What Causes Muscle Soreness After Exercise or Cycling?

The first thing to understand about muscle soreness is that it may affect anybody, whether you’re new to exercising or have just increased the intensity or duration of your workout.

The additional stress exerted on your body during exercise causes small micro-tears in your functioning muscle fibers. These micro-tears are quite natural and are required for muscular development. However, it is these micro-tears that cause muscle pain. This is because we all create muscle in the same way: by first breaking it down.

As the body heals and repairs these micro-injuries, muscle grows back stronger and healthier than before — but at a price.

The aching muscles you experience after a workout are a result of the muscular mending process, and this soreness is known as delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, because it does not occur immediately,

Delayed onset muscle soreness should not be confused with acute soreness, which occurs during or immediately after a workout and is connected to muscular exhaustion rather than muscle repair and strengthening.

What is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)?

Experts say that delayed onset muscle soreness is caused by tiny tears in your muscle fibers when working out, not by lactic acid buildup, as most people think. 

Small micro-tears in your muscles create inflammation and discomfort. The discomfort usually starts between 12 and 24 hours after your workout and peaks between 24 and 72 hours following the training stimulus.

This is the same process as muscle building—when your muscle tissue rebuilds after these tears, they heal and become stronger. It is a natural element of the muscle-building and strength-building process.

However, increased muscular pain or DOMS does not imply greater or faster muscle-building or strength-building benefits. Feeling excess pain after a workout might work against your goals since you may skip a few exercises owing to the discomfort.

There are different degrees of pain depending on how much damage has been done (as well as other factors such as heredity and how hydrated you are). Still, enduring severe muscle soreness daily is not something you should do.

Which Exercises Cause Muscle Soreness?

Workouts that entail a lot of unusual movements are more likely to leave you limping the next day. Strength exercises include two distinct phases: concentric (when the muscle shortens, generally during the lifting phase) and eccentric (when the muscle lengthens) (the stage when the muscle is lengthening, typically the lowering part).

The eccentric phase is when you create micro-tears in the muscle fibers and when your muscles are straining the hardest. (Because running downhill counts as eccentric activity, DOMS is more likely to develop after it.)

You’re also more likely to have DOMS if you force your body into movements it’s not used to, activate smaller muscles that your exercises don’t normally target, or stress the muscles a lot more than they’re used to or prepared for.

That may mean a virtual boot camp session with a lot of lateral lunges, a lot of biceps curls (particularly if they’re eccentric-focused), or just a lot more volume (sets and reps) than you’re used to.

Extreme muscle soreness can occur whenever you do anything unfamiliar to your muscles, even if it’s only going extra hard in a competitive cycling session.

Muscle Soreness and Actual Injury – What’s the Difference?

You might be experiencing one of three forms of muscular discomfort: DOMS, acute muscle soreness, or an actual injury.

Muscle Soreness

Acute muscular soreness refers to the burning sensation you get while exercising. While DOMS will not appear for hours or days, you will feel acute muscle soreness during your workout.

You’ll feel it in the muscles you’re working—for example, if you’re doing overhead presses, you’ll feel it in your shoulders and triceps—and it tells you when it’s time to quit, and you won’t be able to squeeze out another rep.

Injury Pain

Injury pain is often felt in a specific bodily area, such as a tendon or a joint. It can be more acute and persistent than muscular pain. It can range from a continuous “ache” (even while not moving) to severe pain during movement or activity or subsequently with a specific movement.

It can keep you awake at night. If you have discomfort, your joints or muscles may become exceedingly stiff if you rest or sit for an extended period. Pain from an injury may not go away on its own.

Pain might also alter your movement. If you limp due to pain or prefer one shoulder over the other, this might indicate an injury.

How to Relieve Muscle Soreness After an Intense Exercise Program

Get your feet moving. Moving your muscles, believe it or not, is one of the best methods to reduce muscle soreness. Light exercise/cardio or active recuperation, such as stretching, foam rolling, or yoga, can accomplish this.

Make sure you warm up beforehand. Ensuring your muscles are prepared for action before challenging them is vital to safeguarding them and avoiding exercise-induced muscle damage. Allow for several minutes of warm-up time before each session.

Begin a new workout regimen gradually. When beginning a new vigorous exercise or increasing the intensity, ensure you do so gradually over several days or weeks. Going from 0 to 100 does nothing for your muscles. Allowing them time to adjust can help reduce the degree of your pain.

Soak in a saltwater bath. Soaking in warm water with Epsom salts might help you relax and ease discomfort.

Take pain medication. This will not speed up the muscle-healing process but will help you cope with the discomfort.

Make time for rest. If you don’t give your muscles enough time to rest (and heal), they will get overused, resulting in moderate muscle soreness. Ensure to schedule rest days that focus on active recovery. Remember that genuine rest (sleep) and water are also crucial for healing. You can also try the Tailwind recovery mix during your recovery period to help with healing.

Try a split-day schedule. If you enjoy working out daily, consider dividing your sessions by muscle group. For example, start with the legs one day and arms the next. This will guarantee that each muscle group has ample time to recuperate before being trained again.

Shailen Vandeyar

A proud Indian origin Kiwi who loves to plant trees and play with my pet bunny when not out cycling through the best routes, reviewing the latest gear, and sharing tips on everything biking.

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