Two Questions About Muscle Soreness After a Workout

March 11, 2010 | Comments: None Yet - Post a Comment

Categories: Science, Wellness

These are two questions sent to me by one of my fans on FaceBook and my answers.

There are two kinds of muscle soreness, acute and delayed onset.  Acute soreness occurs during the workout and usually goes away after the exercise is over.  Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) occurs 24-48 hours post exercise.  There are many theories detailing what causes DOMS, but there is no definitive answer.  The kind of soreness we are addressing here is DOMS.

We are all told that you should only work a muscle group every other day. No problem. I have this weird obsession that if I’m not a little sore the next day after a workout, I didn’t do as much as I should have. Is that a wrong assumption?

It is a wrong assumption.  Just because you aren’t sore, doesn’t mean that you didn’t get a good workout. Soreness of any amount is an indication of muscle injury.  A little soreness isn’t bad, but a lot means you need to ease back.  This is where the principles of progression come into play.  Start with low weights and build yourself up.  Even if you progress ten pounds in the course of a workout, that’s fine.  Depending on your goals, you should be able to lift the weight 8-10 times with the last two or three reps being difficult.  If you are really looking to build muscle and have the proper diet to back it up, you may be only lifting a weight for 4-6 reps with the last rep being very difficult. Both of these approaches can and will produce muscle soreness if you push yourself too far.

And my next question is if I am still sore 2 days after working a muscle group, should I wait until all soreness is gone before weightlifting again? Hope that all makes sense. Thanks for always answering my questions 🙂

This is not as easy to answer as it may seem because it depends on why you are still sore.  Did you not stretch or drink enough water?  Were you sedentary after your workout and now your muscles are stiff from inactivity? Or did you really hurt yourself because you just pushed too hard?

Usually it is fine to workout with a little soreness.  In fact, you might find that getting the muscles moving again will help relieve the pain.  HOWEVER, if you really hurt yourself in some way (is this a good time to tell the story of how I ran a 5K in the wrong shoes and could barely walk for two weeks?) then you should absolutely take a break.  There are other activities that would benefit your body better at this time.  Light yoga, stretching, foam rolling and a little ibuprofen if you can tolerate it, are all good options.

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