Trainer Q&A: What to Know About Muscle Soreness

Muscle soreness rotator

The science behind fitness and health can be confusing—and it’s certainly ever-changing. One minute, a study supports a particular food/exercise/claim, then the next, a newer study reports that eating, doing or trying that thing is the worst thing you could possibly do to yourself.

We read a lot of studies here at—so we know how frustrating all of that apparent flip-flopping can be. In order to help make sense of all the breaking and headline news, we’ve aligned ourselves with some of the industry’s top experts—clued-in doctors, trainers, dietitians and researchers who can help us separate fact from headline-grabbing fiction and give us the real-deal advice on how to live a healthier, fitter lifestyle…every day.

This week, we explain exactly what muscle soreness is and how to recover from it.

Q: What should I know about muscle soreness?

A: DOMS, or delayed onset muscle soreness, is common and typically expected after a challenging weight training workout. From a microscopic level, training with weights causes muscles to slightly tear in an event called microtrauma. There’s nothing wrong with this. Depending on the intensity of the workout, soreness can last anywhere from 1 to 5 days after the workout is complete. To minimize the aches and maximize your results, follow these guidelines.

1. Avoid training sore muscles on back to back days.

Though soreness doesn’t decrease a muscle’s strength, it can severely limit range of motion. If proper methods aren’t taken, injury can result.

2. Try aerobic exercise to reduce soreness.

Lactic acid accumulation is a major contributor to muscles being sore days later. Aerobic training can flush out a lot of lactate by bringing oxygen to the affected muscles. Go for an easy jog or bike ride.

3. Take it down a notch on your next workout(s).

If you feel soreness 5 days after (particularly on a workout you know from experience shouldn’t make you sore) you could be overtraining. If that’s the case, take a week off from the gym.

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4. Turn into the site of your soreness. 

If your soreness is spread over your muscles, that’s fine. Feeing pain in your joints—like your elbows, knees, and shoulders—may mean that your form is incorrect, you’re not training evenly across all muscle groups (don’t neglect the muscles you can’t see in the mirror!) or that you need a change in diet or supplementation. Glucosamine can help with joint lubrication, and foods high in magnesium can reduce muscle tension and supplementary joint stress.

About the Trainer: Lee Boyce, C.P.T., is a strength coach based in Toronto, ON. A former Kinesiology Major, Lee competed as a sprinter and long jumper at the National level. His work has been featured in many major magazines including Men’s Health, Musclemag, TNATION, and also on national television. For more on Lee, check him out at, @coachleeboyce and Facebook.

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