DOMS: What it is And What You Should do About it

exercise health muscle building workouts

How many times have you had a really solid workout and found that you can barely walk a day or two later? That’s Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), and you aren’t alone.

It’s Coach Brooke here with you today to teach you everything you need to know about DOMS.

What is it? 

DOMS is a phenomenon in which muscle pain or stiffness develops a day or two after exercise. While it is most common in people who have just started exercising, it can happen to anyone who has increased the duration or intensity of a workout routine.


DOMS is considered a normal response to unusual exertion and is part of an adaptation process by which the muscles recover as they undergo hypertrophy (an increase in muscle size).

The soreness you’re experiencing is because you made your muscles work harder than they’re used to, or you worked them in a new way. Even elite athletes can experience DOMS when they amp up their workouts or transition to something new. 


DOMS is related to increased stress in muscle fibers as you exert them excessively. 

DOMS can also occur if you engage in movements your muscles are not accustomed to, such as lifting heavier or a new style of exercising.

Exercises that focus on eccentric movements are especially likely to cause DOMS because you’re bearing a load against gravity for an extended time. This extra time under tension means that the movement causes more stress on the muscle. 

Eccentric movements are beneficial, and just because they are more likely to result in DOMS does not mean you should avoid them. 

DOMS set in because of the tiny muscle tears that happen when a muscle is stressed more than it’s used to, or in a new way. The muscle tissue releases enzymes to repair the tears, which results in inflammation and soreness. 

And don’t worry about those muscle tears. They are perfectly normal and a good thing! That’s how your muscles grow!

DOMS is not to be confused with the muscle pain experienced during exercise or that is related to a sprain or strain!


There is no one simple way to treat DOMS. In the end, personal experience will dictate which works best for an individual. 

Some of the methods commonly used by athletes include:

    • Active recovery
      Active recovery is a method that involves using low-impact aerobic exercise immediately after a workout to increase the blood flow to overworked muscles. The increased blood supply may also help alleviate inflammation.

      Examples of active recovery include foam rolling or using a lacrosse ball for self-myofascial release, walking, or swimming.

      Find what’s most enjoyable and what works best for you by trying different methods.
    • Sports massage
      A sports massage can increase blood flow to the muscles and may lessen the severity of stiffness and swelling. Be prepared that you’ll feel more sore than when you go in for a relaxing massage, but the benefits will be worth it. 

    • Epsom salts
      Taking a warm bath with a few handfuls of Epsom salts may reduce the length and intensity of the DOMS. Epsom salts are rich in magnesium which is really important for helping muscles heal.




As simple as it may sound, the best way to avoid DOMS is to prevent it in the first place.

Make sure to start your workout correctly. One of the reasons why overexertion occurs is because the muscles are tight before you start training. If they are not adequately warmed up and you move straight into exercise, your muscles are less able to stretch and can become injured, sometimes seriously.

Before you get into your workout, spend a few minutes doing some active stretches and light movements to warm up your muscles and loosen them up. If you have access to a heated room, like a hot yoga room in your gym, go there to do your pre-workout warmup. 

There are several other ways to avoid DOMS whether you're new to exercise or an experienced athlete:

  • The 10% Rule
    Increase your activity by no more than 10 percent per week. This includes the distance, intensity, and time of your exercise routine.
  • Reasonable Progression
    While you may want to build muscle fast, taking the slow and steady route not only prevents injury but can lead you to your goal faster.

Put some effort into preventing DOMS, but don’t worry about it too much if it happens! The soreness will go away in a couple of days, and you’ll be good as new. 

And in case you were wondering, yes, you absolutely can (and should) work out even if you’re experiencing DOMS. Just reassess how hard you’re going and if you’ve been pushing yourself too much. Slow it down and be patient. Your body will thank you for it!

If you’re ready to work 1:1 with a stellar coach who can help you achieve your goals without burning yourself out, learn more about our stellar team at KJO Coaching


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