Should you exercise through Delayed onset muscle soreness?

by (55320) Updated February 28, 2013 at 2:05 PM Created September 20, 2010 at 8:56 PM

So I've been doing a lot of heavy erratic work on muscles that were previously a little lazy. And I do get Delayed onset muscle soreness, which is nice because it definitely feels like muscle is being built, but doesn't make me want to exercise very much. Is it a good idea to exercise through it? Or should I take a break? Maybe not do any strength stuff?

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14 Replies

4813 · September 21, 2010 at 1:32 AM

It also depends how sore you feel. I remember some time ago I tried something new and I pushed myself too hard. I was sore all right. It was a pain to put clothes on or use bathroom ;-). Now with this kind of soreness I decided to simply wait and let the body recover from the shock. When I have more typical, light soreness I try to move but with no pressure. If I feel like it, I will do lighter workout, if not - I will just skip it that day.

1746 · September 22, 2010 at 10:47 AM

A lot depends on what your intentions are. You have to realize that the soreness is due to the muscle fibres being damaged from the workout. The fact that they are damaged and not yet repaired means that they aren't as strong as they were before the exercise so you won't be able to work them hard enough to stimulate any more growth, at this stage anyway. A light workout can increase blood flow which can speed repair but it is usually counter productive to engage in any heavy work. Bear in mind that depending on the degree of damage done repair can take 7 to 10 days to fully recover and be stronger. If your lifts continue to increase it is a good indication that you are recovering sufficiently between workouts. However if the next workout isn't as productive as the last it's a good chance you aren't fully recovered and probably should have a rest or light day. I recommend you read "Body by Science" (John R. Little, Doug McGuff) Dr McGuff explains in exquisite detail what happens inside the muscle.

588 · September 21, 2010 at 12:30 AM

If Paleo has taught me anything it is to listen to your body: I would rest

Remember it is quite an "unnatural" to have X muscles really out of shape or weak and then obliterate them with exercise... If you were raised a hunter-gatherer you would have been working and strengthening all your muscles in unison your entire life.

I bet if a tiger or lion wakes up with really sore muscles they chose to sit that day out!

832 · September 20, 2010 at 9:57 PM

When I was a kid (early 20s) I used to just push through the soreness and keep exercising. Eventually the soreness would abate after your muscles worked out the lactic acid and you got enough rest each night. Usually took about a week to 10 days of sore workouts. I'm my mid-thirties now and I'm a big believer in proper rest periods, but I think a light workout through the soreness will keep blood flowing through the affect area and hasten muscle repair and growth. That being said, I typically work hard through the soreness for a few weeks and then give myself about a week off with some easy resistance training every other day: heavy weights, low reps, to increase strength and density, then back to the grind.

9551 · September 20, 2010 at 9:36 PM

There's a piece of old wisdom about this that has always stood me in good stead: to make the soreness go away, do a lesser version of the same exercise that made you sore. Beyond that you'll have to ask all the great training enthusiasts we have on this site.

3365 · February 28, 2013 at 2:05 PM

Remember, too... weakened muscles involuntarily redistribute the workload. This is how minor muscles and connective tissue gets damaged. Definitely rest or at least work at a lighter pace.

15261 · February 28, 2013 at 2:30 AM

The only cure for sore is more. If you are sure that you don't have an injury, I would get back on that horse and work out.

Many people try a new kind of workout such as running or crossfit and are sore afterwards, then are afraid to do it again until they have completely recovered. As a result they work out every 7-10 days, and then never make any progress, because that is not often enough to make any gains. If you are going from couch potato to working out regularly, you'll be sore as hell for the first 4-6 weeks. Again, as long as you are sure there is no injury (go to a doctor or therapist if you need to), just tough it out and keep at it. Building muscle and stamina is a little uncomfortable.

Over time you will learn to distinguish between soreness and injury. Being super sore when trying to wash your hair or sit on the toilet can just be muscle fatigue, but chronic pain on your back or neck is a whole different kind of pain.

Also, don't take meds every day for months, but some ibuprofin every day for a week will alleviate the pain and help your body get on top of the inflammation while you are adapting. Don't do this for months but there is little harm in some occasional anti-inflammatories.

0 · December 08, 2012 at 2:20 AM

people say work through it, but how can you expect to generate the intensity of the workout that gave you the DOMS in the first place when you are still in recovery? The answer is of course... you can't, simply because the muscules that you are trying to develop are still developing. DOMS in my opinion is highly desirable, it's a sure sign that you have completed an effective workout of a particular area but I believe that you should allow full recovery aside from perhaps light exercise to promote blood flow. If your chest is sore, concentrate on a different set of muscules like the legs for example. So yes work through it but on a different set of muscules

16 · August 27, 2012 at 3:25 AM

Look bra do it ay pain is hectic I got a 8 pack and shit an I use codoms..

4240 · May 25, 2012 at 4:21 AM


I just heard about this stuff on Upgraded Self Radio

484 · September 21, 2010 at 11:43 AM

My trainer suggests cold/cool shower after workout to help fight the inflammation that causes DOMS. I tried it yesterday and am not as sore as last week, but maybe I am just toughening up!

1602 · September 21, 2010 at 10:10 AM

I work through DOMS, but I make sure that I'm properly mobilized before doing it. The main risk that I'm aware of, is that you will change your form to avoid the pain. That way lies injury.

There doesn't seem to be any other risk associated with it, according to wikipedia.

352 · September 21, 2010 at 3:30 AM

I've always just worked through DOMS. As long as it's only DOMS (not an actual injury), and you're giving yourself at least one rest day between workouts of the same muscle group I don't see what could go wrong.

77338 · February 27, 2013 at 11:55 PM

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