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Sore Muscles = Progress?


Probably one of the dumbest newbie questions...

After each workout, basically one of three things happens to my muscles:
1. Muscles get sore
2. Muscles almost get sore but not quite (I can "feel" the workout in the muscle but it's not painful at all)
3. Nothing, no different feeling than usual

1 happens every time when I resume lifting after a break, even if it's a 1 week break. It sometimes happens if I radically change the way I train some muscle.

2 happens typically when I change the workout routine. More rarely, it happens when I resume training after a break.

3 happens after I do the same exercise for a while without changes. If I resume training verygradually_ after a break it sometimes happens too.

Am I correct to assume that muscles grow or get stronger a lot in case #1, grow or get stronger a little in case #2 and don't grow or don't get stronger at all in case #3?
Or is it a lot more complicated than that?


You just decribed the order in which muscles adapt to training. So, your assumptions are mixed in accuracy. You feel sorest when first beginning because it hasn't been exposed to the work that you do.

2 happens as you progress through a routine a few weeks into it.

3 happens when your body has come to expect what you do to it. That is the time to switch routines and train in at least a slightly different manner.

As far as soreness being a factor in success, that is up for a lot of debate. Some individuals grow with little soreness from workouts, some grow with moderate soreness. Many are advocates of workouts that ilicit the least amount of DOMS. But you are ultimately the deciding factor as to which is best for you. But some good advice is to make sure that your routine is changing every 4-6 weeks to keep from getting stale.


I personally think that soreness is a good sign but njot totally necessary for muscle growth. I could hammer my biceps or delts all day long and they would never get sore but if I back off them and not train them directly so musch I find that (for me anyway) they grow. They don't get sore either way but they grow.

Charles Staley has said to manage fatigue not seek it. If you want to feel bad walk out in traffic.


Agreed soreness is a BAD side effect not a Goal. Sure you will get sore a LOT of times but you should not seek it seek to perform better every w/o. To heal and be sore a shorter amount of time by getting plenty of food and rest etc..


Soreness really only indicates one thing: a build-up of lactic acid in a muscle group, not muscle growth.

Use the weight you can handle on any given exercise as a good measure of progress. If your lifting more today than you did last week, then you are progressing. Soreness really has nothing to do with it.



DOMS is most often provoked by training an exercise too infrequently. once a week is too infrequent.

DOMS is not from lactic acid buildup.

DOMS occurance and how it affects performance is different for everybody.

in no way is DOMS indicative of progress.

DOMS is not just a product of tention/volume of tension, but of exercise selection. bench press a lot and you probably wont be sore, but switch to incline and you probably will, initially.

anyways, this has already been discussed http://www.T-Nation.com/readTopic.do?id=830009&pageNo=0


I think your choice B is the most benificial. You should feel as if you worked the muscle. Unless I am coming back from a layoff or try something drastically new, I rarely get sore.


I have kind of an add on question to this thread...

When you are sore from a change in routine or from starting a new program should you take extra rest days or just work through the soreness for the first week or two?




According to today's science, most of the time it's small muscle trauma which cause the distinctive pain.

There are many arguments to why it's unprobable that lactic acid is responsible for muscle soreness.

For instance, when I squatted again after a two year long break from weights, I couldn't resist and went heavy. Because all training I usually did at the time was sprinting, kicking and bodyweight squats, my muscles were totally out of practice.
I was sore after the second set.
Lactic acid has a halflife of about 20 minutes. But my pain continued to increase throughout the day.


no. like i said, infrequent training is the main reason that DOMS is an issue. if retarded bodypart once a week programs never existed and trainees lifted at least 2-3X/week then most trainees wouldn't experience much DOMS.

on the other hand, if you went too heavy and DOMS will affect performance then you should rest until it wont affect performance. but the real solution is not to rest more, but to train smarter.


I don't find this to be true. I've been doing Westside for years, I cycle exercises but overall I don't add that many, and my hamstrings are almost always sore after ME Squat day. (One ME exercise, one supplemental exercise for hamstrings, then traps/abs)


This is true that lactic acid was pretty much ruled out as a cause of DOMS probably 12 years ago. As for microtrauma, its probably the cause, and based on Waterbury's recent articles, microtrauma IS the probably long term hypertrophy trigger, but one might experience a decrease with pain after a few weeks because the sensory nerves increase their pain threshold as a quick, short-term adaptation. Just a few observations: 1)I've been doing heavy lockouts and closegrips for years, and don't get muscle soreness (although my elbows and wrists start to hurt if the frequency is too great) but I did regular old extensions a week ago, and I was sore as heck-probably because the long head is more involved there. If I add in speed work after using only heavy weights, I often get sore in the legs. Also, soreness almost certainly means cortisol release, which is catabolic, but may be important in removing cell refuse for recycling. Finally, there is a big difference when you start to get chronically sore in the shoulders, back, knees, wrist and elbows.


i think you've misunderstood what i said.

some people just get sore even on great programs.

but more importantly, doing the same exercise often is what cuts it. Westside style ME lower day is once a week. Westside style alternates exercises often. this is often not an adequate style of training if DOMS is unwanted.

i lift very often. i experience DOMS only when i do a new movement. by 'new movement' i mean: an exercise that i haven't done for a while. a general rule of thumb is that more than 5 days is a while. tension and volume of tension must be factored in as well.

do the same movement with high enough tension/volume often enough and you'll most likely experience a decrease or elimination of DOMS.

P.S. keep in mind that when discussing Westside style, drugs should also be considered. drugs change everything.


I noticed that when I took MAG-10 I was basically never sore. That's even when doing the MAG-10 Plan For Success workout program which was not only much more intense than my standard routines (with drop sets and stuff) but also incorporated many exercises that I never ordinarily do (like concentration curls and leg press). Had I not been on MAG-10 I would have been cripplingly sore.

To me this is indictation that DOMS is definately a lot more than just temporarily higher nerve sensitivity and the micro trauma itself, but rather is also determined by what happens after trauma as far as repair.