I was recently asked, “Steven, how sore should I feel after a workout?”
First thing’s first: when you exercise you create micro tears in muscle fibers, commonly called DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). This soreness (DOMS) is normal and usually felt 12-48 hours after exercising. It most often happens when you start a new workout, phase, or movement pattern. Some people believe the soreness is caused by lactic acid buildup in the muscles, but this is not actually true; the soreness you feel has more to do with the repair process for those micro tears. It’s your body’s way of telling you, “Hey, we need some recovery time before the next exercise session.”
The adage “no pain, no gain” is misleading. It implies that if you’re not in extreme discomfort, then you didn’t work hard enough. So, how sore should you feel? After a day or two your muscles will feel stiff but nothing extreme—you shouldn’t need to use your arms to gingerly lower yourself into a chair.
4 things your post-workout recovery plan should include:
Massage therapy is one of the most effective recovery techniques you can use, but if you don’t have a massage therapist that you can readily call, foam rolling can help bridge the gap until you see one. Remember, recovery is the other half of the training equation and shouldn’t be neglected if you want to perform at your optimal.
My final bit of advice: listen to your body! If you’re feeling sore after every workout, you may want to consider a better recovery strategy. If you don’t, you’re at risk of overtraining, or as I like to call it, “under-recovery”. It’s not the hard workouts day in and day out that are going to get you stronger, faster, and more powerful, it’s a proper recovery regiment that allows you to recover from those tough workouts so your performance continues to improve.
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