Can You Train With DOM’s?

Delayed onset muscular soreness (DOMS) can quite literally be a real pain in the bum! DOMS often occurs after a tough resistance training session, due in part to the increased amount of eccentric work your muscles are expected to cope with throughout the session. Traditional thinking suggests that it is harmful for injured soft tissues to receive a damaging stimulus (training session) during the early stages of the recovery process. Professional and recreational athletes alike are reluctant to take days out from their training regime due to an attack of the DOMS and often attempt to train through the pain. In doing so, it is generally thought that they could well be causing further damage to their soft tissues. Clearly this makes life difficult for many coaches and athletes. The burning question is, should they train through the pain at the risk of further injury or take some time out from training and hope their fitness levels don’t drop off?

Recently, some of the guesswork was removed by a piece of collaborative research carried out in Japan and Western Australia (Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, Volume 16 (1), pp 117-122). The study examined whether performing repeated bouts of eccentric exercise two and four days after an initial damaging bout of exercise would result in an increase in muscle damage. Subjects completed three sets of 10 repetitions of eccentric actions of the elbow flexors using a dumbbell. One arm performed a single bout of this exercise and then two weeks later the other arm performed the identical exercise followed by the same bout two and four days after the first. The study showed that no significant changes in indicators of muscle damage were observed when the exercise bouts were repeated compared to a single bout of exercise. There were no significant differences in changes in maximal isometric force, range of movement, muscle soreness or plasma CPK levels (blood borne indicator of muscles damage) between the two exercise conditions. The multinational research team concludes that when training with sore muscles, no additional damaged is induced and recovery is not affected by the additional training sessions. This is clearly good news for athletes who don’t want to take a couple of days off from training because they are suffering from DOMS.

Nick GranthamCan You Train With DOM’s?

11 Comments on “Can You Train With DOM’s?”

  1. Nick Grantham

    Thanks for the comment Niel, it is always good to get comments based on ‘real world’ experiences. I think there is no reason why you can’t train with DOMs, you just need to adjust your training slightly…but crack on and keep training.

  2. cat

    I would utterly endorse this comment – it definitely helps me to train again (in fact I tell my clients – “if in pain – do it again!”)

  3. Mikel

    I realise this is an old post, but I find this particular topic very interesting. Lots of research of this type often falls short of getting a proper answer (money restraints I guess). In this example, surely DOMS would be expected to be lower after the third time of repeating the same exercise, I know I feel DOMS after the first session of an exercise way more than when I do that same exercise again the next session. The lack of a longer-term study, and a proper control group makes it very difficult to analyse results.

    Personally I am more interested in it from a longer term performance side of things, i.e. how long should I wait before I train again to achieve the best long term results. We often see graphs in text books with curves representing supercompensation, we hear about the optimum time to train, and that everyone is different, but what real world clues are there as to when this is. To me, that is where top quality research is the only way of finding a proper answer, because what we feel, and what is actually true is often different, e.g. it may feel like you’ve achieved something by training with DOMS, but over a month you may actually lose out in terms of performance gains.
    Sorry bout the long post and keep up the good work on the site!

  4. Nick Grantham

    Thanks for the comment. Ahh, research, yep it is always tough to get definitive answers but the main thing is that we keep questioning. Recovery and supercompensation are tricky to measure with any real level of certainty (not always practical to go to the lab and wire yourself up before the next session!). I use a range of tools and have found that the use of long term diaries where you can build up data over at least 3 months is helpful for knowing when to push on with training and when to hold back. This is where the ‘art’ of coaching comes to play, knowing your athletes and how they adapt to the stress placed upon them during training.

  5. Mikel

    Thanks for the reply, I agree. I’ve tried to get in the habit of keeping a basic training diary just for those reasons, find it’s much easier to look back and see how well you did if it’s all written down (probly down to my rubbish memory!).

  6. Ian Willows

    Hi Nick,
    As someone posted in 2010 regards this might be an old post, i would reiterate that and perhaps some research and thinking has moved on.
    I don't know the piece of research this is taken from, hence, i would not like to give advice to an athlete and say that they could repeat an exercise 2 days later just because they were not sore. I will explain my thought process later. We don't know the loads they were using, trained/untrained etc. There is a lot of difference, neurologically, between a bicep curl and a snatch! We as coaches often see so many fundamentals that are wrong. What we often see are people repeating an exercise frequently over a long period! This will no doubt lead to an increase in neural fatigue and possibly injury down the line. People can sometimes misinterpret this information and go over the top.
    In defense of training the same movement daily or every other day, I recall this is from Dan John, quote 'if its important, do it everyday'??? I fundamentally agree with him and having read his book 'Never Let Go' I interpreted it as those exercises that are important should be done daily but with body weight or a relatively light weight.  
    I still ascertain that if you have DOMS, to wait. I think I would look at the risk versus reward. They could be doing something just as important on a day if they did have DOMS. Movement and stability could be a better option on that day rather than lifting heavy. To have that much DOMS to last more than 48 hours (24 hours post exercise bout) then I might suggest to them that they are not in good condition.
    Mike Boyle wrote in his most recent book about training legs on consecutive days but focusing on a hip dominant on session 1, knee dominant on session 2, hip dominant on session 3 and knee dominant on session 4. This allows the athlete to train an area that provides massive hormone release and train heavy on consecutive days without performing the same movement and first and foremost decreasing the risk of injury.
    Great posts of late Nick especially 'strength training and youths'.
    Ian Willows 

  7. Nick Grantham


    Thanks for taking the time to write such a long comment. I agree with everything you are saying, I guess I was simply reporting research and putting it out there that we may not always need to wait for DOMS to clear up before training again. I agree though, this is something that needs careful consideration and if you decide to go for it you need to be able to back up your decision.

  8. Pingback: Should I workout when I’m sore from training? | Themightylewry

  9. Cathal Conway

    I am back at the gym after Christmas and exam time and suffering DOMS after mainly leg day 2 days ago. Despite this I lifted more weight the today. It will be interesting to see if it causes me any injuries. I probably should be doing more research before training!

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