Tips on Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness

As we enter 2020, you may be one of millions of Americans that have decided to integrate fitness into their lives which is one of the best life-changing decisions that you will ever make.  And, as you begin this process, you should prepare to experience delayed onset of muscle soreness (i.e. DOMS).  This, soreness is to be expected when you begin a program, but it may also continue on some level as you become fitter and train consistently. 

Clients often ask me why they continue to experience DOMS even once they have achieved their desired fitness level and are maintaining that level effectively. My response is that, within reason, since the body must be stressed to create adaptation responses, continuing to improve, you may anticipate some soreness, at least locally, throughout each workout week.

Although there is a great deal yet to be learned about DOMS, which usually presents within 24-48 hours following strenuous eccentric exercise, exercise physiologists widely believe that there is a series of events, the scope of which are too complex for this discussion, that may contribute, and/or cause DOMS.  However, a brief review of DOMS and the suspected cause as well as suggestions for limiting the degree of DOMS experienced will be featured below.  As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.

-According to Larkson & Sayers, 1999; Friden & Lieber, 1992; Smith, 1991, “DOMS is caused by tissue injury from excessive mechanical force, specifically eccentric force, placed upon muscle and connective tissue” (i.e. ligaments/tendons/fascia, etc.).

-While this sounds a little daunting, when exercise programs are properly designed for each individual, eccentric training is usually an integral part of that program.  The muscle requires eccentric training to effectively create hypertrophy, or an increase in muscle size and to increase muscular strength.  The degree, or extent of eccentric training included in the program will depend upon that individual’s needs. The more deconditioned a client is requires the trainer to design the program for slower progression to prevent severe DOMS which may be very discouraging to that client and prevent them from adhering to their training program.

-DOMS may be global or local.   For example, you may feel the soreness all over the body or within a specific muscle group.  An example might be strenuously eccentrically training your triceps muscle group and experiencing DOMS specifically in the triceps for the next few days.  Versus performing a total body exercise program when DOMS is felt globally.

-To offset the symptoms of DOMS, begin your program slowly, progress safely and logically, and initially limit the amount of eccentric training with heavy loads until your body has begun to show positive signs of progress.  And, include myofascial release/stretching/flexibility training.

-You may expect some DOMS during that 24-48 hour window following eccentric training and then continue experiencing some soreness for a day or so following onset.

-If the soreness continues beyond 24-48 hours once DOMS begins, then you may have trained a bit too aggressively for your current fitness level.

-If so, take it down a notch on the next training session.  And, if you feel absolutely no DOMS following your training sessions, you may need to kick it up a notch on the next one.  But, again slowly and safely!  Jackie Wright is the owner/manager of Mountain Life Fitness, LLC located in Granby, Colorado.  She may be reached at her website at, and her email at

Leave a Comment