This Soreness Thing

A recent internet blog points to extreme muscle soreness as the best indicator that "all is well in muscledom". Not so fast-- merely using soreness as a critical indicator of an effective workout is not the”ticket”.. What we do know about muscular soreness is that it is due to micro-trauma of the tissue, as a result of mechanical stress (and possible calcium leakage) to a particular target group.

Suppose you punched the wall with great force-Think that would make your fist and/or wrist sore? What about sleeping on the floor or couch in an unfamiliar, or less than comfortable position? Think you might get sore from that? Hardly indicators of fitness progress.

On the other hand, one may have a great workout and become somewhat sore, or a great training session and hardly feel any muscular awareness. Simply seeking soreness should not be your sole guideline. Most people get sore following a workout after an extended layoff, or from using a different movement (one they are not accustomed to). Sometimes soreness can even be "distal". For example, when someone is suffering a heart attack and the heart muscle is actually in trouble, the pain (soreness) is radiating into the shoulder or arm.

Some more precise examples of gauging progress are:

  • achieving an increase in the amount of weight being used
  • achieving more repetitions with the same (or even greater) weight
  • performing the same (or even greater) amount of work in a shorter time frame

Train hard, and train smart...

-Eric Shrieves