DOMS: Do They Mean You’ve Had a Good Workout?

DOMS: Do They Mean You've Had a Good Workout? 

What are DOMS 

DOMS are Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. They are that familiar ache and stiffness in your muscles that typically develop a day or two after an intense workout. When going to the toilet, climbing stairs, washing your hair, or picking something up off the floor seems impossible. There are a lot of people who interpret DOMS as a sign of a good workout, the reality is it is not black and white. 

Understanding DOMS 

DOMS is believed to be the result of microscopic damage to muscle fibers. This usually occurs when you engage in a new or particularly intense exercise, or when you increase the intensity or duration of your workouts. You experience DOMS because your muscles experience stress beyond what they are accustomed to. This stress can lead to small tears in the muscle fibers, resulting in inflammation and soreness. 

Is DOMS a Sign of a Good Workout? 

While experiencing DOMS can indicate that you have pushed your work out, having DOMS is not necessarily a definitive measure of a good workout. Here is why: 

Not Always associated with Progress: Weather you do or do not have DOMS does not always correspond with muscle growth or fitness progress. Some workouts can be highly effective without causing much soreness, especially as your body adapts to a routine. 

Dependent on Individual Factors: Different people experience DOMS differently. Factors like fitness level, genetics, hydration, and nutrition can influence how intensely you feel DOMS. 

Can affect Consistency: If you are experiencing severe soreness, it can make it challenging to stick to your workout routine. They can make you skip a day or change the intensity you work at next time. The key to long-term progress is consistency, so prioritizing recovery and listening to your body is crucial. 

What should you do when experiencing DOMS? 

DOMS are a “normal” part of the muscle-repair process. There are ways to manage the discomfort and help move recovery along so you can get back to enjoy your gym time quicker.  

Rest and Recovery: Give your muscles time to recover between intense workouts. Ensure you have rest days in your routine and prioritize sleep to aid in recovery. 

Nutrition: Make sure you are consuming enough protein and other nutrients to support muscle repair and growth. 

Hydration: Stay hydrated to help flush out toxins and support muscle function. 

Active Recovery: Light exercise, such as walking or yoga, can help increase blood flow to sore muscles, which may aid in recovery. 

Stretching and Foam Rolling: Gentle stretching and foam rolling can help minimize stiffness and improve range of motion. 

The Bottom Line 

Muscle damage (resulting in DOMS) is not the only way to grow a muscle. There are three main mechanisms for muscle growth: 

  • Mechanical tension 
  • Metabolic stress 
  • Muscle damage 


To simplify, muscle damage contributes to muscle growth, but it is not essential. growth can still occur through the first two mechanisms. However, excessive soreness can be counterproductive. Severe soreness can reduce your ability to produce force, harming your performance in future workouts. DOMS can also play a part in diminishing your motivation to go to the gym. So while experiencing DOMS can indicate that you have challenged your muscles, it is not the sole indicator of a good workout.  

Consistency, proper nutrition, adequate rest, and listening to your body are key factors in achieving your fitness goals. If you are consistently experiencing severe or prolonged DOMS, it may be a sign that you need to reassess your workout intensity or technique and habits like nutrition and rest.