Prolonged Muscle Soreness: Causes and Remedies

John, who is a beginning lifter, has a great full body workout.  He comes home from the gym, eats some food, takes a shower, brushes his teeth, and goes to bed.  The next morning, he can barely get out of bed because his body is so sore.  John is thinking,  “What’s going on?!  Is this a bad thing?!”

What John is experiencing is D.O.M.S., or delayed-onset muscle soreness.  This is essentially caused by strenuous exercise, and the pain typically peaks twenty-four to seventy-two hours after the training session.

Here are some easy solutions to help alleviate any discomfort caused by D.O.M.S.

1. Get enough sleep. With regards to rest, make sure you’re getting 7-9 hours of sleep (preferably on the higher end of that) each night.

2. End the workout with some type of light intensity exercise that targets whatever body part it is you’re doing.  So, if you just got done with a brutal leg workout, follow it with some cardio such as the stationary bike.

3. If you’re still sore (or just are because you didn’t do 1 or 2 above), re-do number 2.  Let’s say you worked your chest yesterday and extreme soreness hit you today. Go do bench press today with little or no weight added to the forty-five pound Olympic bar and perform lots of reps. The pain will initially be there but the soreness will go away. Basically you want to do “cardio” for that body part so you can flush out the lactic acid, which is what is making you sore.

4. Massage the muscle – this can help increase the blood flow to the area, providing the muscles with additional nutrients to aid in recovery while also helping to flush out the lactic acid.

5. Also, taking BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids) and glutamine post-workout and before bed can certainly aid in recovery.  However, if you are actively counting your calories and macronutrients and hitting your daily targets each day, then these probably won’t provide much of a benefit because your body already has an adequate level of amino acid circulation in your blood stream.  But, if you aren’t counting your calories and macronutrients to the gram, then these powders can definitely help make sure that you’re getting enough protein, with specific emphasis on the three BCAAs leucine, isoleucine, and valine, as well as the amino acid glutamine.  These four amino acids have a great ability to help your muscles recover more rapidly.

6. If you’re experiencing D.O.M.S. in your legs, try using a foam roller to help flush out the lactic acid.

7. Additionally, something a lot of people tend to overlook is making sure that that their nutrition is substantial enough to support the volume of training they’re doing. How much are you eating, and how much are you training? Personally, I’ve found that my D.O.M.S. has dramatically decreased with proper nutritional support (with particular emphasis on adequate protein and carbohydrate intake) that is more in line with the level of volume I train at.  The more you train, the more you need to eat.

8. Also, as far as weight progression goes for lifts, you should start to look at progressing with respect to percentage of weight lifted, not just a flat poundage number.  While a 5 pound increase on 150 pound dumbbells doesn’t seem like a large add-on (it’s only a 3.33% increase), that same five pound increase on 40 pound dumbbells represents a 12.5% increase, so it’s imperative that the weight being used is always taken into consideration when increasing the load.  A good rule of thumb is that for every 2.5% increase in weight, you’ll generally lose about 1 rep on a given exercise. Tracking your periodization using this method will certainly help you to ensure that you are progressing at a rate your body can handle well.

The next time you wake up with unbelievable soreness, try these steps out, and I assure you that you won’t be “stiff as a door” for long!

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