Muscle pain after exercise is a familiar phenomenon for all exercisers. Anyone who has ever taken dumbbells in their hands or engaged in cardio training probably experienced this pulling “sweetish” pain in those muscles that received a load in the previous lesson. But the real reasons for its occurrence and the long-term consequences are understood by a few of the ordinary trainees. Muscle pain is a familiar stranger.
- 1 Causes of Muscle Pain After Exercise
- 2 How to Get Rid of Post-workout Muscle Pain?
- 3 Can You Exercise if Your Muscles Hurt?
- 4 Muscle Pain: is It Good or Bad?
- 5 How to Train, So That Muscle Pain Does Not Appear?
- 6 What if Your Muscles Don’t Hurt After Strength Training?
- 7 How to Distinguish Between Soreness and Trauma?
- 8 What Not to Do With Doms?
Causes of Muscle Pain After Exercise
In the minds of fitness fans, post-workout delayed muscle pain syndrome (DOMS, also called) is strongly associated with the concept of the effectiveness of a training session. You have exercised well; your muscles ache; therefore, they grow: most fitness enthusiasts think. For this category of trainees, DOMS is a consequence of training progress.
“By avoiding pain, you lose the progress” – approximately according to this principle, hundreds of thousands of fitness fans around the world live and train. There is another category of trainees (mostly those who are just starting to play sports), which perceives such pain negatively and seeks to reduce it in every possible way, including the help of drugs.
Who is right, and who is not here? Or, perhaps, the truth, as is often the case, is somewhere in between? Why do muscles hurt after training, what mechanisms are triggered in the body when dyspnea appears and how to get rid of muscle pain, and in general, whether it is good or bad, let’s try to figure it out in this article? And let each trainee decide for himself whether to strive for it or not.
First of all, it is worth figuring out what types of pain arising from training are generally encountered. In practice, there are three main types. Two can be conditionally attributed to “good,” and one – to “bad.”
Reason 1: Pain Due to Lactic Acid
The first type of pain is the notorious “burning sensation,” which occurs most often when using various advanced training techniques or a sharp increase in load. The cause of its occurrence is well known; it is lactic acid, which is formed in the muscle as a result of its prolonged exposure to stress. In such an acidified muscle, a “burning sensation” occurs.
Different athletes describe this feeling a little differently (personal subjective perception is superimposed). Such pain passes rather quickly – a maximum of 6 hours after class, and usually much faster. This is a conditionally “good” kind of pain; it does not bear any noticeable long-term negative consequences for the body; however, too special benefit. Many bodybuilders work hard to achieve this “burning”, even doing some kind of “burnout” approaches at the end of the workout. If their feelings were consistent with reality, they would have built champion muscle mass long ago, but in practice, this does not often happen, alas.
Reason 2: Post-workout Pain
The second type is muscle pain after exercise (soreness), which occurs approximately 12-24 hours after exercise. It is this type of post-workout pain that is discussed in this article. After a day or more, muscles suddenly ache after training is quite simple: this is a consequence of a mild inflammatory process that arose as a result of microdamage to the contractile structures and connective tissue of the muscle. Inflammation does not manifest itself perceptibly immediately after receiving a microtrauma; it takes time to develop this phenomenon. Therefore, the peak of such pain usually occurs 2-4 days after training.
For the occurrence of microtraumas leading to such inflammation, a sufficient weight of the burden and a certain time of the muscle being under load are required. Training with very lightweight with a large number of repetitions may not cause severe dizziness; at the same time, lifting heavy weights for 1-2 repetitions is also not able to provoke significant microtrauma of the contractile structures. Those who train with 5-15 repetitions in the approach, as well as beginners and those who have just started training after a long break, feel this muscle pain most of all.
Before you start looking for ways to get rid of the cream, you need to understand that it is also a “good” type of pain that does not have a noticeable negative for the body. As mentioned above, many athletes even like these sensations.
Reason 3: Pain Due to Injury
The third type of pain, definitely wrong, is a pain as a result of trauma. For example, severe damage to tendons, joints, or severe tearing of a muscle. It is quite easy to distinguish this kind of painful sensations from the first two. More on this below, in a separate section of this article.
How to Get Rid of Post-workout Muscle Pain?
Now let’s take a look at ways to get rid of DOMS, if not wholly, and significantly reduce it.
- The most effective and easiest way to reduce post-workout pain is to warm up the target muscle group well before training. A muscle that is warmed up and well prepared for work will receive significantly fewer microtraumas than one immediately given a serious load in a “cold” state.
- Those who practice the strength training style are familiar with alternating hard and light training for a muscle group. Light workout significantly reduces muscle pain that appears after a hard workout. This is the so-called reloading effect.
- Cold compresses and baths with variable temperatures: these methods should be used if the pain is very severe.
- Massage is also sometimes used to relieve muscle soreness after exercise, and reviews of the effectiveness of this method are mostly positive.
- Various medications, both local action (ointments) and taken internally. May have anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and distracting effects, but do not accelerate muscle recovery.
- A high-protein meal and plenty of fluids after exercise can also help reduce muscle soreness.
- A visit to a bathhouse and a leisurely run will rather have psychological relief; they practically will not affect muscle pain.
Stretching exercises won’t eliminate post-workout pain, although they are still necessary if you want to train effectively. It will also not have a noticeable effect on dizziness and antioxidant intake (for example, ascorbic acid).
Can You Exercise if Your Muscles Hurt?
In considering how to get rid of muscle soreness after exercise, we’ve already touched on the effect of repeated exercise. Let’s analyze this moment in more detail.
The contractile structures of the muscle receive microtrauma during training. It will take the body some time to heal the damage it has received, and then reach the phase of overcompensation – when the muscle not only recovers but also becomes a little larger and stronger. It is safe to say that while the inflammatory process is underway, causing dizziness, the recovery process is not finished, and even more, so it has not come to overcompensation.
Thus, we conclude that a new stressful training, which will again cause another microtrauma, is not needed – this will slow down the progress in the development of muscles. Another thing is a natural, non-traumatic workout with reduced weights: such a repeated load is what you need if an athlete is looking for a remedy to get rid of dyspepsia. Interestingly, the repeated load is not only direct. Some trainees note that the pain from the previous training session decreases when a new training session is performed on a different muscle group. Strange, but true.
A reasonable question arises: if it’s hard to train without waiting for the muscle pain to stop, what happens in this case? Will progress in the development of muscles stop completely? Actually, no, it will just slow down a little. The muscle will grow at the very least in this case, because contractile structures are a significant factor, but not the only one for the progress of strength and muscle mass.
Muscle Pain: is It Good or Bad?
In the minds of a huge number of athletes, DOMS is strongly associated with the concept of high training efficiency. Well, I trained from the heart – accordingly, severe pain in the muscles, and, as a result, progress in building strength and muscle mass. This opinion is only partially true. Everything is much more complicated: painful sensations also depend on genetic characteristics, experience and frequency of training, exercises used, and even a specific muscle. It is known that deltoids very rarely hurt very much (in any case, as much as, for example, the buttocks and quads after heavy squats), but does this cancel out the need for competent intensive training for the “deltas”? Of course not.
Muscle pain is not good or bad: it is just a sign that specific biochemical processes are running in the body. Don’t get hung up on muscle pain. The main indicator characterizing the effectiveness of training is progress in terms of the goals that the athlete sets for himself (in most cases, muscle mass and strength). Muscles ache at the same time or not – a secondary question.
How to Train, So That Muscle Pain Does Not Appear?
Now let’s try to figure out how to get rid of muscle pain by warning it at the planning stage of the training process. This possibility exists. However, we emphasize once again: do not be afraid of post-workout muscle pain; this is a completely normal natural process during training.
Here are a few tips to significantly reduce your soreness:
- You should warm up more thoroughly before a serious workout. Never forget about a warm-up; it should last 5-10 minutes, no less.
- You should not change the set of exercises performed too often: new, not yet mastered movements cause much more severe muscle pain. However, it is also impossible to dwell on one set of exercises forever; the muscles will get used to it and stop responding to training stress. From time to time, they need to be shocked with unusual loads, so there are periods when dizziness will have to be tolerated anyway.
- No need to force the load. For example, immediately taking a large weight of weights after a long break from training or dramatically increasing the weight lifted. If you are doing interval or cardio training, you need to gradually increase the load (exercise time, number of repetitions, speed of execution, etc.).
- It is necessary to train regularly; long breaks cause muscle weaning from training; therefore, the soreness increases. A small lyrical digression: Mike Mentzer’s “Super training” and other similar HIT-methods are based on such a rare training, which does not addictive muscles to loads. Muscles are severely injured during such training and, accordingly, react more strongly to training stress. An interesting technique, though you can’t progress like that indefinitely.
- You can conduct separate workouts using single repetitions – singles, instead of the usual, multi-repetitions. Of course, singles cannot be performed on several exercises in a row. And one more thing: strength can be increased this way, but not mass.
- You can use incomplete, partial amplitude in some exercises (for example, lockouts, partial presses).
- It is better to avoid very harsh training methods – you need to know when to stop in everything. But you don’t need to feel too sorry for yourself if you want to achieve good results.
What if Your Muscles Don’t Hurt After Strength Training?
The answer to this question is already partly contained in the previous paragraph: progress in mass and strength is the main and only, by and large, measure of success in strength training. Strength also grows in different ways: for powerlifters, this is primarily the result of maximum repetition in competitive movements; for bodybuilders, it is interesting to increase strength in relation to working weights by 6-12 repetitions.
But if there is no progress and muscle pain, then the athlete must ask himself the question: why do the muscles not hurt after training? Is it because the intensity of training to trigger the mechanisms of muscle growth is simply not enough? Most likely, it is.
In this case, you need to seriously revise your entire training methodology: to focus on basic multi-joint exercises, work with free weights, spending less time on those simulators in which the only exercise is comfortable and convenient. If you are working on muscle mass, then training should be regular and moderately intense. Then progress will not be long in coming. Of course, this will be growth through muscle pain. But once again, we emphasize that it is impossible to judge the results of training only by the presence or absence of DOMS.
How to Distinguish Between Soreness and Trauma?
It is easy for a seasoned athlete to tell the difference between pleasant post-workout muscle pain and sharp pain from an injury. For those who do not have much experience in sports yet, the list of main differences is as follows:
- No matter how strong the soreness is, it almost never makes it impossible to perform an exercise on the target muscle. Sharp “shooting” or “cutting” pain in the injured joint or tendon, which severely restricts movement, is not typical for dyspepsia.
- Two types of pain differ in terms of localization: it is clear that if discomfort is felt inside the joint, where there is no muscle tissue, then this is an injury; but a mild “pulling” pain in the muscle is a soreness, there is nothing to worry about.
- Injured areas can swell; it happens that they become hotter to the touch than neighboring areas of the skin – this does not happen with DOMS.
What Not to Do With Doms?
If an athlete experiences significant muscle pain after training, they should NOT do three things:
- Perform a new high-intensity workout on a muscle whose pain has not completely disappeared. Light, on the contrary, it is possible, it will reduce pain.
- You should not load the body with various medications: pain relievers, anti-inflammatory, etc. This symptomatic treatment will still not speed up muscle recovery, but there is a risk of side effects from the systematic use of the same medications. Also, drugs cost money – it is better to spend money on proper sports nutrition.
- And most importantly, you should not quit playing sports. Hard work in the gym, in which the trainee overcomes the known discomfort during and after training, can turn a weak, thin guy into a muscular athlete, only this way and nothing else. And soreness is just a side effect.