Muscle soreness: how to reduce DOMS after hitting the gym

Posted by for Life

How can you reduce muscle pain after training? Stylist Strong trainers answer the most Googled strength and fitness questions. 

2020 has really seen us put our bodies through the wringer. We’ve gone through ebbs and flows of hitting the gym hard to running daily or making the most of our flat space to do home workouts. After a month-long hiatus thanks to the second lockdown, many of us have returned to the gym this week – and it’s no surprise that we’ve gotten hit with a serious case of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). If you weren’t one of the lucky ones to get your hands on a set of heavy weights during each lockdown, then your body is probably trying to adjust to lifting heavy again. Which often results in muscles feeling achey or tight after an intense session.

There’s lots of conflicting advice out there about how you can prevent your muscles from aching when you’ve gone hard in the weights section, but to make sure our information is as reliable as possible, we’ve asked those who really know their stuff: our Strong Women trainers.

How can you reduce muscle pain after training?

TESS GLYNN-JONES, TRAINER 

“The main thing is to recover well. Having carbs after you train is a really good way to do that. Having protein around your workouts will also help with recovery. I also always recommend moving as much as possible the following day, even just walking. That’s going to help your muscles, because you’re keeping your blood flowing to them. Another really good thing for recovery is taking magnesium before you go to bed or having an Epsom salt bath, which contains magnesium.”

ALICE MILLER, TRAINER AT STRONG WOMEN 

“Muscle pain is the result of pushing your muscles to a point where we create small micro-tears in the muscle. And it’s not as bad as it sounds, and there’s lots of ways to build out muscles back together. So, the pain you feel after exercise is called DOMs, which stands for delayed onset muscle soreness. And our diet is something that we can look at; it’s a building block to put together. 

“If you think about your muscle as Lego, when you train you pull the Lego apart, and when you eat you put it back together. Epsom salt baths are great, they’re rich in magnesium and they’re good to aid sore muscles. There’s been some debate on whether or not they work: some people say they do and some people say they don’t, but they’re rich in magnesium so they’re perfect for the post recovery. Magnesium’s an important mineral for the body and can get absorbed by the skin. There’s also magnesium sprays that you can get now, you can spray them on your muscles. If we don’t have enough magnesium in our diet, your muscles can cramp quite a lot and you can go into spasms.”

CAROLINE BRAGG, TRAINER 

“Making sure we’re having protein soon after we’ve trained, and then foam rolling, massage, Epsom salt baths, hydration, those are the key ones.”

What food or supplements would you advise someone to eat after training?

TESS GLYNN-JONES, TRAINER 

“Whey protein is really fast acting, which means it gets into your bloodstream really quickly. So, it’s going help the muscles to repair. Essentially, after training, you’re weaker than before you started. In the long run, you’re going be stronger, but then if I asked you to squat as heavy as possible after you’ve done the whole session, it’s not going to be as heavy as when you first started the session, because your muscles are broken down. And that’s how you grow and get stronger. So, the whey protein helps repair that. And carbs do the same thing, so glycogen is your energy store, and carbs provide you with that, so they help replenish your glycogen stores, so they help you recover better.”

ALICE MILLER, TRAINER AT STRONG WOMEN 

“For your diet, leafy greens are good, nuts and seeds, legumes. I train quite a lot so I usually have supplements which help, but magnesium foods, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, a lot of green vegetables like peas, broccoli and brussels sprouts. English people love Brussels sprouts. 

“I also vote to keep moving. When people wake up and feel really sore, and they don’t want to go to the gym because their muscles are really tight, it’s actually in your best interest to keep moving. Sometimes it feels worse if you don’t do anything at all. So, I always say just jump on the rowing machine or a bike, just to loosen up your body. You don’t need to train heavy, just listen to your body. Get on a rower or an exercise bike and get those joints and muscles moving.”

CAROLINE BRAGG, TRAINER 

Protein helps to repair the muscles. When we train, we’re essentially ripping the muscles and then we need to repair it so we can do it again and keep building. So if were not having enough protein were not gonna have efficient muscle repair.”

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DOMS: how to reduce muscle soreness now that we're heading back to the gym

Why should you try foam rolling or a massage?

ALICE MILLER, TRAINER AT STRONG WOMEN 

“It’s often overlooked but the foam roller is a really great way to relax tight muscles. You can do it at home, at any time of day. You can also do it before or after a workout. We have actually used foam rolling techniques in our performance class. It increases your blood flow to your muscles which you need to help with your muscle recovery, and it helps to loosen your muscles as well.”

CAROLINE BRAGG, MASTER TRAINER AT STYLIST STRONG

“When you’re foam rolling, you’re getting quite deep into the muscle fibres, so foam rolling you can do on your own, whereas massaging you’d have to go and have one, so that’s not available to everybody every time they train. I think foam rolling is really key to keeping your body happy and being able to train as much as you’d like to, without having too much DOMs.

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Images: Getty 

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