myths muscle soreness

Myths of Muscle Soreness

There are many myths surrounding muscle soreness.

Despite the pain it causes, many people accept delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) as a valuable indicator of having trained hard and thrashed their muscles. They assume that being sore means they are building muscle and getting stronger.

It’s logical, but not necessarily so.

For example, endurance exercise such as marathon running can cause intense muscle soreness, but it is not associated with muscle growth.

The Myth of Muscle Soreness

Just like every complicated and incompletely understand phenomenon in exercise physiology, the issue of muscle soreness is plagued by persistent myths.

Before getting into what you can due to reduce muscle soreness, we need to debunk the myths so as to have some basic facts to start with. Here are a few things we do know about DOMS muscle soreness:

Eccentric Contractions Cause More Muscle Soreness

The lengthening motion of a contraction causes greater muscle soreness compared to concentric contractions.

Genetics play a role

The experience of muscle soreness varies by individual. Some people experience little DOMS, whereas others get very sore, even after years of training.

The degree of muscle soreness varies by the muscle trained

Some muscles almost never get sore and others get very sore.

The degree of DOMS doesn’t correlate with muscle hypertrophy

There’s no evidence that individuals who don’t get sore after exercise don’t gain as much muscle.

Mythical “treatments” for muscle soreness such as ice and massage are largely useless

That’s not to say that these methods won’t help with recovery—they just won’t help with the soreness that is a component of recovery. Recovery from training encompasses central nervous, metabolic, and muscular factors, which icing and massage can support.

NSAIDs Should Be Avoided

Although anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) can reduce muscle soreness, they won’t accelerate recovery or restore strength. They have a negative effect on hypertrophy because they inhibit the activation of satellite cells that allow for continued growth. NSAIDs also cause intestinal leakage and systemic inflammation.

Static stretching won't reduce muscle soreness.

Neither will micro-current stimulation nor doing a cardio-based warm-up such as jogging.

Treating Muscle Soreness

Reducing post-workout soreness is a worthwhile endeavor. Muscle soreness keeps you from training as often as you would like. It makes daily life more challenging, and it puts you at increased of injury. For many people, the threat of getting sore keeps them from training hard altogether.

Research shows that the best approach to minimizing soreness is to take a lifestyle approach that incorporates nutrition, recovery modalities, and preconditioning:

Take BCAAs and Taurine around workouts to reduce muscle fiber breakdown and improve hydration.

Use blueberries or tart cherries to help the body eliminate waste products that impair muscle fiber healing.

Use caffeine pre-workout to ease muscle soreness and restore strength capacity.

Do recovery modalities like foam rolling or to ease sensations of muscle pain.

Precondition your muscle. Prepare your muscles prior to starting an intense training program by picking exercises for all the muscles you will be using during workouts. Do 10 maximal eccentric contractions 7 to 10 days beforehand.

Train more often. Increasing your training frequency to two to three times a week per muscle group lowers the inflammatory response, reducing muscle soreness.


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