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Having Sore Muscles is common after a workout and its usually a good sign that you are getting stronger. Minor aches and pains are simply indications that muscles are adapting to your fitness regimen. But sometimes sore muscles can throw a kink in your well intentioned workout plans, especially when it hurts to raise your arm above your head. No one is immune from “delayed onset muscle soreness” and learning how to manage sore muscles will help you improve future workouts. Read on for everything you ever wanted to know about sore muscles and the dreaded “muscle hangover”. With these top tips you’ll be able to relieve sore muscles and train smart to get stronger!

Sore Muscles 101. Muscle pain explained.

What causes sore muscles? Delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, is the soreness you experience 24 to 48 hours after intense bouts of exercise. DOMS begins with micro-tears that occur inside your muscles during your workout. These micro-tears set off an inflammatory response and your body’s immune system works to repair the damage. This causes swelling and fluid buildup in and around the muscles creating excess pressure which sends an “ouch” signal to your brain.

Immediate soreness — the pain you feel after racking the weights or stepping off the spin bike — is likely due to the accumulation of metabolic by-products inside your muscles. When hydrogen ions break away from lactic acid as it enters your blood stream, they trigger pain receptors. But this pain often dissipates 30 minutes post workout when your body flushes out the waste.

Good news is that soreness, especially DOMS, doesn’t have to derail your training. Its most often caused by activities that challenge your muscles in new ways they aren’t accustomed to, like starting a new routine or rapidly upping the intensity of your current one. Whats more, the recovery process that occurs within a muscle during an initial bout of soreness helps to protect it from future soreness. That means the same workout performed a few days later wont cause the same degree of soreness, if any. Not only are your muscles becoming stronger and better able to handle the force, the proteins inside your individual muscle cells adapt in such a way that makes them more resistant to damage.

The same micro-tears that cause soreness also play a role in building muscle, so it’s practically impossible to prevent soreness entirely. However by carefully following a moderate rate of progression, avoiding extreme changes in your fitness routine, and ensuring adequate recovery between sweat sessions you can reduce your chances of recurring “show-stopping” muscle soreness.

How to avoid super sore muscles. Take these steps to improve performance, train smart, and prevent sore muscles from becoming a regular recurrence in your workout routine.

Prevent Sore Muscles Before Your Workout

FUEL UP with inflammation fighting foods. Eating to aid muscle repair is easier than you think. That’s because the same healthy clean foods you eat to prevent heart disease will help keep post workout pain at bay too. “A heart healthy diet can be considered a muscle recovery diet as well, because both are rich in foods that contain compounds, including antioxidants and essential fatty acids that have been shown to help reduce inflammation.” says Nancy Clark, RD and author of Nancy Clarks Sports Nutrition Guidebook. “Make sure not to forget the protein which protects muscles from being broken down. Protein eaten prior to exercise will be ready to be put to use when exercise stops in order to start repairing and building muscle.” says Clark. Combine dark hued fruits or veggies with good for you fats and some protein in a pre-workout meal. Good choices are a bowl of fresh fruit (strawberries, bananas, and kiwi) with non-fat Greek yogurt topped with silvered almonds or a romaine salad topped with blueberries, walnuts, and a drizzle of olive oil.

Perform a Dynamic Warmup. Though it may feel good, studies have found that static stretching (holding a position or stretch) before a workout wont reduce soreness later. INSTEAD do a dynamic warm-up where you move your body through functional movements at a lower intensity than your actual workout. A dynamic warmup will enhance blood flow to your working muscles and increase their internal temperature, potentially making them less prone to damage. If cardio is in your daily workout plan, start by doing 5 to 10 minutes of the same activity at a lower intensity like walking or jogging before your run. If you are headed to the weight room try performing one set of each exercise using body weight or 50% of the weight you’ll be lifting that day. Try this dynamic warm up video before your next run, bike ride, or workout to prevent sore muscles.

Dynamic Warm Up Exercise Video

Prevent Sore Muscles DURING your Workout

Slowly Increase Intensity. One of the most common culprits of soreness is stepping up your program too quickly. Taking a more gradual approach will not only protect you against soreness, it will also help you progress more smoothly. Lifting too much too soon can lead to over-training, which occurs when your muscles don’t have adequate time to recover between workouts. You end up breaking down the muscle more rapidly than it can rebuild itself, which is counter-productive. Avoid this by following the 10 % rule : upping your weights by 10 percent each week once you feel that you can complete all the sets and reps at your current level. The 10% rule is a good guideline, but always make sure to adjust intensity gradually to fit your needs. Keep a log book where you record each workout is an ideal way to make sure you’re consistently boosting your intensity at a rate that will build strength while minimizing soreness.

Prep For Circuits. You know that performing circuits has its benefits (saves time, torches calories, boost endurance, to name a few). But if you want to be able to walk a few days from now, ease into them slowly. If your current training program involves bouts of rest between exercises, then you’re giving your muscles time to reabsorb the flood of chemicals that can cause soreness later. But if you’re diving in to a super circuit routine, it can take your body even longer to recover afterwards, because you will be coping with the combination of soreness as a result of challenging your muscles in completely new ways, plus the swamp of chemicals that has accumulated when you scrapped rest between exercises. Your solution: gradually chip away at rest periods. If you currently take 60 seconds to rest between exercises, reduce that time to 45 seconds next week, 30 seconds the following one, and 15 seconds the week after that. Within a month, your body will have learned to move those chemicals out of your system more rapidly, so it can handle the back-to-back exercises in a super circuit without leaving you sidelined with soreness several days afterward.

Prevent Sore Muscles After Your Workout

Chase Your Workout with Carbs and Protein. “The ideal post-workout, soreness reducing snack contains a ratio of about four parts protein to one part carbohydrate,” says Declan Connolly, PhD, exercise physiologist and director of the Human Performance Lab at the University of Vermont. “Protein helps repair muscle damage, which is essential for reducing soreness. Meanwhile, carbs help your body better absorb protein so it can do its job.” A study of US Marine recruits found that those who supplemented with both protein and carbs after a period of basic training experienced 17 percent less muscle soreness one day after a six-mile full gear hike, compared to a five-percent increase in soreness among the group that supplemented with carbs only. Try a bowl of quinoa or brown rice with chicken, a protein smoothie with whey protein powder, and a piece of fruit. When I’m busy I LOVE mixing up a quick protein smoothie, this is my favorite apple protein smoothie for busy days.

Hydrate!!! Your muscle cells need water, so when it comes to recovery, dehydration is one of your biggest enemies. Try to drink one 20–24oz bottle of water for each hour of exercise. Hydrate responsibly!

ICE ice baby. The reality is, once your workout is over, the damage is done. But applying ice to the muscle groups you worked the hardest can help blunt the inflammation response to those micro-tears, so you experience less swelling and less pain. Place zip lock ice bags on the top of your muscles for 20 minutes at a time. Take a break for 20 and repeat as much as needed to keep inflammation in check. Super sore? Give your body an ICE BATH. Read my step by step guide on how to take a bath in ICE!! Trust me it works…. Im not crazy, just cold 😉

Epsom Salt Baths. Not a huge fan of the cold? Grab the bubbles and pour yourself a hot bath tub. Epsom salt may sound bogus, but its a technique used by many athletes and gym fanatics use to promote recovery during intense periods of training. Magnesium — the key component of Epsom Salt — performs more functions in more systems of the human body than virtually any other mineral, including regulating the activity of more than 325 enzymes. Medical research indicates that magnesium may reduce inflammation and relieves pain, making it a beneficial in the treatment of sore muscles, bronchial asthma, migraine headaches and fibromyalgia. Soaking in Epsom salt is an inexpensive way to help ease tired, achy bodies so you can revive and enjoy all of your hard training days. Learn all about the benefits of magnesium sulfate and get my much more enjoyable recipe for an Epsom Salt Bath.

Massage Sore Muscles On a Foam Roller or yoga tune up therapy balls. Known as the “poor man’s massage” simple myofascial release exercises will help you keep your body healthy in the long term. Foam rolling exercises are great for pre-workout preparation, tune-ups between workouts, and at the end of a hard training day. If you really want to prevent DOMS from derailing your workouts, rolling your muscles for 10 minutes can reduce post-exercise soreness by 30 percent. Read my Foam Rolling Guide or try any of my quick foam rolling videos on youtube below. Now go get yourself on a foam roller and work out the kinks in your sore muscles!!

Sore Muscle Q&A:

“How can I tell the difference between soreness and a strain?” IF words such as “throbbing”, “stabbing”, or “popping” enter your vocabulary while working out, you may have strained a muscle. Another sign of a strain (which is a large muscle tear): the pain persists even when you stop doing the activity or lasts consistently for longer than a few days. Soreness that occurs during a workout, however feels uncomfortable, but the pain should let up when you stop. If you think you may have strained a muscle, stop what you are doing immediately and see your doctor.

“If I am sore after yesterdays workout, can I still exercise today?” Yes, but with some adjustments. If you are resistance training, its recommended not to exercise the same muscle groups on two consecutive days. If you’re feeling sore, perform a low-intensity activity, such as walking, yoga, or swimming. These activities will help temporarily relieve stiffness and it will feel good to get your body moving to shake off the sore muscles.

“If I don’t feel sore after a workout, did I not work hard enough?” I recently went off on a rather funny rant on this fitness myth. This is a common misconception. You dont need to feel sore to experience strength and other performance gains. While tiny muscle tears are an inevitable consequence of working out, if you increase your intensity at an appropriate rate, it will help reduce your chances of experiencing significant soreness.

I hope these videos and suggestions can be helpful resources for you in getting rid of Sore Muscles and feeling your very best. Bookmark and save this page for those work days where your need some sore muscle T.L.C. If you liked these videos, please hit LIKE and SUBSCRIBE to my channel for more content to help you feel your best. And if you know someone who could benefit from this post, please share it with them. Everyone deserves to feel good and live in health.

I encourage you to EASE intro a stronger, more fit you. Take the time to develop a well-rounded, balanced workout program that gradually builds your strength, cardio, and flexibility. DON’T seek soreness. Look instead to build a quality fitness program that gets you results for the long term. Train smarter and you will get stronger!

Here’s to you and a healthy, active lifestyle.


My mission is to empower feel good fitness inside and out. I am here to be of service in your wellness and help you get your mind, body, and spirit in shape so you can love your life. Lets work together and live well. Contact me at [email protected]

Want to build a balanced body? Check out my book, Balanced Body Breakthrough and get your mind, body, and spirit in great shape so you can love your life.

Originally published at on August 18, 2013.