Working Out When Sore
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Working Out When Sore

Working Out When Sore

If you have been enjoying your workouts lately, you might find yourself in a situation where the mind is more motivated to workout than your body can handle.

That is, you are mentally ready to go to workout again, but you feel like you can’t, because your muscles are still sore from the previous workout.

When you encounter this situation, you will inevitably ask yourself “Is it safe to workout again? Surely it can’t hurt?”.

Well, it really depends on the severity of your muscle pain and the kinds of workouts you have been performing.

In this post, I’ll explain what causes sore muscles and when you can safely workout with sore muscles.

Why Do Your Muscles Get Sore?

Post-workout muscle soreness, also known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), is a natural part of the muscle building process.

When you lift weights or exercise at high intensity, microscopic tears develop in your muscle fibres.

These tears are what cause your muscles to feel sore.

After your workout, the body will repair your muscles, making muscle fibres thicker and stronger.

It will also produce new muscle fibres to further strengthen the muscle.

This process causes your muscles to become bigger and stronger. It also leads to the development of better muscular endurance.

Muscle soreness will be more pronounced after you have exercised in a way that affects an untrained muscle.

This often occurs when you perform a type of exercise that your body is not used to or exercise at a higher intensity than normal.

DOMS is experienced most acutely between 24 to 72 hours after your workout.

Is It Safe To Exercise While Sore?

In most cases, the answer is yes.

In fact, some research has found that performing low or moderate-intensity exercise after a rigorous workout can reduce the symptoms of DOMS.

This occurs because light exercise increases blood flow to the muscles and joints.

This clears inflammatory mediators, assists in lymphatic drainage, moves immune cells, and helps the inflammatory process along.

Essentially, it helps your muscles recover faster and relieves pain.

However, you need to be aware of the risk of overtraining.

If you experience any of the symptoms listed below, it is a sign that you may be overdoing it and your body needs a break:

  • Prolonged muscle or joint pain
  • Constant feelings of fatigue
  • Repetitive use injuries
  • Changes to your appetite
  • An increase in your resting heart rate
  • Your performance begins to deteriorate, even after a good night’s sleep
  • Weakened immune system (usually indicated by persistent colds and other illnesses)
  • Changes in your mood

Are You Sore Or Is It An Injury?

It’s also important recognise when muscle soreness could actually be an injury.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms below, it is a warning sign that you may have sustained an injury and should see a doctor.

Don’t exercise if you experience:

  • Swelling
  • Pain that doesn’t subside
  • Feelings of tingling or numbness
  • Bruising (indicated by blue or black marks)
  • Sharp pain
  • Unexplained loss of function to a part of your body
  • Feelings of nausea

How To Reduce DOMS

Fortunately, there are several techniques you can use to reduce muscle soreness, which will help you get more workouts into your week.

Here are a few of the best options:

Gentle aerobic exercise

As mentioned earlier, light to moderate exercise can help our muscles recover and reduce your pain levels.

Some of the best recovery exercises include bicycling, walking, jogging, and swimming.

Just remember to take it slow and steady during your workout. 


Stretching is a very effective way to increase blood flow to your muscles.

You can obtain benefits by stretching both after and between workouts.

This great article explains the different types of stretches and how they can help you reduce recovery time.

Bodyweight exercises

I’m a huge fan of bodyweight exercises.

Because they don’t require equipment, you can perform them anywhere and at anytime.

They can be used in between workouts to push some blood through your tired muscles and speed up recovery.

Using a foam roller

Foam rollers are very useful for stretching out the fascia (connective tissue) that covers muscles.

This can help you loosen tight muscles and recover faster.

This great video explains the concept and shares several foam roller positions.

Thanks for reading.

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Stephen Coleclough
Stephen Coleclough

Stephen Coleclough is a personal trainer and online fitness/nutrition coach from the UK. He loves heavy squats, smashing PRs and bacon sandwiches. You can follow him on Twitter at ColecloughPT.

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