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.