When Muscle Soreness Helps Muscle Growth (And When It Doesn’t)

This has been one of those ideas floating around for years and I still see posts about people feeling as if they didn’t have a good workout if they don’t get DOMS or actually chasing DOMS.  That is, based on the belief that DOMS equals growth, DOMS becomes the end-goal.  When growth and progress should be the end goal.

This led me years ago to develop what I call the Blunt Force Trauma Theory of Hypertrophy.  Since you want to be sore, I will beat you with a hammer all over your body.  Growth should ensue.

Source: DOMS and Muscle Growth

While DOMS is associated with muscle growth and repair, it doesn’t track with any specific measure—you’ll have damage before you feel soreness, and you’ll feel better before the muscle is fully repaired, for example. And some people/some sports can build tons of muscle over time without ever getting sore.

Another thing the author mentioned that I want to highlight: DOMS comes with decreased strength. You don’t just crap out on workouts because they hurt, you actually have less strength—and this loss of strength persists even when the soreness is gone, for days or in extreme cases weeks. So if you’re sore a couple times a week, you’re probably always underperforming, and might be able to make bigger gains if you backed off a bit.