Should You Work out If You’re Still Sore from Yesterday’s Workout?

Have you recently struggled with an intense workout and your muscles still hurt? So, are you now wondering if it’s okay to hit the gym again while you’re still sore from yesterday’s workout?

Please note, muscle soreness is quite natural; it’s mainly caused by the release of lactic acid in your muscles. In some cases, pain doesn’t subside the next day. During such situations, it becomes a tough decision whether you should get back to your fitness regimen or take a day off in order to give adequate rest to your muscles. Well, this article aims to provide in-depth information regarding this topic and help you make the best decision.

What Is Muscle Soreness?

For many individuals, muscle soreness is a pretty common symptom that usually happens after a tough workout session. While such vigorous exercise sessions may help you easily accomplish your fitness goals. However, one of the most common consequences of intensive workouts (for example, stair climbers at a gym, eccentric exercises, downhill running, and heavy weight lifting) is the buildup of lactic acid in your muscles. If you do not stretch properly both before and after an exercise session, lactic acid will accumulate in your muscles and cause soreness. 

As mentioned earlier, any kind of tough exercise may result in muscle soreness, particularly if those workouts are new and unfamiliar to you. Other than that, muscle soreness also inflicts beginners who’re working out for the first time. 

The reason behind this painful symptom is simple and straightforward. If your body isn’t used to handling tough workouts and your muscles aren’t necessarily prepared for such gym sessions, then you are expected to experience muscle soreness. 

The Role of Lactic Acid

During vigorous and strenuous exercise sessions, your circulatory system can’t fulfill the demand of supplying a steady flow of oxygen to your muscles. That’s why your muscles tend to shift from aerobic metabolism (that requires oxygen) to anaerobic metabolism. 

During the process of anaerobic metabolism, your muscles break down carbohydrates in order to generate energy. As a result, a compound (named as pyruvate) is produced. Next, when oxygen supply is available, pyruvate is further broken down aerobically to generate more energy. However, if sufficient oxygen isn’t available, pyruvate will be turned into lactic acid. 

Lactic acid is then broken down into another biochemical compound (called lactate) that releases hydrogen ions. In general, your body will clear these compounds simply by metabolizing them for energy. However, when the lactate production exceeds its clearance rate, then it accumulates in your bloodstream and muscles. 

With rising levels of lactate are accumulated in your tired muscles, it causes soreness and a sensation of fatigue. Other side-effects of such a high lactate level will result in disruptions of metabolites and increasing acidity of your muscle cells. All of these factors are related to muscle soreness that you often experience after practicing a tough workout session.

DOMS Theory, Swelling, and Microscopic Damage

Muscle soreness that’s often associated with exercise is also known as DOMS or delayed onset muscle soreness. It makes your muscles feel gross, sickly, and sore. In addition to these, it makes your life uncomfortable and reduces your strength. 

This nastiness generally starts after a bit of a delay and then continues to create a feeling of swelling and soreness for the next 24 – 72 hours and even more. Clearly, DOMS is both annoying and style-cramping. Plus, it discourages people to continue a daily fitness regimen. Another dirty secret of DOMS is the loss of strength. Plus, if your muscles are sore and hurting all the time, then you are probably sabotaging your workout efforts. 

Please note, lactic acid is considered to be one of the main culprits that trigger DOMS. However, lactic acid is typically removed from your muscle after a while. So, what are the other culprits behind DOMS?

Well, it’s often caused by a rapid influx of prostaglandins, white blood cells, various nutrients, and body fluids that flow to your muscles in order to repair the damage that’s created by a strenuous workout. Note, this type of muscle damage is widely known as microscopic damage. But, do not be worried. Microscopic damage is nothing but the process of muscle growth. Please note, it’s not a kind of injury or damage that needs a physician’s attention. 

The good news is that microscopic damage ensures that your muscles are ready to handle the similar intensity of workouts and makes them more resilient (without further causing any sensation of swelling and soreness). The swelling and inflammation may build up and last for two – five days (based on the intensity of the workout). After that, you will no longer experience any pain or discomfort.

Please note, muscle soreness is often considered to be quite necessary to attain your desired fitness goals. Obviously, there is no such scientifically proven evidence that supports this particular idea. Nevertheless, some people (including athletes, trainers, and professionals) are never satisfied with their exercise sessions until their muscles are sore. And, there is a rationale for this logic. 

Remember, if you exhibit the symptoms of muscle soreness (after a workout session), then there should be microscopic damage to your muscle fibers that will eventually repair and strengthen your muscles. Hence, it can be further concluded that muscle soreness is a predictor or potential marker of an upcoming muscle growth.

The Verdict: Should You Workout When Your Muscles Are Sore?

Please do not take a prolonged break from your day-to-day fitness program even if your muscles are still sore from yesterday’s workout. In fact, you can actually practice certain exercises to help alleviate muscle soreness, such as light aerobic or cardio exercise and stretching. The combination of stretching and light cardio will eventually reduce swelling and increase more blood circulation to your muscles. 

For your reference, you can start with ten-fifteen minutes of light cardio and continue with your fitness regimen by practicing some stretching, lifting, and a final round of cardio. Apart from that, some fitness aficionados recommend practicing low-impact exercises like easy cycling, walking, or swimming. Now, if your muscle soreness resolves or it does not interfere with your performance, then you’re all set to continue with your workout.

However, if the condition worsens or it causes too much unbearable pain, then your muscles probably need more time to rest, recover, repair, and grow. Also note, everyone responds differently. That’s why you are encouraged to experiment with different fitness routines in order to find out an ideal one that really works for you.

Ways to Assess If You’re Workout Ready Even If You’re Sore

So, are you still in a dilemma about weather you should stick to your routine gym session or take a break? In this context, please keep reading and reveal four ways to assess if you’re workout ready even if you’re sore.

Step 1
– Evaluate the Intensity of Soreness: First of all, you need to evaluate the intensity of your muscle soreness. It will be a key way to assess if you are workout ready. Is it like your legs hurt when you try to run or you can’t simply get out of the bed as the pain is so severe? In these situations, rate your condition on a scale of one – ten. If it ranks something between 4 – 5, then you can continue following your fitness regimen. On the contrary, if it ranks something between 8 – 10, then you probably need a break in order to rest the muscles.

Step 2 – Listen to Your Body: Remember, your aim is to attain your fitness goals and make continuous progress. Isn’t it? So, please make sure to listen to your body. Obviously, you are bound to experience a little amount of soreness. However, if your body is extremely tired, exhausted, and worn out, then you can take a break.

Step 3
– Range of Motion Test: This is another effective and objective way to assess and determine if your muscles are too sore to train. For instance, if the soreness is so severe that you can’t perform specific exercise movements with correct form, then you aren’t ready yet to hit the gym. In such situations, please take a day off till the soreness lessens.

Strength Test

Step 4
– Strength Test: In strength test, you need to check if you can handle regular weights for a specific workout and rep range. For example, if you can not perform the desired number of reps without causing any unbearable pain, burn, and soreness, then you are not workout ready yet.

Follow these four simple guidelines in order to determine if you can train your sore muscles.

The Final Takeaway

  • Muscle soreness usually occurs when vigorous exercise sessions cause microscopic muscle tears.
  • Simple and light workouts on a sore muscle may help alleviate the pain and foster speed healing. Alternatively, practicing extremely tough workouts on sore muscles will increase the risk of injury.
  • If the pain is severe and intense, then take a complete break and let your muscles heal.
  • If you do not prefer to take a break, then try to mix up your workouts, targeting other muscles which aren’t sore.

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