No Pain, No Gain - evidence DOMS does not equate to muscle growth

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    No Pain, No Gain - evidence DOMS does not equate to muscle growth


    Let the [futile] debate roll on....

    J Exp Biol. 2011 Feb 15;214(Pt 4):674-9.
    Muscle damage and muscle remodeling: no pain, no gain?

    Flann KL, LaStayo PC, McClain DA, Hazel M, Lindstedt SL.
    Source

    Department of Biological Sciences, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ 86011-5640, USA.

    Abstract

    Skeletal muscle is a dynamic tissue that responds adaptively to both the nature and intensity of muscle use. This phenotypic plasticity ensures that muscle structure is linked to patterns of muscle use throughout the lifetime of an animal. The cascade of events that result in muscle restructuring - for example, in response to resistance exercise training - is often thought to be initiated by muscle damage. We designed this study to test the hypothesis that symptomatic (i.e. detectable) damage is a necessary precursor for muscle remodeling. Subjects were divided into two experimental populations: pre-trained (PT) and naive (NA). Demonstrable muscle damage was avoided in the PT group by a three-week gradual 'ramp-up' protocol. By contrast, the NA group was subjected to an initial damaging bout of exercise. Both groups participated in an eight-week high-force eccentric-cycle ergometry program (20 min, three times per week) designed to equate the total work done during training between the groups. The NA group experienced signs of damage, absent in the PT group, as indicated by greater than five times higher levels of plasma creatine kinase (CK) and self-reporting of initial perceived soreness and exertion, yet muscle size and strength gains were not different for the two groups. RT-PCR analysis revealed similar increases in levels of the growth factor IGF-1Ea mRNA in both groups. Likewise, the significant (P<0.01) increases in mean cross-sectional area (and total muscle volume) were equal in both groups. Finally, strength increases were identical for both groups (PT=25% and NA=26% improvement). The results of this study suggest that muscle rebuilding - for example, hypertrophy - can be initiated independent of any discernible damage to the muscle.


    PMID:21270317 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

    Br

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    Hi ZirREd,

    Interesting study! And I have wrote about this in the past about how damage may not be required. Stretch induced signaling can activate many growth factors. I remember reading another study showing that light weight for high reps can activate satellite cells too.

    Would be interesting to know if this would be same with a typical resistance training protocol. I can maybe argue that 20 min of eccentric cycling didn't really activate the genes needed for muscle growth adaptations though there was damage ( lack of metabolic products and so forth). Or maybe there was too much damage with such a protocol. What do you think?
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    Good post. I think we were talking about this or something similar awhile back in a thread somewhere. Or maybe it was the sodium potassium pump I dunno.

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    was reading this earlier good post here
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    I can agree... of course its not necessary to agree given the proof of a study


    Does not change the fact that to me feeling sore is a good indicator of an adequate workout for what I have found to will induce anabolism in myself... typically speaking the periods of time where I worked out (not on cycle though as the increased recovery plays its part) where DOMS was not as prevalent the following day of a workout was also the periods of time where muscle mass gains slowed and an indicator that something needed to be changed up or at least intensity increased.
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    With the relation to DOMS, i think its important that we distinguish between ranges of soreness.

    Some microtrauma is needed to induce growth: microtrauma results in the release of IGF-1Ec (mechano growth factor) from the muscles. Additionally, microtrauma recruits white blood cells to the area to "clean up the mess". The WBCs start an inflammatory cascade, which (in conjunction with testosterone, IGF-1, and MGF) stimulates myogenic stem cells to proliferate (split and grow), differentiate (mature) and fuse to the muscle fiber to facilitate repair and growth.

    So, mild DOMS (stiffness, soreness walking down stairs, etc.) is good.

    On the other hand, severe DOMS (sore to the touch, painful walking in general, etc.) may cause excessive muscle damage, thereby resulting in a longer repair period, and less hypertrophy.

    Br
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    Hmmm...Interesting article. Now if one could only find the sweet spot between the two( Mild DOMS and Severe DOMS).

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    Quote Originally Posted by ZiR RED View Post
    With the relation to DOMS, i think its important that we distinguish between ranges of soreness.

    Some microtrauma is needed to induce growth: microtrauma results in the release of IGF-1Ec (mechano growth factor) from the muscles. Additionally, microtrauma recruits white blood cells to the area to "clean up the mess". The WBCs start an inflammatory cascade, which (in conjunction with testosterone, IGF-1, and MGF) stimulates myogenic stem cells to proliferate (split and grow), differentiate (mature) and fuse to the muscle fiber to facilitate repair and growth.

    So, mild DOMS (stiffness, soreness walking down stairs, etc.) is good.

    On the other hand, severe DOMS (sore to the touch, painful walking in general, etc.) may cause excessive muscle damage, thereby resulting in a longer repair period, and less hypertrophy.

    Br

    HAHA... for some reason this just reminds me of every time Ive had a "break" and came back into it, how jacked my arms are for days after doing bis... permabent and cant hardly extend them for the life of me...


    I also think doing damage to this point is def beyond DOMS and is a basic injury... typically takes me outta lifting altogether for a few days to a week... certainly not a "beneficial soreness".


    Thanks for the thread and info there ZiR, this just goes to confirm my own exp and what Ive learned to apply to my workouts through trial and error as far as intensity and my "soreness" gauge are concerned. Always nice to know the science behind it.

    PS... I love the feeling of walking up and down stairs the days following a good leg workout, just a constant reminder that it was GOOD.
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    "I can agree... of course its not necessary to agree given the proof of a study


    Does not change the fact that to me feeling sore is a good indicator of an adequate workout for what I have found to will induce anabolism in myself... typically speaking the periods of time where I worked out (not on cycle though as the increased recovery plays its part) where DOMS was not as prevalent the following day of a workout was also the periods of time where muscle mass gains slowed and an indicator that something needed to be changed up or at least intensity increased."




    The study doesn't prove anything... just lends support
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    ZIR Did you have a chance to read the full article? Not sure how I feel about it personally.... they allowed one group to train for an extra 3 weeks in order to "ramp-up" to a given intensity, while having the other group start out at that high intensity.

    I guess it does support the claim that DOMS aren't necessary for hypertrophy... but the take home messege in my eyes is that by stimulating DOMS, you make the same gains in 8 weeks that it took the other group to accomplish in 11 weeks.

    And significance aside... the 8 week group made slightly greater average gains in hypertrophy.
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    I didn't read the full text. I'm not sure whether they took measurements before or following the ramp up period. From a methodology stand point, there's a few issues I have with the study.
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    I have the article if you want it, still an interesting read.
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    The evidence comes in experience. I don't need a study to tell me this. As long as I'am stronger each week I've worked my muscles for growth. I'am a big believer in raising your weights in very small increments each week. The result is continuous results and less injury. Years of training like this without any injuries leads to serious gains. The problems a lot of guys make is getting ahead of themselves. Lifting too heavy and upping their weights too fast resulting in set backs. Also poor nutrition leads to inadequate muscle repair and growth. Can't empthasize that enough.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ZiR RED View Post
    With the relation to DOMS, i think its important that we distinguish between ranges of soreness.

    Some microtrauma is needed to induce growth: microtrauma results in the release of IGF-1Ec (mechano growth factor) from the muscles. Additionally, microtrauma recruits white blood cells to the area to "clean up the mess". The WBCs start an inflammatory cascade, which (in conjunction with testosterone, IGF-1, and MGF) stimulates myogenic stem cells to proliferate (split and grow), differentiate (mature) and fuse to the muscle fiber to facilitate repair and growth.

    So, mild DOMS (stiffness, soreness walking down stairs, etc.) is good.

    On the other hand, severe DOMS (sore to the touch, painful walking in general, etc.) may cause excessive muscle damage, thereby resulting in a longer repair period, and less hypertrophy.

    Br
    good post as always zir, i haven't had 'severe' doms in quite some time.

    however, i usually get 'mild' doms a day or two after my squat and deadlift days - never to the point of tender to the touch etc...
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flaw View Post
    The evidence comes in experience. I don't need a study to tell me this. As long as I'am stronger each week I've worked my muscles for growth. I'am a big believer in raising your weights in very small increments each week. The result is continuous results and less injury. Years of training like this without any injuries leads to serious gains. The problems a lot of guys make is getting ahead of themselves. Lifting too heavy and upping their weights too fast resulting in set backs. Also poor nutrition leads to inadequate muscle repair and growth. Can't empthasize that enough.

    This couldn't be further from the truth brother, which emphasizes why research is important. You can absolutely get stronger each week without having any structural changes in the muscle.

    In general, the first 3-6 weeks of a resistance training program consist of mostly neurological adaptations which allow the person to effectively and efficiently recruit more muscle fibers. This occurs before the person experiences any actual growth of the muscle.

    I'm not going to dive in to all the different mechanisms of hypertrophy, but there are many ways to optimize the overload placed on the muscle, as well as the hormonal environment of the muscle in order to acheive the greatest amount of hypertrophy. Simply increasing the weight a few pounds each week (linear progression) is fine, but shouldn't be used as a determinant of whether or not your workout was optimized for growth.
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    ^^^^

    To add to this we can use olympic weight lifters as anecdotal evidence. These athletes experience (and train for) significant increases in strength and power without changes in body mass.

    Br
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    Quote Originally Posted by Movin_weight View Post
    In general, the first 3-6 weeks of a resistance training program consist of mostly neurological adaptations which allow the person to effectively and efficiently recruit more muscle fibers. This occurs before the person experiences any actual growth of the muscle.
    I know you said "in general" but I have an issue with this post. This would imply that the first 3-6 weeks of a resistance programme someone won't "experience any actual growth of muscle". There are many strength coaches who use 4-6 week mesocycles for hypertrophy before changing a programme completely.

    It simply isn't true that someone can't experience hypertrophy for the first 6 weeks of a training programme. This is too much of a generalisation.
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    Getting stronger without "getting bigger" is relative. If you squat 500lbs, you will have thicker legs than if you squat 150lbs. But if you are comparing two people squatting 500lbs, one for strength and one for size, yes you will definitely see big differences size wise.

    Training for size, power, and size is different but within each group the increase in strength will have some increase in size. The amount of increase is relative. You cannot continue to increase in size without increasing the weights on the long run.
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    Quote Originally Posted by bdcc View Post
    I know you said "in general" but I have an issue with this post. This would imply that the first 3-6 weeks of a resistance programme someone won't "experience any actual growth of muscle". There are many strength coaches who use 4-6 week mesocycles for hypertrophy before changing a programme completely.

    It simply isn't true that someone can't experience hypertrophy for the first 6 weeks of a training programme. This is too much of a generalisation.
    I think he was referring to someone who is untrained ie. has never lifted before. Not someone who is trained and starting a new program.

    Br
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    Quote Originally Posted by ZiR RED View Post
    I think he was referring to someone who is untrained ie. has never lifted before. Not someone who is trained and starting a new program.

    Br
    If a new client came to you and wanted muscle growth are you genuinely saying you would tell them they will experience no growth for 3-6 weeks, solely neurological adaptations?

    Maybe I am misreading the post. In it's format it makes no sense to me.
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    It is quite individualized, and much depends on the coordination and level of motor development/training of the client. Someone who is fairly inactive, never played sports or trained for anything is going to have a low level of motor programing development, and then yes, probably wouldn't see very much gains in muscle hypertrophy in the first 6 weeks of training. This is because the gains in strength are due to adaptations improving motor programming (i.e: the ability of the brain and spinal cords to send messages in the right time and pathway in order to recruit the right muscle fibers at the right times and to the right level).

    Someone who is better coordinated and has a more developed motor pathway who begins a resistance training program for the first time is likely to see increases in muscle cross sectional area quicker, as a greater demand will be placed upon the muscles via stronger recruitment patterns.

    In either case, the majority of strength gains during the first 6 weeks of resistance training (in an untrained subject) are due to neural adaptations.

    br
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    I understand neural inhibition as well as how this will impact a new trainee.

    It was more the general point that someone won't gain muscle on the first 3-6 weeks of a programme. I would be surprised if any decent level trainer who regularly takes measurements of their clients said they saw no growth for 6 weeks and then hypertrophy started taking place.
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    Quote Originally Posted by bdcc View Post
    If a new client came to you and wanted muscle growth are you genuinely saying you would tell them they will experience no growth for 3-6 weeks, solely neurological adaptations?

    Maybe I am misreading the post. In it's format it makes no sense to me.
    The first 6-10 weeks of training for a novice lifter are generally adaptations in the nervous system which are made and not really much hypertrophy. This is why strength gains are always fast in the beginning and then start to slow down as they progress. Strength gains start to slow because now increases in strength are due primarily to muscle hypertrophy. I dont think he is implying that no hypertrophy would occur but primarily during the first 6 weeks the majority of ones gains are due to the adaptations of the nervous system.
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    I do know what the neural process is lol.

    It was simply picking out that he said "before any gains" i.e. they would not gain a pound of muscle for at least 6 weeks. I just wanted this clarified as it is not technically correct. Possible, but not definitive.
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    Your correct, it's very possible to make gains in hypertrophy in 6 weeks. My example was for a beginner who is just starting a program, and it was to emphasize that you can gain strength without hypertrophy. I was not in any way saying that experienced athletes can't achieve hypertrophy in that amount of time.

    The point is you should not use strength as an indicator of whether or not your workout was optimized for growth, bc there are too many neurological factors that comprise force production.
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    Quote Originally Posted by bdcc View Post
    If a new client came to you and wanted muscle growth are you genuinely saying you would tell them they will experience no growth for 3-6 weeks, solely neurological adaptations?

    Maybe I am misreading the post. In it's format it makes no sense to me.

    Yes it is a broad generalization, and depends on the individual. Someone who has never performed any of the movements associated with resist training may take several weeks just to get familiar with the motor patterns before they are even able to handle a load heavy enough to induce significant hypertrophy.

    So yes it's very possible to have a client that will experienc zero actual muscle growth for the first several weeks (6 being on the extreme high end). And even if the appear to have fuller muscles, true structural hypertrophy does not include excess glycogen and intracellular water that causes a swelling effect.

    I realize your taking my post very literally when it was meant as a general statement so your def not wrong for that, and I actually should have been more precise with my wording.
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    I'm not sure what my take on it is.
    I know a bigger guy and he said your muscles don't always have to hurt for them to be growing....
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