We often hear people freak out because they AREN’T getting sore, thinking that their workouts were a waste. Here’s why you don’t need to be worried.
– Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is the muscle ache experience 24-72 hours after exercise. It is frequently referred to as a sign of a workout being effective. DOMS is, however, a poor indicator of actual muscle damage.
We all have different genetic predispositions of developing DOMS and a workout can be perfectly adequate without DOMS occurring. Muscle growth is thus not dependent on DOMS, but on the degree of mechanical overload on your muscles in combination with adequate nutrition and recovery.
DOMS has been shown to reduce muscle performance up to 24 hours following exercise, but at the same time exercise is one of the most effective ways of temporarily reducing DOMS. Ideally, you would therefore want to wait at least 24 hours before training the same muscle group again for optimal performance, but as far as damage is concerned it is okay to exercise even with DOMS!
Time for actual optimal recovery of the muscle varies greatly between muscles and depends on many more factors such as level of fitness, diet, training intensity, and amount of sleep.
All in all, DOMS is just a sign that you have switched things up, but switching things up is not as important as consistently adding volume or intensity to your workouts, and DOMS can limit your ability to do this. Therefore, no DOMS is a good thing, as long as you keep progressing.
1: Kazunori Nosaka, Mike Newton. Repeated Eccentric Exercise Bouts Do Not Exacerbate Muscle Damage and Repair. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2002, 16(1), 117–122.
2: Nosaka, K, M Newton, and P Sacco. “Delayed-onset muscle soreness does not reflect the magnitude of eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage.” Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports 12, no. 6 (2002): 337-346.