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There are many words often over heard in the fitness world that I have an irrational dislike for. Here are some examples;

  • Beasted
  • Gainz (always with a  ‘Z’)
  • No pain, no gain
  • DOMS

Now that last one may be surprising, but hear me out. I think it is one of the most over-used terms out there, and one which is used almost as a badge of honour – linking it nicely with the other hated phrases/words – and the assumption that without being borderline incapacitated the following day, you arent working hard enough. I even see some Gyms and Trainers tapping into these, using these words as a justification or testimonial for the hard session they have just dished out to a client, or group.

How i hate those Re-tweets/shared posts of “cant walk down the stairs today after leg day yesterday with XYZ #DOMS #Gainz”.

How my blood boils when I see people being so “beasted” that they cant carry out everyday activities, or cant exercise for 3-4 days because of it, limiting any “gainz” you may or may not have had from said session.


*deep breath*

So what is DOMS? DOMS stands for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, and is the discomfort felt post hard exercise. It can starts more or less straight away. but is often most prevalent 6-48 hours after your session. There is a common thought process that the more DOMS you are feeling, the better the session you have had, the more progress you are making. But is this strictly true? First we need to ackonwledge what DOMS actually are; in a paper by Brad Schoenfeld and Bret Contreras (1), they explain, “DOMS appears to be a product of inflammation caused by microscopic tears in the connective tissue elements that sensitize nociceptors and thereby heighten the sensations of pain.” So bascially, microtrauma to connective tissue.

But do we need this damage – or DOMS – to the connective tissue to see those “gainz”? Short answer; No. To flip this blog on its head, what do we need for muscle building? Schoenfeld wrote another paper (2) which argues that the 3 key factors for muscle growth are

  1. Mechanical tension
  2. Metabolic stress
  3. Muscle damage

Which shows that whilst muscle damage does contribute to muscle growth (or atrophy), there are 2 other primary factors at work.

And this is where my frustration comes in; extreme muscle soreness should not be the aim of any session – and can be counterproductive! First, soreness can significantly decrease force-producing capacity, which will – of course – be detrimental to performance in any subsequent workouts. Second, motivation levels will naturally be lower when you’re in pain from yesterdays session. Thirdly, I’m a firm believer that to see progress in any physical activity (and progress can mean growth, weight- loss, increased speed, whatever) we need consistancy; what benefit is there from that “beasting” on Monday when the next time you can move effectively is the following Monday? To add on to this – what revoery protocol do you have in place to speed up your return to action?

Theres no bravado with DOMS either – just because you can ‘deal’ with yours, its still doesnt mean that it is doing you any good. Schoenfeld continues “…it remains debatable as to whether DOMS is an accurate gauge of muscle damage…” . So DOMS doesnt necessarily mean muscle damage, and muscle damage doesnt necessarily mean muscle growth.

No pain no gain? Maybe not, after all. 

#Recover #Adapt #Progress



1. Is Postexercise Muscle Soreness a Valid Indicator of Muscular Adaptations, 2013

2. The Mechanisms for Muscle Hypertrophy, and Their Application to Resistance Training, 2010

N.B. There are no ‘one size fits all’ style quick fixes in most injury scenarios, so these article shouldn’t be seen as such. They are merely guides to a better understanding of how our bodies work.

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