“The body is a delicate and plastic instrument which responds readily to the thoughts by which it is impressed and habits of thoughts will produce their own effects good or bad upon it.” – James Allen
How often have we heard from a gym enthusiast “My legs are too sore from the leg workout, for me to climb up the stairs”? All who have endured physical exercise of any kind have their experiences of muscle soreness.
This is a deciding factor for many whose enthusiasm to exercise may hit the wall and an excuse to renounce their gym membership. Probing the causes for these kinds of ‘delayed onset of muscular soreness’ (DOMS) has put forward many hypotheses. Some of them include:
- Microscopic tears in the muscle cells according to some researchers are the cause for muscle soreness.
- The acto-myosin strands of each myofibril literally scrape across one another during muscular contraction, thereby causing muscular soreness.
- ‘Ischemic Rigour’ as it is known, which means reduced oxygen supply to the working muscle, causes reflective contraction producing muscle soreness.
- Exercising a muscle after a long layoff causes a build-up of certain metabolites in the cell, causing increased osmotic pressure in the cell which causes edema or water retention and a subsequent stimulation of pain receptors.
- In the process of contraction, connective tissue damage results and a chemical called Hydroxyproline is released which stays on for two days post exercise, which has been accounted for muscle soreness.
- Production of lactic acid in the process of anaerobic phenomenon which the body does to protect the muscle from breaking down, which is also known as the exercise threshold, is a cause for the delayed onset of muscular soreness.
Scientists come up with hypotheses of all kinds favouring and contradicting these theories in accordance to their required environment, but the bottomline remains that delayed onset of muscle soreness is a causation of microscopic tears in the connective tissue of the muscles, in particular at the ends or tie-inns of a muscle, also known as the point of insertion and point of origin of a muscle.
Most bodybuilders plod on in spite of this muscle soreness which is a destructive or catabolic process, in their pursuit, which results in overtraining thus impairing their efforts and, eventually, results.
Now, if this is the resultant cause and effect, it becomes imperative to know how to avoid this trauma; many theories are again put forward in this regard, some of which go to the extent of advocating not to train with weights at all.
So, how does one do it right?
- Work gradually into progressive lifting whenever there is a long layoff.
- As strength increases, increase the intensity of training.
- Static stretching, before and after workout done for several seconds to a minute helps.
- Application of ice, etc, to the tendon attachment areas has proven to minimise delayed onset of muscle soreness.
- By increasing the blood circulation through cold showers, massage, and whirlpool, etc., to the affected areas and training with lighter intensity until the soreness subsides, concentrating on blood circulation rather than attempting to achieve a “PUMP”.
Overtraining is a scourge; avoid it. Remember progress comes through the intelligent use of experience.
(Author is a Fitness Expert)