How many times have you heard or said this statement or something of the like?
“I had the best workout last week, I was sore for days.”
Muscle soreness has become the standard by which training and individual workouts are judged. Just because you are sore, does that really mean you had a beneficial, safe and smart workout?
The answer is 100% no.
Muscle soreness is nothing more than a sign from your body that you did something you are not typically used to doing.
A new training routine, a new exercise or an exercise you have not done in a long time can trigger muscle soreness, which is a bout of inflammation, your body’s defense mechanism. Inflammation is how your body handles injury and as a part of the repair and recovery process, your body increases production of immune cells.
These immune cells cause certain pain receptors in your body to be more sensitive and when you move, the pain receptors are stimulated. This increased sensitivity leads to you feeling sore.
Some research shows that the source of the pain is in the connective tissue, rather than the actual muscles themselves.
Do you ever notice that certain exercises get you sore no matter how often you do them?
Typically exercises involving some sort of pre-stretch can trigger increased soreness. Movements like Dumbbell Flyes, Romanian Dead Lifts, Bulgarian Split Squats and any kind of weighted ab movement are some of the biggest culprits.
Muscle soreness is not a good indicator of a successful training session for the reasons I listed above. Many people also track the soreness level over the course of a few days, assuming that once the soreness has subsided, the muscle is recovered and can now continue to grow. A study done in 2000 showed that muscle damage can clear up after a week or less but damage to your nervous system can last for 10 days or more.
What does all of this mean for a regular guy or gal like you who’s just trying to get results, get stronger and look awesome?
Being sore, stiff or fatigued can feel good and make you feel accomplished, but do not use that as the main indicator of intelligent training, recovery and muscle growth.
Here are some simple steps to ensure that you are recovering efficiently and giving your muscles the fuel and time to grow:
- Train 4-5 days per week with scheduled rest days
- Be sure to drink at least 70 ounces of water per day
- Take a high quality fish oil daily
- Include foam rolling and other soft tissue work before and after each training session
- Get monthly massage work if possible
- Eat at least 100 grams of high quality protein daily
- Include a post-workout recovery shake into your nutrition plan
- Hire a highly qualified trainer to work with
- Include adequate recovery between sets of highly explosive movements, sprints or on heavy lifting days to recharge your central nervous system
- Do not go to muscle failure
I’m not saying you should never push yourself because you might get sore, pushing your self is KICK ASS. You just don’t want to only gauge your workout and progress on if you are sore or not. You can have some of the best training sessions of your life and not be even the least bit sore. That by no means you are not working hard or getting results, you’re just doing all the right stuff during the workout and you are doing all the right stuff after in terms of sleep, recovery and food.