Monday, 18 January 2016

Why our muscles are sore 1- 2 days post exercise? Building muscle strength.

2016, New Year, new fitness targets. Many of you may have set some new fitness and sporting targets for 2016 (I know I have), and are starting to ramp up the frequency and intensity of your workouts (do always remember to increase your training sensibly and “bit by bit”) and from your increased activity you may well be feeling some muscle soreness. This generally occurs and feels worse 1 -2 days post exercises and a question I often get asked is what is why is this and what is it?

The more professional term for this soreness is, Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS. DOMS is caused by localized micro trauma to the muscles fibres, owing to the increased use of the muscles, and so tiny microscopic tears occur in the muscle fibres plus the connective tissue that binds all our muscle fibres together is broken down. So the muscle fibres need to heal and the body’s first response to start the healing process is inflammation, which causes heat, redness, swelling and then this is followed by an increase in circulatory and fluid activity. All of these together put pressure on our pain receptors and so this is the ache/soreness that we feel. The healing process starts of slowly in the first 24 hours and is at full pelt from day 2 onwards so this is why we may feel more achy/ sore 1-2 days after exercise.

Interestingly, it is scientifically proven that DOMS is felt more where there is an increase in muscle tension by lengthening the muscle (this is called an eccentric movement) and for example occurs in the calves or hamstrings when we are running (in the push off phase as we leave the ground) or rising from a squat or when we are lowering a dumbbell after a bicep curl or controlling the lowering after a dead lift.

DOMS and Muscle Strength - also a key part of our body’s healing process after exercise is to react to the increased load and stress the muscles have been put through and it does this by activating the release of growth factors involved in muscle development. So this is a growth response to increased activity and this is how our muscles build strength. Our body responds and adapts by strengthening the ability of our muscles to withstand future muscle damage. (Please note though that causing muscle soreness to the point where we can’t even lift our arm, or walk, is too much!!!!! and this can actually be detrimental to muscle growth, causing strains and tears etc. which take longer to heal).

Good luck with your 2016 goals. Any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me.