The phrase “no pain, no gain” conjures up images of exercise enthusiasts grunting through their workouts and leaving the gym sporting bruises. However, it’s important to remember that not all injuries are preventable. Soreness is similarly something that most people who regularly exercise experience at some point or another.
However, what does this soreness mean? Is it something to worry about when you’re planning your next workout routine? Does it represent a setback? Or can it actually be good for you?
Read on as we explore whether soreness may, in fact, be an important part of muscle growth!
Does Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) Help Gain Muscle?
If you’ve ever trained your muscles hard, then you likely have experienced soreness a day or two later. This is known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), and it’s probably fair to say that most people believe it’s important for muscle growth. That is, if you’re not sore, then you didn’t train hard enough and therefore won’t grow much new muscle.
In fact, many people use DOMS as their primary indicator of how well they stimulate their muscles to grow. If they’re not sore the next day, then they feel like the workout was a waste. On the other hand, if they are really sore, then the workout was a success!
Should we be basing our workouts on this painful experience? In other words, does DOMS help gain muscle? Well, the short answer is no, DOMS does not help gain muscle. The corresponding long answer has a few interesting pieces. DOMS is caused by eccentric contractions and is a result of micro-tearing and inflammation of the muscles. It causes swelling and weakness that can last for up to 72 hours and can make it difficult for the athlete to perform at the same level as he or she can without DOMS. This means that if you are sore from yesterday’s workouts and go out to train today, there may be a possibility that your performance will suffer.
How Much Soreness Is Enough?
Well, that’s a tough question, given there is no one size fits all answer. And let’s be honest, not everyone has the same pain threshold. For example, I once had a trainer who was so sore after our first training session together that he could barely move his arms. Yet I couldn’t help but laugh at how little soreness I had (or lack thereof). So, it’s safe to say we are all different, and therefore soreness levels will vary from person to person.
Regarding “how much” soreness is enough, my best response would be as long as you know for certain you have worked the muscle in question and given it a good stimulus for growth, then you’re probably fine. However, if you aren’t sure if you’ve done enough to stimulate growth, then chances are you haven’t. And by “stimulating growth,” I mean working the muscle through its full range of motion with the proper weight and form (i.e., using a weight heavy enough to cause some degree of discomfort or soreness). If you haven’t done that, then you’ll need to reevaluate your training plan.