Sore muscles give us some sort of satisfaction because it shows that we have had a great workout. But sometimes the pain can be too much to bear – even scrubbing your back in the shower becomes a challenge.
I’m sure most folks who do any form of resistance training have experienced sore muscles at one point, unless you do low intensity exercises. So it’s nothing to stress over unless you are experiencing sharp pains on the joints or ligaments which is sign of an injury.
Though it is not possible to prevent muscle soreness completely, you can speed up the recovery.
Sore muscles are not an indicator of a good workout; you can have a rewarding workout without experiencing sore muscles.
Let’s look into what causes sore muscles.
What causes sore muscles?
When you do resistance training or a vigorous exercise the muscles get small microscopic tears. The inflammation and the tears is what causes the pain you feel a day after the workout. The muscle soreness and pain which you feel a day after the workout is called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
What causes these microscopic tears is exercises that resist weights against gravity (eccentric motion), this also applies to body-weight exercises. So if you dropped weights without applying any resistance your muscles won’t be sore.
Usually muscle soreness starts a day after the workout, how long it lasts will depend on your levels of fitness and the intensity of your workout. If it’s you first time working out you will probably experience some major pains for 4 to 6 days.
You’ll be experiencing less soreness as you get more fit. It’ll even get to a point where you only experience soreness after doing new exercises and the pain will only last for a day.
The bad news is that muscles soreness is not something that can be completely avoided but you can reduce how long it lasts. Let’s into some of the ways you can speed up sore muscle recovery.
Light exercise or resting
The point of recovery is to go back to your normal physical state and health. And for you to attain the state of normalcy you should rest.
Getting adequate rest should also be part of a quick recovery – the idea of “fighting fire with fire” doesn’t always work. Don’t stress your body with more exercises thinking that it’s the solution. Just rest for a day or two, and avoid taking the very long break called quitting.
Doing light exercises is a great way to speed recovery as well, it may seem undoable especially if the soreness and pain is too much. But you can do some simples exercises like walking, jogging and light lifting, this will increase the flow of blood into the muscles and speed up recovery.
Nutrition plays a big role in recovery; you should eat heathy foods to improve sore muscle recovery. Eat adequate protein and foods high in carbs to replenish glycogen fast. The amount of protein you should eat may vary depending on the intensity of your workouts.
Here are some foods that will reduce the inflammation and improve your recovery; blueberries, pineapples, almonds, salmon, turmeric, eggs and cinnamon.
You want to avoid dehydration especially during the recovery period. Being dehydrated can worsen the soreness.
Staying hydrated throughout the day will help improve your recovery. Not only that – drinking lots of water everyday will improve your overall health.
Foam rolling has been used for several years as a way of improving recovery. Though there isn’t much research on how foam rolling improves recovery, a recent study by Macdonald examined the benefits of foam rolling on recovery.
The subjects were twenty males with 3 years’ experience in strength training, placed in two groups, control and foam roller group. They performed 10 sets of 10 reps of barbell squats. They had a 2 minute rest between sets and to induce the soreness the squat eccentric motion took 4 seconds with 1 second rest at bottom of the squat, 1 second concentric motion.
The foam roller group then performed foam rolling exercises for 60 seconds, over the thighs and the gluteal muscles.
The results; the foam roller group muscles soreness peaked 24 hours past the workout (good), while the control group pain peaked after 48 hours (not good). The control group also had higher muscle soreness. This shows that form rolling is an effective way of reducing muscle soreness.
Just like there are ways of improving soreness recovery, there are also things that may sabotage your recovery.
Things that may sabotage your sore muscle recovery
You’ll find that some people have slower recovery periods than others. Let’s see some of the things that may slow down your recovery.
Stress and lack of sleep
Mental stress can slow down post workout recovery. This study showed that the trainees with high stress levels took longer to recover their muscle strength.
Another study also showed that stress slowed healing tissue, something our muscles need in order to recover.
Your body needs time to rest and recover. Training everyday will do you more harm than good. Give the muscles time to recover. As your fitness improves the recovery period will become shorter and you can increase the frequency of workouts.
Excessive calorie restriction is can also be a problem. The muscles need calories to recover; a huge calorie deficit will slow down recovery.
Eat enough so that the body has energy for the muscles and it can recover. Eating the foods I recommended earlier is a great way to improve your recovery.
If you are the guy does intense workouts today only to train again after three weeks you’re definitely going to experience muscle soreness every time you exercise.
The problem with inconsistent workouts is that you can’t make any real progress. Every time you exercise you’ll be starting at point zero.
Is it possible to prevent muscle soreness?
It’s not possible to completely prevent muscle soreness but you can reduce the pain and inflammation by; stretching after a workout, pre workout and post workout nutrition, a taking it easy at the start and improving your level of fitness. The more fit you are the less the soreness will experience and it’ll also last for shorter period of time.
Most people experience sore muscles after any form of resistance exercise so it shouldn’t worry you. If the soreness lasts more than a week or if the pain is too deep it could be a muscle strain, in this case you should see a physician.
So the next time you have sore muscles remember to use these tips to speed up the recovery.
Do you experience sore muscles? what are some of the methods do you use to speed up recovery?