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How sore is too sore/not sore enough?

Part 1: Not sore enough

'I wasn't even sore after my last session.'

Muscle soreness is a terrible gauge of whether you are benefitting from your training. We'll talk about this more in depth on Wednesday.

Three things to note about muscle soreness (or DOMS, delayed onset muscle soreness):

(1) When you're starting up again, soreness happens.

Making your sore never a goal as coaches -- though sometimes it is a byproduct.

We actually will change a program to help you be less sore. This is where we keep repetitions low, additional load low, and cut back on 'time under tension' (aka super slow tempos).

(2) Some movements make you more sore than others.

Especially movements you've never done or movements that involve more control & mobility.

(3) With training, you become more resilient against soreness.

It's called the 'Repeated Bouts Effect.' This is helpful when we have athletes preparing for competition. As long as we keep things relatively the same, weight, exercises, reps, you will likely not be sore.

The caveat here: you MUST be consistent.

Part 2: Too sore

I'll say it again: Research shows us time and time again that being more sore vs less sore is NOT indicative of muscular changes.

Sure, hypertrophy training (aka training for muscle growth) is more associated with soreness.

If you're not sore after training it does NOT mean you're wasting your time.

Likewise, if you’re training for speed, strength, and power, being sore might mean your volume is TOO high. It may also mean you haven’t spent time preparing your tissues for that type of training.

If you LOVE being so sore you can't sit down, let your coach know and we can make it happen -- though it may be to your detriment.

If you have to delay your next training session OR cut the range of motion or weight down because you're too sore, you have lost the opportunity for improvement.

You've actually lost the ability to stimulate the muscle to change AND you may be under recovering. You've actually taken a step back.

A good place to sit for soreness? ... Not so sore you can't sit down.

We say a 6 or 7 on a scale of 1 to 10. 10 meaning questionable use of illegal/legal pain management medication and potential rhabdo.

Happy Lifting,


Co-Owner, MSc, CSCS

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