Muscle Soreness - what it really means
Muscle Soreness (DOMS), AKA “muscle fever is well known to all those who do sports, especially with weights. But does it indicate effective training or does it confuse us worse?
I think everyone reading this article is familiar with muscle fever. Specifically with the muscle factory with delayed onset, which occurs 12-36 hours after the end of physical activity that causes it. It can last between 1 and 5 days, with different degrees of intensity.
What can cause delayed onset Muscle Soreness?
There are three main ways in which delayed-onset muscle fever can be stimulated:
Micro-trauma to muscle tissue (mechanical damage).
Stress of the myelin sheaths that envelop the nerves.
The first two are things we intentionally create through workouts to stimulate adaptations for muscle growth or improvements in energy production at the cellular level.
Exactly how does training cause muscle fever?
Mechanical damage - Occurs especially when a muscle is trained in the elongated position or during the eccentric part of a repetition (such as going down to a knee bend), especially if the exercise has the maximum load in the elongated position. It can happen at many levels of intensity and is most likely to occur when fatigue builds up.
Oxidative stress - Occurs when muscles work at a rate that exceeds the ability of mitochondria to produce energy. Usually more time is needed under voltage and the use of lower intensities at the end of those sets (by intensity I mean the load / weights used).
The third type of stress, on the nerves, is more of a side effect of training, especially with muscles in an elongated position, and not something we want to achieve through training. It also has no benefit of adaptation, not leading to the improvement of certain physical aspects. This means that you can develop muscle fever due to stress on the myelin sheaths of the nerves, but without any adaptation to progress. Remember this, because it is important! In the simplest terms that come to mind now, it means you can have a muscle fever in vain!
All three have a common denominator. All lead to an inflammatory response. In very simplistic terms, delayed onset muscle fever is a sign of local inflammation. The pain you feel is not the microruptures and muscle damage itself, but a result of the presence of inflammatory cytokines in the tissues that give feedback to the nervous system. If you do not have a muscle fever after a workout, it does not necessarily mean that there were no traumas on the muscle tissues.
What can late-onset muscle fever tell you about training?
Muscle fever is not a direct marker of whether a workout was "good" or "bad."
If you don't have a muscle fever, it doesn't mean that you automatically trained in vain. But, we have to look in the context of what you wanted to achieve through training, what stimuli you wanted to induce in the body.
If the goal was micro-trauma and / or oxidative stress, it is normal to have muscle fever to some extent. It will vary from person to person, but as a general rule, you should not have a muscle fever for more than 2 days. If it lasts more than 3 days you probably had too much volume or you are recovering badly and you should get this right, or the nutrition is inadequate.
It is possible to get muscle micro-traumas and oxidative erasure without muscle fever, if you reach the lower limit of the necessary stimulus or you have a very good recovery rate. This also means that you are able to increase the intensity of the stimulus in the next workout.
If you train for any stimuli other than these two, the goal should be to avoid overly inflammatory workouts, so that you can train as often as possible. This does not mean that you are wrong if you have a muscle fever, but muscle fever should not be the goal.
Mild muscle fever for a day can be fine, especially if you do a lot of sets until exhaustion or have a high volume in training. The more sets you wear to exhaustion, depending on the range of motion and endurance profiles of the exercises, the greater the chances of mechanical damage. It's something you need to know and keep in mind when scheduling your next workout plan, to know how to divide muscle groups and how often to have them.
Delayed muscle fever can be used as a relative indicator of the inflammatory response created by training. It does not show with certainty whether a workout was productive or not.
The duration of muscle fever can be used to tell if the volume is too high, but it is not the only way to determine this. For example, performance and biomarkers (sleep, digestion, energy, etc.) may be more accurate indicators in most cases.
Not having muscle fever does not necessarily mean that you are 100% recovered and ready to train again.