It Hurts so good

With all the soreness talk around the gym, I thought it would be a good idea to highlight the reason behind the different levels and why we are sore right away after some workouts and sometimes it can take a few days for muscle pain to show itself. Knowing what usually causes these different types of muscle soreness can help you better decide what days might be best to take as rest days vs. which days to push through the pain.

Before we get into the nuts and bolts – let me clear up one big misunderstanding. Muscle soreness is not caused by nor has anything to do with the buildup of lactic acid. If you were under that impression you can thank me for clearing up the single most frustrating misconception in the exercise science.

Now that we’ve got that cleared up, we can move on. The soreness you feel within 24 hours or sooner following a workout is considered the less severe form of muscle pain. It also happens to be less debilitating. This type of pain is primarily caused by small microscopic tears at the connective site of the muscle fiber (called the sarcomere). You can also recognize this more mild type of muscle soreness by the ability to alleviate it with additional exercise or movement therapy e.g. stretching, massage.

The most painful form of muscle soreness is commonly named DOMS or Delayed onset muscle soreness. This is caused by larger tears and the consequent delayed healing of those tears over days following an intense workout. DOMS usually shows its ugly head roughly 48 to 72 hours following an intense workout. The cause and the primary difference maker between normal soreness and DOMS is twofold: 1) heavy eccentric movements or 2) movements that are extremely uncommon to the athletes. If you’re wondering what an eccentric movement is, I posted a really nerdy video that does a good job explaining it.

Hopefully at this point you guys can think of a time or two where you walked out of TSAC, woke up the next day and thought, “Wow, I’m actually not that sore!” Then BAM you woke up the day after and it felt like a hose kicked you in the ass. Cool, now that you know the difference between normal muscle pain and DOMS and you can probably remember a time when it happened – let me explain why all that is important.

1. DOMS causes an inflammation response that can lead to a reduced ability to perform normal range of motion. So that deep squat you guys have been working on may just take a short vacation during a DOMS outbreak.

2. The same inflammation response mentioned above is likely to cause a lot of pain. When people feel a lot of pain they take a lot of Ibuprofen. This is bad – because while it might alleviate the feeling of pain, it will cause the muscle tissue to grow more slowly. This will cause you to actually be more sore longer.

3. DOMS also contributes to a huge decline in your body’s ability to produce strength and power. Your brain won’t let you go full speed because it’s fearful of causing more injury. Even more concerning is the fact that this drop off can last anywhere from 8-12 days.

Now that you’re all terrified of getting DOMS just like the high five (if you don’t get that joke see me tomorrow), let me reassure you that this is somewhat of a normal part of progression, I suggest you ask Jen about her first Pull Up workout.

The goal with high intensity exercise is to dance between no soreness and DOMS. Needless, to say you don’t want to shoot for inflicting DOMS every day you work out BUT it’s important that you push yourself to the point of general muscle soreness more often than not. What I do want you to take away from this post is a better understanding of what to do once you’ve got it (DOMS not the high five). The best thing you can do is rest, ice yourself down and drink plenty of water. Each of you will have a different tolerance/response to the WODs we program so you all should have a system that works for you individually.


A. handstand push-up

skill work


(30) for time

B. 5 rounds for time
(24) box jumps @24"/20"
(12) ohs @95/65
(6) pull-ups [chest to bar]

  1. April 12, 2012 @ 9:20 pm


    Oh geez, you do NOT want to know about my arms, DOMS, and my first pull up workout. I think it was a bit far from the normal progression. There must have been something special about TSAC to make me want to even attempt to come back after that stint. Good thing is, I eventually healed.

  2. April 12, 2012 @ 10:34 pm

    Julie h.

    Great post Matt (shut up Alexis Brooks). Haven't experienced DOMS for awhile. Maybe I'll push myself harder tomorrow (be quiet Kim).

  3. April 13, 2012 @ 6:32 am


    DOMS would be me NOT being able to sit on the toilet for a week when I 1st started, that squat down was not so great! Juile H IS A SANDBAGER AND NEEDS SOME DOMS in her life! :)


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