Is muscle soreness a valid indicator of a good workout?

the rack front door

Muscle soreness is a side effect of the stress put on muscles when you exercise. It is commonly called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS, and it is completely normal. DOMS usually begins within 6-8 hours after a new activity or a change in activity and can last up to 24-72 hours after the exercise. Do we need to feel this every time we train? The answer may surprise you.

Variations of Soreness

There are many variations of soreness. Dull aches, touch tender pressure points, and what some may experience as a new level of tolerance to the “pain”. These are okay, just like stated above, can be tolerated and usually are overcome by self-care and time. Some training programs may even have you “work through the soreness” to facilitate a higher tolerance threshold and enhanced muscle recovery.

These methods may include band work, light load/high-speed work, or aerobic exercise. Over time, you may notice you do not get as sore as often, sometimes, but not as often. As training age increases tolerance to exercise-induced soreness increases. However, if you trained in powerlifting and decided you wanted to switch to CrossFit, you may experience soreness after a CrossFit workout versus when you trained powerlifting. Now, the joke is that no one really recovers from a CrossFit-style workout, but that is a topic for another day.


So what info can you take from this article? Allow soreness to facilitate your progression in training. However, do not use it as an absolute. Some days will be harder than others, and that’s okay. If you are working with a coach, communicate how you are feeling today. That way they can make any modifications to the program so you can get the best experience possible.

Brandon Bailey, MS, CSSC, USAW

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