DOMS…Pain…One in the Same

Posted on December 4, 2009. Filed under: Pain | Tags: , , |

mc sparked up an interesting discussion on dragondoor forum, about my other blog here. The part that seemed to spark my interest was later when she brought up DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) and how no studies showed no long term ramifications that frequent DOMS is a problem. I believe this is my opinion that there is actually a problem with short or long-term DOMS and that it may actually impede performance gains, rather than increase them.

*To learn more about DOMS, I suggest you visit her (mc’s) blog here1 and here2 to learn what it actually is and what may and may not help DOMS relief.

and this doesn't look like pain how?

Anyway today, I want to share my view on what I view DOMS is based on neurophysiology and actually illustrate other methods that may work to stop it as much as possible in training.

Some caveats is that understandably many new trainees will encounter DOMS from training. Although this may be so, it isn’t necessarily a requirement, nor something we should expect just b/c it was our first time doing so. I understand that there will be a level of discomfort when doing anything new, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the discomfort you have is something you should relate to DOMS and discomfort showing specific signs of EMERGENCY are things you should look for to know that “HEY this may not be the best for me.” Don’t get me wrong sometimes, we have to go through DOMS, I simply want to make the idea that not only is it something we shouldn’t desire, but something we should care to MINIMIZE as much as possible.

To dwelve into this topic, I want you to understand DOMS as a pain response, not a series of unknown interactions that cause soreness for some reason or another. Viewing it from this regard, let’s know understand a simplified version of pain, as an interpretation of your bodies response to something that somehow scared it. It doesn’t even have to be something physical like someone scaring you, it could be stress from work, stress from kids, simply thinking about something bad, etc that could cause you to have pain. DOMS in terms of thinking it as pain, thus is then our bodies interpretation of the amount of exercise we did and thus gives us pain (DOMS) that tells you that you did WAY more than it wanted, thus it will make your movement harder, make you stiffer, and make you weaker…the same things pain normally does. To understand more on pain, refer to mc’s post here.

One technique to understand when you are pushing it is a Z-Health concept, which Adam has termed Biofeedback, which is simply a means of using your body to determine if you should or shouldn’t do something, as well as to the length of time to do it.

Adam details some techniques for these through his Biofeedback training videos found here1 and here2.

Training programs are all good and dandy, but they still need to be tailored to you, the individual. Simply put, it’s not the program that makes you strong, but you unleashing your bodies potential, known as Threat Modulation, which will be shared upon later. The main takeaway I want you to understand is that our body is an extraordinary machine that is already capable of everything we want it to do.

If you want to lift 32kg KB, or even touch your toes, you may already have the potential to do so, but have you freed the tiger to let your body express that potential. Our body has things that cover up this potential and Threat Modulation is simply a way of cutting away all the things that hold us back.

Wow, he's scared of something...probably the ground.

What threat modulation has to do with DOMS is very significant in the idea that when we reach something that exceeds are ability to handle anything that may “scare” or “threaten” our body, than we will actually HINDER rather than CAUSE us to progress into newfound realms of strength. For example: You may hear stories of the WTH effect on the dragondoor forums or reading something in a book that worked for him/her, but not you. The reason for this is simply because your body was really scared of it (it exceeded the threat) or that new stimulus (everything we do is a new signal in our body that can cause change), wasn’t the stimulus we needed to make us go WTH. Again going into what this means, go further into the notion that we may be picking exercises that are body doesn’t even care for (again refer to Adam’s biofeedback videos to understand this or if you have pain, muscle inflexibility, or strength after the movement, it’s probably a movement you shouldn’t be doing) or doing too much of any one thing (too much volume of a given exercise, which normally follows with decreased ROM, strength, or comes with pain)

Although biofeedback is one way of making sure DOMS doesn’t occurs. What are progressions we could use when we are encountering new clients to teach them movement without thus giving them DOMS and keeping them healthier overall.

Understand that many people that begin are so far deconditioned that anything we do even with our body is very very hard. Running and walking creates forces of supposedly 3-5x the force of their body with every step they take. Squats, pushups, etc are generally hard for the client all together. Give clients a normal program and no wonder most people get hurt…15-45 mins for a beginner is a lot of force traveling up immobile legs that have to compensate all over their body spreading force in a poor structure. Injury rate is high and if it occurs within the first year or two years, no wonder why people are quitting exercise programs.

Oh lovely, what most people do when they get into something TOO fast.

Although it’s becoming more mainstream to view things as movements and skills that can be repatterned through teaching alternate movements that contribute to the repatterning – the application of the said repatterning is far removed when training new clients. Even when we encounter new things, we should treat it the same way. As something we have never done before and should tread lightly. When you drove a car, did you first start driving on a freeway at 100mph? Hopefully for the most part, everyone said no. It’s because you weren’t used to it and had to simply let your fears go down before you were capable to really driving.

For example, many people that are new tend to start out with bodyweight exercises. Pushups, squats, lunges, inverted rows, etc. Well if you think of pushups as a skill, with other components of movement in it, why are we than so skewed to rush into the full movement of say a pushup. It’s composed of smaller and smaller movements. Wrist flexion/extension, elbow flexion/extension, shoulder flexion/extension, etc that can be broken down and taught before one even goes to the ground. Besides those smaller movements, why not teach the joint angles of a pushup without load, simply building reps of awareness into the body of how the arms should feel like and giving it different variations, so it understands where it should be and where it shouldn’t.  Yes, it’s different, it feels different, but again it’s about awareness and technique building. Why start on the ground with increased load, instead of going to a wall. If full ROM is hard, why not do partial pushups, etc. As you can tell within just pushups there are a huge number of variations that can be used before you can or should go into the ground. For example: you already know that if you’ve never bench pressed, starting at 300lbs should probably be outta the question, correct. Well by effectively starting people on the ground, you are pretty much doing that even if that’s on the knees.

Yes, even pros mess up, imagine someone that hasn’t even practiced it yet.

Again by really understanding that movements are skills, you can build things backwards or forwards depending on who you are treating or if you are treating yourself. By thinking that way, it helps to understand why sometimes variation may be in order, or maybe why you may need to work on just the skill of whatever the specific movement you want (a heavy deadlift, grippers, tearing a phonebook, holding a planche, pressing a KB, etc).

These variations, thus still develop the movement, but in parts when needed, and thus can limit the amount of DOMS (remember it’s basically pain) that we encounter and thus create better awareness of body, thus helping us decrease how scared our body is, meaning our body stops holding onto the break and thus unleashes more of what we are capable of.

Here are a couple quotes I want to leave you with:

“There are three classes of people: those who see, those who see when they are shown, those who do not see.”
Leonardo da Vinci

“You do ill if you praise, but worse if you censure, what you do not understand.”
Leonardo da Vinci

Move well, be free,

Darryl Lardizabal
P.S. in the upcoming article I’ll relinquish what Threat Modulation means and how you can use it to make the best gains of your life.


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