Q: Should I be sore after every workout?

A: It's important to realize that soreness is actually a result of small tears in the muscle fibers following a workout. This is often referred to as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS for short), and usually hits hardest 24-48 hours post-exercise. These small tears in the muscle are a result of overload either from a strenuous lifting session or a new movement pattern.

While soreness is an indicator of a hard workout, it’s not necessarily the best indicator of a good workout. After implementing a new workout routine or program, it’s common to be sore for the first few workouts, but the soreness shouldn’t linger more than a few days. Soreness is your body’s way of saying that it needs recovery before the next session. It’s not necessary to be sore after every workout to experience results. Consistently leaving your body a sore wreck is a perfect way to eventually end up overtrained.

To boost recovery post-workout and beat DOMS, incorporate foam rolling, stretching, and light activity into your rest days to circulate blood flow and help your muscles bounce back quicker for the next training session. Indeed, researchers in New Zealand confirmed that light exercise is the most effective means of reducing soreness. Also, don’t forget about the importance of deload weeks and rest weeks every few months to keep your body fresh and prevent overtraining.

After a few weeks of the same workouts, your body adapts to the stimulus, and you’ll no longer be sore. To continually see muscular adaptations, use the principal of progressive overload to consistently increase the difficulty of your workout by either adding extra load, changing the rest time, or manipulating other workout variables like sets, reps, and tempo.

About the trainer: Jeremey DuVall

Jeremey DuVall is a personal trainer based in Denver, CO. He received a Master’s degree in Human Performance from the University of Florida while specializing in strength training for endurance athletes. For more on Jeremey, check him out at JeremeyDuVall.com or on Twitter, @JeremeyD.