T Nation

Low Reps = No DOMS?


I have been working in the 8-10 rep range until recently and I am used to getting DOMS. My muscles felt like they were inflated and had a mild, pleasant sore feeling.

I'm now working in the rep range of 2-3 and I no longer get DOMS. I do more sets but all I feel the next day is painful tendons and a different kind of muscle soreness that is not at all like DOMS. Is this what I should expect from 2-3 rep range lifting?


Well yes and no. Yes very low rep range lifting tends to reduce DOMS. That is one of the primary reasons that low rep lifting (singles, doubles, and triples) is present in all intelligent high frequency training schemes---you can't train a muscle that is extremely sore very frequently. So it reduces DOMS and allows you to lift more weight for more sets, and sometimes more frequently (look at Thib's HPmass and Daryl Gee project...very high volume back to back sessions, but the reps are low)

However, on the sore tendons--NO that is not what you should be feeling. Typically what needs to be done in getting ready for low rep, heavy lifting is transitioning gradually from your regular higher rep bodybuilding to the 2-3 rep range.

This transition is necessary to get your connective tissue used to the higher tension loaded on it, and to prevent some of what you are feeling now--sore hurting tendons. Typically something along the lines of lifting in the 5-8 rep range, then after you adapt to that moving to the 3-5 rep range, then settling onto your current rep scheme.

Tendons adapt slower than muscles do. There's very little/no blood flow directly to the tendons and therefore nutrients are not delivered quite so fast.

The good news, however, is that you will probably get over it eventually and it will go away. It is justlike what probably happened the first time you ever did a weight workout. Holy shit I literally couldn't bend my arms for a week after my forst ever workout! It was soooo painful. But after a couple weeks of working consistently it went to "normal" DOMS. Then slightly better every week.

That is what happened again when I switched from "regular" training to westside. Oh my god my tendons hurt so bad...but they eventually adapted to the load. Incidentally I didn't do a transition phase in gradually lower reps either, which would have made my life easier. But they DID adapt anyway.

So short answer--yes on the different kind of muscle soreness and no on the tendon pain...but that pain WILL go away as you adapt. You just didn't transition is all.

The only thing I would say is to check your form to make sure it isn't actually the way you are performing the exercises (incorrectly). I would also seriously advise you--as someone who has been there firsthand--to make foam rolling and tennis ball rolling of your muscles a consistent part of your warm ups or evenings before bed or mornings. It will be uncomfortable, slightly painful, but it will help your tendons to also loosen up. And down the road you will find out how many problems it prevents--regardless of low/higher reps.

Sorry for any typos, I am sending from my phone.


I agree with Aragorn. I actually transitioned and felt no tendon pain. All I did was keep notching the weight up by ten pounds every week until I got to heavy doubles.