Muscle Soreness – Inevitability or the Result of Improper Training?
What Is It?
The term “muscle soreness” means uncomfortable sensations in the body that sometimes make people give up athleticism. Muscle pain occurs either immediately after a workout, or in 12–20 hours after it. The most unpleasant thing is that the heavier the training, the sharper and longer-term the muscle soreness is (it may last from one day to a whole week).
Note that the nature of pain may be different, depending on the anatomy of a person, the amplitude of his or her movements while performing the exercises, and the target muscle groups that are being worked during the training session. At the same time, there may be no muscle soreness at all. If your muscles are well stretched during a workout, they are likely to feel sore the next day.
Why Muscle Soreness Occurs
Previously, it was considered that lactic acid causes pain in muscle fibers. When an athlete works with additional weights, his muscle tissue is in urgent need of oxygen. Hence, glucose is not completely oxidized in his body. It causes the body to produce lactic acid in large quantities. The acid, in turn, is absorbed by the liver in 24 hours.
This fact raised a lot of questions, because the amount of acid secreted during two similar workouts can be identical, but after the first training session the muscles will hurt much more, than after the second one. New studies have added one more cause – micro-injuries and tears of muscle fibers. That is, muscle soreness can be an indicator that one can expect supercompensation and muscle growth.
The person who works out for the first time will definitely have sore muscles the next day. This is because myofibrils (components of muscle fibers) of a "beginner" have different sizes – some of them are short, and others are long. While performing the exercise with additional weights, short myofibrils tear:
All myofibrils become longer as they are getting used to strength training. But if the athlete continues to train hard, his muscle fibers will still damage. Otherwise, it is impossible to gain quality muscle mass.
Here is an interesting fact: the fans of “bulking” training suffer from muscle pain not as long as those who prefer ordinary strength training (with the average number of sets and reps).
There are also other causes of muscle soreness, less essential, though quite frequent, such as insufficient warm-up and chronic overtraining. These factors make it difficult for muscles to cope with the usual load and stand the tension. In this case, you should not count on muscle growth. It would interfere with anabolic factors insofar as the deficient ATP (adenosine triphosphate) critically needed by the body would devour muscle tissue. Hard training can only spur catabolism (the process of muscle tissue breakdown).
Here is an interesting video with Arnold talking about muscle soreness:
Tips to Get Rid of Pain
All athletes constantly experience muscle soreness to varying degrees, there is no growth without pain. The muscles should be damaged in order to develop.
Pain after hard athletic training is a direct sign that the target muscle groups have been considerably worked out.
The muscle fibers rebuild and grow due to sufficient rest and proper diet, because after physical stress the body tries to resist and prevent it in the future.
Denser and tighter muscles handle the previous workout load easier. For further development, they need a new stress and harder training. And this is all the time. Without increase of exercise load, there is no increase in strength and mass.
Further, let’s consider the ways that will help you lessen or remove the feeling of soreness in your muscles. We suggest you to use them and share in comments, which one is the most helpful for you.
- One of the most effective ways to relieve muscle pain is taking a hot bath with sea salt. It helps the body relax, remove the feeling of discomfort, and flush lactic acid out of the muscles;
- Another effective option is visiting a sauna. Of course, it is more expensive, than the previous one. But the next morning, your muscles will thank you;
- Many athletes also use contrast showers. They claim that this method helps quickly eliminate the feeling of muscle soreness.
The combination of these three procedures can absolutely help you get rid of muscle pain.
Massage helps reduce muscle pain, relieve the tension and the feeling of discomfort. Such effects are achieved due to dispersal in muscles that accelerates exchange processes in them including lactic acid removal.
The day you’ve felt muscle soreness, devote 15 minutes to stretching your muscles. At first, the exercises may be rather difficult for you to perform. But shortly afterwards you will feel pain relief in your muscles.
This method is considered one of the fastest and most effective.
Continue Your Workouts
Of course, there is no desire to come back to the gym when you feel your muscles sore. But that should not become the reason to stop the training process. You should not postpone your workouts – just do not target the muscles that haven’t recovered yet.
Physical exercises help warm up the body and accelerate exchange processes, therefore, you should continue your workouts – they will lessen the pain. The more you skip your workouts, the worse the muscle soreness will be when you resume training.
Do not forget that proper nutrition is essential for the body recovery and muscle growth. The food you eat should have high nutritional value, contain vitamins, minerals, and other important micronutrients. Besides, you should pay special attention to the intake of vitamins A, C, E in adequate amounts.
The diet should include foods high in protein that is necessary for building and repairing of muscle tissue, and carbohydrates as the energy fuel for these processes. Also, you should not forget about fats that play an important role not only in metabolism, but also in the brain activity.
Adequate Sleep and Positive Mood
After hard training your body needs a good rest. You should provide it by going to bed always at the same time and having a good night’s sleep. Soon, you will feel healthier and the pain after physical activities will decrease.
Besides, do not forget about a good mood and a fighting spirit to change your body for the better. Otherwise, all the effort can be in vain. You should constantly try to achieve new results, without paying attention to the obstacles on your way. Muscle soreness should not stop you from training.
Remember About Warm-Up
Also, the athlete should devote enough time to warming up. Some athletes consider it optional, others ignore it at all. Each workout should begin with the "introductory" exercises that are performed with light weights in high repetitions. You should do it in order to warm up the target muscles you are going to train and to prepare the joints for hard work.
Otherwise, there is a risk for injuries and strains that can put you out of training for a long time.
Not many athletes want to perform the exercises with light weights in high number of repetitions, especially, if the purpose of these sets is just injury prevention, without significant muscle exhaustion.
Such workouts are much easier than "bulking" ones. They are used only to help the body cope with muscle soreness faster.
The main thing is to choose the right exercises. The "recovery" exercises should be similar to those that have caused pain in the muscle group, but a little different.
For example, the athlete who squatted hard should recover by performing light leg presses in the hack squat machine.
The weight for such exercises should be very light, so that you can perform 3–4 sets of 15–20 reps with little effort. The rest between the sets should be minimum. Do not perform the "recovery" sets the next day after hard training. Two days after a workout would be an ideal option.
Let’s summarize the main points of the article:
- Muscle soreness is the result of stressing your muscles through exercise;
- The main causes of pain are the formation of lactic acid in muscles, ruptures and microinjuries in muscle fibers;
- It can last from one day to one week or more (in exceptional cases);
- SPA procedures, massage, stretching exercises, good sleep, healthy diet, and light workouts can help decrease the muscle pain;
- Every serious athlete should properly warm up his muscles and joints before each workout, use a proper exercise technique, and train correctly.