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DOMS – 12 Areas of focus to help you recover faster from DOMS

We’re all familiar with Mother Nature’s excessive exercising fee, DOMS.

After your previous workout gives you this nagging muscle soreness. And steals your strength to boot.

Check out these 12 recovery tips to help you recover from Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). Plus an additional focus on perceptual and muscle strength recovery. With the goal of helping you bounce back faster after your workouts. Allowing you to enhance your performance by increasing your intensity, frequency and volume.

Before workout

1-Sleep Recovery – Get well rested and start expecting more from your body. If you can get 7-9 hours of uninterrupted and sober sleep. You should find your body bouncing back from your workouts. If not, you will most likely find yourself slow to recover. While DOMS rears its ugly head, again and again.

If you lack the time to fit sleep into your schedule. Consider using short 15-20 minute power naps.[1] Which can leave you feeling refreshed and help you sneak some extra sleep time into your daily schedule.

If you suffer from difficulty falling asleep. Consider supplementing 5mg of melatonin 30-60 minutes before bed to see if your sleep troubles improve.[2] A $10 supply of melatonin should last you approximately 2-3 months depending on your intake amount.

Some other ideas to improve your sleep may include:

  • Limiting your light exposure at night and increasing it early morning
  • Using ear plugs, white noise and fans
  • Using eye covers, blocking out all light
  • Sticking to a regular sleeping schedule

And for everyone out there trying to reach elite athlete status. There’s a reason why the innovative Philadelphia Eagles coach, Chip Kelly, expects between 10-12 hours of sleep per night from an elite athlete.[3] Because it’s the most important thing you can do to help you recover from your workouts and from DOMS.

2-Nutrion Recovery – If you want to increase your ability to recover from your workouts and limit DOMS. Then put yourself in a position to succeed.

Bodybuilding great Jay Cutler said it best, “I don’t eat for taste, I eat for function.”[4]

Limit DOMS by eating enough calories. As under eating will only worsen and increase your DOMS.

Then focus on avoiding inflammatory foods. You want to put 100% of your body’s resources into recovering from your workouts. Putting yourself in a position to succeed by limiting inflammation allows for the greatest amount of your body’s resources to help you recover from your workouts and DOMS.

Poor food choices that increase inflammation occupy valuable resources that you can no longer use to recover from your workouts and DOMS.

You do not need to avoid inflammatory food completely. Only to keep your post-workout meals NET anti-inflammatory. Which means you can eat inflammatory food. Just offset it with enough anti-inflammatory food.

3-Hydration Recovery – Looking for a great tool to recover from heat stress and hydrate when you workout during the summer months? Then drink crushed ice slushies.[5]

Regardless of the time of year, you need water to maximize your performance and your ability to recover. You need to consume at least 60 ounces of water every day. And probably more depending on your body’s size, activity level and environment. If you do not hydrate, your muscles will start acting like unconditioned leather. Cracks will form in your routine and DOMS will thrive.

Your muscles, composed of over 70% of water. Need water to function to their potential. Our bodies, composed of greater than 60% of water. Also need water to help carry nutrients and oxygen to our muscles.

Meanwhile, dehydration increases the stress on your body and on the heart. As your heart works harder to pump the thicker blood around your body. And this decreases the available resources to help you recover from DOMS and improve your muscle strength recovery. You can expect the following impact on your performance:

How do you know if you drink enough water?

You should pay close attention to the color of your urine. Ideally you should expect a clear or a light yellow color. If a darker color, then that should alert you to rehydrate. You could also weigh yourself before and after your workouts. And then replenish your lost fluids.

Some potential daily stumbling blocks if you drink a set level of water every day.

  • Change in seasons – The amount of fluid that kept you hydrated during the winter months might not work when the weather warms up.
  • Hotter days than normal – Increased heat, body temperature and sweating increases your hydration demand.
  • Less humid days – The less humid the day or climate. The faster your sweat evaporates during your workouts which can lead to a faster onset of dehydration.

Your diet can also play a role in your hydration levels. Check out the top 10 foods based on water composition.

In the end, listen to yourself. Drink to your thirst.[ ] One beverage, water, taken frequently throughout the day. Will keep your recovery on track and keep DOMS at bay.

4-Believe in the Belief Effect – Well, it’s just a placebo.[6] So, it doesn’t really do anything to help you recover from DOMS or increase your performance.

Don’t fall for this trap. Perceptual recovery can increase your ability to recover from DOMS and improve your workouts. Which can lead to enhanced performance.

Because when you make your mind a believer in something. You start using the most powerful recovery tool of them all. Stay positive, believe and expect that what you do to recover actually helps you.[7, 8]

Many of the techniques discussed below make you feel good during or after you use a certain recovery technique. The endorphins released when you use that recovery technique create a positive perceptual recovery experience. And because you think it works, then it most likely does.

The mind, such a powerful tool to waste when recovering from DOMS, or trying to enhance your performance.[9]

However, the belief effect works both ways. The nocebo effect also exist. Any negative expectations will lead to increased pain.[10] Thus not believing in a recovery technique may lead to increased muscle soreness and DOMS. While possibly hurting your performance.

During workout

5-Warm-up – Whenever you give 100%. You should warm up your muscles before reaching full throttle.

A low intensity 5-10 minute bike ride will get your blood flowing before you start your workout. When weight training, warm up using lighter weights than you will train with to practice your form. If your goal is strength or power, you need to warm up the muscle for it to respond to its peak potential at the beginning of your workouts. Just don’t expect your warm up to prevent or limit the impact of DOMS.

While static stretching before a workout can hinder your performance.[11] It can also help you. And you should use it when needed. Hold your static stretches between 10-30 seconds to help increase your flexibility.[12] While you can also add bands to your stretching routine to improve the resistance and variation of your stretches.

You should mainly focus on using dynamic stretching before your workouts. To help your body with activity specific warm ups. This will help you to get the blood flowing and raise your heart rate. While also increasing your range of motion without hindering your performance.[12]

Self massage, foam rollers and acupressure mats can also help you feel loose and increase your range of motion. No warm-up, or stretching routine will eliminate DOMS. But it will hopefully keep you healthy, and allow you to optimize your workout schedule.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” as Benjamin Franklin once famously said.[13]

6-Build Up Your Frequency and Intensity – How do you prevent DOMS or get rid of DOMS?

Best answer, workout that muscle group more often.

If you do not give 100% intensity every day, or four to five times a week. Then stay smart about what you can accomplish on an infrequent workout schedule.

You will need to pace yourself for the entirety of a workout cycle. And not go all out in a one, two or three day span. Especially true after a long lay off. When you would benefit from cutting your normal workout in half. Which will help your body adapt and build up to the stress again.

Bodybuilding great Lee Haney puts it into perspective when he said, “Exercise to stimulate, not to annihilate. The world wasn’t formed in a day, and neither were we. Set small goals and build upon them.”[14]

Once you build up to working out daily. You will find that your body adapted to the stress and DOMS becomes less and less of an issue for you. Known as the repeated bout effect. Your muscles overcome stress much easier after their first bout when performing familiar exercises.[15-17] But when you switch up your workouts, or target your muscles in a new or different way. You will probably find that your DOMS quickly returns.

So, if you really want to eliminate DOMS, workout more often. Your infrequent workout schedule maybe the main reason behind your DOMS.

And just because your workout gave you DOMS. That does not mean you got stronger, bigger or went through a great workout. Your DOMS, a positive sign of adaptation, but many get bigger and stronger without experiencing any DOMS.[18] Do not use it to judge the effectiveness of your workouts.

Post-workout Recovery

7-Protein Recovery Shake/Drink – You should take 25-40 grams of whey (fast digesting) protein after your workout to help muscular recovery and growth. If you take a pre-exercise meal 1-2 hours before your workout. Then you will want to take your whey protein in the 1-2 hour post-workout window. If your previous meal was 3-4 hours before your workout or longer. Then you will want to take your whey protein immediately after your workout.[19]

Generally speaking, protein is protein. So you want to grab something that satisfies your price range, macros, taste buds, protein per serving, mixing ability and ease of digestion. Check the quality of your protein with a purity and label accuracy website (like labdoor).

Lactose intolerant? You could try taking a protein isolate. Vegan? Pea protein might interest you.

The going rate on quality protein brands will cost you roughly $50 for 5 lbs. While a decent cheaper option will cost you approximately $30 for 5 lbs.

Consider taking a casein (slow digesting) protein before bed to help muscular recovery.[20] By providing your body with a steady dose of protein for muscle growth and repair while you sleep. Eat cottage cheese, Greek yogurt or quark as alternatives.

After your next workout, just remember.

If you stick with only water, then you will only end up replenishing your sweat losses. For a quick dose of carbs, protein and water replenishment drink chocolate milk. Doing so will benefit you endurance athletes, but will not contain enough protein to enhance resistance training.[21]

8-Cold and Hot Techniques – Ice baths, the oldest and most famous recovery technique around. Dump 1 or 2 bags of ice into a tub filled with cold water and submerge your legs and body for 5-10 minutes. Do it immediately after your workout to feel refreshed and reduce general soreness.

Meanwhile, cold water immersion provides a more practical solution. Where you submerge your body into water between 50-60°F for 5 to 15 minutes. The pressure of the water on the skin creates a compression like result known as hydrostatic pressure. If using a tub or similar object, then try your best to move a little while submerged to remove the blanket layer that traps heat between the skin and the water. This will help increase its effectiveness. Not as effective cooling your body as cold water immersion, but showers can also replicate this recovery technique.

Hot and cold contrast water immersion does a better job stimulating blood flow by alternating temperatures. You want to start hot and end cold the majority of the time. The one exception would occur on a really hot day, where you would start cold. Give yourself 3-7 varied time cycles of hot and cold ranging from 1-3 minutes in duration. Use a 1 to 1 ratio of hot and cold. Some people make the cold part as cold as possible. But you can use a temperature as warm as 60°F. While you can use a temperature in the range of 100-115°F for your hot part. Not as effective in heating your body as hot water immersion, but showers and saunas also do the job.

If your mind finds it refreshing, then you can expect that it does the body good.

9-Active Recovery – The day after your workout. A lightly targeted exercise on the muscle group worked out the previous day may help you reduce your DOMS.

While you probably want to sit on the couch and recover from your workout. Your body responds best to more blood flow through increased movement. This increased blood flow, the main reason why active recovery beats passive recovery (doing nothing like sitting on the couch).

Keep your activity light. With the goal of creating constant muscle contractions to increase blood flow and oxygen to the area. And to also possibly release extra endorphins to help you increase your perceptual recovery. Swimming, jogging, cycling, walking (for those not as fit) and dynamic stretching can all help elevate your heart rate and help aid your recovery.

Your heart actually receives the greatest recovery benefit from active recovery as measured by heart rate variability (time between heart beats). Making active recovery one of the most important recovery tools out there for endurance athletes.

10-Massage – DOMS can limit your athletic performance by reducing your range of motion.

Find the pain and rub. A quick self massage of your arms, chest, shoulders or legs periodically can help you feel good. Or go grab some foam rollers to get the job done. PVC piping works too. And consider using broomsticks or other similar objects on your legs.

Find a wall edge if you need to get to those hard to reach tight back muscles in need of a deep massage. Laying on golf balls, tennis balls, lacrosse balls, baseballs and softballs can also help relieve the tension in your back. If laying on a ball causes too much pain, then place a pillow or cushioned material between the ball and your back. Acupressure mats help too.

While massage will not cure your DOMS. It will provide your mind with a temporary feel good solution that increases your perceptual recovery.

11-Manage Life Stress – If you can reduce outside stressors, you leave more reserves in the tank to help your recover from your workouts and from DOMS.

My Workout Recovery Drink

Kicking back and de-stressing with one of these sounds good. But drinking just one Heady? That’s the tricky part.

12-Take an Easy on the Booze – While a few beers may not directly hurt your muscle recovery from your workouts.[22] And a single beer (4.5% abv) might even help you reduce your DOMS.[23]

Too much booze will end up negatively impacting your best tool in your workout recovery toolkit. Your sleep. With you possibly getting less sleep if you live on a tight schedule due to the altered sleep patterns that go with partying and drinking. While also reducing rapid eye moment sleep (REM).[24]

In the end your body pays the price for overconsumption. As your sleep quality and quantity suffer. Also watch out for dehydration. Drink water between every alcoholic drink and thank yourself later.


Outside of time, no universal cure for DOMS exist. And depriving your body of proper sleep, nutrition or hydration. Hurts your post-workout recovery more than anything you can do to overcome your DOMS.

But after your next big workout try isolating a few techniques to see what works best for you. Many individuals experience positive results with certain techniques because they feel good. Even if they lack scientific proof or receive contradicting evidence. And other more advanced recovery devices exist too that allow you to recover like an elite athlete.

So, what’s the biggest take away on how you should recover? You should focus on what works for you. Or what you think works for you. That’s all that counts. Use this information to refine, experiment and put yourself into position to bounce back faster from your workouts.

But let’s not forget, just because you can decrease stress, inflammation, fatigue and DOMS does not mean you should. The more frequent your workouts, the more important your need for recovery. But constantly preventing your body from its natural adaptation to what ails it will only prevent you from getting stronger. “The pain you feel today will be the strength you feel tomorrow,” as Robert Moore once famously said.[25]

A fine line exist between recovery and adaptation when striving for results. Go sign up at to stay up to date on the latest workout recovery information.


To read other articles or for additional information, definitions, citations, references, sources and footnotes please see the original article at

I’m a hit and miss writer, Tom Peashock (@allnaturalped), who specializes in workout recovery.

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-Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)- The muscle soreness or pain that commonly occurs 24-72 hours after exercise. The hypothesized causes of DOMS are: 1-exercise creates a build-up of metabolic waste which causes pain; 2-exercise causes muscle ischaemia, or a reduction in muscle blood supply which leads to the making of a pain substance; 3-exercise creates intramuscular oedema, or muscle swelling which helps signal pain; 4-eccentric exercise damages connective tissues which causes pain; 5-exercise creates inflammatory byproducts which aggravate nerve fibers and causes pain; 6-exercise causes the destruction within muscle fibres and frees creatine kinase which causes pain. [26]

-Eccentric contractions-The extension or elongation of the muscle during a muscle contraction. Examples include the downward motion on squats, deadlifts, pushups, bench press, chinups, pull ups and curls. Eccentric contractions are the phase of the muscle contraction that causes largest amount of DOMS as less muscle fibers are recruited during the eccentric contraction making it more susceptible to muscle damage.


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