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Not Sore After a Workout?

Updated on March 29, 2013
Hi, I'm an experienced college athlete.  Let me help you figure out this soreness issue.
Hi, I'm an experienced college athlete. Let me help you figure out this soreness issue.

So you're not sore huh?

  • What is soreness? (is it bad?)
  • Progress and soreness aren't related
  • good pain bad pain?

What is muscle soreness?

Muscle soreness is sometimes referred to as DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) and occurs most often when starting a new workout routine or just exercising for the first time in a long while. Since you are here because your not sore, then you're probably a pretty regular athlete or active individual. Muscle soreness occurs because your muscles aren't used to the type of exercise you performed. Muscle soreness is due to the tears you create in your muscles due to intense stress you place upon them. Although you'll have people telling you that being sore is always a negative thing, it can be a good indicator that you're working hard.

My opinion, work intelligently and as hard as you can which will usually lead to soreness; once you've worked out however, you should work as hard as you can at not being sore. So basically what I'm saying is you have to push your limits when you workout, but you also have to put in the same effort involved with recovery...so sleep, nutrition, hydration, stretching, etc.


Facts on Soreness

What you need to be doing

If you are not sore after a workout ever then your workout routine is lacking. The goal of your workouts, especially if its lifting weights, is to progressively be able to lift heavier, run faster, etc. If you aren't sore ever then you aren't changing your workout enough. There is a term that is used to describe the type of routine you should try. It's called "muscle confusion". What this means is that you change up the difficulty, muscles worked, and various other workout factors so that your body is always trying to adapt. The body does amazing things when it is trying, struggling to adapt. How do you think you build muscle? Wishing for it? Nope. You have to force your body into change which involves breaking down and tearing muscle.

So how often should you be changing your routine? Generally it's about every 3-4 weeks but it can vary. Basically it's whenever your workout routine feels like you're just going through the motions. If you aren't struggling to finish your workout then you need to change.

If I'm sore then I'll get stronger!?

Not necessarily. Sorry. While being sore is a good indicator that your body has been worked thoroughly, it doesn't equal strength gains. When you feel soreness, your body is basically saying, "Stop tearing me apart!" and means you should spend some more time recovering.

The only way to really know if you're getting stronger is not to judge based on feelings. You know you're stronger, faster, etc if you see for yourself first hand. Example: you could be working your body too much and being sore everyday which will cause muscle atrophy and zero strength gains.

ummm...
ummm...

Are you understanding yet?

You need an equal balance of soreness and recovery. Working hard and hardly working. Wax on, wax off. You get the idea. The first step you should take is to develop a new workout routine that challenges you right away. Plan for 4 weeks of this and then be ready to change it up. Always be thinking about how you can increase the difficulty or reach a new best for the next workout.

Although I could go on to give you specific workout to try, I think that's something better left for you to ask about in the comments section of this page.

Muscle soreness is the easy part (kinda)

Beating your muscles down during a workout is not hard to do. For weightlifting, it's most obviously seen when you reach that last rep and you can't do it. Once you make working out a habit, it's not hard to put in a great effort in the gym if your motivated enough.

The hard part is knowing how much to recover. Recovery is tricky because even when you are not sore your muscles may still be recovering. There are websites all over the internet that say different things about the appropriate length of time to recover but as a general tip just know that if worked until total failure the larger muscles take longer to recover. This means your legs and back will be the slow recovery muscles while the biceps, calves, and abs are rather quick to recovery.

Generally if you can recovery quickly then you can workout harder and more frequently which will only help you reach your fitness goals. For many top-level athletes recovery is the hardest part. Making sure you have the appropriate diet is definitely a must. Ever wonder why there's so much hype about protein powder? Because protein is absolutely essential for muscle repair (granted you can get a lot or all from simply eating). I have found that protein powder works to stop soreness from becoming a problem.

So how can you recovery as quickly as possible?

Like I said good diet but there are other things you can do as well. Stretching after exercising, drinking plenty of water, and one not so obvious one - cooling down after exercise. You would be surprised how many people do not cool down after working out. I am a college swimmer and the difference between cooling down and not cooling down is humongous, absolutely huge. It helps circulate blood for a time after working out which disperses waste caught in your muscles which can lead to soreness.

But back to the main question!

If you really want to be sore to see what it's like, just do a harder workout. A different, and difficult workout. Used to benching so many pounds or do curls with the 20 pound dumbbells? Try drop sets, try bring a friend to motivate you, try bumping up the weight, there are so many different ways to exercise!

If you comment on this page I will be certain to respond back to you. Feel free to check out my ENTIRE website based on swimming for fitness as probably addresses some of your questions

Not feeling sore? What type of exercise are you doing?

See results

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      flowxsss 3 years ago

      i think you got a point here "You need an equal balance of soreness and recovery. Working hard and hardly working"

      work the muscle so it be sore next day, BUT don't overdo it so it needs 4-5 days to recover!! one should look for that little sorness that will recover in 24-48 hours max.

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      John 4 years ago

      Good article, looking to become a fitness instructor myself.