DOMS is an acronym for delayed onset muscle soreness. This is the discomfort that sometimes follows our workouts but usually dissipates after 72 hours. As a young guy new to lifting I used to believe that unless I had the lingering effects from my previous workout I hadn't reaped the rewards. I wasn't getting bigger. I wasn't getting stronger. The workout was probably just a function of going through the paces.
Since those earlier days of lifting I have found that I now appreciate the pain-free condition post-workout. What has attributed to the change? Are my workouts less beneficial than my younger days when I could barely straighten my elbows after a biceps workout or cringed every time I walked downstairs after a heavy leg day?
Absolutely not. In fact my workouts are better than they've ever been. And here's why.
- I listen more closely to my body. We are designed and built to maintain a biological balance called homeostasis. Think of your body temperature, your pH, your electrolyte balance etc and you'll see evidence of this balance. When we train we are trying to disrupt this balance to elicit a response. There is a threshold we can flirt with but don't want to exceed where we can still extract benefits from training. The more in tune we are with our bodies we will learn what this threshold is, how close we can some to it and when to back off. Ignoring what your body is trying to tell you will result in consequences to compensate for this disruption. I don't mean for everyone to now back way off in their training, do nothing strenuous or with intensity. I'm saying that if you are experiencing physical discomfort after your workouts you may want want to dial it down a notch and see what happens.
- I take more time to warm-up. As a young guy in the gym a warm-up use to involve doing a few presses with no weight on the bar, putting a dowel across the shoulders for some trunk rotations and a few flyes across the chest. And this was if I had time to warm-up! If I was rushed I went straight into the first working set. Since those early days I'll do a short general warm-up on the bike, followed by some tennis ball rolls, a dynamic warm-up, ankle mobilizations, wall slides, plate chops and leg swings. If everything is feeling good I'll ease into my first warm-up sets. If not then there will be some more attention to whatever areas need it. The first exercise we'll do may involve 2-4 sets with less than working loads to building up to the working sets.
- I balance out my training. There are certain keys I try and include in any program I design. I want to include ground-based, multi joint exercises that are multi-planar. Rather than simply design a traditional split such as a "chest day" or a "leg day" I'll split the training up as hip or knee dominant days. See the difference? One is based around exercises the other is based around movements. Which one transfers more closely to real life and sport? To take it one step further I'll look to make sure the movements are balanced in terms of planes. If one movement is a vertical press the next one will be horizontal to balance this out. Now imagine the stress placed on the shoulder if everytime I do a pressing motion I press in one plane only? We're going to see a lot of overload, repetitive strain and potential injury down the line.
- I make sure to do some auxiliary work. Many of us have tight hips. Many as well have restricted shoulder mobility. Our cores are usually strong in one plane, or two, but weak in the third. Our trunks tend to be quite good at flexing but not as good at extending. One day a week I'll spend an entire workout addressing each of these tendencies. It's surprising how great the body feels after a session addressing all of these common deficiencies.
This is just a quick start on what you can do to make your workouts less straining and actually extract gains sooner. With respect to my own workouts I am as strong in some of my lifts as I've ever been. Deadlifting 405 lbs for reps used to have me stiff and sore for days. Not I'm good to go the next day. Gone are the days of no pain no gain. Instead think of it as no pain all gain.
Have a great weekend.