Personal Trainer Course Factsheet – The Mystery of Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness (DOMS)

The Mystery of Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness (DOMS)

As a future Fitness Professional you will know that regular exercise is a key ingredient in maintaining health and fitness and preventing future illness.

Once your have completed your Personal Trainer course you will start working one to one with clients many of whom will be new to regular exercise and lead sedentary lifestyles. At the other end of the scale you will also be working with clients who are exercise enthusiasts enlisting your help and expertise to take their fitness to the next level.

When starting a new fitness routine or taking it to a new level of intensity muscle soreness can develop. This is as a direct result of the muscles in the body working harder or in new ways that they are unaccustomed to. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as DOMS or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness and it typically develops about 24 hours after the exercise session.

Understanding DOMS is critical to your success with Personal Training. By helping clients through this early phase of discomfort with the right level of motivation, coaching and advice you will see them quickly progress and the results will follow. Leave your client to suffer in silence however at your peril as negativity can soon set in with a feeling of the early exercise phase being ‘too difficult’, ‘too uncomfortable’ or ‘just not for me’.
In this fact sheet we will explore:

  • Why DOMS occurs
  • Techniques that can lead to DOMS
  • Helpful treatment

Why DOMS Occurs?

Any new activity places a new strain on the body that it simply isn’t used to.

DOMS can occur when:

  • Activity is resumed after a long period of time.
  • Exercising in an unfamiliar activity even if there is a previous level of conditioning.
  • The frequency of training, intensity of training or duration is increased.

DOMS will occur in the muscles that were utilised during the new activity or higher intensity activity and can be linked to microscopic tears in the connective tissue or to the effects of metabolic by-products. The soreness your client is feeling is a consequence of these microscopic changes.

Personal Trainers can help clients minimise client soreness by gently entering into a sport, gym or strength training regime and ensuring there is a thorough warm up and cool down phase in place.

Techniques That Can Lead To DOMS

In concentric muscle loading there is typically a shortening of the muscle during force production. This occurs during exercises such as pull ups.

In eccentric muscle training there is typically a lengthening of the muscle during force production. This type of contraction is very common in daily life. For example, when walking downhill the quadriceps perform eccentric contractions or a braking motion to offset the possibility of toppling over.

In strength training when the resistance is lowered it requires an eccentric contraction and eccentric training has a tendency to be associated with DOMS.

To a lesser extent isometric training can also lead to DOMS. Isometric contractions occur when there is a static force development. Here there is no change in muscle length during force production. The concept is similar to trying to push a car with the hand brake left on!

How can Treatment Help?

Depending on the severity of DOMS your client is experiencing they may or may not be able to continue training at the level of intensity prescribed. Be flexible and willing to make adaptations to your programme design to help your client through this phase.

Gentle movement and mobilisation can be useful such as incorporating a few days of walking.
It can be helpful to apply bagged frozen peas for 2-3 minutes to affected sites.
Massage is also a useful recommendation.

Rest assured that DOMS is only a temporary sensation which serves as an immunisation from some future discomfort or harm. Remind clients that it is a definite sign that their body is adapting to the new level of exercise to which it has been unaccustomed.

The Academy of Fitness Professionals provide the gold standard in accredited personal training courses with state of the art training fully endorsed by REPs, Skills Active and the NCFE.  Their specialist knowledge features in the UK health and fitness media including the Mirror, BBC2 and Women’s Running.  This is the ultimate learning destination for those serious about their fitness industry education and long term career as a Personal Trainer.

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