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  • Writer's pictureCoach Arlan Carroll

Should You Work Out When Sore?

Many people deal with sore muscles after a workout. But should you work out when sore? Here's what you should know about exercising with sore muscles.


Did your last intense workout leave you feeling sore all over? You're in good company.

Research shows that many individuals feel sore two to three days after exercising, no matter what their fitness levels are.

Should you work out when sore, though? Let's examine whether exercising when sore is a good idea.

Should You Work Out When Sore?
Should You Work Out When Sore?

Working Out and Soreness

Muscles endure physical stress during exercise. This physical stress provides several health benefits, like helping you grow stronger.

However, the stress you put on your muscles when you exercise can also make you sore. This is especially true if you are new to exercise. It's also true for those who are enhancing their activity.

That's because the fibers in your muscles stretch during exercise. This causes them to sustain microscopic tears. These tears lead to overall fatigue, stiffness, and soreness.

In addition, the connective tissue surrounding your muscles becomes damaged when you exercise.

However, when your body is trying to heal after exercise, it will build up your muscles and create increased strength. This helps your muscles become stronger. That's because your muscles build back better every time.

Delay of Muscle Pain

Let's say you're starting a brand-new fitness routine or you're working out for the first time in years. You'll likely experience a condition called DOMS delayed onset muscle soreness.

DOMS is where you begin to experience muscle pain one to two days after your workout. This soreness might last for a week.

Muscle soreness may discourage you from exercising. Fortunately, it's temporary.

In addition, your muscle fibers won't tear as much if you exercise regularly. This means your muscles shouldn't feel as sore over time.

That's why remaining active is so critical.

What Muscle Soreness Feels Like

When your muscles are sore following a workout, your muscles might be tender when you touch them. You might even feel burning pain when you're using a certain muscle group.

You might also feel discomfort when you squat, ascend or descend stairs, lift, sit, or stand.

Applying a quality massage gun to your muscles, stretching, and foam rolling may help alleviate some of your soreness. However, you might still feel sore when it's time to do your next exercise session.

Should You Work Out When Sore?

Perhaps you have sore muscles but want to continue working out. If you maintain your exercise routine, you won't give your muscles the time it needs to heal.

Pushing yourself when you're sore may eventually cause overuse injuries. This means if you don't rest your body when it's sore, you may harm your body (more on this later).

Resting Your Body

Resting for a couple of days or three days may be all you need to recover from sore muscles.

If your muscles are extremely sore, this might indicate that you are exercising too much too quickly. You have overdone your workout. This means you need to rest your muscles before challenging them intensely again.

Active Resting

Do you still feel the need to move when your muscles are sore? You could enter "active recovery" mode. This means staying in motion during a resting period.

This is an excellent strategy for people who need healing time but also don't want to get stiff or become unhealthy.

Working out when you are sore may even accelerate your recovery by increasing the flow of blood to the impacted area. This may help you feel less sore, at least temporarily.

Staying in motion when you're sore will also prevent deconditioning, where your body becomes weaker. This can increase your risk of developing an injury when you return to working out.

If you are feeling ultra-sore following a challenging workout, consider skipping the weights next time you work out. Instead, take a walk. You could also swim laps or do some gentle yoga.

In addition, you can relieve soreness during your active recovery period by taking baths with Epsom salts or getting a professional massage. Alternating between heat and ice may also help.

Be sure to also get plenty of rest and eat well to speed up your recovery.

Cross-Training

Another way to successfully work out when your muscles are sore is to alternate your exercise sessions to avoid using a certain muscle group too much. This is also known as cross-training, where you mix up your workout routine by adding other activities to it.

For instance, let's say you have a sore upper body. Work out your lower half during your next exercise session.

This combined with healthy eating will help you remain on track with losing weight and getting in shape. That's because staying active is better than leading a sedentary life.

However, it can still help you prevent overuse injuries due to intensely or repetitively using certain muscles.

Pushing Through Your Pain

Working out with sore muscles is okay if it is not negatively impacting your movement. If it is, this may cause you to exercise in an unsafe way to compensate for your soreness.

This is why you should pay attention to how your body is feeling and what it is doing if you decide to exercise with sore muscles.

Doing this will help you identify if your muscle soreness is compromising your body's form. It will also help you determine if you're experiencing more soreness than you usually do.

In addition, studying your body will help you detect any pain you might be experiencing. If you notice noxious pain, this might indicate an injury.

For instance, let's say you did squats a few days ago and are still feeling sore. This causes you to perform several step-up sets in the wrong way. You might start experiencing pain as a result.

Signs Your Pain Is Serious

Watch for discomfort that starts when you're exercising or after you've made a certain movement. In addition, look out for pain accompanied by bruising or swelling.

You should also watch out for pain that reduces your body's range of motion. In addition, ask yourself if your pain is keeping you from completing your daily activities.

Also, has your pain been lingering for more than three days? Does it keep returning?

In this situation, you may want to have a doctor check out the area where you're feeling pain. Avoiding significant stress on your strained or sprained muscles is also necessary to avoid worsening the problem. An acute, small issue can easily become a chronic or larger one.

For example, if you attempt to run with a sprained ankle before your body is ready, you may hurt your ankle even more. The same is true with a strained muscle.

How Professionals Can Help

If you want to safely exercise through pain, doctors who specialize in sports medicine may be able to help you. Physical therapists and personal trainers might help you, too.

For instance, a professional can help you modify your exercise routine or correct your technique. This may help prevent adverse stress from being applied to a certain joint or muscle group.

A professional may also advise you to make changes to your exercise regimen's intensity. You could also learn how to make tiny adjustments to the way you do make certain movements.

You may also learn how to find a range of motion that will not cause you pain. In addition, you may learn how to use a group of muscles in a manner that will not delay your physical recovery or exacerbate your injuries.

This will help you stay productive without pushing yourself too hard and causing yourself discomfort.

The Takeaway

Preventing injuries is critical for keeping the body on a regular exercise schedule. If people listen to their bodies when working out, they'll find a good balance between getting stronger by pushing themselves and embracing periods of rest.

With experience, you can master how hard and how much you can exercise before developing an injury.

How We Can Help With Your Workout

Are you wondering "should you work out when sore?" You may work out when sore as long as you are not exercising in an unsafe way due to your soreness. Otherwise, this may cause an acute injury, which may lead to a bigger problem if ignored.

At AC Fitness & Sports Training, we offer high-quality personal training, sports training, and even nutrition coaching. We can help you lose weight, build muscle, and balance eating and working out.

Get in touch with us to learn more about our services, and book a free consultation today!

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