Whether we have decided to get fit and purpose for this new course, as if we are going to recover our exercise routine abandoned during the summer, the only thing we have clear is that we will have stiffness.

What we are not so clear on occasion is why these sores arise and what we can do not to avoid them – because it is almost impossible – but to suffer as little as possible. Therefore, we will try to clarify its origin and offer some advice to help us cope so that exercise does not suppose a martyrdom.


The definition of the word stiffness would be “delayed onset muscle pain”, “delayed myalgia” or “post-exertional muscle pain accompanied by muscular inflammation”. This type of pain is characterized by being intense and localized and affects the muscle group that has been training.

The appearance of this type of pain is usually due to the fact that the muscle in question has worked at a higher intensity than what is usually used – or that has become accustomed if we have been in a period of stop – and therefore suffers some consequences. There are several theories that can explain what is the concrete mechanism that generates this overexertion and ends up causing the pain of the DOMS.


One of the most widespread and accepted explanations is that they are micro-ruptures of muscle fibers. These fibers would break while we exercise because of the higher intensity than usual to which we subject the muscles. Another explanation that is given, although less accepted, is that while we exercise the muscles are heated causing micro injuries that would cause the characteristic pain that we all know already.

What is already proven is that the explanations that spoke of lactic acid crystallite formation in the muscles are completely discarded and however much they repeat it to us, it is totally incorrect. In any case, what is known is that the aches appear when we perform exercises or activities that involve muscle contraction, especially if this is an eccentric type and if we are newbies in the activity to be performed.


In general, we are novices or experts, every time we make an effort that is above what our muscles are used to, we will feel stiff and it is difficult that we can get rid of them. However, there are some things we can do both before and after physical exercise to minimize its impact. To begin with, we must stretch both at the beginning and at the end of the exercise we are doing, so that we prepare the muscle. These stretches do not prevent the appearance of soreness, but it seems that they can help us to minimize the pain we feel.

On the other hand, progressive warming is a basic that we should not skip. In this way the muscle can adapt and prepare for the requirement to which it will be subjected. As in the previous case, it does not prevent the appearance of pain but it can minimize it. Regarding recovery once they have appeared, there is no scientific evidence of the best possible treatment. However, some experts suggest performing a treatment similar to that done with fiber breakage:

  • Adequate rest: planning rest days between our workouts will help us give the tissue time to recover.
  • Application of ice: this way we will help to deflate and slightly anesthetize the pain, helping recovery.
  • Active recovery: although there is controversy, the usual recommendation is to continue exercising as long as we comply with the rest days and that the pain can not be announcing an injury in a way that increases the blood supply of the affected area.

What we do know is that, as much as we would like, water with sugar is not only the miracle against the stiffness that was believed, but actually has no effect on them or on the pain we feel.

We know that we are going to suffer, we know that we have some options to try to be less terrible and we hope that the pain does not discourage you to continue exercising or take away our motivation because the long-term reward is worth it.

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