Most people view muscle soreness as a sign that they’ve had a good workout. Experts are currently working to debunk this myth and prove that being sore is not necessarily an indication that you’re working out effectively.
Post-workout muscle pain is scientifically known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), and it is usually a consequence of strenuous or new exercise. You can experience it within hours after working out, but most commonly after two days when it’s most intense.
Although the actual cause of DOMS is still unknown, experts have several theories, including damage to the protein structure or the connective tissue of the muscle fiber, among others.
DOMS intensity is subjective, but findings show that age and genetics play a role in our muscles recovering after a workout.
You’re likely to experience DOMS if you take up a new workout plan consisting of initially intense and long sessions involving eccentric weightlifting exercises, such as squats, bench presses, or deadlifts.
Muscle damage may help strengthen your muscles to an extent. Even though soreness can reduce muscle effectiveness during workouts for a certain period, it is less likely to occur at the same intensity if you start working out regularly. Your muscles will adapt to the workout-induced damage and be able to recover much quicker.
Experts recommend focusing on “progressive overload”—gradually intensifying your workouts over time. This will help reduce DOMS and measure workout effectiveness based on how many additional reps you can do compared to your previous workout sessions.