What to do for Sore Muscles After Workout? | Not Your Average Fitness Tips

What to do for Sore Muscles After Workout?

Whether you’re new to exercise or have been working out for years, there’s always the chance that you will have sore muscles after workout.  It happens all the time with me when I change my workout routines.  A lot of questions surround this phenomenon with one of the most common being what to do for sore muscles.  Additionally, people wonder whether sore muscles after exercise are a sign of a good workout?

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)

Before we can answer the above questions, let’s talk about DOMS.  DOMS is the reason your muscles are sore after exercising.  Immediately after a workout, your muscles might feel fine.  However, over the next 8-24 hours, you could feel increasing discomfort that could last as long as a week.  Because of the physical stress you place on your muscles, they get small microscopic tears.  Along with inflammation, these muscle fiber tears cause minor pain known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).  The good news is that these tears aren’t serious.  They are a sign that your muscles are trying to adapt to a new or more challenging workout routine.  The process of rebuilding these muscle fibers leads to increased growth.

What to do for Sore Muscles?

Unfortunately, preventing DOMS is highly challenging and there isn’t one catch all solution.  There are a few tricks that may help in easing the pain though.  Stretching and flexibility training can certainly help, although some research has found that it has no impact on DOMS.  Hand in hand with these is a good cool down after your workout routine.  You can keep it really simple and do some light cardio or even just walk.  Yoga has shown some effectiveness in reducing DOMS as well.

Yoga may helps relieve DOMS…this might be a bit painful itself though!

Another method is using a heat remedy.  Research has shown that applying heat to the skin increases blood flow and helps heal the small tears resulting in less soreness.  Overall, just recognize that you need to rest your muscles and give them time to grow.  You may even have to reduce the intensity of your next workout if you’re still sore.  Listen to your body and don’t overwork it.  If you can’t perform regular activities because of sore muscles, overtraining may be the issue, not DOMS.

Are Sore Muscles After Exercise Good?

Many people want an immediate sign that a workout is helping them progress.  While you won’t see an overnight increase in muscle size, DOMS is a nice way of telling people they worked their muscles adequately hard.  However, it is not necessarily an indicator of a good workout nor is that lack of soreness a sign of a bad workout.  Soreness just means your muscles did something that they weren’t used to doing.  If you’re sore after every workout, it might be a sign that your muscles need more recovery time.

In conclusion, the best thing to do for sore muscles after workout is to simple rest, recover, and let them grow.  Try yoga or applying heat.  Tone down the intensity of your next workout as needed.  Additionally, sore muscles after exercise aren’t an indicator of a good workout, so don’t worry if you’re not sore after every workout.  Just don’t confuse DOMS with overtraining or injury.

24 Responses to “What to do for Sore Muscles After Workout?”

  • I rarely get sore muscles so either I’m used to it OR I’m not working too hard ? Probably the latter! haha
    I heard doing a light weight session the day after helps but never tried it.
    Some people avoid the gym when they suffer DOMs thinking its an injury ( could be?) but I think get right back into it and it disappears.
    I do feel after weight lifting exhausted though.
    Raymond

  • Dave,

    When I make a drastic change to my workouts, I always notice soreness the next day (or even the day after that). I’ve always kinda looked at it as a “badge of honor” for pushing myself to do something new!

  • I hate DOMS, but I love it. Like Darrin, it means that I’ve pushed myself to do something out of my ordinary routine. But I hate it because I usually push too hard and it’s damned painful!

    -Drew

  • Raymond,
    It’s important for people to realize they’re not injured. That being said, it’s best not to go all out if you’re experiencing pain either.

    Darrin,
    It’s nice to “reward” yourself with a little pain sometimes. It’s a good reminder that your muscle are growing.

    Drew,
    It’s a love-hate relationship. It’s nice to know your working really hard; not so nice when it hurts to move your arms or walk.

    Dave

  • Hey, I saw your comment on Jason Ferruggia’s website and thought you might be interested too; I just created a website that hopefully will be a great place for people to find free tips about weight training and weight loss like your website, but I have added the ability for you to register and become an article writer straight away.

    Maybe you could join and post a couple posts from your website, linking it back to your website of course! It could help with your credibility in the future too :-)

    Have a look anyway,

    Regards,
    Shane K

  • I always get sore after working out. I always have ever since I was a teenager. If I change my routine or don’t squat for a while and then do them, I will be sooo sore. I actually hate starting back with squats because of the pain that i go through. I try and go slow, but I still go through hell after squats! Once I went from phase 3 to the bonus phase of Visual Impact, I was really sore. A lot more than I expected!
    -Kelly

  • Dave,

    Usually after a lot of soccer or hard running, my legs get sore the next day unless soak my legs in an ice bath for 15-20 minutes immediately after. If I do this, my legs are good as new the next day. It’s really amazing how much of a difference it makes. I’ve read some stuff on cold water therapy and how it helps repair muscle fibers but never researched it thoroughly. I’ve also never tried it with upper body (this would be really tough to bear).

    Alykhan

  • Shane,
    I’ll give it a good look. Thanks!

    Kelly,
    Hopefully you don’t walk around bow-legged too often!

    Alykhan,
    Ice vs. heat is a good debate topic. I’ve read some research that says heat does in fact help keep the muscle fibers from getting too sore. In fact, a company is developing a heat pack to prevent DOMS. Not sure if it’s on the market or tested though. Some people say do both heat and ice. Ice baths seem to work for some professional athletes as well. Just be sure your joints don’t stiffen up from the cold. You’re right too, not much of a solution for the upper body!

    Dave

  • Toni:

    Is it bad if after I’m really sore like running an extra mile or something like that if in addition to a warm bath I take some ibuprofen? I feel like a wimp but there’s no way I could care for my kids and do everything I need to do if I walked around with seriously sore muscles. Is that not a good thing to do? Obviously, this doesn’t happen a lot but when it does the medication does seem to soothe the aches a bit more than the other things you mentioned.

  • Toni,
    I don’t see a big problem with taking ibuprofen for mild pain. Just make sure that’s not masking a bigger problem with your workout routine, like overtraining. That will lead to injury in the long run. However, it’s perfectly normal for muscles to be tired after a long run and if ibuprofen helps you recover faster, then feel free to keep doing it from time to time.
    Dave

  • I personally love getting sore muscles the day after an intensive workout. I feel so good knowing that I’ve really pushed my body.

    And then doing a bit of Yoga works wonders as well.

  • Maddy:

    My workmate and I have started Boot camp. Our first session was a day ago and OMG we’re dreading in pain today. But are very proud of ourselves for pushing ourselves. I could get use to this. :)

  • Lisha:

    I know that this is an older article but i really hope that you answer. I worked out lower body 2 days ago and my legs and gluts are killing me. I am walking funny, it hurts to try to sit down or to lift my legs even slightly. I want to work out my core or upper body today and do my walking but i don’t want to do further damage to my muscles. I just lost 20 pounds and am starting to workout using my body weight and fast walking/jogging as cardio. I want to do SOMETHING today! HELP!

  • Lisha,
    Sounds like you need a little extra recovery time. However, a low intensity walk should help loosen your muscles and allow them to heal. Additionally, there shouldn’t really be any problem with upper body training as long as it doesn’t involve your legs. If you really are in that much pain, consider doing some light stretching and warmup exercises as well.
    Dave

  • I WORK OUT LAST THURSDAY I WAS NOT SORE TILL THIS TUES WHICH WAS MAY 29 2012 I WOKE U SOOOOOO SORE IT FOR ME TO GET T IN THE CAR AND OUT I SOAK IN THE EPSOM SALT BUT I AM STILL SORE IT JUST ON MY LEFT SIDE PLEASE TELL WHAT TO DO BECAUSE IT HURT SOOOOOO BAD ,

  • Renee,
    Usually DOMS happens within 24 hours so the soreness Tuesday may be the result of something else. Did anything happen over the weekend or on Monday that would make you really sore? If not, you might want to have a doctor check things out to ensure it’s not a bigger internal problem.
    Dave

  • Gayle:

    I found that a big carton of Hagan or some chocolate helps me forget the pain, but then I can’t figure out what I should do for the guilt.

  • Cindi:

    I’m a Zumba and Group Exercise instructor. 3x a week i do a 30 min gut n glutes class. It’s the same everytime b/c my participants go to other classes for other things. I’m sore EVERY single time and the soreness is almost constant (class mon, tue & thur) Each class preceeds an hour of Zumba which is intense cardio. I’ve always heard that muscles should only be sore if you move them, not at rest. Mine are very active while trying to go to sleep. Please advise.

  • Cindi,
    Tough to say but I’d be concerned with overtraining. Too much intense exercise can lead to restlessness and constant soreness. When was the last time you took a week off?
    Dave

  • Cindi:

    last class is Thurs night- off until Monday night every week. somtimes i will go (not teach) on saturday’s for some cardio. I’ve always heard u can work abs everday, though when i work abs, I also include the back, so I’m sore all around the torso (feel good sore, the kind that burns), but i do the very same exercises each time (for the class)so I’m thinking that I should not be sore.Glutes, hams, quads and inner thigh will be on fire too! These are the muscles I work. I dn’t use weights.

  • Cindi,
    Should have clarified…how long have you been taking this approach? Weeks? Months? It might just be time to give your body a full scale rest (one week) to recover. As for working the same exercises every time, that’s exactly the problem. You keep training and training and your muscles might not be getting adequate rest time. It could be your diet as well…are you fueling your muscles after exercising so that they recover faster?
    Dave

  • Cindi:

    been doing this particular routine for about six months. Prior to that it was a different set of exercises not targeting these particular muscles. I actuallly took 6 days off a couple weeks ago as we were traveling. Was very sore when i went back. No, I have gotten out of the habit of fueling after workout! Last night after class i soaked in hot tub, sauna, and steam room. that helped some. May have something to do with my age, 50.

  • Cindi,
    It could be your age, but I’d really recommend having something after your routine. A long time ago, I used to exercise pretty intensely at night and then not eat until the next day. I was exhausted and lost a lot of muscle mass. Repair those muscles after your break them down. That’s probably the best I can offer. Hope the pain goes away!
    Dave

  • Cindi:

    Thanks. will do!

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