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I have been doing martial arts (kickboxing/BJJ) for 3 months now. In that time frame, I have worked up my body from going from 2 days to 3 days a week. I want to work up to 4/5 days a week, with a rest day in the middle. However what is preventing me from achieving this is my muscle soreness... I have recently added stretching (I know! I am new to all this). And do so mainly before and sometimes after (even-though from this week I am being consistent about doing it right after). I am still struggling to get to that 4-5 days a week. Let alone my ultimate goal which is to do weight lifting, yoga & MMA. I come from a lazy background of mostly sitting and not to mention a life of drinking/partying (have done many drugs too). I am trying to clean up my act and get my shit together. And MMA is defiantly what is driving me towards a healthier me.

Right now I am taking fish oil, vitamin D, protein and from this week glutamine as supplementation. My diet is pretty healthy, mostly a mix of green leaves & meat. I drink about 3 liters of water a day. I quit buying cigerattes (will have one or two on social occasions, but want to stop it as well). I drink about once a week(still in college right :P). I have recently learnt about static and dynamic stretches and will implement them accordingly (any feedback on it will be grateful as well). At the gym I treat it like it is time for war, I punch the heavy bag as hard/fast as I can(of course with good form). I try to hit the point where I am exhausted and this is just the first 30 minutes. After which our classes consist of learning techniques/sparring, where I am more relaxed and easy going, mostly because of exhaustion. Our sparring classes are not rough and relaxed as well (Atleast for low levels). With jujitsu I am much more relaxed from the get go as my instructor demands of his students, to apply technique not strength in jujitsu, so its not as taxing.

I feel like I am mentally here but physically I feel limited and want to break through it as soon as possible. The soreness that got me to come here and ask is my bicep which always get it after kickboxing and I hate it the most. Any Tips to speed up my process? They can range from supplements, specific stretching routines to even suggestions at my approach to mma, etc.

  • What's your carb intake? You only mention greens, meat, and supplements. – Dave Liepmann Nov 19 '14 at 11:38
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Cold/hot flush

Here's a trick I learned from a coach & sports medicine expert - after a workout, soak cold for 10 minutes then soak hot/warm after. I started doing that and found my own soreness reduced by 2/3rds (of course, pain is subjective so...) He typically dumped his players into a tub with ice, I'm not as hardcore so I just use a cold bath instead.

The science behind it is that the cold causes constrictions of the blood vessels, helping flush out lactic acid that's built up. The hot brings blood back in for repairs of the tissue.

Muscle soreness vs. muscle damage

Normal muscle soreness disappears in about 1-3 days if you're not continuing to work the area. If the soreness/pain persists after that, you've done more than built up acid and normal stress you've given yourself minor muscle tears. These aren't horrifically bad, since most people just keep doing it with the logic "no pain no gain" and you can find a bunch of bad sports books in the 80s and early 90s even claiming this is beneficial...but the fact is that it slows/halts your improvement rather than helping it.

Once you go past a certain point, your body is spending more time playing "catch up" with the damage it's received than actually laying down new tissue to get ahead of it and improve your strength or muscle endurance. (One of my friends was on a roller derby team - they did 3-4 hour training sessions which was hampering their performance. Once they got a coach with a better sports background who reduced the amount of raw muscle fatigue they were building up all the time, their performance improved drastically).

If this is the case for your body, the solution is to tone back the amount of stress the muscles are facing - if it was raw resistance training, the solution would be to notch back the weight a bit and slowly come back up and then beyond. You'll also find older strength training books that talk about this method, but they usually don't have the physiology knowledge of why this works. In the case of martial arts, whatever you're doing that's the heavy force for those muscles -tone it back, do it a bit less and see if you start gaining more strength.

It's also generally hard to tell if it's the martial arts or your other strength training that could be doing it. This is where it's really good to get a physical trainer who has really good knowledge of body mechanics and can help you figure out what the heck is doing it for you.

Stretching does this, doesn't do that

Stretching does two useful things. First, it helps you reset your muscle spindles to being comfortable at longer lengths - this not only helps you get a bit more range of motion, and potentially move a bit quicker, the biggest thing is that it helps your body not trigger a pulled muscle.

Your muscle spindles (& Golgi Tendon reflex nerves) are sensors that tell your body how fast a muscle is being lengthened, it uses this info to gauge whether you might incur joint damage from a part moving too fast - and it causes the muscles to lock up - act as "brakes" to prevent the joint from getting injured. Since muscle heals faster and better than joints, this is a natural body process we've gotten from evolution. It's how we get most muscle pulls/tears.

When you're used to the body being in a shortened muscle position, moving out of that, sometimes the spindles get stuck into the short position and force cramps, tears, etc. based on that. This is why stretching after training is particularly useful. Before training, usually it makes sense to simply put yourself through the range of motion you plan on doing, slowly, then faster/with more force until you can do a full movement. Doing stretches beyond the expected range of motion only destabilizes your joints for the sake of that movement.

Second, stretching can offer minor benefits for reducing soreness in that you're typically getting a bit more fluid moved around which helps for reducing lactic acid build up, etc. but it's not a primary way of solving the problem, nor does it necessarily produce more strength by itself.

  • Sigh.... Lactic acid is a fuel, and is NOT responsible for DOMS. I'd also be interested in your reference for muscle spindles getting "stuck" in shortened positions. – JohnP Nov 20 '14 at 15:14
  • Sensory fibers in the muscle spindles measure the rate of change in muscle length - to do so, they themselves have a minor amount of contraction in order to have tension to measure that difference. When you leave muscles at a resting state, these fibers will shorten to take that as the "normal" length and fire signals when the rate changes quickly. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muscle_spindle#Sensitivity_modification Also note this: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muscle_spindle#mediaviewer/… – Bankuei Nov 20 '14 at 17:14
  • The second example in the picture, is effectively where the fibers return to after a muscle is left in a given state long enough - the afferent firing signals go to "this is neutral" rather than high or low. In kinesiology and much of PT this is used to help get lasting posture changes usually with around 30 second holds to reset the spindle rates. – Bankuei Nov 20 '14 at 17:20
  • A rate of change to a certain level produces the "braking action" I've noted: "The reflexly evoked activity in the alpha motoneurons is then transmitted via their efferent axons to the extrafusal fibers of the muscle, which generate force and thereby resist the stretch. " and above that, when it finally goes beyond that, produces the clasp knife response of a complete deactivation of the muscles: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clasp-knife_response The former produces muscle tears, the latter complete destabilization. – Bankuei Nov 20 '14 at 17:23
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    Yes, I'm aware of that effect, and I blame that for assisting with my achilles rupture. I guess what I was having trouble with was the "stuck" nomenclature, as they don't really stick, they readjust their internal thermostat so to speak. – JohnP Nov 20 '14 at 19:09

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