Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness for Crossfit
Eat to Perform
This is part of the information I teach in the “Science Lab” seminars that we offer free when you purchase things that support our site (it’s mostly stuff you would buy anyway). Click the link and it will give you more details.
DOMS is delayed onset muscle soreness, much smarter people than me have absolutely no clue on how to prevent it but there are various ideas that seem to work for me. I am rarely sore.
I am not a marvel but I have priorities others don’t have. If I Rx a WOD that looks to be difficult I know that dramatically affects my training schedule for the next few days. People consistently give me noise about some of my modifications because they are of the opinion that if I can do a lift I should destroy myself like they are doing. To be honest I don’t care what others do, are they going to be doing speed work with 315 pound deadlifts the next day? Because I might be. So that is one of the answers, when you push your abilities too far you could end up with DOMS. Does that mean I never Rx a WOD, of course not, I would say I Rx at least 75% of the WODs but scaling down isn’t the only way to Modify your workouts. For instance, let’s say that a WOD looks particularly tough, you look at the top athletes on the board and you know you aren’t going to get there. I would say 75% of the time this is the gauge I use when modifying a workout. So that is one trick, how could you modify the workout to be closer to the times of the top athletes in your gym.
Which brings me to a point I have been wanting to make for some time. Do you guys think these workouts are designed by some meathead genius who has calculated the exact abilities of every person in the gym and then plugged it into an a precise algorithm which correctly corresponds to said abilities. That ain’t how it works. It’s much less scientific than that. That isn’t a criticism of Crossfit either, that is a criticism of 3 x 5 plans 5 x 5 plans, these were all designed to fit broad populations with some consideration of the science. Sometimes not even that.
So modifying to more correctly account for your abilities is a great way to avoid DOMS. Does that mean you never push yourself? Of course not. I can say however that pushing yourself beyond your abilities will be more likely to end with you hurt and sore. I’ll talk more about this below.
The bar needs to move fast
Your trainers are human beings, human beings trying to work with a lot of people all at once. So you need to take the reigns and if there is any one thing I have learned over the last year as I have gotten a lot stronger is that slower is worse. A lot worse because it could end up with you being more sore as a result. For me that changes my workout routine and recovery and I like both.
Also your cardio or VO2max is a factor. Let’s say you are moving the bar fast but have to constantly stop because you are reaching muscle failure, is that making you better or worse? I’m cool with you having the opinion that it makes you better but you are going to have to tell that to the people that like your blog and your page. The story I am running with is that it makes you worse. Not only does it make you worse but the amount of oxygen you can efficiently get into your muscles and your time to recover from a raised heart rate seem to have an effect as well. So if you find yourself panting on the floor for 20 minutes while others are walking around easily, guess who is and who isn’t going to be sore tomorrow? It’s not 100% certainty but the odds favor the recovered athlete. Also guess who won’t have to take an impromptu rest day?
Also the sore athlete did not get the better workout, I’m not even going to entertain that idea. You don’t have to kill yourself to improve.
Can food make a difference?
Like we say up here in the tundra “You Betcha”. One angle that is often brought up in research is that of inflammation, not the kind that stores ends up as body fat but the kind that causes your muscles to re-configure. Let me just stop here, I am trying to write an article to help people, I researched this article through pubmed articles and I read what other folks have written and I am trying to explain that combined with my experience. Frankly, none of the science was particularly helpful and virtually every article said avoid NSAID’s (things like ibuprofen).
But the question is still out there why is it I rarely get sore? That answer is pretty simple.
Not only do I eat enough to support my activity but I eat in a way that actually does not inhibit my human growth hormone pulses. I delay breakfast and workout fasted, you could make an argument for BCAA’s before and possibly after and if you are constantly sore I would certainly do that. When most people think of human growth hormone they think of it like anabolic steroids, like it’s the thing that makes your muscles bigger. So then why did Lance Armstrong do it, he isn’t jacked? HGH essentially heals your body, so if you want to be less sore there are two things that could really help as it relates to how you eat. Delay breakfast and workout fasted in the early AM and go to sleep full with some carbs in your belly. Carbs make you sleepy and you sleep deeper. This is favorable as it relates to HGH pulses and higher levels overall. Using this as a strategy seems favorable as it relates to healing, are there other ways, probably, this is just the one I know best and have seen many people use it well.
This is pure conjecture but I am going to do it anyway. Getting adequate protein is obviously important as it relates to recovery. One of the symptoms of DOMS is inflamed muscles that need to be healed. Being chronically underfed and eating very low carbs is not favorable as it relates to this situation (this is my opinion based on my experiences). Even if you are eating adequate or slightly more protein that protein is basically going to get turned into sugar in the form of glucose through a process called glucongenesis. That was the protein you needed to heal your muscles. I’m not suggesting you need crazy carbs but at least enough to support your brain function (the brain uses up to 100g of carbs to function, it’s why when you have a lot of thinking to do and you eat some carbs your headache goes away).
The negative in your workouts
The negative part of your workouts in your deadlift as an example is the part where you are putting the bar down. On an overhead press this is where the weight is coming down. It is referred to as the eccentric phase of the lift. All of the scientific data is very clear that this is a big culprit. So the argument could be made to just drop your deadlift but that won’t be the argument I will be making. STOP LIFTING TOO HEAVY IN WODS! I should be more specific because there are WOD’s that are designed with rest intervals that are meant for you to go heavy. So I will clarify by saying that if the WOD has 5 or more reps scale accurately for your ability to allow for an easier eccentric phase of the lift. We all know this though, right? One of the hardest parts of the deadlift or overhead press (these are just the examples I have used but let’s be clear I am talking about the eccentric phase of ALL lifts) is putting the bar back down or catching it into your chest.
But won’t that make me weaker? It’s possible but unlikely, for most people it increases their work volume and allows them to build better more explosive muscle, or fast twitch muscle. This would seem favorable as it relates to DOMS but I am not going to spend three mores hours researching that part. That part seems logical to me. Folks when you are lifting heaving and close to your 1RM in WODs with multiple reps that is likely one of the bigger culprits. The way people get stronger is by lifting with good form explosively. Lifting at 80 or 90% in WODs slowly and with bad form will leave you with constant DOMS and you won’t be able to work out as much.
Lastly DOMS hurts your range of motion (ROM). So working out in pain keeps us broken.