Physical therapy. Therapist addressing trapezius muscle
Is it normal to feel sore after a workout? Many hard-core exercisers love to have a good sore after a leg day, because you feel like you’ve really hit it hard at the gym. But how sore is too sore? And when does a good sore become a bad sore?

When we strength train, some soreness is to be expected. This is called DOMS (Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness), which typically develops 2-4 days after your last exercise. DOMS feels like a dull ache. There should not be any swelling, bruising, or redness.

If you experience extreme muscle soreness, swelling, difficulty moving, dark urine or all of the above, you could have rhabdomyolysis, which can be a life-threatening emergency. The condition is uncommon, but it can occur when you exercise in hot and humid environments at a very high intensity and level of exertion. With rhabdomyolysis, your muscle cells break down and release toxic chemicals into your bloodstream, which can ultimately lead to severe kidney damage. Seek immediate medical attention if you suspect you have rhabdomyolysis.

So what causes the soreness? It’s actually not lactic acid as some may believe. When your muscles are recruited during strength training, there will be microscopic tears in the muscle fibres  and surrounding connective tissues which results in inflammation, and consequently the feeling of soreness. During recovery, the muscles repair and actually get stronger.
Painful injury, runners physical muscle pain

Soreness Vs. Pain

Now let’s talk about the kind of pain you should not be feeling. Any kind or acute pain that shoots up from your muscles is a definite red flag. If your soreness turns into pain last for more than 5 days, there could be other issues involved such as serious muscle injury, which you should see your doctor for. It’s good to keep your body in check during your exercise sessions. The body uses pain to warn us so we will slow down. Check in with yourself and ask if this is an uncomfortable pain or is it that my muscles are working and they are making me tired? Muscle tiredness and soreness means you are challenging your muscles, which is a good thing. So a good rule of thumb to remember is “Sore is Good, Pain is Bad.”

Typical Exercises that Make You More Sore

  1. Weight Bearing Exercises. Doing Weights that allow you to lift 10-12 reps for 3 or 4 reps will be significant enough to challenge your muscles and result in soreness that is beneficial for muscle strength.
  2. Compound movements like jumps, squats, and lunges that require you to balance and recruit muscles that you don’t usually use in your daily routine. These movements not only lengthen your muscles but the movements will also challenge untapped muscles that are sleeping in your usual everyday life.

How to Minimise Soreness?

Now that we’ve established that we shouldn’t avoid soreness if you want get the most out of your exercise, then how to we recover well and minimise soreness? Actually, you may not be able minimise it but you can do certain things to recover more quickly.
  1. Walking or light jogging to get your circulation moving are great options for active recovery. Keep the muscles moving and preventing stiffness so you can get back to those workouts more quickly.


  2. Foam rolling or myofascial release is an amazing way to release tight muscles as well as increase circulation to the sore area. See my video on how to do foam roll here:


  3. Some people find that compression tights may work well for your legs, again with the goal of increasing circulation and speed up muscular repair.
  4. Eat a combination of carbs and protein for recovery. To rebuild and regain strength, your muscles demand the proper ingredients, specifically the right macronutrients. Do you need to take whey protein supplements and shakes? You could, but I always recommend real food. Great sources of low calorie protein are chicken, egg whites, and lean beef. There are also plant-based protein like chickpeas and quinoa that are great. Depending on your sensitivity and tolerance, unsweetened natural yogurt and cheeses contain protein as well as calcium. Soy is sensitive for some, so do your research for what’s best for you personally. It’s been studied that a combination of protein with carbs is the key to good recovery to help restore the glycogen stores in your muscles – think chicken and rice, or chicken and sweet potatoes!
So in conclusion, embrace the sore knowing that your muscles are being challenged. It’s important to listen to your body and know when to challenge it and when to rest. I hope that this article has been helpful in equipping you with some knowledge about soreness and muscle recovery. Share with a friend who may find this helpful too!

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