With Joe Bonyai, M.Ed., CSCS, USAW
If you’re a fitness enthusiast, or occasionally work with a trainer, you probably know what it feels like to be REALLY sore (and it’s always that second day, right?).
Muscular soreness following a workout isn’t a bad thing. Research indicates that soreness following exercise is representative of inflammation caused by trauma to the muscle. You’re not injured, per se, but your strength will be compromised until the soreness subsides (which may take 36-72 hours in some cases).
With that said, muscular soreness is also NOT A GOOD thing. Muscular soreness is not related to improvements in strength or muscle gain. All muscular soreness does is force you to do less until your muscles recover.
More soreness doesn’t mean the workout was more effective nor does being less sore mean that the workout was less effective. Again, soreness is not related to fitness outcomes.
Frequency over Intensity
If your goal is to get stronger, lose body fat, or prepare for a race, you have to increasingly stress your body more over time. Adding more workouts over a fixed time period (week or month) should be the goal, NOT adding intensity to infrequent workouts.
The body will change in response to total work over time. To simplify, two medium intensity workouts every three days are better than one high intensity workout every three (or four).
Example:On Monday your trainer plans this workout:
Now, let’s look at a better alternative. On Monday your trainer plans this workout:
You’re able to go to spin class on Tuesday. And on Wednesday your workout is this:
By splitting up the workload, you were able to recover and complete two total body workouts in three days, including a spin class on Tuesday. It’s likely that you would be able to work out again on Friday and Saturday depending on the type of activity.
It’s important to reiterate that splitting up the workload over the week allows you to actually do MORE total work. In the first Monday example, your legs would be shot by the time you had to do squat jumps or leg extensions. You would end up not pushing as hard, or using as much weight as you could if you were fresh.
Sore-y to Burst Your Bubble…
It’s important to not qualify the efficacy of a workout, (OR A TRAINER), by how sore you are when you wake up. If you’re sore, you’ll recover. If you’re not, don’t worry about it.
There are much more important variables to monitor that will clearly demonstrate the efficacy of your workouts including: recording weights and repetitions, circumferential measurements, body fat percentage, VO2 Max testing, and morning resting heart rate.
If you work out on your own, begin recording your workouts. Write down the weights you used and how many repetitions you performed. After performing cardio, write down the level, speed, time and distance covered. Track your resting heart rate in the morning. A lower heart rate generally represents improved fitness. Any drastic elevation (5+ bpm) can be a sign to give your body a rest.