Soreness in training is part of process

When we train at our gym, it is not uncommon for our clients to request that we train them intensely enough to yield results, but not so intensely that they get sore.

While a perfect world could only offer the formula for that delicate alchemy, it’s important to understand that the  soreness occuring  from resistance training and that which happens, let’s say, if you ran multiple 40-yard sprints at maximal intensity both create the same result – delayed onset muscle soreness also known as DOMS.

These two different kinds of soreness are possible in the same training session, but one is more a function of working in an anaerobic state (insufficient oxygen to supply to the muscle at work) while small muscle fiber tearing (resistance training) is often the cause of the other soreness that results from training.

Profoundly, probably one of the most easy-to-understand explanations of what is happening when a person lifts weights is the “controlled breakdown or breaking” of very fine muscle fibers, called “myofilaments.”

This breaking down of these muscle units followed by adequate rest and diet, begin the repair process,  putting new muscle cells to work, and ultimately  regenerate into stronger and more functional muscle units.

The pain we feel from intense exercise, are the nerve signals that detect inflammation and remind us that this breakdown has  occurred.

The misery that can occur from pushing hard during weight training, is not necessarily a mistake.  Even experienced “gym rats”  with significant lean muscle development can undergo muscle soreness by upping their intensity.  Provided that correct mechanics are used, and tendons that attach to bone are not put under unusually high loads, soreness is often inevitable.

The 40-yard sprint soreness (and that sprint  around the base path) is a result of muscles  requiring more oxygen than the body can supply.  When this happens the by-product  is a chemical called “lactase” which results in extremely high levels of acid in the muscles.  One of the misconceptions is that it is the lactase itself that is causing the “next day blues.”   While the burning sensation a person feels while sprinting is muscle lactase at work, it is not the lactase itself that causes pain.

What is known, is that the inflammation that occurs as a result of DOMS can limit range of motion and make a person more uncomfortable.

There are no “formulas” to anticipate what each persons threshold of soreness will be.  For that reason, it is always best to control your work-out intensity over time.  This allows the body to adapt to the micro-trauma of the muscles and soft tissues, while also allowing the brain to become accustomed to the discomfort.

Somewhere in the annals of delayed onset muscle soreness was born the saying, “no pain, no gain.”   Whether this is a proactive goal,  or reactive response however is best left to the exercise enthusiast.



Bill Victor

Bill Victor, M.S. Exercise Science is the President of Victor Fitness and Performance Training. He and his team of trainers are dedicated to bringing the fitness experience, and the self-confidence that comes with it, to the citizens of Clark County. He can be reached through or his email,

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