Muscle Soreness – Do Sore Muscles Equal Workout Results?


There seems to be a common myth that if you do not suffer from muscle soreness the day or two after your workout then you have not trained hard enough and you will not get the results you’re after. This is absolutely untrue and I will explain why in this article.

There is a difference between overtraining soreness and delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS. The latter is not a negative thing but it’s not actually necessary in order to get results from exercising. Being sore does not mean you had a great workout or that you’re building muscle and gaining strength. It simply means your muscles are not used to the stimulus and that’s why they are sore. If you’re a beginner, then you might be sore for an entire week because your body is not used to lifting weights at all and this is the way your muscles react. If you’re an experienced lifter and you change up your routine with some new exercises you have not done in a long time then you will probably be very sore after your workout. Have you ever included a few sets of dumbbell lunges in your leg workout when you have not done any type of lunges in a long time? The level or soreness in your glutes is unbelievable! Remember, this happens because you’re making your muscles do something they are not used to doing, plain and simple.

However, if you are sore after a workout for more than 2-3 days, and you’re not a beginner who just started lifting weights and haven’t changed up your routine, then you might be suffering from overtraining issues which is extremely detrimental to your results and can lead to possible injuries down the road. If you’ve been feeling burned out, tired and super sore after training then it’s essential to take a solid week off and get some much needed rest so you can avoid any issues with overtraining.

Let’s talk a little about training now. There is a fine line when it comes to the right training zone for hypertrophy which basically means building muscle tissue. Training in the 8-12 repetition range is the best workout regimen to promote hypertrophy. This specific range is ideal for muscle growth and should be used during your bulking or growth cycle. I mention the word “cycle” because I always encourage my clients to cycle their training and when I am designing their workouts I always ensure they cycle on and off the growth phase while blending in strength or muscular endurance as needed according to the results they are after.

Strength is a good primer for hypertrophy especially if you are looking to be able to slowly increase the weight being used for different mass building exercises. While training in this range, you will want to choose enough weight to perform all of your repetitions without being able to perform any additional ones. Finding this balance is hard and it’s important to have a friend or fellow gym member to spot you on free weight exercises like barbell squats and the bench press since the last thing you want to do is not be able to get up the last repetition and have the weight come crashing down on you. Gauging this type of training comes with time, practice and experience but you will eventually know when you’re using too much weight to perform the desired number of reps.

You may feel added soreness after a heavy power or strength workout which consists of reps in the 4-6 range simply due to the change in load but this regimen is not ideal if your overall physique goal is for muscle growth. You need to be very aware of the overall load and volume of training when using specific programs like Max-OT. Max-OT stands for maximum overload training and it’s a very popular training program designed around a 12-week program that claims to provide the fastest muscle building results in the least amount of time. The guidelines of the Max-OT training program include:

  • Workouts should last 30-40 minutes (30 minutes is ideal for maximum intensity).
  • Each muscle group should only be trained once every 5-7 days.
  • Perform 4-6 reps every set.
  • Perform 6-9 sets for each muscle.
  • Rest times are between 2-3 minutes.
  • Train 1-2 muscle groups each workout.
  • 1 week break to rest and relax should be taken every 8-10 weeks.

Eventually, the amount of weight you use for any exercise when working in the hypertrophy training model will become lighter as you adapt and the reps will go up into the muscular endurance phase which you cycle into as well. This means when you go back into the hypertrophy training phase you will be able to lift slightly more weight within that range (up to a point). It’s important to remember that muscle soreness may occur from this type of training and this is normal but try to avoid working toward soreness simply because it is your way to gauge growth because that is not the correct way to train. Focus on working toward the completion of all of your sets and repetitions with strict technique and form for the desired repetition range you’re training in.

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About Author

Linda Cusmano

Linda is a national level fitness and figure pro who dabbles in bodybuilding competitions, obstacle and strength challenges along with fitness model competitions. She is a triple certified elite personal trainer and the owner of Body Rush Personal Training. See my profile page for more information!

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