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Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)

Have you ever wondered why your muscles are sore after a workout or after trying a new exercise? Well muscle soreness you feel 24 to 72 hours after exercise is called delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS. Symptoms of DOMS may include:
·        Tenderness or stiffness to touch or movement
·        Muscle fatigue
·        Reduced flexibility of muscle due to the pain and stiffness
·        Short-term loss of muscle strength


These symptoms don’t show up after all workouts and can affect anyone from elite athletes to beginners – they generally follow trying anew exercise, exercising at a high-intensity, or especially after completing eccentric exercise. Eccentric exercise is when the muscle is contracting as it is lengthening. For example, when extending the elbow and lowering the weight down during a bicep curl the bicep muscles are working eccentrically. DOMS is triggered when the muscle contractions cause microscopic tears in your muscle fibres. The microtrauma results in an inflammatory response (repair process) where electrolytes such as calcium begin to accumulate. The immune system also gets involved, sending in immune cells called T-cells (Helper cells) to infiltrate the sites of damage. This inflammatory process is thought to be the cause of DOMS by triggering the healing and pain – it isn’t an indication that you’ve done something wrong.

Is DOMS a sign of a ‘good’ workout?

Many people believe that if you aren’t sore after a workout then you haven’t worked hard enough and won’t make any improvement. This is not true, after each workout your body will adapt, and it will get to a point where you can complete the workout with less or no pain. This does not mean that you are missing out on fitness gains from those workouts, but it can be an indicator that you are ready to progress your exercise or increase the intensity.

Can DOMS impact performance?

Yes. In terms of athletic performance DOMS can have a negative impact. Muscles soreness may result in altered muscle function and joint mechanics which may substantially reduce performance. Therefore, it is highly recommended not to perform a new or intense workout too close to the day of competition.

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