Is It Ok To Workout With Sore Muscles, Or Are You Doing More Harm Than Good?
Should you workout with sore muscles? This is the question you’ll get the definitive answer to in this article.
To some, training with soreness is a badge of honour. The bro “code of the road.” After all, if you’re not sore ALL the time, do you even lift, brah?
So is a workout with sore muscles something you have deal with?
Sink a few ‘man-up’ pills, a little ‘pull yourself together’ juice, and just do it? Or is there another way? A smarter way to train?
Here’s what you’re about to discover in this article.
- Why soreness isn’t the only marker of recovery.
- What to do if your programme says to train, but every muscle is sore.
- How to adjust your programme if you decide not to workout with sore muscles.
So if that sounds like the information you’re looking for, read on.
But promise me to read the whole thing. Don’t be tempted to skip around to the juicy bits. Because, trust me, if this article have orifices, knowledge juice would be gushing from them all.
Soreness Isn’t Your Only Marker Of Recovery
“Do You Have A Bigger Issue Than Contemplating A Workout With Sore Muscles?”
You rise out of bed feeling like you’ve been hit by a freight train. Every move you make is matched by a wince of pain. Somehow you feel as though you’ve aged 10 years overnight.
How are you supposed to train when your body is barely functioning correctly?
And what the fuck caused this immense pain, anyway?
Often, your first inclination might be to believe you are over-training. Pushing your body beyond its capability, in an effort to sculpt an awesome body. And that might be the case. But it’s unlikely.
You see, in my experience, constant soreness is more a sign of under-recovery, than over training.
And it’s important you consider this, because if the dilemma of whether or not to workout with sore muscles is a frequent question, you need to take a step back. Because it could beneficial to look at your complete training and nutrition programme, not just the next 60 minutes of your life.
Watch Out For The Warning Signs
Leg day rolls around, but your quads are still smashed from the last time you trained. A familiar feeling, I’m sure.
This level of soreness is a good, acute indicator that maybe recovery and nutrition isn’t where it needs to be. In this case, look back over your nutrition since you last trained. Did you hit your calorie and protein targets? Or did nutrition fall by the wayside as life got in the way and pulled you off course? You might have stress at work and not got enough good quality sleep. These might not seem like much, but they contribute massively to recovery. If they go astray, so will your ability to train as frequently as you’d like.
But there are also less immediate signals of underlying issues.
For example, chronic tiredness over a number of days and weeks. Is caffeine your early morning friend, and the only way you can transform from bed-ridden zombie to a fully functioning human? Are you struggle to sleep consistently week after week?
If the answer is yes, it could be you are running yourself into the ground. And your sore muscles and merely the end result of your lack of self-care. So be critical, objective, and have your eyes open to the warning signals.
Has Progress Ground To A Halt?
While you can’t expect progress each and every workout, especially in a calorie deficit, you should see SOME.
If you’re in a fat loss phase, you need to take this with a grain or two of salt. Because strength and muscle gain may be hard to come by. And that’s perfectly normal.
But if you are specifically trying to build muscle and you have a distinct lack of progress over a 6-8 week period, then chronic under-recovery may be your issue. Again, this may manifest itself through the feeling your entire body has been beaten with a baseball bat. But ask yourself if it’s actually a deeper, underlying issue.
But It Is Ok To Be Sore…Sometimes
Having said that, you shouldn’t be fearful of training hard and having sore muscles.
Waking up with sore muscles doesn’t earn you a gold star of hypertrophy. And it’s definitely not essential to feel like you need a carer to go to the bathroom. But, soreness IS required, sometimes.
Let me explain.
In a well-structured training programme, volume and intensity should increase over time. And with that you will push yourself harder and harder in your workouts. So, at some point, soreness is inevitable.
If you NEVER feel sore after training, it could be an indicator that intensity isn’t where it needs to be. In that situation, look at exercise execution and exercise selection, as much as set and rep volume. Because, performing the exercise better might be all you need to work on.
Acute soreness my be a sign of a more chronic issue requiring your attention. Take a step back and objectively look at your training and nutrition.
Should You Workout With Sore Muscles Because Your Programme Says So?
“Training Programmes Aren’t Set In Stone. And The World Won’t Crash If You Have A Rest Day”
It’s Monday. International Chest Day (or Glute Day for the ladies). But you’re not recovered from your last workout.
So do you train? Rest? Or pick a completely different workout?
To answer these questions, there’s two scenarios to consider.
If The Target Muscle Is Sore
Your training programme has you scheduled to train chest, but your breasticles are still tender. Whether that’s from over-training or under-recovery, that doesn’t matter right now. You simply need to decide whether or not to workout with sore muscles.
In this situation, it’s best NOT to train. If the target muscle is still sore, then it’s still recovering and adapting from the previous training stimulus. Smashing another workout will, overload the muscles unnecessarily and impair overall recovery. Not only that, your workout will be well below par, because you can’t train as well as you need to.
So REST! Give the muscle the R&R it clearly needs. Again, focus on your nutrition and recovery process to make sure this is on point between workouts.
If The Target Muscle Isn’t Sore, But The Rest Of Your Body Is Fucked
But if you’re programme says to train chest, but another part of your body is sore, then you can workout… Maybe.
And the reason for the note of caution is this…
Training certain muscle groups requires other muscles to come into play for stability. For example, bench pressing correctly requires strong scapula retraction, in order to keep the correct position locked in stone. If you hit that workout with sore muscles, particularly in your back, your ability to create a solid base may be impacted. Ultimately, this could lead to a sub-par workout.
Obviously, if you are down to train legs and your chest is sore, just get it done.
Deciding whether or not to train with sore muscles may simply be a case of looking at what you are scheduled to train and if that workout will be worthwhile.
What To Do If You Decide NOT To Workout With Sore Muscles
“Changes To Your Programme Don’t Need To Be Major. Keep It Simple”
Deciding not to workout with sore muscles is perfectly fine, In fact, it could very well be a smart decision, allowing you to train harder and more effectively in the near future.
But now you’ve made that decision, how do you adjust your programme accordingly?
This is the most straight-forward part of the dilemma (thankfully something is).
Either take a complete rest day (or as many as needed), recharge your batteries and reschedule your next workout for when you are feeling 100%.
Or, switch your workouts around. If your training split allows (and assuming your whole body isn’t a complete wreck) swap to a different workout that won’t be compromised by sore muscles. It’s that simple. Don’t overthink it. And certainly don’t overcomplicate for no reason.
Once you decide to skip a workout, resist the temptation to revolutionise your entire programme. Keep adjustments minimal. And only make changes if it makes logical sense to do so.
The Bottom Line On Whether Or Not To Workout With Sore Muscles
To workout with sore muscles, or not to workout with sore muscles? That is the question. But the answer is simple. If the target muscle is sore, then don’t train it. But also be mindful that your soreness may be an indication of more chronic issues that need addressing.
Muscle soreness and DOMS might make you feel as though you trained hard. And it might even make you feel awash with a strange sense of pride that you trained through the pain. But not always the smartest way to approach your workouts.
Recovery isn’t a crucial part of the process. Training creates the stimulus for potential adaptation to occur. But if you’re not focused on adequate nutrition and recovery, it could all be a waste of time. So make sure you have these fundamentals in place.
If you’re heading into a workout with sore muscles, make sure it’s not the target muscles that are sore. And be confident your workout won’t be compromised.
Although, remember that soreness is part of the process at some point. Don’t be scared of pushing yourself in the gym. But be sensible about it.
In conclusion, don’t train like an idiot.
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