Muscle soreness, tissue damage and recovery

Muscle soreness, tissue damage and recovery[1]

As anyone who has exercised can attest to there will be soreness, referred to as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) after a heavy lifting session. Sometimes, extending into the next one, two, or more days.

Exercise scientists have identified two principle factors that contribute to muscle soreness.

  • Tissue loading during the eccentric phase of the lifting cycle
  • Chemical damage and lack of oxygen to the tissues following the heavy lifting exercise.

Both of which can cause a continuation of tissue damage afterwards lasting for several days, if severe it can last for as long as 10 days. The downside of this damage is the more severe the DOMS is, the longer it delays you from getting back under the heavy iron again.

In order to avoid DOMS, proper planning has to be a priority in developing the training schedule. If this advice is not followed, the backup for the scheduling mistake is to help your athlete recover quickly and as pain free as possible.

Some of the more commonly used treatments such as cold, hydrotherapy, and massage have simply not been effective in helping ease the pain. However, the use of compression wrapping has been an effective means of reducing the swelling after an intense exercise session. Not only does this reduce the swelling, it also helps prevent the loss of force production over the next twenty four to seventy two hours.

An athlete with a severe case of delayed onset muscle soreness is not going to be as productive in the weight room as the one without soreness.

From all appearances, the best approach to the issue of after training soreness is to avoid it in the first place. This involves preplanning of the workouts, which means setting up the proper program progressions.

These progressions imply, and in actuality demand, a transition between light to moderate hypertrophy training into strength and power training. With each of the latter two, having a heavy portion of eccentrics involved in the exercises being one of the primary causes of DOMS.

This muscle damage will be more concentrated in the beginner or in those who have not been exercising for a while. To avoid this from happening these people need a three to four week preparation phase to ease into the heavier stuff that comes later. Thus, a period of light to moderate base building sessions with one to two sets of 10-12 repetitions resting between 1-3 minutes between sets. Basic multijoint movements with proper exercise technique stressed every repetition, every set, every session are the keys to successful elimination of DOMS during this time.

During this base building period, avoid using heavy resistance along with the attendant heavy eccentrics, which have not been validated to be scientifically effective in building strength and power.

Nonetheless, time spent in the power rack with loads heavier than normal does help condition the body to eventually use these loads in training and on the competitive platform—but only later on in the athletes development.

[1] Fleck, S.J., and Kraemer, W.J. Optimizing Strength Training 2007. Human Kinetics

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