Yesterday, or two days ago, you did a strenuous workout for the first time in your life (or for the first time in a while). You dutifully did your squats, push-ups, and rows (if you followed the Beginner Bodyweight workout), or you did some barbell squats or deadlifts or pull-ups. Or maybe you decided to run a 5k just for kicks.
And during the workout, you may have felt pretty good!
That was two days ago, though. When you woke up yesterday, every muscle in your body felt like it was hit by a mac-truck. “Welp, this sucks, but at least tomorrow things should be better,” you tell your brain.
And holy crap, it’s like your body forgot how to function. Maybe your arms are stuck in the permanent t-rex position. Perhaps your groin is tight in places you didn’t even realize you could be sore. Walking down stairs or doing anything active may feel like trying to play the QWOP game (please take 2 seconds to play this – it will be the hardest you’ve ever laughed).
So, what are you supposed to do:
If it’s been only a day, should you be worried?
Maybe it’s been two days and you are supposed to workout. Do you skip it?
You’re torn between sitting in an ice bath to numb the soreness or climbing into a hot tub until you resemble a prune.
Let me first introduce you to my obnoxious friend, DOMS.
Although you’re probably already familiar, you’ve never been formally introduced to DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness).
First of all, don’t panic. DOMS is totally natural, and you’re going to be fine. Great, even!
In short, DOMS is a result of teeny tiny tears in your muscles from really strenuous activity, meaning you did things that your body is not normally used to.
If you’re brand new to working out or have taken a few weeks off only to jump back in at a high level of stress (heavy squats after a few weeks off), think of DOMS like your muscles saying: in exchange for the recovery I have to do, I’m going make YOU feel it. And actually, although it may not feel like it, this process is TOTALLY normal.
It tends to peak around 48 hours after training, but can occur anytime after your training day (hence the “Delayed” part of DOMS).
Note: this should definitely feel like a soreness (even a painful or deep soreness is okay), but a sharp pain or severe pain is something you should speak to your doctor about.
So, think of our friend DOMS like an obnoxious friend complaining:
“Whoa whoa whoa, I didn’t sign up for this much activity. You just did a lot of things I’m not used to. So I’m going to piss you off tomorrow and make you super sore. And the day after that? It’s going to be WORSE.”
What an ass! Like most bros, our boy DOMS hates Leg Day and wants you to skip it (like he and all the other bros do). So you may notice that DOMS tends to punish you more for big compound lifts like squats, deadlifts, lunges, etc.
Is Doms Good for Me Or Bad For Me?
Now you’re thinking, “I read on a motivational poster once “No Pain, No Gain!” … is that true?”
What you’re really asking is: “is this muscle soreness good for me? Does that mean it’s working? What about TOO much soreness?”
To learn more about the recovery process and what is “normal” check out Ryan Golec’s, our Director of Movement Mechanics, blog “What is Recovery”; it’s about a 3 minute read!