Muscle Soreness and Exercise

“If i’m not sore after I workout, then I haven’t worked hard enough”

A common misconception within the health and fitness industry and something we hear so often from our clients. So, what is muscle soreness? Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness aka. DOMS is the pain, tenderness and muscle aching that we experience after unfamiliar or unaccustomed exercise. We’ve all been there… fallen out of our usual exercise routine, had some time off and when we get back to exercise, the next day or 2 our body is feeling it!

When we exercise, particularly strength training, we get microscopic tears in the muscle fibres. As a result your body’s natural response to muscle damage is inflammation and this is its way of healing and adapting. However, pain and soreness are also associated with these micro-tears and the inflammatory response so we may want to reduce it. This healing process leads to adaptation of the muscle – increase in size, strength or capacity of the muscle. It is important to note here that muscle adaptation happens as part of your recovery (not during your workout), so if you are constantly sore, aching, tired etc then your recovery will not be optimal and the benefits of your exercise session reduced.

So, how do we manage this then? Well, DOMS occurs as a result of unfamiliar or unaccustomed movements. When you do a new movement for the first time or the load is significantly increased from the previous time you did that exercise, it is likely that you will get some level of DOMS. The severity of the muscle soreness does not relate to the extent of the exercise induced muscle damage (and growth of that muscle).

If you are exercising regularly and consistently, gradually increasing the weight, frequency or duration of your sessions, you should not regularly suffer from DOMS. Consistency and progressive overload are key here.

But, how do I know if I have worked hard enough then? Look, everyone hasdifferent goals so this will be different for every individual. However as a general rule working at 70-80% of your maximum capacity is beneficial. i.e a 7-8 out of 10 in terms of how hard you find each exercise (not 10/10) or still having 2 or 3 reps left in the tank for each exercise. 

Come and chat with us or drop us a message if you have any questions about muscle soreness and exercise!