Often in the gym I will hear people talking about how they had such a strenuous workout yesterday – or even the day before – that they can’t lift their arms above their head today, or that they trained legs so hard that they are struggling to walk right now from their legs being extremely sore. 99% of people I know fall into the group of people, that when they trained a body part or area extremely hard to become so sore the next day that they cant even move said body area without hurting, feel as if that is the sign of an amazing and successful workout. I hate to say it, but muscle soreness being a sign of a great workout is a myth! If you think that the entire indicator of a great, successful workout is how sore you will be the next day, you are wrong.
Muscle soreness is caused by a muscle not being trained enough to the applied stimuli, and more often than not, this is the case for most gym goers who currently train body parts once per week, spent time out of the gym on a break, or have increased his/her training routine to incorporate increased volume of exercises and training at a higher intensity.
The entire purpose of a workout is to not create muscle soreness, instead, you should be trying to create a response in your body. However, if you do workout and you become sore, this is still perfectly fine as this is a way of your body telling you that you actively worked your muscle fibers in a strenuous way it was not used to. Perform this same routine again later, and your body will not feel as sore as it did the first time, simply because the body adapts and grows to be able to handle the strenuous activity.
The Two Types of Muscle Soreness
Most people will get confused with muscle soreness and how to treat it. We have 2 different types of muscle soreness: Acute Muscle Soreness, and Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness.
With Acute Muscle Soreness, you will begin feel the soreness or aches during your workout, or soon after. This is because you have just trained your muscles at a higher intensity than what they were used to. We can also get Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness, which is when you feel sore the following day from what you believed was a tough workout.
Often those who train a muscle group once per week versus those that train each group twice a week or more feel extreme muscle soreness. When you are sore, instead of avoiding another workout for that particular sore body region because you believe it will make you even more sore, increase your water intake to help flush out any toxins in your body and help avoid muscle cramps, and train the sore area a few days after using a lighter training method instead of waiting another week to train that muscle group again.
Straining A Muscle
Now that you understand what muscle soreness is and why you should continue to train even when you are sore and cant handle anymore, I would like to discuss muscle strains. A muscle strain can feel as if you are sore – however, the pain from muscle soreness will often last up to 72 hours after training, while a muscle strain will last as long as a week at times. Muscle soreness is caused by muscle fibers being torn and repaired, which allows for growth.
A muscle strain, however, is when a large amount of these muscle fibers are torn beyond the normal amount, and to some degree can often mean tendons can be involved as well. If you feel pain and soreness after a week of training your last body part, the chances are that you are not sore, but rather you injured a muscle group.
How Long To Rest A Muscle Group
So how long should you rest after training a muscle group? There is not a specific amount of time I can tell you to wait. All of our bodies can handle certain methods of training differently and we all will recover differently. However, a rule of thumb is that you should aim to have a split training regime that trains each muscle group twice per week, with the first training day being heavy with moderate rep ranges, and the second being moderate weight with higher rep ranges.
By training your body more often, your body will begin to grow faster and stronger and soon you will be able to see your body transformation faster than ever.
Now that you have a better understanding of why your muscles become sore after a workout, you should know how to go about training after as well. If you are extremely sore, rest for a day and train that region again the following day. The more you train a muscle group and push it beyond its normal workload intensity, the more it will grow and the stronger it will become. After all, we all lift weights to become stronger.