DOMS is achy sore stiffness. If severe enough, miserable experience most of us at one time or another have experienced. If severe enough even walking may be difficult. DOMS of course is an acronym for delayed onset muscle soreness. DOMS is not felt in the joints: It’s the muscles. DOMS peaks 24 to 48 hours AFTER using muscles in a manner they haven’t recently been used.
For example a long spring bike ride when one hasn’t ridden since the prior summer. Or a weekend of yardwork. Or trying out the new YMCA stepper machine. DOMS typically occurs after engaging in an activity which requires muscular exertion in a manner which the body hasn’t done in a while.
On a microscopic level strenuous exercise breaks down muscle fibers. And no, there is no benefit to working so hard that one gets DOMS. It would be better to ease into a new activity or routine gradually and prevent DOMS.
Many known factors which help to speed overall workout recovery such as massage, icing, nutrition, and rest, are near useless in alleviating DOMS. However there are some things we can do.
- Warm up – the muscle group which is about to be worked needs to be warmed up and this can be as simply as starting the specific activity very slowly until warmed up. So if one was going to bench press it would be good to do 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps with just the weight of the bar, as a warm up,
- Preconditioning – this involves performing certain movements 7 to 10 days prior to the big event. So if planning a bike ride start riding around the block 7-10 day prior. With weight lifting, DOMS can be reduced by lowering the weight (only) 7 to 10 days prior to lifting the weight. An example would be performing concentric contractions (the lifting part), only, 7 to 10 days prior to maximal eccentric contractions (the lowering part), of a particular exercise (such as bicep curls,
- Frequency – train applicable muscle groups up to 3 days each week. With this it still would be good to limit maximal eccentric contractions to once every 7 to 10 days,
- Do it every day – Keep performing the applicable movement for 4 successive days following the heavy day. For example, after the big bike ride, ride around the block every day for a few days. With weight lifting, only perform the eccentric (lowering) portion of the movement and only use light resistance.
Supplements which may help include:
- Caffeine – Caffeine at a dose of about 5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. So at 95 milligrams of caffeine per 8 ounce cup of coffee, that equates to about 1 cup of coffee if one weighs 95 pounds and 2.5 cups if one weighs 250 pound. Some athletes use caffeine to enhance energy, but for DOMS it can be taken either pre or post workout. Some feel that caffeine capsules may be better than coffee,
- BCAA* – Athletes often take Branched chain amino acids (BCAA), for a variety of purposes. For DOMS the protocol involves taking BCAA pre & post training. Some athletes also add Taurine (another amino acid) to their BCAA protocol,
- Topical – Menthol or Curcumin Cream. Test it on a small area to make sure it doesn’t irritate your skin,
- Extracts – Concentrated extract of tart cherry and/or blueberry skin extract (not juice) on training days. Take it at least 30 minutes away from protein,
*Interactions: BCAA decrease the absorption of Levadopa. BCAA if used in conjunction with certain diabetes medications may make blood sugar go too low. Corticosteroids (glucocorticoids) reduce the effect of BCAAs. Thyroid hormone medication slows the breakdown of BCAA. Check with your prescriber if you use these drugs.