Health Club Management November December 2017

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NO GAIN? While some people view delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) as a sign of an effective workout, others consider it a good reason to stay away from the gym. Kath Hudson explores if DOMS-free exercise programmes are needed to get more people moving


aused by microscopic tears that damage the muscle during exercise, delayed onset muscle soreness, otherwise known as DOMS, is the familiar dull ache we all know. Most common after a new, or more intense workout, I have known it to cause days of pain. The day after my first parkrun, I woke with an ache in my back. It gradually moved down my body to leave, via my feet, approximately four days later.

Dr Jinger Gottschall

Pennsylvania State University: associate professor of kinesiology

Because DOMS is caused by small muscle tears, rather than a buildup of lactic acid in the muscle, it can be a sign that muscle fibres are increasing in diameter or getting longer. However, daily muscle discomfort and soreness is not ideal as this suggests that adequate recovery – which is when muscle growth and repair occurs – is not happening. Conversely, a complete absence of DOMS for a long period of time is also far from ideal and should be taken as an indication that you can switch up your routine or increase workout time or intensity. It’s a tricky balance, especially as genetic differences mean that not everyone feels the effects of muscle breakdown in the same way: 58

While some people – usually your confident and highly motivated members – may welcome DOMS as a necessary part of the journey towards a fitter, stronger body, it can act as barrier to those who are new to exercising. If DOMS is the result of the muscle damage required to increase muscle size, is there a way to gain muscle mass without soreness? And if so, could this encourage more people to take out a gym membership?

some may be more sensitive to pain, and therefore DOMS, than others. While mild DOMS can be seen as positive reinforcement that a session was successful and muscle training is occurring, for those who want to avoid it, soreness can be minimised by starting slowly and adding thoughtfully. Complicated routines and equipment are not vital. Simple strategies, namely November/December 2017

beginning with 10 to 15 minute sessions and gradually building up over a six week period, significantly reduce the chances of soreness. PTs can also help gym-goers to minimise DOMS by advising them to avoid increasing time or intensity by more than 10 per cent each week. Strength training should not be done on consecutive days and one day per week should be a complete rest day.

“A complete absence of DOMS for a long period of time is also far from ideal and should be taken as an indication that you can switch up your routine”