What Helps Sore Muscles After a Workout?

Exercise, Exercise, Exercise….next day…ouch, ouch, OUCH!

While exercise is an important factor in having a body that can move, improving our heart and lungs, and building strong bones and muscles…it can also leave us with some seriously sore muscles. 

While post-workout soreness is a common thing, it doesn’t make it any more bearable for those experiencing the swag walk or not being able to lift our arms! Why are we getting so sore, is this ok, and what can we do to elevate it?

After workout soreness is usually associated with Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS and it is caused by tiny tears in the muscle fibers.  This can happen when you start a new exercise/activity or bump up the intensity, frequency, or length of your current workout plan.

Sore muscles after working out

For many of us, the delayed soreness is showing up 12 to 24 hours after a tough workout and can peak between 24 and 72 hours.  I cannot even tell you know many times that Day 2 is the one that gets me!

What causes the soreness after a workout?

The soreness is a result of small tears to the muscle fibers that occurs when you work that part of your body.  The small tears cause soreness and can bring inflammation.  The interesting fact here is that this is the exact process for building muscle.  When the muscle fiber builds back after the tears, they recover and come back strong.  This is a normal part of the muscle-building and “strength” building process.

The degree of muscle soreness does not dictate the results of the muscle building though.  One negative of being really sore is skipping the next few workouts due to the discomfort. 

What kinds of workouts often lead to soreness?

There isn’t one kind of workout over another that can lead to soreness but instead is more likely to be associated with pushing your body to movements that it is not used to, using smaller muscles that you don’t usually work, or stress to the muscle in a way that is more than they are used to or prepared for. 

This could be that booty camp class that you go to where there is a ton of squats, too many bicep curls, or just any more that has more volume (think move sets and reps) than you are used to.

sore muscles after working out

What helps sore muscles after a workout

Tip1 – keep moving. 

Did you just read this and say “she’s crazy”?  Yes…it is going to suck but if you start moving even just a little bit, it will increase the blood flow through out the body.  This is going to speed up the repair process and thus reducing the post muscle soreness. 

Hear me though….this doesn’t mean jump right back into some of your regular scheduled workout programming.  I am talking a gentle walk, bike ride, easy yoga, or lifting very light weights (but seriously….super easy…super light).

Tip 2 – drink that water

There is research that shows a direct correlation between increased muscle soreness and dehydration.  The main theory of this research is that the water helps flush out waste.  When the muscle breaks down, it releases waste and these waste products are associated with soreness.  Drink the water and circulate the waste out.

Tip 3 – super light stretching

The key word is “light”.  Not talking form rolling until you cry. 

sore muscles after a workout

Is there anything to prior or during the workout to lessen the amount of soreness?

Warm-up.  Research shows that warming up the muscles before exercising may be better than doing stretching.  This is about getting blood flow to the muscle to be worked.  This could be a lighter version of the exercise you are getting read to do, a walk, or even jump rope

Drink water.  Water is the one that thing that can add value to so many areas.  It helps us control our body temperature, loosens the joints, and transports our much-needed nutrients to create energy.  Being dehydrated, our bodies will struggle work and you may feel tired, dizzy, or even have muscle cramps

Limited rest.  A good rule of thumb is to wait 2 days between working for the same muscle group in the same way.  If you do a heavy leg day workout, don’t return to that workout the next day.

Use proper technique.  I am a big fan of using a lighter weight, finding your form, and focuses on the muscle.  Once you have the form, move up in weight size.  We can often look around a gym and see people swinging weights to get them up/down and that is not only not working what they want but also a direct path to an injury.  If you belong to a gym, go ask a trainer or instructor for help.  This is exactly why they are there and are more than happy to answer questions.

Cool down.  Take just a few moments of the stretch at the end of your workout.  This doesn’t have to be a 30-minute yoga class (although your body will love you for it) but this will help with getting the blood flowing through the body vs. pooling in one area.   This is the perfect time for the form roller if that is your thing (if you have never tried it…I am pretty sure that form rollers are a torture device).

Wrapping this one up!

Sore muscle is a normal thing.  But soreness and pain are two totally different things. If you have pain or extended muscle soreness, go seek medical advice.

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sore muscles after a workout

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