Do Sore Muscles Mean a Good Workout?

You do a heavy arm workout. You put yourself through some serious training and can barely move your arms when you are finished. However, you wake up over the next few days and are amazed that you aren’t really that sore. This must mean you didn’t get a good workout in, right? WRONG. The whole “No Pain, No Gain” mantra is a crock of BS.

You do not need to get sore in order to build muscle. Muscle soreness, known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), is not an indicator of a successful workout. All soreness means is that your muscle tissue is still inflamed and has not fully recovered. When you train, your muscles are literally tearing themselves apart, causing micro trauma damage. This is a good thing and this is how you grow. The body is amazing at healing itself and will eventually fully recover from this. However, it takes time for your body to recover and this is why you may feel soreness.

It’s usually the beginners that get the most sore or those people who continually take days off from exercise and start up again. Beginners usually get sore because they are putting their body through something it isn’t used to by working out. You also must factor in poor recovery abilities. Generally, beginners aren’t used to proper muscular recovery. Their muscles are adapting to the stress placed on it when exercising and during recovery. In addition, people who train on and off for weeks or months at a time may experience more soreness since their bodies aren’t fully adapted to constant exercise and tension. Even advanced lifters can get sore, even though it’s not as common. You are more likely to get sore if you change up your routine and intensity.

The only way to get stronger and to build more muscle is through progressive overload training. You need to either lift more weight, perform more repetitions, or complete a set workload in less time. This may get you sore because you are changing your routine. Remember, it’s not the soreness that’s the indicator that got you a good workout. It’s the fact that you changed something.

You must remember that you shouldn’t train an overly sore muscle. If your muscle is sore to the touch or the soreness limits your range of motion, it’s best to give your muscles at least another day of rest. You could do some light aerobic activity and stretching and maybe even light lifting. This can help alleviate some of the soreness by stimulating bloodflow through the muscles, which removes waste products to help with recovery.