Q&A Tuesday – Is Soreness Necessary?

by Chris on May 3, 2011

I was asked recently in the gym “If I’m not sore the day after a workout, does it mean I didn’t work hard enough?”

This is a great question because most people seem to gauge their success in the gym by how much pain they are in the next day. The way I see it, there are different levels of soreness, and different causes for soreness as well. In my experience, I am sore not only if I have a really hard workout but also if I don’t eat enough on a day when I train.

More food = less soreness for me

What people need to realize is that a little soreness isn’t a bad thing, but it’s also not something you should be seeking. Never chase pain. Pain is an indicator that something is broken in your body. Now, the logic goes that if you’re breaking down muscle when you’re training, more pain is good since it indicates that you broke down more muscle, and will build more muscle. Unfortunately, though, that logic doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true.

Personally, I hate being sore after a workout. It interferes with my daily life and that sucks. If I can’t move because I worked too hard in the gym, it’s annoying. If I can’t walk because I did too much leg work, that’s not a good thing. I don’t really understand why anyone would not want to be able to walk for days…

Soreness is not an indicator of a good workout. It is an indicator that you did more than your body could handle, or didn’t recover well enough. Being a little sore is not a bad thing, but when you start getting into levels of soreness that interfere with your daily life, you might want to step it back a little in the gym. Lots of people seem to forget that an integral part of fitness is recovery. If you have too much volume in the gym, it is difficult for your body to recover fully from all that volume. In fact, too much volume or intensity can result in your progress actually moving backwards.

For athletes especially, chasing soreness is a terrible idea. If you are in so much pain that you can’t practice your sport, then that is a big time problem. For tactical athletes, being too sore to operate can have dire consequences. Being sore is not a necessity of a fitness program. Keep that in mind next time you hit the gym.

Have a fitness question you want answered? Submit it to me and it could be used for Q&A Tuesday.

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