Is soreness the sign of a good workout?

Health and Fitness Advice

We have all been told “no pain, no gain” at some stage when it comes to exercise! Hobbling around with muscle soreness is a badge of honour showing that we’ve just dominated another workout, or not being able to sit down on the toilet without letting out a roar of agony as your poor legs struggle to support you.

The question is though, is muscle soreness truly a marker of progress with your training? Surely if we take it too easy and not truly feel the burn, we’ll never see any progress - right?

For those of you looking to build some muscle, the answer lies somewhere in between.

There are three main processes when it comes to building muscle.

(1 ) Progressive overload; think along the lines of a combination of more reps, sets and weight, with correct form throughout

(2 ) Metabolic stress, which is a workload that pushes your body’s muscles towards fatigue

(3 ) Finally, muscle damage caused to the muscle fibres during the process of training

Muscle soreness doesn’t necessarily mean muscle growth so don’t be fooled by the “no pain no gain” mantra, because muscle strength and size can develop without experiencing much soreness at all. As well as that, the more you train, the less likely you are to experience muscle soreness.

Some people may experience muscle soreness more than others. This can generally come down to how well the exercise is performed. An exercise performed with correct technique and tempo through its full range of movement may cause more soreness than poorly executed partial reps. Aside from that, muscle soreness can be quite individual to the trainee; some may experience it whilst others may not. For example, a woman’s menstrual cycle can also play a part as some women may experience more muscle soreness during their monthly cycles.

Nutrition, sleep and lifestyle can also play a part in how you grow, repair and recover and are often easily overlooked. So forget about being “sore” and first start with the basics of exercise selection, with correct technique, supported by your nutrition and sleep. Once those elements are in the right place and you are progressively seeing changes to your training and physique, you are on to a winner.

Micheál Penston is the Head Coach at FM Fitness & Nutrition based in Westport, Co Mayo. They specialize in helping busy men and women to create the healthiest versions of themselves through educating and empowering around all areas of their lifestyle from fitness, nutrition, recovery and behaviours. You can grab a FREE copy of the 5 Stage Health & Fitness Kickstarter or find out more about their online and in person coaching methods at or social media handles @fmfitnessnutrition


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