What Causes Post-workout Muscle Soreness?

What Causes Post-workout Muscle Soreness?

DOMS (“Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness”) is the pain or muscle soreness that takes place one or two days after the workout.

This is more common in those who just started training, changed their routine, tried new movements or exercises, or even increased the intensity and volume of training.

It can be alarming for beginners, but it is completely normal to undergo this process, since it is the response of our body to an unusual effort

DOMS is part of the adaptation process, which will end up increasing our physical capacities and abilities, improving the performance, strength and resistance. It can also result in an increased muscle mass or hypertrophy, specially in bodybuilders.

This type of muscle soreness is not the same that we can experience during physical exercise, which is called fatigue. In the same way, it has anything to do with acute, sudden, and intense pain caused by a muscle injury, tear or distension which sometimes produce swelling and bruises.

DOMS is generally more intense 2 days after a new and/or intense activity, and it disappears in a few days…


What Causes Post-workout Muscle Soreness?

It is thought that DOMS is the result of microtrauma in the muscle fibers

The amount of damaged fibers (and the pain), will depend on how hard and intense the type of exercise is. Any movement you are not used to will produce muscle soreness.

If there is a movement that leads more “easily” to DOMS, that is eccentric muscle contraction, which is a movement that consists on the contraction of the muscle while the muscle lengthens.

Some examples of exercises that are related to said contractions include walking down the stairs, running down a slope, exercises with our own body weight, … The eccentric contractions are more common in many sports in which it is necessary to control or resist certain movements

What is the Best Treatment for the DOMS?

There is not a defined remedy to eliminate this soreness. In fact, people are still discussing what causes DOMS. Before, it was advised to perform smooth stretching in order to relieve it, but some Australian researchers carried out a study in 2007 and they proved that said stretching was not effective.

Then, is there anything we can do to reduce DOMS? The truth is that nothing is 100% effective and, even though some people have found the following advice useful, you will have to try and find what is best for your recovery.

Lately, the best advice regarding DOMS is to prevent what causes it on the first place 🙁

Tips to Treat Post-workout Muscle Soreness

If you feel pain after a workout or competition you can try some of these methods in order to feel better. Even though not all of them have been meticulously studied, many athletes have used them and they have experienced good results:

Using the Foam Roller


It is a very recent technique but very popular and it is part of what we call “cool down”. This element is a foam roller that offers the same benefits of a conventional massage. It does not only allow us to give ourselves a massage and reduce the muscle tension, but it also increases the blood flow to the fascia and the circulation to the soft tissue.

Active Recovery

This strategy is backed up by research. A low impact anaerobic activity increases the blood flow and it provides relief for the pain. Try this after a competition or intense workout as part of your cool down.

Rest and Recovery

The soreness will disappear between 3 or 7 days. Be patient.

Sport Massage

Some studies have proven that this type of massage contribute to reducing the inflammation and muscle swelling, which can even shorten the recovery process.

Cold Bath or Water Contrast Therapy

Even though there is no scientific evidence, there are many athletes who use this method and they confirm that it reduces the pain.


Warm-up Properly

A correct warm-up will increase the blood flow to those muscles, which will eliminate the initial muscle stiffness, drop the risk of suffering an injury, and improve the physical performance. This is why it is a necessary step in any athelte’s workout routine.

But the real key of this whole process is listening to your body, if you are not 100% recovered there is no use in doing physical exercise again, because it will only add to the pain you have been dealing with, which can increase the risk of injury
Post-Workout Muscle Soreness Review

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About Javier Colomer
Javier Colomer
Under the motto “Knowledge Makes me Stronger”, Javier Colomer clearly expresses his intentions to share his knowledge and experience within the world of Fitness. His BPT training system is proof of this.
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