The last weeks I observed couple times that I am getting stiffness/muscle ache in the upper arms after a boulder session. What's special about this is that it is very delayed. For example I went to the gym yesterday in the evening. Today I had no problems at all while working on the bureau. Arriving at home tonight an intense pain in the upper arms starts. Sometimes the stiffness even comes two days after the boulder session.

I am not facing cramps during or after bouldering. The issues I have while climbing are the typical hard forearms, lacking strength in the hands and skin resistance. No problems with the upper arms while climbing.

When I am facing muscle ache after an exhausting endurance run or a soccer match they come directly after the sport or by no later than the next morning. Therefore I am really wondering what is going on here?

So besides the general opinion that my body needs minerals like magnesium/calcium and lots of liquid what would you suggest?

  • Are you doing a proper warm up before your session?
    – ShemSeger
    Commented Feb 19, 2015 at 19:14
  • @ShemSeger Tbh. my warm up is just a short one. Normally I am stretching a bit and start with very easy routes.
    – Wills
    Commented Feb 19, 2015 at 19:26
  • 1
    wikipedia says that Static stretching or warming up the muscles does not prevent soreness. I often get those after a training following a few (usually summer) months of limited activity. They disappear after a few sessions.
    – njzk2
    Commented Feb 19, 2015 at 20:00
  • @njzk2 I just started a year ago and go regularly but mostly only once a week. No longer breaks yet. Still this delayed muscle soreness just started some weeks ago.
    – Wills
    Commented Feb 19, 2015 at 20:02

3 Answers 3


Have you ever done any weight training? This kind of "delayed onset muscle soreness" is very common for people beginning a weight training program.

This wikipedia page attempts to explain the mechanism.

For weight training, the general advice is to not stop lifting, but to reduce the weight and intensity. If you google "delay onset muscle soreness" you'll find a lot of advice about dealing with problem.

My guess is that you are working on problems that require a level of strength in certain muscles that is at the upper limit of your strength. Spending some time in the gym working on specific exercises for those muscles might be helpful. Working on different problems for a while and limiting your time on the problems that induce soreness will also help.

  • As not being a weight lifter at all this is indeed new to me. By not stop lifting you mean e.g. two days afterwards when you still have sore muscles? Wiki: There are claims in the literature that exercising sore muscles appears to be the best way to reduce or eliminate the soreness, but this has not yet been systematically investigated. Very interesting. I guess I am going for a hot bath now!
    – Wills
    Commented Feb 19, 2015 at 19:33
  • Yes, generally weight training is done 2x-3x per week for a specific muscle group. With DOMS, you generally keep to your schedule, as opposed to a muscle pull injury. For those it is recommended to stop lifting until the injury is pain free. Commented Feb 19, 2015 at 20:26
  • And BTW people used to believe that DOMS was from lactic acid buildup, but that turns out to be false.
    – user2169
    Commented Feb 19, 2015 at 23:25

I have to disagree with the above answer about rotator cuff problems. It is a good idea to strengthen your rotator cuffs for various reasons, but to me this does just sound like Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. Any type of high intensity exercise where you put strain on your muscles is likely to cause the same thing. I get delayed soreness (which always seems to be 2 days later) from weightlifting, roped climbing/bouldering and from squash (tends to be in the thighs and glutes). As you strengthen your muscles this soreness will lessen.

I have found that increasing my protein intake (whether with shakes or otherwise) post-exercise seems to lessen the soreness experienced a couple of days later.

It's also worth noting that DOMS tends to make the whole muscle ache. If you feel a sharp localized pain in a part of a muscle, or only on one side of your body, or more on the tendons at the ends of your muscles, then it's likely that you've done some (probably minor) damage to the muscle or tendon, and in this case you should rest until the pain goes away. With DOMS you can work right through it without doing any harm (if you can face it).


That sounds like a rotator cuff problem to me. It's a common problem that I see amongst my climbing friends and I experience myself. Usual symptoms are soreness in the elbow join/lower bicep, sometimes causing carpal tunnel pain, sometimes causing more extreme shoulder pain, sometimes even limiting movement.

My understanding is that we overuse the big muscles in our back (esp our lats, which attach to the front of the shoulder) which causes smaller muscles to become too strained and give up/get tired, resulting in an imbalance in the skeletal system causing pain. Apologies if my understanding is off; rotator cuff exercises seemed to fix my problems so I didn't delve any deeper to the actual mechanics.

Most of my friends just do a little rotator cuff maintenance every now and then - if I'm climbing a lot, I might do 2x15 reps twice a week. The actual exercise I do is to use a theraband to pull from inside of my body to outside of my body with my elbow held firm just above my hip. A better description is here (under the intermediate section):


Many friends believe in the benefits of this, but to try it out, just do 2x10 reps every day with a medium to light theraband.

One friend went from not being able to lift his arm above his shoulder to no pain, full movement and climbing in three days just by doing this. A week of rest and light stretching before we suggested it saw no improvement.

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