For years now, the dominant opinion on soreness has been “no pain, no gain”, but not only is that statement untrue, it’s also a potentially dangerous mindset to have. Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS for short) is muscle soreness that lasts more than 24 hours and can affect range of motion, limit activity, and prevent you from getting back in the gym.
Luckily, it is absolutely possible to get a good workout in without experiencing the DOMS effect and it will likely boost your performance and enhance your gains if you do. Here are three ways to prevent extreme soreness and make sure you’re not overdoing it.
1. Warm up and Cool Down
Before each workout, do at least three to five minutes of dynamic stretching, mobilizing, and activating to ensure your muscles are primed and ready to go. Dynamic stretches and mobilizers are movements that replicate what you’ll be doing during your workout. Activators are movements that activate, or turn-on, the muscles you’ll be using during your workouts. The combination of these two will ensure your body is ready for anything.
After your workout, be sure to cool down with some static stretching and/or foam rolling. This will lengthen the muscles, aiding in recovery, and slowing the breathing and heart rate back down post-workout.
2. Control the Intensity
If your goal is to hit a 315lb barbell back squat, chances are you’re not going to just jump under the bar with 6 plates on. No matter what your goal is in the gym, you have to start slow and work your way up if you want to see real results and minimize the risk of overuse or injury. Create a workout plan that progresses over time or hire a trainer to create one for you if you need help. This will ensure that you're on track to your goals without setting yourself up for muscle strains and larger injuries.
3. Stay Hydrated
The answer to pretty much every problem known to man is to drink more water. When it comes to soreness, hydration improves blood flow to the muscles and helps balance electrolytes. It also makes sure your body can move effectively during the workout and prevents cramps or other symptoms of dehydration. Bottom line - drink your water. Lots of it!
Although intense soreness may seem like a badge of honor after a tough workout, it usually just means you're overdoing it in the gym. Some muscle soreness is completely normal, but a good indicator of how much is whether it prohibits you from moving normally and whether it lasts for more than 24 hours.
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