Is muscle soreness a sign of an effective workout?

Most weight trainers have experienced it and some strive to make sure their muscles scream the day after a workout in pursuit of continued growth – delayed onset muscle soreness ('DOMS')! The question is – is muscle soreness a sign of an effective workout and should you really strive to struggle up the stairs the day after squats?

DOMS CONTROVERSY – IS IT A SIGN OF MUSCLE GROWTH?

There are a lot of theories over what causes DOMS and what it really means for muscle growth? Science is still debating the exact mechanism behind the deep soreness that can be elicited by training – but it's very likely that it's a combination of inflammation, muscle and nerve damage and metabolic toxin build-up. Although the best way to build muscle is another topic of debate, over-loading muscles with increased intensity to elicit tiny micro-tears in muscle fibres is unquestionably a stimulus that the body will respond to with growth – assuming you consume adequate recovery protein and nutrition.

And let's face it – if you use the same weights and reps every workout for your bench press for a month, you will experience very little in the way of muscle soreness, damage and subsequent growth! In contrast, if you strive to expose your muscles to more intensity via more weight, reps or workout density (more reps in a certain time frame) then you're going to cause more muscle micro-trauma, suffer some soreness and boost muscle growth potential.

DOMS, MUSCLE RECOVERY & EFFECTIVE GROWTH

So, if we assume tearing-down muscles in the gym elicits muscle soreness and a growth response – is more better? Definitely not! Firstly, your goal should be to 'stimulate not annihilate' your muscles – for example 6-9 sets of 8-12 reps per body part during a workout will cause an excellent level of micro-trauma; further muscle damage will often simply create a huge recovery debt, excessive muscle breakdown and extreme muscle soreness! What's more, although it's beneficial to break muscle fibres down during training, you want to do everything in your power to start the rebuilding process as soon as possible, which is likely to reduce the DOMS but support muscle growth:

BCAA INTRA HARDCORE™ during workout
OMNI MX® HARDCORE or ULTRA WHEY™ PROTEIN post-training
Post-workout meal 90 minutes later (e.g. 30-40g protein + 100g carbs).
Before bed: GRS 9-HOUR® PROTEIN

The key is to ensure you're training with progressive over-load to tear-down your muscle fibres optimally – but to follow-up with sufficient protein, amino acids and recovery nutrients to maximise repair and growth. This strategy is likely to combat the DOMS – but you'll still get a degree of reassuring muscle ache when you really smash it in the gym!

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