There is always some pain related to the ultimate pleasure of being fit. The truth is, if you want to be fit, you are going to spend some time feeling sore. This is because if you are doing your workouts correctly, and pushing your muscles to become stronger, you are occasionally going to be sore. So, should you workout with sore muscles?
This soreness also called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is quite common, especially for those new in exercise and those that are returning after a long break. DOMS is caused by muscle micro tearing which helps build muscles and make them stronger as they recover. This discomfort can cause people to avoid exercise until it has stopped for fear of escalating the pain. (1)
The upshot? You can still workout with sore muscles. DOMS is not an excuse to stay at home.
Proper Warm-up Prior to Your Workout
It’s very important, that if you choose to workout sore muscles, to first do a double dose of warm-up. Cold muscles are always susceptible to injury, and this risk can increase with cold and tight muscles. (2)
So make sure you do some dynamic stretching for 2-5 minutes before starting a workout with sore muscles.
Working Out With Sore Muscles – How to Do It Safely
1. Keep Working Out to Increase Blood Circulation – But With a Few Notes of Caution
This is also called a recovery workout. It increases circulation instead of forming micro tears in the muscles which cause soreness. When muscle temperature is increased, blood circulation increases, supplying the sore muscles with oxygen. Therefore, you should keep working out if you are confident it’s not an injury, but take it easy with a very light workout. So light workouts at 60-70% of normal weight, but more reps. (3)
Also, you can workout other muscles that are not sore. So if your legs are sore, you can workout the upper parts of the body.
Also, you can ease those aching muscles by doing some cardio, yoga or stretching.
2. Distinguish Good Soreness from Specific Pain
There is a difference between muscle soreness caused by exercise, and injury. Those two are not always clear to many people. If your soreness prevents you from performing your daily activities, that’s too much soreness. It might be an injury.
Usually, soreness lasts between 48 to 72 hours. If the pain doesn’t resolve in 72 hours, visit a professional.
And if you’re not sure, always take two weeks off and then re-assess. Even if you feel it’s a small tear, the best advice is to err on the side of extreme caution. This goes double as you age and get older, as a serious injury can put you out of action for 6 months or longer.
So if you suspect even the slightest injury, take 2-4 weeks off and then assess. Losing 2-4 weeks is absolutely nothing in the grand scheme, and can save you from much more serious problems. If the muscle, tendon, or ligament is still painful after a few weeks, go see your doctor or a good ortho.
Workout injuries must be taken very seriously, as damage on top of damage can be a showstopper. Even something as minor as “tennis elbow” can put you out for six months if you are careless in the way you handle it. (4)
3. Consume Proteins After Your Workout
Proteins increase muscle mass and help the muscles heal quickly. It is therefore recommended to eat proteins or take protein recovery drinks that contain proteins after a workout.
Protein shakes are one of the best things you can consume directly after your workout.
A favorite here is Muscletech Nitro mixed with 8 oz of skim milk, or mixed with a chocolate Muscle Milk Pro Series. Really delicious and packed with great stuff. (5)
PRO TIP: Put the Muscle Milk in your freezer while you’re at the gym, and when you get home mix the nearly frozen Muscle Milk with 1 scoop of Muscletech in a blender. Like a milk shake, except better!
4. Stay Hydrated Before and After Your Workout
A lack of electrolytes can cause muscle soreness. Ensure that you’re adequately hydrated by taking drinks that are easily digested to power up and avoid stomach upsets. Drinking water before, during, and after your workouts will help with soreness and recovery. (6)
Hydration is not only important in dealing with sore muscles, but also very important to muscle development and increasing strength. Learn more about the best ways to hydrate.
5. Ice Your Muscles After your Workout
If you’ve ever watched any athletes’ interviews, you have noticed that they like to ice their body parts. This is because ice reduces pain and inflammation. It also increases blood circulation – ice causes blood vessels to contract and then open up as they get used to it.
Muscle soreness is inevitable, but if you are particularly sore after a workout, then put an ice pack on your muscles. It will facilitate a quicker recovery.
So if you’re wondering…should you workout with sore muscles? It’s probably OK as long as your muscles are not painfully sore, and the soreness is not the result of an injury.
Most importantly, err on the side of caution always, so if you suspect injury in any way, take a break for a few weeks!
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- Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Physiopedia. (n.d.).
- Rachel Lapidos Rachel Lapidos. (2020, January 24). I’m a professional stretcher and this is the one thing I’d never, ever do to muscles. Well+Good. https://www.wellandgood.com/stretching-cold-muscles/#:~:text=Having%20%22cold%22%20muscles%20basically%20means,d%20in%20New%20York%20City.
- Chertoff, J. (2019, December 18). Active recovery: How it works and exercise ideas. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/active-recovery
- Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) – orthoinfo – aaos. OrthoInfo. (n.d.).
- Strength redefined. MuscleTech. (2022, February 25).
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2021, November 19). Fluid and electrolyte balance. MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/fluidandelectrolytebalance.html#:~:text=Electrolytes%20are%20minerals%20in%20your,acid%2Fbase%20(pH)%20level