Muscle Soreness : Good or Bad?
Before we dive into the depths of this topic. Let’s answer a few questions:
What is DOMS?
DOMS (Delayed onset of muscle soreness) is the vague pain or stiffness that we experience in the muscles following an intense training session.
DOMS is the reaction to the stress applied on the tissue. It is an indicator that the muscles are under repair mode.
How does it occur?
The physiological reasons behind the existence of DOMS is beyond the scope of this article. Clear consensus about the exact mechanisms responsible for soreness is non-existent.
Is it good or bad?
It is an unsolvable mystery and DOMS should not be used as a predictor of productivity. DOMS is an indicator that the muscles are being repaired. It is very much possible to get stronger and bigger in the absence of DOMS. We tend to travel back in time and reminisce about the good old days when we were sore after a training session with one kg dumbbells. Long gone are those days of limping after a squat session. The issue is not with the trainer or the training program, it is your body which is obeying the law of accommodation. Your window of gains diminishes as you mature in your training life and the tissues will adapt to the current intensity of training. You cannot push the envelope every day you walk into the gym. Some days you will have to settle for mediocre efforts.
But wait, remember that day you tried a new exercise and you were sore like never before. What happened? What changed? How can you bring that day back? Interestingly, there no answers for these questions. It was a new exercise, the body was not used to the movement pattern and the load was beyond the threshold limit of the tissue. All these factors combined together induced soreness. Trying to reproduce the same soreness in the pretext of increasing the productivity of the session is not a wise idea
So, the take home message is very simple. DOMS is not the only criteria to judge the productivity of a training session. Eccentric training paired with high volume is the easiest recipe for muscular soreness. But, don’t chase soreness to feel good about training, rather, choose to focus on the quality of training.