You may have already discovered that when you introduce a new activity into your workout, or increase the intensity or volume of an existing exercise, your body will let you know it’s been working those muscles by rewarding you with aching sore muscles. Now many of us wear this pain with a sense of pride, because it means we have been pushing our body to new limits and increasing our muscle strength, endurance and definition.
An important thing to keep in mind when reflecting on your aching body, is that there are two types of (okay) muscle soreness.
Acute Muscles Soreness - which will be experienced during or immediately after a workout.
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) - which starts to set in 6-8 hours after a workout and reaches it’s peak at about 24-48 hours post workout.
The pain you experience is due to the microtears in the muscles fibers inflicted by the workout. This is a good thing as it means that with the right fuel (plenty of protein) your body can start to rebuild these muscles stronger and more resilient than before. Yet the pain is also there to let you know you need to ease off of those muscles for a while to allow them to heal. Which is why rest days, and active recovery are so important for people who regularly train.
So if you are experiencing DOMS, it is best to let your body heal before you train that area again. I don’t recommend taking pain killers so that you can exercise without the discomfort, as this is only masking what your body is trying to tell you; It is still trying to heal! Each time you train this area, your body will become more and more used to the exercises and you will find that the delayed pain becomes less and less.
If you finish a workout and experience acute pain it could be an indication that you have caused some more serious damage and you should consult your healthcare professional.
Interesting fact: Did you know that you only experience muscle soreness as a result of resisting weight, instead of when the weight is actually being lifted? This means that if you are using a dumbbell to do bicep curls, the upwards lift of the weight isn’t what causes the microtears in the fibers, it is the slow resisted lowering of the weight that causes the muscles to stretch and tear. So basically if you only lifted weights up, without the resisted gravity as you slowly lower it back down, you wouldn’t get sore muscles! (though this would be a much less effective exercise!)