Can You be Too Sore to Work Out?

Take advantage of your soreness and have it guide you during workouts.


By Tesa Johns


So you went to the gym and you had your best workout yet. Your intense and satisfying workout left you wanting more. Now you can’t wait to get back into the gym…until you wake up the next day and feel like you got hit by a thousand pound bag of bricks.

Soreness is not always a bad thing and can be used to your advantage. Take the day to get in some light cardio or do a long stretch routine. Your soreness may be the thing you need to take in a relaxing yoga session. Another possibility to defeat soreness is to work on the muscles that aren’t sore. If its your arms and back that are sore, try working your legs and abdominals.

Soreness, or more scientifically known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), is a side effect of the muscle repair process that develops in response to microscopic muscle damage. Muscle damage is needed for the muscle fibers to repair themselves and gain strength. Imagine fraying a shirt and repairing it with twice the amount of thread. A common misconception is that DOMS is due to lactic acid. Lactic acid is not a component in the muscle soreness cascade. Origins of muscle soreness accompany many symptoms and are complex.

Activities known to cause DOMS include strength training, downhill walking/jogging, aerobics, and plyometric exercise. Plyometric training, or “plyos,” are exercises where muscles exert maximum force in small bouts with the goal of increasing speed and strength. An example of a plyometric would be squat jumps or box jumps.

Often, muscle soreness will only last a few days and may diminish during activity. Light activity can help to diminish symptoms of muscle soreness. Light workouts get your blood flowing at a faster rate than remaining stationary. Blood flow in our body is like a highway helping to move things along. In this case, helping to move out the inflammation caused by your sore muscles and previous workout. Heading back to the gym may be the best option! Unless of course you find it difficult or too painful to perform daily living activities, then it is advisable to refrain from activity and return once the pain subsides.

When you finally get up the gusto to head back to the gym, begin with a light stretching session. For each muscle group you stretch, make sure to stop at the point of pain. Going further than the point of pain may cause negative side effects, such as overstretching the muscle making it susceptible to injury. A light activity that may be beneficial is cardio or bodyweight exercises. Getting the blood flowing and warming your body up should be the goal. If your primary goal is to reduce symptoms, then treatment such as an ice pack application, massage, tender point pressure, or an oral pain reliever may be useful.

Tender point pressure may be accomplished using a foam roller and lightly rolling over the entire muscle. When you reach the point of pain stop rolling but remain applying pressure for 3-5 minutes.

Soreness is your body telling you when damage has occurred. Don't let soreness take away your workout motivation. Use it to accomplish different goals or give yourself a day to treat your body right, but most importantly, do not sit and give up on the day!

Tesa is new to blogging, but hopes to make a big impact with her vast knowledge of athletics and experience. Tesa recently earned her bachelor's degree at the Pennsylvania State University. While majoring in Athletic Training and minoring in psychology, she worked with various division one collegiate sports teams. Tesa is continuing her education by pursuing her Master's of Science in Kinesiology with a concentration in sports pedagogy at The Louisiana State University. Tesa is a board certified Athletic Trainer and a Performance Enhancement Specialist. Outside of the training room, Tesa enjoys going on runs and working out for leisure.

Main Photo Credit: dean sanderson/; Second Photo Credit: Jacob Lund/; Third Photo Credit: Sebastian Gauert/