Damn you DOMS

Adam Waring - Aussie Ninja - Wall Cat

Adam Waring - Aussie Ninja - Warped WallI would 100% always pick a social fun fitness thing over a social dinner thing… Group bootcamps with a bunch of friends or social futsal matches have been some of the funnest moments of my life, and so, when friends would ask me to join in on their PT sessions, I’d totally say yes.

But… they always annoyed me.

Don’t get me wrong, I would totally love the sessions, loved the joking around and the grimace faces… but I hated the randomness of the workouts. I’d never know what was coming, and so if I had already done an upper-body workout two days earlier, and then in the PT sesh did pull-ups… I’d get frustrated because…

When I first read about lifting weights, it was explained like this:

Lifting weights creates micro tears in your muscles, and those tears need rest to build back stronger… if your house had an earthquake, and you were rebuilding the walls, you’d never be able to make those walls stronger if there was another earthquake before you finished.

That totally made sense to me; exercise hard, protein, rest, recover = be stronger.

And so, that’s been my little MO for years and years…. but since I’ve been training for Ninja Warrior, I’ve really had to combat the whole tendonitis thing (which I had successfully ignored for, like, 7 years)… this has led me to training entirely differently.

Adam Waring - Aussie Ninja - Wall climbNow, instead of going crazy on upper body every 4 or 5 days, I’m doing slow considered pull-ups 3 times a week. This is because it’s not just muscles that are in this dance, the tendons have to play too.. and I’m not destroying them each time, I’m gradually working them harder with slower movements.

I’m no scientist or trainer, and I don’t know all the variables of all the things, but I think I’m getting stronger. I was really struggling with these wooden nunchucks/candlesticks.. I’d grab ’em, barely hold on for a second and fall off… one of the trainers I know suggested getting some and just jumping on them whenever I felt like it, several times a day if need be… and I quickly got heaps better at them… even though that totally didn’t fit in my ‘train hard + rest = stronger’ formula.

I tried to do some research for this article… and found, unsurprisingly that every single possible viewpoints is backed by articles and research… there’s so much data on fitness stuff you can literally prove and disprove anything, so I asked some ninja friends on how they roll with the DOMS:

Ninja Therapist Ken said

I started doing F45 earlier this year to improve my cardiovascular endurance, lower my body fat % and improve my functional lower limb strength and agility. I was previously doing heavy weights and power lifting which was not helping me lower my body weight for climbing and ninja warrior which is why I made this transition.

I was skeptical at first as i was not the greatest fan of group training but was hooked pretty quickly. I did 5 sessions a week and for the 1st 2-3 weeks was getting heaps on lower limb DOMS but I persisted and my body quickly adapted. I believe the body is incredible at adapting to load. But getting the dosage right is critical.

You have to listen to your body, be in-sync with how it is feeling and adjust your training to suit. Constant overload and progressing exercises without giving it a chance to adapt to the current load is a recipe for overuse injuries. You need to adapt and progress, adapt and progress.

You can still train every day…  E.g.I do peg board every day. Initially biceps tendons would ache. But i wouldn’t progress the load or reps until they hurt less. If they were aching really bad i would take a day or 2 off biceps and then return. It just meant i overloaded too much.

Graded gradual progression of load is key.”

#Salmonladder is finally up and running and survived the test run 😰

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The super-strong and possibly ground-allergic Nat Deegan said

DOMS … sometimes after a massive session I’m fine the next day, but get crazy muscle soreness 2-3 days later, just when I thought I got away with one!!

Generally, DOMS happens after heavy training, training in a way you’re not use to…. or during your first week back after time off (and of course newbies cop it!). My current training rarely causes DOMS. Possibly because I’m big on recovery, I’ve been training for ~15 years so I know my limits; and only SOMETIMES train to fatigue. Getting DOMS all the time isn’t a great sign. You may be training too hard, too often and / or not allowing your body enough time to recover and adapt.

I started more specific ninja training about a year ago, and was soon reminded about balancing training… Like other contestants, I got carried away doing too much upper body and obstacle work, ending up with acute tendonitis in my shoulder. Fortunately, my physio smashed me with dry needling & rehab, and I was back training in a couple of weeks. This was a timely reminder that recovery is key. Muscles, tendons and ligaments need time to repair between sessions, so training the same way 4-5X a week is asking for problems!! If you have to train most days, alternating between upper body with lower body & balance obstacles could be a good strategy. I recommend at least one day off per week, with an “easy week” once every 4-5 weeks; for repair and adaptation, and to reduce injury risk.

The only DOMS I’ve had recently is after a weekend Ninja Comp, (I do way more than I should for about 3 days back-to-back, because I’ve got all the obstacles, and am usually interstate somewhere!). Post-comp I take 2 or 3 days off training, because well… training while fatigued is trouble… just jump in an ice bath or hang upside-down and stretch! “


While the other two have a background in the fitness field, co-website guy Shaun who has exploded in muscularity and ninja skills it the last year said

DOMs are an interesting part of training life, that until this year made every other day excruciating.

What changed? Well my whole approach to training has changed since moving my focus towards OCR and Ninja Training.  I used to be all about lifting the heaviest thing I could for as many reps as possible.  You quickly realise on Ninja Courses, being able to deadlift a massive amount of weight does not really translate to the course.  Not only does it not translate, the amount of tears in the muscles heavy lifting would create would lead to serious DOMs the next day.

The DOMs used to hang around for days too, making it hard to train again any time soon and training through the pain just seemed to make things worse.  These were the days where I didn’t really think about nutrition or active recovery. I always expected that drinking a protein shake post-workout would be enough to heal my muscles.  These days I know that’s not the case and really focus on making sure my nutrition is able to cover whatever is burned that day and I know the importance of stretching and myofascial release on those tight muscles.

The biggest advice I could possibly give is to learn how to listen to your body, if your muscles are screaming out in pain, don’t be afraid to go off of your program and do some recovery work or bodyweight exercise to let those tired muscles heal.  Over training can be even worse than under training!

All of these little changes has meant I’ve been able to train harder and more often and the improvements I’ve seen this year shows that I must be on the right track.  Still nothing is perfect and there’s still no doubt places where I could improve my workouts to make sure the dreaded DOMs stay at bay.

At the end of 4 hours of training why not flip a tire that weighs over 300kg. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

A post shared by Shaun Lachlan (@sheenobree) on

I’m still very much exploring and seeing what works for me, but what works for you? Do you go hard then rest, do you dabble every day? Is DOMS a big part of your training?

Let us know in the comments below.

Train smart and hard ninjas!

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