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Does “aches and pains” mean “a good workout”?

Does “aches and pains” mean “a good workout”?

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January 4, 2024

 |  Maude Fleury-Rousseau

When we start training in the gym or doing any other physical activity, we often feel pain 24 to 48 hours after the session. Every bodybuilding fanatic has heard that muscle soreness is the sign of a good workout. Is this true or false?

Although this statement is widely circulated, it’s partly a myth. It’s true that when we take our first steps in a weight room, there’s a good chance we’ll develop muscle soreness 24 to 48 hours after the session. Our body reacts when it’s subjected to a stress factor, because anything different from routine requires our organism to adapt. That said, a sedentary individual who starts training will activate muscles that are usually at rest, and these will become sore a few hours later.

This ” non-habitual ” muscular activation by your body during training will require a different recovery than usual, and muscles will become sore. The body will have to “repair muscular micro-tears” it’s not used to having to endure, and this is what will cause post-workout soreness. Yet the phenomenon of muscle soreness also happens to people who train regularly in the gym.

As soon as a training plan is changed or heavier loads are taken on during a session, soreness can occur some time later. It’s not that the session in the gym is “better” or that “you’re working harder”, but that you’ve done something different and your system hasn’t yet adapted.

In other words, aches and pains are a sign that you’ve been doing something you’re less used to doing. It’s very difficult for your body to constantly and rapidly create new adaptations. It’s therefore important to have a balance between intensity, training volume and recovery time per week to ensure that the body develops to its full potential.

In brief, if you don’t feel sore after a workout, just tell yourself that your body was used to doing those exercises. You’ll still get all the benefits of physical activity, even if you don’t feel sore every week.

Maude Fleury-Rousseau, kinésiologue


If you wish to read more on the subject :

Cheung, K., Hume, P. A. et Maxwell, L. (2003). Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness: Treatment Strategies and Performance Factors. Sports Medicine, 33(2), 145‑164.

Hotfiel, T., Freiwald, J., Hoppe, M., Lutter, C., Forst, R., Grim, C., Bloch, W., Hüttel, M. et Heiss, R. (2018). Advances in Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS): Part I: Pathogenesis and Diagnostics. Sportverletzung · Sportschaden, 32(04), 243‑250.

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