What Is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness – DOMS For Short

By | March 12, 2015

What Is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness – DOMS For Short

In the fitness community there are a lot of different fancy words thrown around which might sound like the equations of core physics. In this topic I’m focusing on what is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS for short) and some common questions revolving around it.

What DOMS Actually Is & What Causes It?What Is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness is the feeling you get after training when you wake up the next day or two. Depending on various different factors the length of experiencing this is somewhere between one day to a week.

The important fact is that exercise science has not yet determined exactly what causes this phenomenon. But the research implies that it has something to do with microtears on the connective tissue of the muscles, more so than the actual muscle tissue which we’re trying to grow bigger and stronger!

The eccentric (negative) part of any lift plays a big part for causing DOMS. For example when bench pressing and you’re lowering the bar to your chest, that is the part of the lift that really causes the soreness.

Although the main reasons for DOMS is your current experience level, lifting intensity, new stimulus and frequency of training the same body part.

Experience Level

A beginner lifter who has never squatted before wants to try out the movement and starts doing sets of 8-12 adding weight as long as he trains in the 70-80% range of his one rep max. As the guys body is not used to performing squats he can be 99.9% sure that the DOMS will hit a day or two after that training session, and oh boy they will hit him hard! The soreness will be quite painful to be honest. Walking up and down stairs will be one hell of a push, just normal walking will hurt and sitting down will feel like the world is piling up on you. I know this and I’ve experienced it more times than I can count, it’s completely normal and you shouldn’t worry about it.

Lifting Intensity / New Stimulus

Intermediate lifters will also experience soreness sometimes, usually when they try something new such as movement or different rep ranges or just decide to train really hard close to their limits.


This is a huge part of getting DOMS. The more you train certain body part, the less you will experience DOMS from the training since your body gets used to the stimulus. This is valuable to digest because if you’ve been training for a while and hitting each body part only once per week and then you decide to hit each body part two times per week your body is not used to the extra stimulus you’ll be giving it.

What Is Delayed Onset Muscle SorenessDoes DOMS Indicate That The Workout Was Successful?

One of the biggest myths is that the soreness after workout determines if the workout has been successful or not. And this simply is not true!

The occurrance of soreness has nothing to do with the fact that how effective your workout was. You will notice as you keep lifting more and more over time that you will be making progress and you will get only really minor DOMS if even anything. It’s all about your body getting used to the work your doing with it.

Eventhough I’m gaining strength and mass on a constant basis and not experiencing any DOMS, if I’ll go to a boxing class after a couple of years lay off, I will get soreness because my body isn’t used to that kind of stimulus. And if you compare which one puts more muscle mass on your frame, weight training or boxing the answer is without a doubt weight training.

So once again…

DOMS is NOT an indicator of the successfulness of a workout!

It’s just the fact that you’re providing your body a stimulus that you’re not used to.

What Really Determines The Success Of A Workout?

So that being said, the real indicator of a successful workout is basically divided into two different factors which are:

#1 Are you training with a high enough intensity? If you can honestly say that you gave everything you had in a workout and you did all of your movements within 1-2 reps short of failure, congratulations you have a successful workout since you overloaded your muscles with the proper intensity to give them a reason to grow!

#2 You’re making progress when comparing to the previous workouts. If you could perform more reps or more weight than before, you’ve given your body a reason to adapt to the new stress, and your body will do this by increasing muscle mass to be more efficient at handling the same weight next time!

Is It Detrimental To Workout When You’re Sore?What Is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

Absolutely NO! Infact this actually can alleviate the DOMS in quite efficient fashion. Quite a lot of people shy away from training when they’re sore and to be honest this is not the best way to go about it. But there is a couple of things to consider before hitting the gym again.

Don’t jump in there when you’re sore and perform with maximal intensity. Lower the volume and frequency down and focus more on the movement and don’t aim for those really heavy weights.

The timeframe in which your actual muscle growth happens is 48-72 hours after your workout, so If you’re still sore after 72 hours, don’t fear that you cannot make progress eventhough you’re experiencing soreness. It’s totally ok and even recommended to go in there and get a decent workout in.


So when it all comes down to it, DOMS is just a response from your body to stimulus that it’s not familiar of. It’s completely normal and excepted and everyone who works out on a regular basis will get familiar with it.

The only thing you can try to prevent it is to start out as slow as possible and gradually build up over time. When you get the soreness, there is not much you can do about it other than wait for it to subside. But the thing is that you shouldn’t start to avoid workouts just because you’re experiencing soreness.

To recap all the important points here is a bulletpoint list:

  • DOMS stands for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness
  • You’ll experience DOMS when your muscles experience unfamiliar stimulus
  • Working out on a regular basis will diminish the effects of DOMS
  • Lifting experience, lifting intensity, new stimulus and frequency will affect the occurrence of DOMS
  • DOMS are not an indicator for successful or unsuccessful workout
  • It’s a good idea to workout even if you experience DOMS, just reduce the volume and frequency
  • The real factors that determine successful workouts are intensity and progressive overload

That is all there is to it guys and girls! I hope you found this article helpful. If you have any comments or suggestions I’d love to hear them! Leave a comment down below and I’ll get back at you.

Check out my article on how to structure proper diet when the goal is to build muscle HERE!


16 thoughts on “What Is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness – DOMS For Short

    1. Jesse Post author

      Really? That’s awesome. I’m glad that someone as experienced as you calls my content great. Thanks a lot! 🙂

  1. Jeremy

    Hey Jesse!
    Thanks for this informative article. I have always wondered whether or not it was a good idea to work out when I was sore so I always tried to avoid it and would find myself missing 3 or 4 workouts at a time. I’ll try getting in a “light work out” on those sore days and let you know how it works out. Thanks again ~Jeremy

    1. Jesse Post author

      You’re on point JEremy! Please tell me how it works out for you 🙂

  2. John

    I play a lot of volleyball and part of jumping high is keeping as close to peak condition as possible. Weight training is a big part of that. You explained why I was sore after the first couple of work outs. I used to feel that if I wasn’t sore then the work out wasn’t good. Thanks for clearing that up for me 🙂

    1. Jesse Post author

      No problem John. I’m glad if this article helped you in any way 🙂

  3. Peter

    Hi. This is an interesting article on DOMS that’s full of useful, practical info. I particularly like the clarity of your writing and tidy page layout, it really does make for a pleasant read! Cheers.

    1. Jesse Post author

      Thank you Peter. It’s always nice to get feedback on my stuff so I can improve the experience of my visitors 🙂

  4. Emily

    hi Jesse
    fantastic post! You explained DOMS so well! I have experienced it before for sure. I actually like feeling sore the next day or so. It certainly does not stop me from going back to the gym the next day. Unless I am hurt.. But if I am just sore, I go right back at it 🙂
    I remember my first session with a personal trainer (I have trained with 3 different ones). That particular personal trainer was brutal. After our first session, I could barely walk for 3 days! But it was worth it. And when I started kickboxing, with every movement being new to me, my core and lats would be soooo sore! But as you said, you get used to the exercises and everything is okay

    1. Jesse Post author

      Thanks a lot Emily 🙂 I’m glad to hear that you’re working out and enjoying it. Once you fall in love with it it’s easy to keep at it! And you made a valid point, one should definately know the difference between injury and DOMS! Keep training and getting better Emily 🙂

  5. Jason

    I used to suffer DOMS quite a bit before when I use to train a lot. I use to go running and after 5 or 10 mins they would be completely gone and I would feel like a new man. I use to go for sports massages also, they use to help me a lot also.

    1. Jesse Post author

      Jason that’s nice to hear! Eventhough the exercise science researches all stuff related to different topics, personal anecdote is still a powerful tool to analyze what works and what doesn’t! Thanks a lot 🙂

  6. Chris

    What I always used to do when I was working out on a regular basis was start out really slow. After taking a break I’d do my first workout with very light weights, but still do no more than about 12 reps. Then the second workout with about 50% of my normal weight. Finally be the third workout I’d go back to my normal weights (minus any strength I lost from taking a break). It took me a little longer to get back into it this way and my friends would tell me I’m crazy, but they were the ones crying about being really sore during that second workout.

    1. Jesse Post author

      Chris that is an intelligent way to go about this. Gradually build yourself up. Thanks for sharing your opinion 🙂

  7. Daniel Rex Hamilton

    Dear Jesse,

    Great information. I hope you will do an article or add to this one and mention lactic acid build up and the effects that having a more alkaline system will limit DOMS. I hope this helps!

    1. Jesse Post author

      Thanks a lot! All input is more than welcome 🙂


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