Being able to train makes you stronger
Sore muscles - muscle growth? Continue training or take a break? What to do about it
Muscle soreness (German Wikipedia, English Wikipedia: DOMS) is a pain in the muscles that is typically Strongest 24-48 hours after training is. In itself it is neither dangerous nor a sign of good training and usually subsides after 72 hours or a few days.
Sore muscles can be very uncomfortable and reduce performance. A slight sore muscles is usually just a little uncomfortable, a really strong sore muscles can be really painful.
When do you get sore muscles?
Muscle soreness typically occurs when you perform an unfamiliar activity - you start with a new exercise, for example.
Movements that have a strong eccentric component encourage the development of sore muscles. Eccentric means yielding. When you lower yourself from the top position of a pull-up, that's the eccentric part of the move. Or, if you run downhill on a hike, your body weight will be eccentrically cushioned by your leg muscles (one reason why the descent while hiking can cause muscle soreness as hell.)
The strength athlete who does ballet is likely to get sore muscles. Just like the marathon runner doing heavy squats for the first time. So: New movements or a new range of motion make you prone to sore muscles.
What causes sore muscles?
It used to be believed that sore muscles were a product of too much lactate (lactic acid) in the muscle or that it was a symptom of severe inflammation. Both are wrong.
Sore muscles may be caused by small muscle damage (microtrauma). Think of it as small tears in your muscle cells. This could create a multitude of small swellings that ultimately cause the pain that is felt.
Furthermore, damage to the connective tissue could also be responsible for the uncomfortable feeling. Many studies have been conducted without reasonable control groups. Since muscle biopsies (German Wikipedia) were carried out, the measured damage to the muscle cells could only have been caused by the biopsy! 1Malm C. Exercise-induced muscle damage and inflammation: fact or fiction? Acta Physiol Scand. 2001 Mar; 171 (3): 233-9. Review. PubMed PMID: 11412135.
It is still unclear and some research is needed before we can say what actually happens when the sore muscles develop.
But to get rid of or prevent sore muscles you don't have to know how it develops!
Are sore muscles a sign of a good workout?
It is still popularly believed that sore muscles are a sign of successful training.
It's tempting to think that sore muscles are a sign of good training. Because a proper destruction of the muscle tissue could lead to a very effective training stimulus. However, when it comes to training, more is not always better! It's about finding the right dose for your goals. If you overdo it, the pain will make it difficult for you to continue training and it will hinder your progress.
A slight sore muscles can go hand in hand with a good workout. Really sore muscles are a sign that you've overdone.
Many athletes experience practically no sore muscles after the first training units and still make progress.
So muscle soreness is not a sign of a good workout, but it can be associated with it. Above all, however, it is an indication of unusual movement or excessive stress.
Sore muscles and muscle growth
Contrary to the expectations of many exercisers, sore muscles are in no way related to muscle growth. Muscle soreness and muscle growth often occur (correlate) together, but by no means have to. Many exercisers never have sore muscles in the deltoid, but still make this muscle grow wonderfully. Or they have terrible muscle soreness in their legs without any muscle growth. Exercisers who exercise often and with large volumes of exercise tend to have less sore muscles, but usually “grow” better and vice versa.
Excessive muscle soreness can hold you back from your next workout and thus hinders your long-term progress. Therefore: Don't focus on sore muscles if your muscle growth is important to you. Then what do you focus on? Read our muscle building guide.
How can you prevent sore muscles?
- Start slowly in new training programs or when learning new exercises. Gradually increase the intensity (how hard it is) and volume (how many sets you do) over the first 2 weeks.
- Get on lightly after a break! Yes that is really difficult to do. But after making the mistake once, you will want to avoid the pain in the future. A reduction in the number of sets by half and a weight of 60-70% of the working weight before the break are a good guideline.
- By regular exercise muscle soreness becomes a negligible issue. Most athletes no longer feel sore muscles despite very hard training sessions. So it's a matter of getting used to. The best way to prevent sore muscles in the long term is through regular training of the same movement patterns and loads.
What can you do about sore muscles?
When the time comes, you probably wonder what you can do.
What's the point ?:
Here are a few things to provide relief. Experiment with what works for you.
- Light movement (walking, swimming, running, cycling, etc.)
- Antioxidants - Eating a healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables can help. We rather advise against additional supplements!
- Take fish oil (omega 3 fatty acids)
- For pain relief NSAIMs (aspirin, ibuprofen) - only take in really severe cases and low doses. This will alleviate the pain, but you will also hinder adaptation processes through training.
These things won't make your sore muscles go away right away, but they can help.
The best way to prevent sore muscles in the long term is to exercise regularly. So that there is no need to fight him when the time comes. Muscle soreness is usually only a phenomenon of the first few training sessions when new movements are made. Often it is practically no longer present by the 2nd and 3rd training session.
When to go back to training?
If your muscles are a bit sore, you should just keep training. You often don't notice the sore muscles after the first warm-up sets. You might find it hard to imagine before that, but give it a try.
If your muscles are sore, you should take a break. Heavy means that you really have problems using your muscles for everyday movements (walking down stairs, getting up, tying your shoes, legs hurting when falling asleep). After 3 days, up to a maximum of a week, the ghost is usually over.
Sore muscles are not dangerous and, above all, a sign that you have overdone it. As a rule, it is over after 72 hours.
Make sure that in the future you take all measures to prevent it and if it does happen, try our advice.
You can “train through” through slight sore muscles. If your muscles are sore, you should give your body the necessary rest.
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