TO BE SORE OR NOT TO BE SORE?
Should you be sore after every workout? How often should you be sore?
To start off, no, you should not be sore after every workout.
WHAT IS MUSCLE SORENESS?
If you’re not sore it doesn’t count, you didn’t work hard enough. This is an old myth and it’s simply not true. Muscle soreness is PRIMARILY due to micro tears in your muscle fibers. This is what the muscles have to recover from and literally heal from when you experience soreness.
DO YOU HAVE TO BE SORE TO GROW MUSCLE?
All you need to do to grow new muscle is to stress that muscle more than it has been stressed or stress it in a new way to elicit a growth response.
This CAN happen without actually feeling sore. You must also remember that feeling sore is a pain receptor response. So, this can vary greatly from person to person and muscle group to muscle group.
When you feel sore, you have in a sense, damaged the muscle fibers and it needs to recover in order to (ideally) come back stronger.
“Also, if your aim is to build muscle there are essentially 3 major mechanisms – i.e. muscle damage (which we usually think about), mechanical stress (which is like stretching an elastic band, think about how the weight stretches or force down your arm as you try to pull it up) and then lastly there is a mechanism called “metabolic stress”. This metabolic stress is produced by increased volume (i.e. maybe like 20-40 rep sets) which leads to you depleting your readily available energy sources and subsequently results in a stimulus for growth. (if you are really interested, please see (The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training, a scientific paper).” – JD Conradie
Lastly, if your aim is to become stronger, then the amount of weight you use is more important than the amount of repetitions and normally produce less muscle damage and soreness, however, rest is still essential as the rest of your body systems (i.e. nervous system) will need to recover successfully to see improvement and perform optimally.
SO WHEN IS IT OKAY TO FEEL SORENESS?
Don’t get me wrong, feeling sore is okay and it should happen. But not after every workout. If you’re sore after every workout, you’re likely not recovering and building new muscle. This is not what you want if strength or muscle gains is any part of your fitness goal.
You’re expected to feel sore when you start a new phase. This is because you will be loading the muscles in a new manner (doing different exercises) or for a different amount of volume/intensity (more sets or more time under tension). This is when you can expect to feel sore.
If you are eating optimally and getting adequate sleep, you can expect to feel minor soreness after each workout. I wouldn’t even call this soreness. The level of soreness I am talking about is the kind that you may not even notice until you start warming up and stretching the area the next day or two.
So any time you change up your training, you may experience soreness. But you absolutely 100% do not need to feel muscle soreness to make gains my friend.
“It is also important to be aware and know when to push and know when to manage. You do not always have to perform at your best and produce PBs, it is good to push and perhaps have 1-2 weeks of decrease volume/amount of training to enable the body to adapt and train. Think of it this way, if your goal is to build muscle you are essentially building a new structure. For this structure you need builders (Enzymes, other proteins), materials (amino acids, energy), a plan (DNA, RNA) , stimulus or a manager (exercise) and time (rest).” – JD Conradie