Wednesday, February 27, 2008

How to avoid sore muscles!

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is the pain or discomfort often felt 24 to 72 hours after exercising and subsides generally within 2 to 3 days. Once thought to be caused by lactic acid buildup, a more recent theory is that it is caused by tiny tears in the muscle fibers caused by eccentric contraction, or unaccustomed training levels. Since lactic acid disperses fairly rapidly, it could not explain pain experienced days after exercise, and some concentric-only exercises produce lactic acid, but rarely produce DOMS

Well that is what Wiki says. But we have all experienced it, even - dare I say it - enjoyed it. I used to feel that it was a sign that I had really trained hard and had stimulated growth.....masochist to the last.

The thing is I am not sure that such soreness is necessarily good. Certainly for those of a less obsessive / masochistic tendency it can put them off exercise all together. Soreness itself is maybe a warning a sign of tissue damage, a signal of injury rather than health....

So how do we prevent DOMS?

I just spotted this new study that seems to indicate that DOMS can be prevented by using a certain training protocol: Aerobic cardioacceleration immediately before each set of resistance exercise It is hard to tell from the abstract, but presumably that means a brief sprint or whatever to get the heart rate up.

The conclusions was that this protocol rapidly eliminates DOMS during vigorous progressive resistance training in athletes.

That is quite a big conclusion!

Is anyone out there going to try this and see if it works? I wonder how it applies to things like interval weight training? I did an interval session of kettlebell snatches the other day and my heart rate got really high throughout the session.....but I was still sore the next day!

Anyway, here is the abstract:

Elimination of delayed-onset muscle soreness by pre-resistance cardioacceleration before each set.

We compared delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) induced by anaerobic resistance exercises with and without aerobic cardioacceleration before each set, under the rationale that elevated heart rate (HR) may increase blood perfusion in muscles to limit eccentric contraction damage and/or speed muscle recovery. In two identical experiments (20 men, 28 women), well-conditioned athletes paired by similar physical condition were assigned randomly to experimental or control groups. HR (independent variable) was recorded with HR monitors. DOMS (dependent variable) was self-reported using Borg's Rating of Perceived Pain scale. After identical pre-training strength testing, mean DOMS in the experimental and control groups was indistinguishable (P > or = 0.19) for musculature employed in eight resistance exercises in both genders, validating the dependent variable. Subjects then trained three times per week for 9 (men) to 11 (women) weeks in a progressive, whole-body, concurrent training protocol. Before each set of resistance exercises, experimental subjects cardioaccelerated briefly (mean HR during resistance training, 63.7% HR reserve), whereas control subjects rested briefly (mean HR, 33.5% HR reserve). Mean DOMS among all muscle groups and workouts was discernibly less in experimental than control groups in men (P = 0.0000019) and women (P = 0.0007); less for each muscle group used in nine resistance exercises in both genders, discernible (P < 0.025) in 15 of 18 comparisons; and less in every workout, discernible (P < 0.05) in 32% (men) and 55% (women) of workouts. Most effect sizes were moderate. In both genders, mean DOMS per workout disappeared by the fourth week of training in experimental but not control groups. Aerobic cardioacceleration immediately before each set of resistance exercises therefore rapidly eliminates DOMS during vigorous progressive resistance training in athletes.


Charles R. said...

Do you think this has any relation to that recent study arguing that it was calcium leakage that caused muscle fatigue?

So is this just a case of increased circulation in general as a result of the cardio?

Dave Clary said...

All I know is that a couple weeks ago I did a bunch of pullups and dips on a Monday, and Wednesday morning I had a hard time brushing my hair!! It's something I'd rather not repeat.


Chris said...

Charles - I don't really knwo what is going on there. I have only read the abstract and it is difficult to tell even what they did specificaly let aloen what sort of mechanisms are at work. It is interesting though because interval weighttraining - with a high heart rate - still makes me sore.

Dave - I think the worst DOMS I ever had was in my calves - could hardly walk for several days....

Charles R. said...

The calves can definitely be almost debilitating. I wonder why that is? I've been able to create a level of soreness in my calves by doing multiple sets of calf raises that I haven't been able to create in any other body part.

Lucy said...

Chris - I am a health journalist - I write for the national newspapers (Independent, Times, Mail etc) and women's magazines and am currently involved in a very labour and reserach dense feature for the women's glossy, Red magazine - I have an interview in this month's magazine featuring Dr John Briffa who I have interviewed and featured in many articles - I noticed your comment on his site which has taken me to your blogspot. I am a blogging technophobe and wish to make contact with you by email and phone to discuss a dietary feature - could you advise how I might do this.
Best Wishes

Chris said...


you can email initially via

as I've said before on the blog I am only an interested amateur in all this, posting things I find interesting. Obviously i am also drawing attention to things with which I am sympathetic - e.g. intermittent fasting and low carb diets.


Mike T Nelson said...

Very interesting! Thanks for posting this!

Interesting that they used a Borg scale to rate DOMS as most pain researchers actually use the VAS (visual analog scale) to rate pain.
The tricky part as you know is that you are rating a PERCEPTION since we currently do not have a better method.

I wonder if they noticed a performance difference during the study or after?

Has anyone tried this in reality? Hmmmm, I may have to try it out.

Rock on!
Mike N

Anonymous said...

I started Fred Hahn's Slow Burn Exercise Revolution two week ago, and have done four sessions. The more I sessions I do, the better my form and timing; and the easier it is to get to exhaustion. Yet, I have had ZERO soreness or stiffness, just as advertised.

This is new for me; usually when I start a new exercise regime, I am sore and stiff for a couple of weeks. I find the lack of soreness encouraging, and I am sure I well do Slow Burn for several months to evaluate it more. So far, so good.