Why You Might Experience D.O.M.S Even When Your Muscles Are Well-Trained


It is no surprise that when you are just starting out a fitness programme, or returning to one after a period of inactivity, you will be hit hard by muscle soreness (otherwise known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or D.O.M.S).

In fact, even physically active people experience D.O.M.S when they are increasing the load in their strength training workout. It is the natural process of your muscles getting used to an increased load, and growing stronger in the process. Ideally, once your muscles get over the D.O.M.S, it should be well equipped to cope with the greater load.

However, there is one question that occasionally pops up, and that I would like to address today. Why is it the case that even well-trained muscles can experience D.O.M.S when exposed to the same load and the same exercise, but a different medium? For example, if you are used to doing your standard bench press but switched to a dumbbell bench press one day with the same load, why is it that you are likely to experience D.O.M.S?

The reason is because a change in the medium, however minor we might think it is, changes the ratio of work done between each individual muscle in that group. Furthermore, the differences between the mediums may also recruit other muscles around to “assist” with coping with the load. These muscles – you guessed it, might not have been used for a long time. That being the case, of course it would be exposed to the lactic acid build-up that contributes to D.O.M.S.


Let’s examine the bench press example in a bit more detail. When you are doing the standard bench press, you are lifting the bar off the rack and lowering it. That means that the rack supports the weight of the bar and plates until you start performing the exercise. Furthermore, the bar also offers some support while you are performing the exercise.

When you switch to the dumbbell chest press, the first thing that changes is that you need to lift each dumbbell to the starting position. The second difference is that there is no bar to support the entire structure. The third difference is that the angle of the exercise will not be exactly the same as the standard bench press. In all the cases above, the dynamics of the muscles worked would have changed, and other supporting muscles would have been recruited.

So while we think that changing from dumbbell to barbell to resistance bands to bodyweight exercise is no big deal, even the most subtle of changes can affect your body and muscles. This is why many fitness trainers will tell you to stick with the same exercise and increase the load, till you reach a plateau or “sticking point”, before moving to the next medium.

I hope this has cleared things up a little bit, and that you have a better understanding of muscle dynamics now. If you wish to learn how to create a good solid exercise program, please check out the Lifelong Fitness Blueprint, which is also part of the Granite Fitness Solution, Travel Fitness Solution, and Granite Fitness Masterclass.



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