DOMS is not Lactic Acid


Lactic Acid is not what’s making you sore after training--it’s DOMS, or Delayed Onset Muscular Soreness. A common misconception about overworked and sore muscles is that there’s a build up of lactic acid that needs to be “flushed out”.


Lactic Acid is a natural byproduct of muscle contractions. It gets recycled within the body and bloodstream into usable energy, it doesn’t get or need to be “flushed out”.


Micro-tears in the muscles are what cause soreness. These microfiber ruptures cause a pain response.

On the intra cellular level, there is a fluid buildup that swells in the compartment causing pain. This isn’t the kind of swelling you may think of, but more of too much stuff in a small space. This is like any other kind of injury, and needs time to heal. Think about a bruise for example. It’s an internal injury/bleeding that will take time to repair itself from within.

Same with these micro-tears or "micro injuries". Your muscles can repair themselves stronger. That's how we build strength and mass. Yet, how sore you get is not a measure of successful training and should not be the goal. Soreness delays progress because it’s an injury that has to heal.


Muscular soreness can last several days if you're not careful. Therefore, you want to train smart and limit injuries, so the next few days can be productive. The irony in this muscle soreness is that what makes you sore has the potential to make you un-sore.

For example, if bench pressing made you sore, do 50% less load at double the reps to get blood to the muscles to repair themselves. This is why program design is so important, but we won’t go into periodization in this article.

A myth I often hear is that being sore will help the team tough it out in the fourth quarter. That’s not true. Conditioning, technique and mental toughness help in the fourth quarter.

Soreness happens, but it’s not the goal.

Let’s look at some basics of how to approach and address soreness in your training program.

What Causes Soreness

  • Over Training
    • Heavy loads, unfamiliar loads, new lifts, change the angle-change the exercise
  • Deficiencies
    • If it’s new, you’re lacking the ability and need to strengthen that area
  • Improper Nutrition
    • The body needs fuel. If you aren’t getting whole foods, then you will break down faster and recover slower
  • Flexibility
    • Over stretching the muscles because you’re too tight (which can happen to a fit person) goes back to the principle of a new exercise or overdoing it.
  • Too Much Volume of Training
    • Again, program design. Rest needs to be built into the program.

How To Avoid Soreness

  • Ease Into It
    • Under estimate your load in the beginning of your training. For example, I could do 12 or 13 reps, but I’m only going to do 10. This might not prevent all soreness, but it's a good building point.
  • Go In With A Plan
    • Stick with a schedule, plan the work, and work the plan. If you feel you’re too sore to workout, you probably need to go workout. Soreness will continue if you don’t push through and build up your capacity.
  • Stretch
    • If over stretching can make the muscle sore, then we need to be more flexible. Consistent static stretching at the end of each workout is very beneficial.

  • How To Fix Soreness

    • Rest
      • Eight hours of sleep is recommended, but some athletes may need more in a time of repair and recovery

    • Water
      • Three liters is an average recommended amount, but more might be needed depending upon your activity level

    • Proper Nutrition
      • Protein recommendations: 1.5-2 grams of protein per KG of body weight. Hence, the more active you are, the more you need to intake

      • Macronutrients: You need the right balance of carbs, fats and protein. If you’re unsure you’re getting enough, consider taking supplements

      • Micronutrients: Make sure you’re taking fat soluble vitamins. You need carbs in your diet for energy--they are the true super cellular fuel source (glucose)

    • Work Out at a Lower Intensity
      • Get your body temperature up; heat is therapeutic for the body. It gets blood flowing into the muscles which filter out the waste

    • In summary, the end goal of training is to get bigger, faster, stronger athletes--not to be sore after every workout.

      If soreness continues to occur, change your workouts and pay more attention to recovery and nutrition.


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