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Should I Lift Weights if My Muscles Are Still Sore? & How to Recover Faster

Should I Lift Weights if My Muscles Are Still Sore? & How to Recover Faster

So, you have been hitting the gym hard and 12 to 18 hours later your muscles start to hurt. It is even worse if you are a beginner and have not been doing weight training for a while. And so 2 or 3 days go by and your muscles are still sore, so what should you do, continue to train them or wait until all the pain has subsided. More importantly, how can you make your muscles recover even faster so that you don’t have to wait 5 days before you train a specific muscle group again and so get faster results?

Well in this article I will reveal all of this but before we start to answer any of those questions let’s look at what is actually happening inside your muscles and why they get sore in the first place.

The Two Step Process of Muscle Building

Weight training involves two very distinct processes. The first is the actual workout, which provides the stimulus for change or muscle growth. The second, which is where the change actually takes place, is the rest and recovery period between workouts. Let’s take a look.

First, without getting too technical, here’s the breakdown. The process of lifting weights and building muscle actually involves micro-tearing of the muscle fibres. This tearing or breakdown and repair process is what is actually occurring when you are engaging in body building. So normally the full breaking down and repairing process will look like this:

Day 1: Weight training

Breaking down muscle fibres.

Day 2: Repairing of muscle fibres through rest and nutrition ( Actually, the repair process begins later on during Day 1 already )

The release of inflammatory chemicals is what causes muscle soreness and it’s all part of the detailed processes your body goes through to “repair” or “come to the aid” of the distressed muscle. During Day 2, be sure to drink plenty of water, eat your 5 small meals, and get a solid 7-8 hours of sleep. Your muscles actually do a lot of repair work during sleep.

Day 3: Here’s where you need to listen to your body’s cues.

If your muscles are still incredibly sore or you’re having trouble moving normally on the third day, you should wait until Day 4 to return to the gym or train that specific muscle group again. Normally training a muscle group once every 3 to 4 days works best and you should have recovered by then but this period can depend on things like if you are beginner, how intense your workouts were and how much rest and nutrients you gave your muscles during the repair period.

But Why Does it Hurt Worse the Second Day?

One of the most common reasons for sore muscles is DOMS, or delayed-onset muscle soreness. This condition typically peaks 24 to 48 hours after you have completed your workout and usually disappears after about 72 hours. There’s a lot more going on in your body than you realize, and because your body is concerned about injury, it releases specific chemicals that cause stiffness and loss of strength. Yes, your body is smarter than you are and it is trying to prevent you from going back and lifting weights the second day.

Don’t worry, it’s perfectly normal to feel like you’ve been hit by a truck the second day after hitting the gym hard or even starting a new gym workout program. It will get easier as time goes on, but if you ever get to the point where your muscles aren’t sore at all after your workout that means it’s time to change your fitness routine or up the intensity. Yes, lack of soreness is a signal from your body as well! Lack of soreness tells you that your workout did nothing for you and it’s time to add more weight or add more reps.

What to Do if Muscle Soreness Persists

If you experience severe muscle soreness or pain that persists for several days following a weight training session, you should not continue lifting weights. This could result in an injury to your muscles or worsening of your current symptoms.

Muscle soreness should be cared for before you begin your fitness routine again. If the symptoms persist and feel completely unnatural visit your physician.

You can also use some of the techniques below to help your muscles recover faster.

Rest – If you notice your muscles are sore after a workout, take it easy. If you rest for a few days, you may find that the discomfort subsides with no special treatment.

Massage – A good sports massage can go a long way to reduce both swelling and soreness. I actually started my career as a sports massage therapist and I used to see many professional sportsmen every single week for a 2 hour massage, especially the day after a big match so I know first-hand how well this works.

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Medications – Naproxen sodium, ibuprofen, or aspirin may help to reduce some of the soreness you experience. Keep this in mind, though, these over-the-counter medications will not speed up the healing process and should not be take right before your workout routine.

Wait – When you are feeling muscle discomfort, do not continue lifting weights. While you may want to get fit fast, you should let the soreness subside completely before returning to your exercise routine.

Listen to Your Body – While most muscle soreness is caused by DOMS and will not usually last for more than 2 to 5 days, it is important to listen to your body and pay attention to any additional complications. If you experience redness in the area, fever, swelling and soreness at the same time, or soreness that lasts longer than seven days, it is extremely important to consult a physician.

While sore muscles may not have been the fitness results you were hoping for when you started your fitness routine, this is a normal part of the process. Be sure to take things slow when you are first starting out and listen to your body’s cues, you will soon be addicted to this pain and if you pay close attention it is one of the best indicators on whether your current workout program is working for you or not!

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  1. Richard
    April 13, 2012
    8:39 pm

    Hey Peter! This was a really great article thank you! I have a question about soreness. For me when I do cardio workouts that involve jumping or running my calves and feet get very sore and hurt and burn like crazy and goes away after about 15 seconds of rest. What causes this and how can I fix this?

  2. Mathew
    April 13, 2012
    10:01 pm

    Hey Peter great article! Answered a lot of questions. I have a question about toning. I’m in the middle of a few different sports seasons and playing every day I’m not in the gym. So I can’t really afford to be sore. I also have to make a weight class so I can’t build any muscle but I don’t want to lose any either. So I’ve been lifting light with a lot of reps but not intense enough to make me sore the next day. Is this doing anything for me or am I just wasting my time?

  3. peter
    April 15, 2012
    9:39 am

    Remember maintaining is once again a whole other ball game. So if you are in the middle of a season you don’t care to much about getting bigger or changing your size so to speak you care about performance. So what you are doing seems fine and it will help you hang onto your muscles and maintain your current condition so keep going. What we talk about in this article is about making progress, breaking down the muscle so it can get stronger and bigger if that is your goal.

  4. The BaWa
    April 14, 2012
    11:01 am

    what a great article ,,
    Hi Peter.. you always give us exactly what we need to know
    I really appreciate that ..
    small question: Is there any intention to make new 6weekssixpack challenge ?
    Thank you..

  5. peter
    April 15, 2012
    9:36 am

    Yip we are doing a special Summer Edition starting in a few weeks!

  6. Oli Mercer
    April 14, 2012
    8:22 pm

    Great article mate, this look at DOMS has really made me more comfortable that I’m doing the right things because I normally get deterred from doing the same type of training if I’m sore 3/4 days later. This has put me at ease before I do my latest day of the 6WeekSixPack challenge. Cheers Peter.

  7. Jan
    April 15, 2012
    4:27 am

    it’s lactate. Google it for more infos.

  8. Jan
    April 15, 2012
    4:29 am

    “Lack of soreness tells you that your workout did nothing for you and it’s time to add more weight or add more reps.”

    Peter I don’t necessarily agree here. The pain is mostly coming from the connective tissue which means, that you could still grow more muscle! You’re just getting used to the movement. Nevertheless Muscle aches are actually important for the connective tissue, so switching the exercises up would be my way to go…

  9. peter
    April 15, 2012
    9:19 am

    Sure you could still have burned some calories but lack of pain the following day means that your muscles did not work hard enought and just mixing it up with a new exercise won’t mean much unless it is combined with intensity which is by far the most importnat aspect of getting a good workout. So by upping your weight and increasing your intensity ( there are other ways to also adjust your intensity ) you will get a better workout than just changing your exercise. But mixing your exercises up every now and then is also good but nowhere near as importnat as making sure you always increas your intensity.

  10. Jan
    April 15, 2012
    4:30 am

    Great article btw 🙂

  11. Rajeev
    May 15, 2012
    8:29 am

    What are you meant to do if you experience DOMS in the 6week 6pack challenge after a weight day?

  12. peter
    May 15, 2012
    9:39 pm

    Rest and follow the advice in this article.

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