Adjusting strength training to avoid DOMS

Agreed on “depends on what the goal is”. I assumed from his tone he was just looking to stay in shape.

If he’s getting DOMS every time he lifts, he’s in newbie mode still.

How can you ever know what the minimum is to maintain and prevent injury?

Lift lighter weight to avoid DOMS. Pretty simple.

If you want gains, youll prob need to push yourself to the extent that you get DOMS.

Ive been doing 1-2x per week barbell squats 4x6reps since December and crept up really slow in weight (ie lifting much lighter than I actually could). Got DOMS the first few weeks and recently a few times when I push myself on the 3rd or 4th set. It’s just part of it, but once you decide you’re ‘strong enough’ and enter maintenance mode, then you shouldnt get DOMS anymore or at least not for more than a day afterwards.


Regarding his goal, he also threw in later that he was looking to break a W/Kg plateau, which is why this thread took a little bit of a turn. Lifting (while awesome for a lot of things) isn’t the best way to do that.

Regarding maintenance and de-training, it depends on your age. As you get older, you need more. But, most of us are still in the zone of 1/week to maintain if you work up to enough in that one session. My n=1 certainly supports it in my mid 40’s and that’s generally one 45-60 minute session for upper body and core, even though I prefer two as that will lead to some gains (for me).

You may have done this, but for anyone else, strongly recommend Andy Galpin and his Youtube Series, or the series he did with Andrew Huberman if you want to geek out on Strength, Hypertrophy, Muscle Growth, etc.

Some studies on Maintenance and Detraining:

I expect DOMS after my 2 weeks holidays without lifting. But I don’t know how much I should cut weights to avoid most of it. I lift 3 times a week now, mostly just deadlift, squat and barbell row, 3x6.

Previously, holidays led to abandoning lifting for the season. I would like to change that and keep lifting through out the year.

My N=1 is that I try and do a bit of strength training while on holiday and that really helps. Even with no equipment at all just 5-15 minutes every couple of days of bodyweight exercises is enough that I can usually slot straight back into lifting where I left off with no DOMS.


(missed that part about the goal)

sorry I am not trying to start an internet war or talk down on anyone…I don’t get why anyone is mentioning maintenance

but OP you are not maintaining anything if you just started to lift 8 weeks ago. your progress is gonna be minimal and slow doing it weekly. your body doesn’t know you’re busy with 2024 lift stuff.

if you lifted for several years, I see a case for 1x a week.

that said, 1x / week >>>> 0 but if you want to overcome DOMs you need to increase frequency. once you’re up and running you should get DOMS like maaaaybe every 5-10 workouts…and it shouldn’t be debilitating / bad hardly ever.

here’s a paper called No Time to Lift? I heard about it on the Inside Exercise podcast. maybe it’ll give you a few ideas to squeeze in 2x / week.

this is the best idea I saw on this thread. there’s a great reddit forum with routines to get started right away. this would work better than lifting 1x/week imo. you’re limited with some stuff like deadlifts / squats…but you can get a LOT done and get through your DOMS phases.


Would you recommend 3-4 reps for maintenance (i.e. less impact on recovery) and higher reps for off-season (higher stress for higher long-term gain) in general?

DOMS is like cramp. It means you’re doing more than you can handle and you need to ramp up slower.

Once a week means minimal gains. Dial back the weight and reps until it feels like you didn’t work out at all. Then next week +2.5kg. A slow ramp rate avoids DOMS.

Your second session can’t be in the gym so try to replicate these movements. Air squats, lunges etc. again easy, this should feel like you didn’t work out.

Because building strength isn’t a goal for everyone, and really shouldn’t be if your primary goal is getting faster on the bike, because it can detract from that.

You’re posting a lot of information that’s good general information, but can be poor advice for cyclists where it’s not their primary goal and can hurt their primary goal.

With that said, when I get over this silly cycling phase, I personally will go back to a strength and hypertrophy focus because I think it’s better for overall health, performance, and longevity, even if not for on-bike performance.

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I think a more accurate statement would be that some cyclists believe strength training can improve your cycling performance, others believe it detracts; some coaches believe strength training can improve your cycling performance, others believe it detracts; some exercise physiologists believe strength training can improve cycling performance, others believe it detracts.

In some cases it does, in others it doesn’t, and that is likely the result of genetics combined with how the strength program is structured. My N = 1, based on my genetics at age 24 and the exercises and structure I used, is that strength training is phenomenal for improving pedaling power. Absolutely phenomenal. On the other hand, if I had been using that time in the gym to instead do VO2 max intervals (I wasn’t doing anything other than what we refer to today as Z2 and Z3 riding) would I have gotten the same (or better) improvement? Maybe? There is no way to know.

Not sure I would look at DOMS like this. Normally I hit the weights once or twice a week. My most recent workout (yesterday) was 11 days after my last one and I cut the weight drastically. For example, I normally do leg curls with 110 pounds, 100 pounds, and 90 pounds (sorta like drop sets). Instead I only used 90 pounds. For pendulum squats I normally use 90 pounds, 80 pounds, and 70 pounds. Instead I only used 45 pounds. I have some pretty serious DOMS today and I clearly did not use more than I can handle - I’m dealing with it because I took nearly two weeks between workouts.

DOMS isn’t something to be afraid of or avoid, in fact the more you embrace it the sooner you WON’T be dealing with it.

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I try to target 2 days of lifting and one yoga session per week, with the primary goal of long term health and injury prevention. That target is aspirational, and some weeks I miss yoga or miss one day of lifting. But key to making that 2x/week lifting workable for me is that my gym is very accessible (basement of my office, which is a mile from my house) and that my sessions are typically only 25 minutes. If someone told me to do two 60 minute or 90 minute gym sessions per week, I wouldn’t be able to fit that in. But with 25 minutes, I can crank through a couple sets each covering the essential movement types that Derek Teel has outlined on the Dialed Health podcast (e.g. pushups/bench press; seated rows; lat pulldowns; shoulder press; plank; goblet squat / single leg Romanian deadlift; and Bulgarian split squat / weighted lunge).

Probably not optimal if I was optimising hypertrophy or strength, but my approach is to warm up very briefly and then move quickly from one exercise to the next, e.g. resting my quads while I do bench press. Not perfect by any means I’m sure, but this approach is sustainable for me and should help me maintain muscle mass and bone density (I’m in my 50s). I do sets of six mainly, which also keeps the time in check vs longer sets. I also do some stretching 3x per week while watching a Netflix show.

And I tend to lift on Tuesdays and Sundays in the afternoons after a morning ride, with Wednesdays and Mondays being pure rest days. With the lifting, the riding, and taking a statin, I have plenty of DOMS, but the schedule lets me manage around that reasonably well.

Interesting thread, and something I’ve been struggling with over the years as I figure out how to balance. When I was a rower in college, we would cut out strength training as we entered our spring/racing season. Over the years I’ve struggled to figure out how to balance strength training with marathon training/cycling. I just entered my build phase for gravel/endurance events this year and haven’t been able to perform on VO2 max intervals and lift heavy.

Currently, I’m lifting twice per week, doing OHP/Squats (warmup + 3x5 of each, last being AMRAP) on one day, bench 3x5 and deadlift 1xAMRAP on the other. Is there a suggested rep range/weight range that might work during the season to at least maintain a bit of strength during the season?

Find a weight light enough to not give you DOMS from a single set. if that´s the empty bar, take it. Then ramp up slowly in weight or reps relative to what you did before, not relative to any predefined training plan. Slow enough to keep DOMS at bay. Leave more volume for later.
5g Creatine/d can help descreasing muscle damage from exercise. Which doesn´t say that DOMS is necesarely caused my muscle damage.
But I assume your issue is not DOMS per se, as that just goes away with exercising again. You probably rather suffer from muscle damage.

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Hi Monk,

For maintenance (e.g. you want to do just enough to avoid losing gains but you are super focused on being able to perform on the bike) I would pick one exercise that primarily targets quads and one that primarily targets hamstrings, maybe a third that is focused on glutes or a combination. Warm up really, really well then do 1 set of 4 reps with whatever your max weight is for 4 reps, then drop the weight as little as possible to be able to do 12 reps. You’re done with that exercise. So, if you do leg curls and leg presses, 4 total sets and you’re heading out the door, done. I believe you want to touch a bit of everything: neuromuscular, ATP-CP, glycolytic strength. Really, really focus on a super strong mind-muscle connection. Feel each fiber in the muscle as you go through each rep.

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The more accurate way to put it, is that for most people strength is not a limiter for FTP. Quoting Kolie here as this is one of the recent discussions with a relevant reference

Discussion From here:


…But the strength training will be if you’re aching all the time from DOMS (!)

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then don’t strength train in a way that is always giving you DOMS!


Don’t try and get PRs in the gym everytime and lift lighter weights. Practice the movement through a full range of motion.

Don’t be like me and try to get a PR deadlift and strain a muscle and then can’t ride for 2-3 weeks. :face_holding_back_tears: