A recurring theme in some of the questions I have been getting lately has been soreness and the level of soreness you should be experiencing with your workouts. Beginners tend to be worried that they aren’t sore enough, intermediate clients are having trouble comprehending being sore in some strange places (who would have thought we had muscles there?!) and advanced clients are confused about why there seems to be no apparent rhyme or reason to the presence of soreness. I will confess that even I have long been prone to employing soreness as a gauge of how well a workout had gone. There were certain workouts that would induce soreness so severely that I was barely able to lift my arms, then there were times when I felt absolutely nothing except a little fatigue the day or two after a workout. So I went in search of an answer, and I now have one for all of you. Straight from Dr. Doug McGuff himself, here is how we should really think about soreness in relation to muscular growth:
“Sometimes you will have significant soreness after a workout and sometimes you won’t. It should be pointed out that if you are sore after a workout, this doesn’t mean that growth has taken place after the soreness goes away. It simply means that you are no longer sore nor that you’re ready to train again. Most often you will find soreness occurring in movements occurring over a bony prominence. For instance, it’s not uncommon for a trainee to experience soreness the day after a workout in which the Leg Press had been performed. In such instances, the trainee will experience soreness in the buttock muscles heavily involved, but also the buttocks are contracting while actively being pulled taut over the protuberance of the ischial tuberosity [a fancy way of saying “your butt muscles are being stretched over a sharp part of the hip”]… In other words, the soreness that is prodcued after a workout doesn’t necessarily have a correlation with anything. The truth is that soreness is not a valid measure of anything but soreness. You could make your biceps sore simply by working them over with a ball-peen hammer, but that would’nt necessarily correlate with anything productive having been stimulated. We understand that a degree of soreness can make you feel like you’ve been worked and that something has happened and, consequently, can be a positive workout experience for a lot of people- but please do not take it to be the only measure of a workout’s effectiveness because there is no data to correlate that notion at all. The only way you can determine if yo’ve made progress is whether or not your workout chart indicates that you are stronger.”
So there you have it. Soreness is essentially meaningless unless you are simply trying to be sore. As the article says though, if that’s the case, head to the garage and beat your muscles into a pulp with a hammer. That would pretty much guarantee soreness (as a legal aside, please no one actually do this. I can’t really afford any lawsuits).
I sincerely hope that clarified a couple things. I think the biggest concern voiced lately has been by the new folks who were put through some pretty rough paces and then awoke the next day with little to no soreness in their body.
Submitted by: Alex Kissinger (Personal Fitness Coach)