DOMS in quad muscles

To complement the Research Reports in the December 2015 issue of MASSAGE Magazine.

A 30-minute massage significantly improved the recovery rate for male bodybuilders engaged in an exercise routine designed to induce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), according to recent research.

The study, “Efficacy of massage on muscle soreness, perceived recovery, physiological restoration and physical performance in male bodybuilders,” involved 30 male bodybuilders who did not use supplements or steroids, had at least two years of experience in bodybuilding, and were active participants in a bodybuilding program that ensured a controlled diet-and-exercise pattern.


Induced Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)

The bodybuilders were randomly assigned to either a massage group or a control group. The men in both groups were instructed to fast for 12 hours and take a 48-hour break from exercise before arriving at the research facility for an exercise protocol designed to induce muscle soreness. At the end of the exercise routine, an isometric protocol was used to induce DOMS in the right quadriceps muscle.

Following this soreness-inducing regimen, the massage group received a 30-minute massage on the right quadriceps muscle, whereas the control group engaged in their normal passive recovery. The study’s authors reported the massage consisted of effleurage, petrissage and vibration.


The Results

One of the main outcome measures for this study was serum creatine kinase (CK). According to the researchers, this marker of muscle damage following exercise was measured via blood samples. Another outcome measure was the perception of soreness, which each subject rated on a visual analog scale ranging from “no pain” to “pain as bad as can be.” The other three outcome measures were an agility test, a vertical jump test and a maximum isometric torque (MIT) test.

These assessments were made at six points in time, beginning at baseline—before any interventions had taken place. The next five assessment points were immediately after the soreness-inducing exercise protocol; immediately after the 30-minute massage or passive recovery period; and then again 24, 48 and 72 hours later.

Results of the research revealed the CK levels of bodybuilders in the massage group were significantly lower than those in the control group both 48 and 72 hours after the massage. When it came to the vertical jump test, though both groups showed significant decreases in performance following the induced DOMS, the performance of the massage group returned to baseline level at the 72-hour mark, whereas the performance of the control group continued to decline.

As for the MIT test, although both groups showed significant decreases in performance following the induced DOMS, MIT in the massage group was significantly higher than in the control group 72 hours after the massage. In terms of perceived muscle soreness, the bodybuilders in the massage group rated their soreness significantly lower than those in the control group at 24, 48 and 72 hours. For the agility test, no significant differences were found between the massage group and the control group.

“A post-exercise massage session can improve the exercise performance and recovery rate in male bodybuilders after intensive exercise,” concluded the authors.


Authors: Mehdi Kargarfard, Eddie T.C. Lam, Ardalan Shariat, Ina Shaw, Brandon S. Shaw and Shamsul B.M. Tamrin.

Sources: Faculty of Physical Education and Sport Sciences, Department of Sport Physiology, University of Isfahan, Iran; Department of Health and Human Performance, Cleveland State University, Ohio; Department of Occupational Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Putra Malaysia, Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia; and Department of Sport and Movement Studies, University of Johannesburg, South Africa. Originally published online in September 2015 in the Journal of Sports Sciences.


Read more MASSAGE Magazine Research Reports here.