Is Muscle Soreness After Workout A Good Thing?

Knowing what’s true in a world of Instagram celebrities and self-proclaimed fitness experts can be challenging. That’s why I decided to do a series of myth-busting articles to hopefully clear the air of some stubborn fitness myths. The first myth on a plate will be “is muscle soreness good or bad”.

How do you know you can believe me?

These are common scientific principles of anatomy, biomechanics, and exercise physiology taught in every university Kinesiology and Sport Science program (which I’ve taken and have continued to update over the past 25+ years).

It still amazes me that so many myths persist in fitness. It’s time to lay a first one to rest today, so be sure to spread the word! Let’s dive into the first one…

Fitness Myth: Is Muscle Soreness after exercise good?

We’ve all had sore muscles after a hard training session. You’ve also probably heard at some point that your body builds up lactic acid when you exercise. Some muscle soreness is a natural one to two days after intense exercise. This is called DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness).

It’s also true that lactic acid builds up during many types of exercise. However, the two are not related.

Lactic acid is a by-product of anaerobic metabolism (generating energy in your body without using oxygen). This happens when your muscles demand energy faster than the aerobic system can supply it. Especially during intense exercises like long sprints, moderate to high rep resistance training, etc.

Lactic acid is cleared by the aerobic system soon after you are done exercising (or finished your interval). The time it takes is inversely related to the level of intensity, amount of lactic acid produced, and the type of activity you do for “recovery”.

This is why (good) trainers recommend an “active recovery” to help clear the lactic acid faster. Also allows you to repeat efforts with shorter rest breaks (in case you wanted to be able to work a little harder, more often).

DOMS is actually caused by microscopic tears in your muscle that lead to inflammation and soreness. Don’t worry, this is completely normal and part of the process that makes you stronger over time.

You see, strenuous exercise (anything above your baseline level of fitness) is essentially “breaking down” the tissue at the microscopic level. When you “rest and recover”, your body is “putting the muscle back together”, but it does it with healthy, new muscle tissue that is slightly stronger.


Each time you exercise (above your baseline), this “breakdown” happens, but you recover to be a little stronger.

Over time, you can see amazing changes in muscle strength, size, definition, and performance (based on the specific details of your training, recovery, and nutrition programs). This is why it’s recommended to give specific muscles at least a day of “active rest” between intense strength training sessions.

The level of DOMS you experience is based on how far past your baseline you go.

If you want to minimize soreness, start slow and gradually increase your effort and intensity. It also helps to actively recover with a different type of activity (ie. cardiovascular training), a different movement pattern, or level of intensity on the day following an intense training session.

Wrapping Up

These are just two of MANY myths that persist in fitness.

I have more myths coming in the following blog post.

If you have specific questions you would like me to address, please reply in the comments section or post your question on Facebook.

My team and I help busy professionals like you to move past these and other myths. If you are ready to invest in expert guidance to look, feel, live, and perform better in every area of your life…just book your FREE Coaching Success Session with FRESH! We would love to help.

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