From FitNitChick: Overview of Muscle Fatigue Versus DOMS Versus Strain

Posted on 03 Mar 2015 16:25

A trainer named Tamara Grand has a blog called fitnitchick and today I commented on her nice overview of muscle fatigue versus muscle soreness (DOMs) versus muscle strain. A lot of people new to strength training or resistance training might have a hard time knowing what kind of discomfort is "good" and what means they have gone too far or even hurt themselves. In fact, I know many people have this question because I've been asked many times.

So, check out Tarmaras overview of muscle fatigue versus soreness and pain. I won't to re-iterate some of the things I commented and add a few things.

Many people in strength training expect to feel a certain area of soreness which indicates that they have 'done it right' and that the right muscle group was worked. For example, trainees are often worried if their glutes aren't sore after deadlifts.

Although it is true that you should expect soreness in a particular prime mover after a novel bout of strength training (read, more volume, or something new) it is not a good indicator of whether you are doing the exercise correctly, as where you are sore changes as your training status changes. As I commented at fitnitchick, some DOMs, now and again, is to be expected even in the best possible strength training plan, but being very sore after every workout should not be expected.

I've explained before that DOMs goes away as you become accustomed to a certain level of work, and as long as you don't add a drastic amount of anything to that work, or change it up a lot, you should not expect a lot of soreness. A little soreness or discomfort is normal and a lot of soreness sometimes when you intentionally ramp things up is what you should expect.

Exhausted after strength training, resting.

I won't add anything to fatigue because Tamara already explained that and I can't add anything to it. But, for strain, remember that it is possible to NOT feel a muscle strain right then, on the day, as it happens. I've explained that here. And since most strains are small, but can balloon into something large if you don't pay attention, you might want to read about what I (and others) call nondisruptive muscles strains in this article.

Muscle strain pain will be more localized than simple DOMs, although it may not be pinpoint, and can sometimes seem to "migrate."1 Although DOMs might make your muscles sore to the touch, they will not be extremely sensitive and painful to palpation, unlike with a muscle strain. When you press on the area of a muscle strain, it will be extremely sensitive and/or quite painful.

Can You Treat DOMs?

This is probably the number one question about delayed onset muscle soreness and I would guess that the most articles have been written about it. There are not a lot of things that are guaranteed to help DOMs and you don't need to treat something which is a natural manifestation of strenuous muscular work. If you have very minor DOMs, sometimes some light sets that use the muscle group involved will help, and even make the soreness go away and not come back. For example, say you have minor soreness in your quads. Some light and easy sets of squats might mitigate it. Sometimes it doesn't even come back. Sometimes it does. Stretching has been claimed by many to both prevent DOMs and cure it but there is no evidence that this is true.

Whether you are okay to train with DOMs is going to be a judgement call. Training with severe DOMs is just asking to set yourself back and not be able to train again in a reasonable time period. This is the problem with constantly overdoing it. You can't train regularly and if you can't train regularly, you can't progress consistently. On the other hand, when you have very light DOMs you may be able to train just fine, and depending on the how hard you go at it, not even be sore again afterwards. There are no guarantees, but don't be afraid of some discomfort and soreness.

Resting after weights image © theartofphoto

This page created 03 Mar 2015 16:25
Last updated 31 Oct 2017 21:14

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