DOMS: T-rex arms and Crossfit
The first thing I thought of when I googled “can’t extend arm after crossfit” and read the term “DOMS” was “ is that some Dom Mazzetti skit again?” It turned out to be less entertaining than that, but it was nicknamed “t-rex arms” which sounded kind of funny.
I was into my first official week of a month-long crossfit membership, when I woke up the morning after a workout to find that I couldn’t extend my right arm beyond 90 degrees without excruciating pain, it was swollen to about two times the size and hard as a rock. First a panicked, and then second, like any millennial, I googled.
It turned out my injury was pretty common, especially in crossfit. DOMS stands for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. Sure, I’d been sore before, unable to walk up stairs for days, but I’d never experienced anything as debilitating as this. This extreme soreness, it turns out, comes from eccentric workouts…which doesn’t mean unconventional or strange in this case. Eccentric contractions are those where the muscle is elongated at the time of the contraction.
My good friend Lauren is an avid pole fitness fanatic, and she is constantly elongating her limbs while trying to hold herself up on the pole and still manage to look graceful…it’s pretty incredible.
It is that exact type of exercise that is to blame for the beloved t-rex arm. So it turns out crossfit and pole dancing have more in common than I thought? Well…sort of. The day before my injury, I’d been doing toe to bars, a fancy circus form of hanging abs, and the day before that I’d been doing pull ups, and in between them I’d been doing burpees, pushups, and handstands. I like to think I’m pretty strong and tough, but it turns out I can mentally put up with a lot more exertion than I can physically.
As it turns out, the swelling is part of the healing process, and the inability to extend is a protective function to keep from further injury. So does that make it a good thing? Yep! I might be able to push myself hard as all hell, but the truth is, my body needs to catch up to where my mind is at physically, and a few days of t-rex arms is exactly what I needed to take a step back and let my body catch up.