Understanding DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness)

How sore should you be?

So many people think that if you aren’t hobbling around after a workout, you must not have gotten a great workout. The truth is, just because you aren’t sore, after a workout, doesn’t mean you wasted your time! It is very common to associate soreness with an awesome workout but just because you don’t get sore doesn’t mean your workout was anything short of awesome! If you are still seeing results, your workouts ARE working, whether you are sore or not.

When we workout and move our body, muscles are contracting (concentric movement) and lengthening (essentric movement). In order for our body to move, lift, jump, etc. our muscles must contract. When muscles are pushed past their limits and maybe lengthened a bit too much, it can cause small micro tears that can cause muscle soreness and fatigue. This can occur 12-72 hours after the actual movement or workout. This is actually called DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) Soreness doesn’t happen right away, it usually takes a day to 3 days to feel.

When you are starting an exercise program for the first time, you may notice you get sore more often for a while. This is because you are doing something your body is not use to doing and muscles are being worked in ways they may not have been worked in a while. Once your body adjusts to what you are doing, your muscles may not be forced to stretch past their limits, which will decrease or eliminate soreness.

After you have been doing similar exercises, it is common to not get as sore or possibly not sore at all. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing! Think of it as your body recovering faster, getting stronger and overall you are becoming a fitter version of you. Isn’t that the goal of any exercise program anyways?

To keep your body responding it is important to constantly make small changes in your exercise routine. From the amount of sets, reps, variation of an exercise and hand position, the key is change. Variation and change will keep your body responding and never fully adapting to the same day in and day out workout. The same movement done a few different ways will keep your body continuing to change and respond while keeping your head in the game.

Let’s take the basic push up for example. There are several variations you can do to change up the the variation of the push up. Check out these 6 push-up variations to keep your body responding while having fun with your workouts.

Understanding DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) - Regular push-up

1. Regular push-up

Understanding DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) - Regular push-up with one foot crossed over the other

2. Regular push-up with one foot crossed over the other

Understanding DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) - Push-up off your knees

3. Push-up off your knees

Understanding DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) - Incline regular grip push-up

4. Incline regular grip push-up

Understanding DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) - Decline bench push-up

5. Decline bench push-up

Understanding DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) - Decline ball push-up

6. Decline ball push-up

Remember, if your body is continuing to make changes and you are seeing progress, you are doing things right! Progress doesn’t just come as a number on the scale but rather an overall feeling. Are you getting stronger, both mentally and physically? Are you feeling accomplished? Progress comes in all shapes and sizes and if you are seeing and feeling progress, your training plan is working so sore or not sore, keep at it! If you feel like you are no longer making progress, are bored (this is a big one), and you aren’t looking forward to your workouts, then it might be time for you to switch things up and try a new way to challenge your body. The goal is to continue to have fun with your training and overall fitness. When your head is in the game, your body will follow.

Remember, soreness doesn’t equate to a killer workout! Just because you aren’t getting sore doesn’t mean your workouts are lacking! Keep digging deep, you are doing awesome!!

Gina Aliotti

Gina is Co-Founder of Devotion Nutrition. She is a Professional Figure Competitor, certified personal trainer, certified yoga instructor, CrossFit instructor, nutritionist, and fitness consultant. Her passion is to inspire, motivate and teach people the tools to reach their lifelong fitness goals, in a realistic and fun way.

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