and rest and recovery are not provided to the body, DOMS could then work against you. For example, even though it’s unthinkable, let’s assume that after legs day, along with its immobilizing after effects, you decide to train legs again the next day, skip your meals, and sleep for a paltry 3 hours.

In this situation, the rate of damage far exceeds the rate of repair, which will cause you to lose lean muscle mass (catabolism) and increase the amount oxidative stress on your body, leading to a regression in performance and fitness levels—and that’s not why we’re on the gym floor.

Your Takeaway

Some “tips to go” please

The question of what is DOMS should be a tad bit clearer than before. DOMS can help you in scheduling your training and rest days, and you can rely on the absence of it as an indicator to shake things up by way of workload and intensity if you hit plateaus. Finally, through DOMS, you should regard rest and correct nutrition as highly as resistance training to ensure progression in performance and consistency in training.

Your feedback will always matter

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Resistance Training

Rahul Chitrakar View All →

Discovering the nuances of life through the lens of fitness in its myriad expressions

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