T Nation

Training While Sore


I know this probably gets asked a lot although im not sure the answer is the same with every scenario. Heres mine.

I currently do full body workouts mon wed and fri. Generally i workout with medium intensity and i get sore enough but recover by my next workout. However once in a while i like to go hard and i can be sore for several days.

For the sake of getting bigger, is it ok maybe even beneficial to do a lighter workout doing all the same exercises but with less weight and intensity even while im not fully recovered?

I feel like sometimes “over training” this way might be okay if enough rest days are followed after. What is your input on this? Should i go anyway with less load, or skip it and just wait until ive fully recovered.


Why lighten the load? Why not just do what you were going to do in the first place?


I suppose I could I guess I assumed it would be too much while not fully recovered.


Not at all. Soreness isn’t an indication of recovery.

If I never trained while sore, I’d never train. I JUST stopped feeling sore from a squat workout I did on Saturday, and I still squatted yesterday.


From what I believe, soreness can definitely be a factor in not fully recovering. Make sure you are getting adequate protein and fat intake. If it’s for the sake of building muscle I would make huge effort in making sure you are able to perform at your best each workout. You don’t want to be spinning your wheels by not recovering and hammering on the intensity.


Damn. I’ve had it all wrong. I assume the best indication would be if I’m getting weaker or stronger. For someone who’s been lifting for a year any idea what progression should like like strength wise? I know everyone is different.

I saw some of your videos btw you’re strong as hell.


I feel regular soreness is negative overall, it means you are taxing the body beyond its current capacity. You want to leave the gym feeling good, but know you have done enough to stimulate muscle growth and strength increase. You don’t want to feel like a whipped dog the next day, let alone the whole week.
With a 3 day a week, whole body workout its secret is relying on frequency. Occasionally you can test yourself by maxing out weight ,or intensity, max reps with a really heavy weight. Make it infrequent, only when you really feeling it.
Listen to your body. Cycle your poundages and intensity when you need to. Those adjustments are what make the difference between someone who train hard but smart, rather than someone that just trains hard.


I’m not really sure what you’re doing, but I’ll share my experience with full-body training and soreness.

I ran full body MWF for over a year. I was always sore. I’m still always sore running a 4 day upper-lower. I find that the soreness disappears from my mind, if not always my body, once I get warmed-up for whatever I’m doing for the day.

Some programs have varying volume and intensity built-in, like the original 5/3/1 full body program I ran for 9 cycles. It has you going balls-out on squats on Monday, but lower volume on Wednesday and Friday. Heavy Bench on Wednesday, dumbbell presses on Monday. Friday was kind of nuts, with squats, heavy deads and heavy strict presses. I always slept great on Fridays running that. I don’t believe Wendler recommends that template any more, but it worked.

As stated, listen to your body, but don’t let that stop you from busting your ass. Train smart and hard.


One more thing I will add is that if you are eating at a surplus (which it sounds like you are, since you want to get bigger), I will strongly advocate training through soreness. I’m eating at a deficit, and I still train through soreness. I always go as hard as I can. Some days I do really well. Some days I do worse, and that’s my body’s way of regulating I suppose. I don’t sweat the days where I don’t perform as well as I want, because my goal is shedding fat and preserving strength, and it is being achieved.

I’ve been in a deficit for some time, so my perceived soreness is significantly more than it was when I was eating to get stronger. Even in that context, I still see benefit in busting your ass at all times, barring any signals from your body that tell you otherwise. Here is an example from today.

I had a decent squat workout on Monday, and I was still quite sore from it this morning and all through my normal work-day. I’ve had it in my head for a few weeks that I wanted to attempt a PR on the deadlift today, but I wasn’t sure about it until I got over the bar and saw how I felt. Once I got warmed up, the soreness seemed to disappear. My mind was on the task at hand, not how I felt all day.

I hit a 15 lb PR on the deadlift, besting a lift set when I was 40 pound heavier in November. That wouldn’t have happened if I had it in my head that I should take it easy because I woke up sore this morning.


Paul Carter had an interesting article about DOMS, and Thibaudeau had an article about training when sore.

Long story short, like some of the guys have said so far, soreness isn’t always directly corrolated to the results a workout/program is delivering.

Instead of going hard randomly and haphazardly, it’d be better to deliberately factor heavy-medium-light days into your overall plan from the get-go. Waterbury’s Total Body Training is one example of this, but the concept goes back to the 1950s or so.

That’s not overtraining. That’s not even “overtraining”. That’s using relatively lighter workouts to improve recovery and performance while also training in a higher rep range once a week to bring greater overall results. That’s a good plan.


Thank you all for the input

I think the conclusion is I shouldn’t measure my progress with soreness which is good news for me because I’ve skipped gym days because of it, even when I really wanted to go thinking I was making the smarter move to let myself “recover” or so I thought.


there is one thing to consider which is that if your soreness is really crippling and is fucking up your mobility as a result, you need to be mindful of that when you’re training


Yeah, very few really strong people don’t train a sore muscle lol. Punisher’s on point.

If it’s sore, like you can move fine and are a little tender, train. If it’s sore like it’s significantly stiff AND sore, train but warm-up much more thoroughly and play intensity by ear. If you can’t move the muscle, probably don’t train it lol. Or just confine your “training” to getting full range of motion.

Honestly, increased frequency is a way to alleviate soreness. Squatting daily (like an olympic lifter would) there comes a point when you just stop feeling sore. To get there you have to go through killer agony…but it happens.

Soreness in general is not a gauge of progress or quality of a workout. It can be a secondary or a tertiary measure, but not a prime measure. This is because any change you make in your routine at all can lead to increased soreness. Go from high rep to low rep 3’s? Get way more sore than you were before. Go the reverse direction from powerlifter to bodybuilder? Get way more sore. Run sprints on a track and haven’t done it in a while? Prepare to be debilitated. It’s really just a sign of change.

Performance in numbers as you mentioned is far superior in terms of assessing progress.

Your body likes to lie to you. I have set a lot of my PR’s on days I entered the gym feeling like I was hit by a truck and/or sick and/or dehydrated. So have a lot of people I’ve known.

There’s a balance between listening to your body in the gym to avoid injury (good) and always holding back or never pushing yourself hard enough to adapt (bad).


the opposite of that totally sucks. Days when you’ve had a great night’s sleep the night before, eaten well, been in a good, stress-free mood all day, and you hit the gym with a spring in your step only to get buried by your usual warm up weights.



Fuck. That shit. Yeah, it’s the worst feeling ever. Ruins the rest of my day lol.


I appreciate that. I’m getting back to being strong. Shouldn’t be too long.

Progression in terms of what? I find a lot of folks define this differently.