Should You Workout When You Have DOMS? Here’s What You Need to Know

Working out when you feel sore can be quite daunting, especially if you’ve been hitting the gym relentlessly. Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is a common issue for athletes and gym-goers, characterized by pain and stiffness in the muscles, which peaks within 48-72 hours after exercise. But should you workout when you have DOMS? Well, it depends on a few factors, and in this article, we’ll walk you through the dos and don’ts when it comes to exercising with sore muscles.

Those who train regularly and with a high volume of exercise often experience DOMS to some extent. While some people may view DOMS as a sign of progress, others may find it overwhelming and choose to postpone their workout until the pain subsides. But here’s the question – should you workout when you have DOMS? It’s not a one-size-fits-all answer, and it ultimately depends on the severity of your pain, how well you manage your recovery, and how stubborn you are. Nevertheless, ignoring DOMS and hitting the gym hard may lead to further injury and setbacks in your training. So, it’s essential to understand how to deal with sore muscles when you’re planning your workout routine.

If you’ve never experienced DOMS before, it can feel pretty unpleasant, and you might wonder how long the pain will last. For most people, DOMS symptoms peak within 48-72 hours and gradually subside over the next 3-5 days. In the meantime, you might find yourself struggling to lift heavy weights, perform compound movements, or even walk down the stairs! While the temptation to skip your next workout is understandable, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to exercising with DOMS. Whether you’re a seasoned fitness enthusiast or a casual gym-goer, understanding how to adapt your workouts to manage DOMS can help you maximize your gains while minimizing the pain. So, let’s explore the pros and cons of working out when you have DOMS and find a happy middle ground.

Understanding DOMS

DOMS or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness is the muscle pain and stiffness that usually develops a few hours after you have an intense workout or undertake a new exercise routine. It is called “delayed onset” because the muscle soreness and stiffness tend to develop 24–72 hours after the workout or exercise routine.

DOMS is usually not a serious condition, and the soreness and stiffness usually disappear on their own after a few days. DOMS is a common physiological response to intense workouts or undertaking new exercise routines. During workout or exercise, our muscles experience small tears, which cause inflammation, swelling, and the release of metabolites that cause the muscle soreness and stiffness.

If you are a fitness enthusiast, you have probably experienced DOMS at some point in your fitness journey. There are several ways you can reduce the intensity of DOMS and speed up the recovery process. Understanding DOMS can help you better manage its effects on your body.

Tips for Reducing DOMS

Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) can make it challenging to maintain your workout routine. However, you can take steps to reduce the pain and stiffness associated with DOMS, so you can continue exercising without discomfort. Here are some tips to help you reduce DOMS:

  • Warm-up and cool down: Before and after your workout, take the time to properly warm up and cool down. This can help reduce muscle soreness and stiffness. A good warm-up should include activities that gradually increase your heart rate and loosen up the muscles you’re about to work out. A good cool down should include stretching exercises that help to ease the tension in your muscles and increase your flexibility.
  • Use a foam roller: Foam rolling can help reduce DOMS by increasing blood flow to the muscles and reducing tension in the soft tissues. If you’re not familiar with foam rolling, it’s basically a self-massage technique that uses a foam roller to apply pressure to the muscles. This can help to break up knots and adhesions, which can reduce soreness and improve mobility.
  • Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water before, during and after exercise is important for reducing DOMS. When you’re dehydrated, your muscles are more likely to feel sore and stiff. So, make sure you’re drinking enough water throughout the day, and especially before and after your workout.

Stretching Exercises

In addition to warm-up and cool down exercises, stretching can also help reduce DOMS. Here are some stretching exercises that can help:

  • Hamstring stretch: Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Reach forward with your hands and try to touch your toes. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat.
  • Quad stretch: Stand with one hand against a wall for support. Bend your knee and bring your heel as close to your butt as possible. Use your hand to pull your foot towards your glutes. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
  • Calf stretch: Stand facing a wall with your hands against it. Place one foot behind the other and push your back heel down towards the ground. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

Supplements That Can Help

In addition to exercise and stretching, there are also some supplements that can help reduce DOMS:

Supplement Description
Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) BCAAs are essential amino acids that can help reduce muscle soreness and fatigue. They can also help promote muscle growth and repair.
Protein powder Protein is important for muscle recovery and repair. Taking a protein supplement after your workout can help reduce DOMS and promote muscle growth.
Fish oil Fish oil contains anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce inflammation and soreness in the muscles.

While these supplements can be helpful, it’s always best to get your nutrients from whole foods whenever possible. If you’re considering taking a supplement, talk to your doctor first.

Importance of Rest Days for Muscle Recovery

When it comes to achieving fitness goals, one of the most overlooked aspects is the importance of rest days. While working out regularly is crucial to building muscle and increasing strength, it is equally important to give your muscles time to recover and repair. This is where rest days come in.

  • Allows for Muscle Recovery: During a workout, muscles experience small tears that need time to heal. Rest days provide muscles with the time they need to repair and rebuild, ultimately resulting in stronger muscles. Skipping rest days can lead to overtraining and, in turn, injury.
  • Reduces Risk of Injury: Consistently working out without rest days increases the risk of injury due to muscle fatigue and potentially decreased neurological function.
  • Helps Prevent Burnout: Incorporating rest days into your workout schedule helps to prevent burnout and maintain motivation. By setting aside dedicated rest days, you are less likely to feel overwhelmed and more likely to continue with your fitness routine long term.

While the number of rest days needed varies depending on the individual and their workout routine, it is generally recommended to take at least one or two rest days per week. On rest days, low-impact activities such as stretching or yoga can be beneficial in promoting muscle recovery and reducing muscle soreness.

Workout Routine Recommended Rest Days
Strength Training (Full Body) 1-2 per week
Cardiovascular Training (Moderate Intensity) 1-2 per week
High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) 2-3 per week

In summary, rest days are just as important as the workouts themselves when it comes to achieving fitness goals. Incorporating rest days into your workout routine promotes muscle recovery, reduces the risk of injury, and helps to prevent burnout. Remember to listen to your body and adjust your rest days accordingly to ensure optimal results.

Best Exercises for DOMS

If you’re feeling the aftermath of a tough workout, it can be tempting to take a break from working out altogether. However, some research suggests that light exercise can actually help alleviate muscle soreness. Here are some of the best exercises to do when you have DOMS:

  • Low-intensity cardio: Walking, cycling, and jogging at a slow pace can help increase blood flow to the muscles, which can help reduce soreness. Just make sure to keep the intensity low to avoid further damage to the muscles.
  • Yoga: Yoga can help stretch out sore muscles and promote relaxation. It’s also a low-impact activity that won’t put additional stress on your body. Make sure to focus on gentle, restorative poses rather than more challenging ones.
  • Swimming: Swimming is a low-impact exercise that can help increase blood flow to the muscles without putting additional stress on them. Plus, the buoyancy of the water can help alleviate joint pain and inflammation.

Foam Rolling and Stretching

In addition to light exercise, foam rolling and stretching can also help alleviate muscle soreness. Foam rolling is a self-massage technique that uses a cylindrical foam roller to release tension in the muscles. It can be painful at first, but it can help break up knots and adhesions in the muscles, which can help reduce soreness over time. Similarly, stretching can help improve flexibility and increase blood flow to the muscles. Just make sure to focus on gentle stretches that don’t exacerbate the soreness.

How to Incorporate Exercise into Your Recovery

While light exercise can help alleviate muscle soreness, it’s important to listen to your body and not overdo it. Make sure to start with low-intensity activities and gradually increase the intensity over time. It’s also important to prioritize recovery during this time, which means getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, and fueling your body with nutritious foods. Here’s a sample workout plan that incorporates light exercise into your recovery:

Day Activity
Day 1 20-minute walk + foam rolling
Day 2 30 minutes of low-intensity cycling or swimming + stretching
Day 3 20-minute yoga session
Day 4 Rest day
Day 5 20-minute walk + foam rolling
Day 6 30 minutes of low-intensity cycling or swimming + stretching
Day 7 Rest day

Remember, the most important thing during this time is to listen to your body. If you’re experiencing more pain or soreness than usual, it may be best to take a break from exercise altogether. Always consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new exercise program.

Stretching for DOMS Relief

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is the muscle pain and stiffness you feel after a workout. It’s a common occurrence for most people regardless of their fitness level. DOMS can make it difficult to carry out daily activities, let alone get back to the gym. To help alleviate this soreness, stretching can be an effective tool.

Stretching helps DOMS by increasing blood flow and oxygen to the muscles. It also helps to reduce muscle tightness and improve flexibility. If you have DOMS, here are some stretching routines you can try:

  • Static Stretching: Holding a stretch in a fixed position for 20-30 seconds can help to ease muscle pain and stiffness. It’s essential to stretch the muscle group that is experiencing DOMS, but don’t overdo it.
  • Dynamic Stretching: Incorporating movements such as lunges, high knees, and arm circles helps to warm up the muscles. This type of stretching improves blood flow to the muscles and reduces the likelihood of injury.
  • Foam Rolling: A foam roller can be an excellent tool for massaging sore muscles. Rolling over the affected muscles can help to release tension and knots in the muscles.

The Don’ts of Stretching for DOMS Relief

It’s essential to stretch correctly to avoid further injury or to exacerbate the pain. Certain stretching movements could do more harm than good when experiencing DOMS. Here are some stretching don’ts:

  • Don’t Overstretch: It’s possible to overstretch a muscle, leading to further injury. Only stretch to the point of tension and discomfort rather than pain.
  • Don’t Skip Stretching: It may be tempting to skip stretching when experiencing DOMS. But stretching can help to speed up the recovery process and alleviate the soreness.
  • Don’t Stretch Cold Muscles: Stretching cold muscles can lead to pulls and strains. Always warm up the body and muscles before stretching.


Stretching is an excellent way to alleviate the pain and stiffness that comes with DOMS. Incorporating stretching before and after a workout can help reduce the likelihood of DOMS occurring. Remember to stretch correctly and avoid overstretching to avoid further damage. With the right stretching routine, you’ll be back to your pre-workout mobility in no time.

Benefits of Stretching for DOMS Relief: The Don’ts of Stretching for DOMS Relief:
Increases blood flow and oxygen to the muscles Don’t overstretch, skip stretching, or stretch cold muscles
Reduces muscle tightness and improves flexibility
Helps to speed up the recovery process

Nutrition for Muscle Recovery

When it comes to recovering from Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), what you eat can make a big difference. Proper nutrition can help reduce inflammation, repair muscle damage, and improve overall recovery time.

Here are some important nutrients and food sources to consider including in your diet:

  • Protein: Consuming adequate protein is essential for muscle recovery. Aim for 1.2-1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day. Good sources of protein include chicken, fish, eggs, and tofu.
  • Carbohydrates: Carbs are important for replenishing glycogen stores and providing energy for workouts. Opt for complex carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, brown rice, and whole grains.
  • Fats: Healthy fats like omega-3s can help reduce inflammation. Good sources include fatty fish, nuts, and seeds.
  • Antioxidants: Antioxidants like vitamin C and E can help reduce inflammation and support recovery. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, especially brightly colored ones like berries and leafy greens.

In addition to these key nutrients, it’s important to stay hydrated and consume electrolytes like sodium and potassium to help prevent dehydration.

Another strategy for optimizing recovery is to time your meals strategically. Consuming protein and carbohydrates within 30 minutes after exercise can help kickstart the recovery process. Some people also find that consuming a protein-heavy meal before bed can help with overnight muscle repair.

Meal Timing Ideal Foods
Pre-workout (1-2 hours before) Protein and complex carbs, such as eggs and oatmeal
Post-workout (within 30 minutes) Protein and simple carbs, such as a protein shake with fruit
Before bed Slow-digesting protein, such as casein protein, and healthy fats like nuts.

By following a diet rich in the nutrients listed above and timing your meals strategically, you can help support muscle recovery and reduce the symptoms of DOMS.

How to Safely Workout with DOMS

DOMS, or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, can be a sign of progress after a good workout, but it can also be painful and limit your workout performance if not managed properly. Here are some tips on how to safely workout with DOMS:

  • Rest and Active Recovery: Give your muscles time to recover, especially if you’re experiencing acute or severe DOMS. Take a break from intense workouts and consider low-impact recovery exercises like walking, yoga, or foam rolling to stimulate blood flow and reduce muscle stiffness.
  • Hydrate: Drinking water before, during, and after your workout helps your muscles stay hydrated and alleviate muscle soreness. Electrolyte drinks enriched with potassium, magnesium, and calcium can also help your body maintain fluid balance and prevent cramps.
  • Stretching: Incorporate stretching exercises into your warm-up and cool-down routine to improve flexibility and range of motion. Focus on the muscle groups that are the most sore and use gentle movements to avoid further inflammation or muscle damage.

While these strategies can help you manage DOMS, it’s essential to listen to your body and not push yourself too hard. Doing so can lead to serious injury and worsen DOMS symptoms. Be patient, respect your body, and gradually increase your workout intensity as your muscles recover.

If you’re unsure about how to modify your workout routine during DOMS, consult a professional trainer or physical therapist. They can help you design a customized workout plan that accommodates your fitness goals and health condition.

Additional Considerations: DOMS Prevention

Preventing DOMS symptoms altogether is the best approach to ensure optimal training performance and workout satisfaction. Here are some tips to protect your muscles from DOMS:

  • Gradual Progression: Avoid overloading your muscles with intense or unfamiliar exercises that your body isn’t ready for. Gradually increase your workout volume, intensity, and complexity over time to give your muscles a chance to adapt and recover.
  • Nutrition: Eating a balanced diet with sufficient protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats can help your muscles recover faster and prevent DOMS. Protein is particularly essential for muscle tissue repair and regeneration, so be sure to include protein-rich foods like lean meats, seafood, eggs, and beans in your diet.
  • Warm-up: Before starting a workout, take the time to warm up your muscles with dynamic stretching and cardio exercises. This helps increase blood flow to the muscles and warms them up for the upcoming workout.
Workout Modifications Examples
Lower Volume Decrease the number of sets, reps, or weight used for each exercise.
Lower Intensity Choose lighter weights, slower pace, or less explosive movements for exercises.
Lower Frequency Reduce the number of times per week you train a muscle group.

Remember, there’s no single rule that applies to everyone when it comes to dealing with DOMS. Different people respond differently to various strategies, and it’s up to you to determine what works best for your body. Experiment with different approaches, listen to your body, and be patient – you’ll eventually find the best method to safely workout with DOMS.

Should You Workout When You Have DOMS FAQs

1. What exactly is DOMS?
DOMS or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness is the muscle pain and stiffness you feel after working out. It’s usually felt 24-72 hours post-workout.

2. Is it safe to exercise even when you have DOMS?
Yes, it’s safe to exercise with DOMS. However, it’s best to adjust your workout intensity and focus on stretching, recovery, and lighter weights.

3. What type of workouts can I do when I have DOMS?
You can do low-intensity workouts such as stretching, walking, or yoga to help alleviate DOMS. You can also focus on training other muscles that are not sore.

4. Will working out with DOMS make it worse?
Working out with DOMS can increase soreness and muscle damage if you overdo it. It’s best to listen to your body and adjust your workout intensity and duration accordingly.

5. How long does DOMS usually last?
DOMS usually lasts for 3-7 days. It varies depending on the individual’s fitness level, workout intensity, and recovery methods.

6. Can I prevent DOMS altogether?
You can’t prevent DOMS altogether, but you can reduce its intensity and duration by gradually increasing your workout intensity, stretching properly, staying hydrated, and getting enough rest and recovery.

Should You Workout When You Have DOMS

In conclusion, it’s safe to workout with DOMS, but you need to adjust the intensity and listen to your body. It’s also essential to focus on recovery methods such as stretching, hydration, and enough rest. Remember to take care of your body and not push it too hard. Thank you for reading. Visit us again later for more fitness tips and advice.

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