Summer is close enough that many will soon begin to prepare and build their ‘summer body’. With newly inspired focus and intensity, it often follows that people experience frequent muscle soreness. This article will discuss the relevance of muscle soreness. Do you need to feel sore to make great progress? How sore is too sore? Is DOMS something you should seek out, as a mark of effectiveness?
Causes of Muscle Soreness
Mild soreness after a workout is not a bad thing. It’s a sign that the muscle has been taxed and exposed to a new and novel stimulus. When exercising effectively, the demands you impose on your muscles cause a microscopic breakdown of fibres and subsequent discomfort.
Whilst it sounds counterintuitive, breaking down muscle and experiencing soreness is not without good reason. When your damaged muscle fibres rebuild, the muscle is typically stronger! Soreness is a simple product of low-level, acute inflammation and your body’s way of reminding you to rest and recover the sore muscle, allowing it time to adapt.
Certain types of exercise cause more soreness than others. Eccentric activity (lengthening your muscles under load; for example: the lowering phase of a squat or running downhill) causes more soreness because it creates greater tension on the muscle. Generally speaking, we experience greater soreness as a result of lowering weights than we do lifting weights.
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness
Have you ever experienced greater soreness 48 or 72-hours after your workout than you experienced after the first 24-hours? This phenomenon is known as delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS. The extent of your soreness is often delayed as it can takes time for various physiological processes to materialise as pain.
Note: Whilst a massage will help reduce discomfort via increased blood flow, there is little you can do to ‘treat’ DOMS. Stretching and nutrition achieve very little positive results. The experience will naturally lessen after 72-hours or when your body becomes more used to the new stimulus (workout format).
Exercising When You’re Already Sore
Whether or not you should exercise when sore simply depends on how sore you are. Our suggestion is that working out with a little bit of soreness is not only acceptable but expected. On a scale of 1-10 your soreness experience is approximately “5 or less”, that’s okay. If discomfort is increasing beyond that, the pain is getting worse during activity, or if you’re limping or changing your gait, reduce the intensity of your workout.
How to Avoid Soreness
To be clear, we believe that a well-designed workout plan must take in to account your current ability, exercise experience and ability to recover. A great workout plan should not leave you limping to work for the rest of the week.
We always advise the following steps to help prevent muscle soreness.
• Warm-up effectively prior to intense activity.
• Keep moving. Gentle low-intensity activity (such as 20-mins of light cardiovascular exercise) can help keep biological waste products from settling locally at your recovering muscles.
• Higher intensities should be worked towards gradually. If you slowly increase the load on your muscles over time, soreness will be less of an issue. You do not need a new personal best every week!
Deciding to Start a New Workout Plan
New clients to Embody Fitness are rarely first-time exercisers. Our 12-week transformation clients have typically tried and tested a number of different workout methods, group exercise classes and personal trainers. That being said, many new clients are not used to our specific workout methodology. An important part of our job in creating an effective workout plan is to design a schedule and volume (amount of ‘work’ performed) that will allow you to function and recover efficiently. In order to keep your workout frequency optimal, we need to keep you ready to perform during your next workout.
Having a client experience excessive soreness after their workout is not our goal.
The risk of soreness should never deter you from beginning a new workout plan. We want only to help you understand that soreness is not a measure of progress. In essence, each workout you perform is a stimulus for change. The stimulus must be challenging enough to inspire change but after that, more is not better. For the best results, your workout intensity and volume should be optimal and never excessive.
We hoped you enjoyed reading.
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