Diminishing Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

Diminishing Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

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Diminishing Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness


By Amelia Ricci


So you completed a quality weights session a couple of days ago and an intense cardio session the day before that. This morning you woke up and rolled out of bed, only to find you could barely stride across the room, let alone bend over and pull your shorts on. You’ve got a full day of training clients – how on earth are you going to demonstrate the exercises? Keep reading because this article provides some of my tried-and-tested tips as well as scientific research to help you recover faster and move onto your next workout with energy and enthusiasm!

What is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness?

Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is the pain felt in and around the muscle after strenuous exercise. It is fairly common when commencing a new fitness program or increasing the intensity or resistance level of an exercise.

DOMS usually reaches its peak some 24-48 hours post-exercise and disappears within 3-7 days and is thought to be a result of microscopic tearing of the muscle fibres(9). Depending on the amount of tearing, this pain can be debilitating and can adversely affect the next training session. This makes it especially important to try and reduce training load on muscles suffering from DOMS in the days following an intense training session by training another muscle group completely or doing light exercise.(2)

It is important to note that you need to keep moving. Research indicates it is best to move the muscles using gentle exercise rather than immobilising them(1). Gentle exercise has been shown to increase blood flow, assisting with muscle recovery(9). So if you have trained legs and they are exceptionally stiff, take a walk along the beach and do some slow walking, knee deep in the water, to loosen up the muscles and get the blood flowing. On the other hand, if you have excessive upper body soreness, a flowing-style yoga sequence that incorporates sun salutations where you raise and lower your arms may assist in the recovery from DOMS.

Key tips to help you train hard and recover well after sessions:



Research indicates that a warm-up may reduce DOMS (9), so ensure you warm up thoroughly prior to every workout. This may include 10 minutes of light cardio or lifting light weights with the muscles you intend on working.

Eight to 10 minutes on the cross trainer set to an easy speed and resistance will warm up the upper body in preparation for a back or arms workout. I would then follow this light cardio by what I call ‘moving stretches’.

As a yoga teacher, I have learnt many techniques over the years, but dynamic stretching is one of my favourite. This is where you don’t take the muscle to the end of its stretching; instead, you simply stretch about 50 per cent of your maximum range and keep moving gently in and out of the stretch. I also try to time the stretch with deep inhalations and exhalations. These moving stretches are performed pre-workout.

Upper body

When warming up the upper body, try performing shoulder rotations, draping over a stability ball in a back-arch position, or performing a cat pose on all fours, where you arch the back and then flatten it into a neutral position.

Lower body

To warm your lower body up, going for a light cycle or easy jog is a great option. Follow this with a moving hip flexor stretch. Start by kneeling on a mat and place one foot forward; alternate between a hamstring and hip flexor stretch (moving forward and back). Standing quadriceps stretch and light standing body-weight squats halfway down are also great options prior to a workout involving the lower body.

Not only will you feel warmer after these stretches, but you will also activate the muscles and connect your mind to the muscle so when you do start your workout you have your brain pathways directed to switch onto the correct muscles.


Stretching post-workout is fantastic as the muscles are still warm. I recommend looking at the stretching chart at your gym (or purchase a stretching chart or book).

Spend a minimum of 10 minutes stretching and try to breathe deeply. My rule of thumb is 10 complete inhalations and exhalations for each stretch. It is simply not enough to hold a stretch for a few seconds.


In the days following the workout, using the foam roller and stretching the whole body every day will alleviate muscle soreness (see pg.60 for more information on the benefits of foam rolling). I stretch for 15 minutes every day and I leave my foam roller and yoga mat in the middle of my lounge room so I don’t forget. You can easily do this before bed if it’s been a busy day.


Make sure you are drinking enough pure, filtered water. I suggest at least 3-5L per day, depending on the climate and your body weight. Research suggests that hot training conditions combined with dehydration can significantly reduce performance and recovery from DOMS(3).


Supplements such as l-glutamine and branch chain amino acids (BCAAs) are good options to assist with post-workout recovery and repair. I am a big believer in quality fresh, organic food as a priority; however, I have had success with BCAAs and also l-glutamine. Try to avoid the plethora of artificial colours and flavours and choose a product that has a minimal amount of unpronounceable ingredients(8). (Check out pg.54 to learn more about what to look out for when buying supplements.)


Don’t underestimate the benefits of a good yoga or Pilates class. These classes assist with alignment, muscle recovery through stretching and also help with deep breathing and relaxation techniques such as meditation at the end of the class. I personally would not have lasted this long in the fitness industry if I had not established the habit of practising these beneficial disciplines every week.


Fill your bath with warm water and soak for a minimum of 20 minutes. I recommend using two cups of Epsom salts and then adding some lavender oil. Not only can this help with DOMS, it is also a wonderful way to relax. 


Sometimes I use a medicated oil such as tiger balm or a cream provided by my physiotherapist. This can be applied directly to the area to assist to reduce pain. Both research and personal experience have found these creams can provide temporary relief to the area(4).


Massage has shown varying results that may be attributed to the time of massage application and the type of massage technique used(2)(5).

I personally think massage gives me great benefit but it can be painful to touch the muscle during the treatment.  Therefore, it is important to use a qualified sports massage practitioner. Always remember to drink plenty of water after the massage to flush out lactic acid.

Training hard is a must to excel in your chosen sport but the emphasis on recovery is not always remembered and as an athlete this can make or break your training schedule!

If you are still experiencing unreasonable amounts of soreness, consult your medical practitioner.


Amelia’s qualifications include personal training and group fitness accreditation, Master of Business and a Bachelor of Business. She is also a qualified beauty therapist and MAC pro make-up artist. She sees herself as perfectly imperfect and has struggled with self-esteem, work-life balance and health issues since starting in the fitness industry in 1997.

Amelia loves competing in the bodybuilding shows of all federations in bikini, fitness and figure. Her placings have included two wins and a number of top three placings but it is the journey and simply stepping on stage that motivates her! She now trains fitness models, brides and mums with her business Living Beauty and her motto ‘From the inside out’.

Visit www.livingbeauty.com.au or find Amelia on Facebook.com/AmeliaRicciSportsModelFitnessTrainer




1.Armstrong, R 1984, ‘Mechanisms of Exercise-induced Delayed Onset Muscular Soreness: A brief review’, Medical Science Sports Exercise

2.Cheung K, Hume P, Maxwell L 2003, ‘Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness: Treatment Strategies and Performance Factors’, Sports Medical School of Community Health and Sports Studies, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand

3.Cleary A, Sweeney L, Kendrick Z & Sitler M 2005, ‘Dehydration and Symptoms of Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness in Hyperthermic Males’, Journal of Athletic Training

4.Johar P, Grover V, Topp R & Behm D 2012, ‘A comparison of topical menthol to ice on pain, evoked tetanic and voluntary force during delayed onset muscle soreness’, International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy

5.Nelson, N 2013, ‘Delayed onset muscle soreness: is massage effective?’ Journal of Body Movement Therapy

6.Newham, DJ 1988, ‘The consequences of eccentric contractions and their relationship to delayed onset muscle pain’ European Journal Applied Physiology

7.Olsen O, Sjøhaug M, Van Beekvelt M, & Mork P 2012, ‘The Effect of Warm-Up and Cool-Down Exercise on Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness in the Quadriceps Muscle: a Randomized Controlled Trial’, Journal of Human Kinetics

8.Ra S, Miyazaki T, Ishikura K, Nagayama H, Komine S, Nakata Y, Maeda S, Matsuzaki Y & Ohmori H 2013, ‘Combined effect of branched-chain amino acids and taurine supplementation on delayed onset muscle soreness and muscle damage in high-intensity eccentric exercise’, Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition

9.Spine and Sport Health, ‘DOMS – What Causes Muscle Pain and Soreness After Exercise’, viewed May 22 2014,  <http://www.spineandsporthealth.com/Spine_and_Sport_Health/DOMS.html>


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