(The final articles in the author’s previous series will be indefinitely delayed due to extenuating circumstances.)
Anyone who trains or works their body will at some point experience what is known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS. The severity of DOMS depends on many factors, including the person doing the workout and where they are in their training. Typically, newer trainees and those getting back into training will experience DOMS worse than those who train consistently. However, even the most experienced person in the gym will experience muscle soreness sometimes. This article will present a few ways to help prevent muscle soreness.
Some big factors in preventing DOMS are proper rest and nutrition. Rest periods (especially sleep) allow the body to recover from strenuous activity. Less rest forces the body to take longer to recover. Nutrition is equally important because it supplies the fuel for workouts and raw materials to build and repair afterwards. Protein is vitally important, as it is what makes up muscles. The body also uses amino acids (the building blocks of muscles) in a variety of manners. If there is not an adequate intake of proteins (especially complete proteins with the necessary amino acids), the body will catabolize muscle to get those amino acids. Obviously, having muscles broken down outside of the gym is not conducive to making gains in training. Consequently, rest and nutrition go hand in hand to help the body recover from a workout and minimize soreness.
The type of workout done can also dictate the amount of soreness a person feels a day or two later. While many people equate soreness with weight lifting, certain lifting routines will create soreness more than others. Many bodybuilding routines focus on multiple exercises for given muscle groups, resulting in many sets of reps and little rest. They also often urge the trainee to go to muscular failure (when the final rep of a set cannot be completed). While this sort of training is thought to be good for hypertrophy (building muscle size) and/or endurance (depending on the set/rep scheme), it also is a recipe for DOMS, as the muscle is worked until it fails, and then worked some more. This produces a lot of metabolic waste and mini tears in the muscle tissue. (Some Crossfit routines and exercises are also know to fall into this category, on the endurance side.) Tears need to be repaired and waste needs to be removed. Until they are, soreness can be the result. Although they are usually thought of more for strength training and powerlifting than bodybuilding, lifting routines that focus on one or two main movements per session, and these done for less than 5 reps per set, typically result in less soreness (with little or no difference in hypertrophy).
A person’s post-workout routine can also help to prevent DOMS. While work schedules often dictate training routines, the person who goes from the squat rack straight to the locker room for a quick shower and change will often be sorer than the person who takes a few minutes to help remove the metabolic wastes from their muscles. There are a few different things here that all help. Some light full-body cardio, post-lifting, will help keep the heartrate up and blood flowing to all areas of the body. Since wastes are removed through the blood stream, there are less in the muscles to create soreness, later. Along this same line of thought and method are static stretching and contrast showers. Static stretching forces the muscles to elongate for a time, and then allows them to relax. This can force wastes that would otherwise sit in the muscle to places where the bloodstream can pick them up for removal. Contrast showers (alternating hot, cold, hot, cold, hot) bring the blood to the surface of the skin with the hot water, and then force it down into the body with the cold. Again, this helps to keep the blood moving, taking metabolic wastes away from the muscle.
The above tips are all things that this author takes into account with his own training routine and can testify to their helpfulness in preventing the muscle soreness that can show up a day or two after training.