Muscle Soreness Doesn’t Predict Future Muscle Strength

Feb 10, 2021 | Blog

     

        Exercise training can cause soreness to the muscles, especially when you partake in strenuous exercise. The feeling of muscle soreness that you get when we roll out of bed, can often bring a sense of accomplishment. The muscles were pushed to their brink, and you feel you accomplished what you set out to do. Muscle soreness is a good thing and can be a positive component to the overall training process. Continuous weekly muscle soreness however, isn’t a strategy that will optimize muscular strength gains in the long haul. Understanding why muscle soreness or delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) occurs after training can be beneficial to help improve the progress of increasing muscle mass and improving strength gains.

        Delayed-onset muscle soreness is a part of the regenerative process that occurs after exercise (Coudreuse, Dupont, & Nicol, 2004) and is often seen during higher volume of mechanical forces. It could come after a 3-mile run that hasn’t been attempted in months, or it could come after a higher volume of back squats. It tends to come when a volume of work has taken the body past a threshold it is not used to. It doesn’t, however, predict muscle tissue damage. It is a part of the muscle rebuilding process (sarcomeres, sarcoplasmic reticulum membranes) and is a mechanism that aids in physiological stability to the muscle region. It tends to appear >24 hours after strenuous exercise, peaks 1-3 days and can last more than 4 days after training (Cardinale, Newton, & Nosaka, 2011). This is the second day soreness that is felt days after a hard workout. 

        The delayed-onset muscle soreness phenomenon is a component to building skeletal muscle mass and improving strength gains, but the volume and frequency that DOMS occurs within a training phase can inhibit muscle growth and create plateaus in phases of training. This is because of many factors such as training status, volume, intensity, individual characteristics, and length of eccentric contraction (Cardinale, Newton, & Nosaka, 2011). These factors can reduce range of motion in joints and decrease muscle voluntary contraction (MVC) post training. Two important components to increasing weight or sets in the next training session targeting that region of muscles.

        Time is a big component when designing a workout program, especially when you’re training to target both upper and lower body strength. If building muscle mass or strength is a goal of yours, one thing that you can consider is pairing a heavier volume strength day with a lighter volume/intensity strength day within a couple days of each other. The lighter volume of work allows you to target the same muscle region while keeping the volume of mechanical forces down to reduce the potential hit to muscle damage. For example, a heavy leg day of weights >70% 1-rep max would be parried with a leg day a few days later of <70% 1-rep max. You could also decrease the amount of sets or the amount of exercises you perform for that particular region of muscles.

        To build strength and muscle mass you need to test the limits and push the threshold. You don’t, however, need to do that for every workout. In the beginning, it may be doable but over time it will catch up to you. Switching your workouts up from a high to low type training program could help keep the progress moving forward. The muscle soreness will not be a consistent element within your training, but the magnitude of how sore you are after a workout is not a predictor of muscle damage and muscle gain. It is only an intricate mechanism within the body that works to facilitate physiological stability. There is a psychological effect that comes from feeling sore, as we tend to base our level of effort and hard work from a workout session into how sore we are days later. It isn’t uncommon to place a value on a workout based on how we feel days later but, in the end, if we are sore all the time there is a higher risk for injury and burnout. Fluctuate the intensity and volume of your training days so you can repeat the benefits for a longer period of time.

 

Reference

 Cardinale, M., Newton, R., & Nosaka, K. (2011). Strength and conditioning biological principles and practical applications. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Coudreuse, J. M., Dupont, P., & Nicol, C. (2004). Delayed post effort muscle soreness. Annals of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine. 47(6), 290-298.

 

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