Although muscle soreness often appears after exercise, it should not be an excuse to avoid strength training. Today we are going to explain what it is, why it hurts and how you can prevent it.
What is soreness in the muscles?
Soreness in the muscles is the same as muscle pain after exercise. We also know it as:
- Muscle soreness
- Muscle fever
You should know this about soreness in the muscles
Soreness in the muscles is simply muscle pain after exercise. It can manifest itself 24 to 48 hours after physical activity.
Soreness in the muscles can also appear after exercise or other physical activity outside the normal intensity range, for example:
- A sedentary person’s first day at the gym
- A very intense workout
- To lift heavy things
Muscle soreness and inflammation
People used to think that this type of pain was due to an inflammation as a result of the breakdown of muscle fibers after exercise. However, we know this is not the case because:
- According to this study published in the Journal of Physiological Sciences , there may also be pain without inflammation.
- According to this study from 2016 published in the journal Frontiers in Physiology , pain-free inflammation can also occur.
It thus appears that the inflammation is not directly related to the pain of soreness in the muscles. The current hypothesis is that this type of inflammation is a reaction of the immune system to unknown stimuli (a new movement or an increase in training intensity). However, we have to wait until researchers find out more about this topic in order to come to better conclusions.
Is soreness in the muscles due to lactic acid?
No. Lactic acid does not cause muscle soreness. This was confirmed in a study published in 1983 in which the concentration of lactic acid in the blood of two types of runners was evaluated:
- Some participants ran 45 minutes on a treadmill without a slope and had a significant increase in lactic acid, but no muscle soreness.
- Other people ran the same length with a slope on the treadmill of minus 10% to simulate a downhill and they did not experience an increase in lactic acid, but significantly stiff muscles.
This small experiment showed that there is no connection between lactic acid and soreness in the muscles.
So why does it hurt?
We do not know for sure. One of the problems with defining the cause is that muscle soreness can sometimes even spread to muscles you have not trained.
However, it is clear that:
- Eccentric movements have a greater tendency to cause stiffness than concentric movements.
- Genetics probably play an important role since there are some things that vary from person to person, such as sensitivity to pain.
- The soreness can get worse due to factors such as dehydration, poor diet, lack of sleep, a hard massage or fear of pain.
You can not prevent muscle soreness, but you can reduce the possibility of pain. If the soreness occurs, it will be much more manageable if you do the following:
- Take it easy. Gradually increase the intensity of your training. This is because you will not reach your goal faster when you force your body. It is actually the opposite.
- The general recommendation is that you should not increase the number of repetitions, sets and weights above 10% per week.
- Warm up properly. If you have had good results in the past, you can stretch after the workout.
- Focus on adopting good habits such as following a healthy and balanced diet, sleeping well and drinking enough water.
To sum up, muscle soreness is not due to lactic acid or inflammation despite what many people think. Although researchers are still trying to find the exact cause, it is a normal response from the body after exercising too intensely or doing other physical activity outside the normal intensity range.