Muscle Soreness and What's Normal

When it comes to working out and working out hard, we’ve all, at one point in time or another, felt discomfort after the workout and thought to ourselves “hmm, did I push myself too far and injure myself?”
Let us first caveat this post with the following: at Black Tusk Athletics, we always want to ensure that every movement performed by our athletes is executed safely and properly to eliminate the possibility of injury. This includes modify the weight and movement so it is appropriate for the individual. This is paramount to everything else. This is our standard. So when we discuss the topic of “pain” as a result of exercise, we are basing it on the fact that the movements are not grossly misexecuted.
With the above in mind, we’ve all heard buzzwords and phrases like “DOMS” or “no pain, no gain” but do I really need to feel pain to make gains, or who is Dom?

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Muscle Soreness and When to be Concerned

A very commonly used term in the fitness industry is DOMS.  DOMS is the acronym for Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness. Muscle soreness typically peaks around 24-48 hours post workout. Symptoms can include swelling, tenderness, reduced muscle strength. This is not to be confused with sudden acute pain, which may arise during your workout.

DOMS, more often than not, will occur when you are using muscles in a different capacity than you are used to. DOMS is actually the result of micro trauma in the muscles and surrounding connective tissue. This micro trauma (the tearing of your muscle fibers) will causes inflammation as your body is making adaptations to prepare your muscles for this training again, (ie. building muscle).
Some athletes will wear DOMS as a badge of honor, going as far to say “I’m not even that sore, I must not have worked out hard enough”. The purpose of training and exercise is not to cripple ourselves. If, after three days, you try to do the same exercise and you can’t, you’ve likely gone too far. Soreness is not an accurate indicator of muscle adaptation or growth. There are many factors that influence how soreness is presented and DOMS isn’t the best gauge of how effective your workout was.
But on the flip side, we want to be clear that DOMS isn’t a bad thing. Trauma to your muscle fibers is needed so that your body can repair and grow these muscles. When muscle fibers are repaired, they become larger and stronger than before. This is soreness. This is not to be confused with injury.
There may be times when you may overexert yourself during a workout. So when should you be concerned? When it comes to injury, more often than not, the injury will elicit immediate acute pain, typically during your workout. This is not something you should ignore. Injuries on the most part will also last over 3 days, whereas the onset of soreness will usually both appear (the day after a workout) and will resolve itself gradually.
At the end of the day DOMS isn’t something to fear, nor it is something to praise. For the long-term, you likely will experience DOMs every now and then but as you build more muscle, your strength and endurance will increase as well.
At Black Tusk Athletics, we pride ourselves in keeping classes small, so we can work with you to minimize occurrences of injury.