You see thighs; biology sees fibres. Behind the scenes, developing muscle demands a concerted effort to damage muscles. Hard gym work creates micro tears in muscle, which result in post-workout muscle pain (delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS).

While any muscle activation beyond rest or basic activities causes micro tears, the degree of tearing – and therefore, potential re-building – correlates with workload, Ruys says. He adds that heavier or harder sessions will result in greater tears and worse DOMS.

While the process is far from instantaneous and relies on variables including pre- and post-workout nutrition, the reparative response to tears generally includes muscles adapting to a new workload by becoming stronger and bigger than they were – enter the almighty protein shake. DOMS severity is a guide to micro-tear severity.

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