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What to do about muscle soreness?

What to do about muscle soreness?


Who hasn't experienced that tingling sensation when starting out in a sporting activity for the first time, or when repeatedly performing an unusual movement? Who hasn't experienced that feeling of heaviness in the limbs, having been put under more strain than usual, and of limited movement, which occurs two days after exertion and can last for several days.

This sensation is caused by what we call muscle soreness.

Why do we have muscle soreness, and what causes it? Should we train when we're sore, or is it risky to do so in this state?

These are the questions we aim to answer in this article.

The cause of muscle soreness

Muscle soreness is caused by repetitive or unusual effort. Very often, this movement is eccentric, meaning that the muscle fibers affected have undergone a phase of contraction while stretching. In bodybuilding, we call this the negative phase of a movement.

As a result of training

During this phase, micro-tears occur in the muscle fibers of the muscle involved. These small traumas cause blood to pool in the muscle. These benign micro-tears are responsible for the muscle pain we call "muscle soreness".

Common misconceptions

Contrary to popular belief, lactic acid is in no way responsible for muscle soreness, as it disappears from the muscle within an hour of exertion, and is recycled and evacuated from muscle cells by a process known as the Krebs cycle.

Courbature en musculation

Solutions to muscle soreness

It's not possible to prevent the onset of muscle soreness, as this would mean limiting muscular stimulation and therefore not pushing the muscle to its limits. In bodybuilding, the principle of overloading the muscle in order to cause it to adapt to effort, and therefore to grow, necessarily involves micro-tears. As a result, the muscle will repair and strengthen itself, increasing in volume.


The best way to reduce muscle soreness is to use post-exercise recovery massages. The aim of these massages is to drain and evacuate blood from the muscle.


In addition, the heat generated by massage friction helps to relax and loosen muscle fibers that have remained partially contracted.


You can also take a mild analgesic to relieve the pain caused by muscle soreness.

Training for aches and pains

Listen to your body

It is strongly inadvisable to train a muscle that has become sore. A sore muscle is one that has been weakened by minor injuries and has not yet healed. The risk of working this muscle again increases the risk of causing deeper, more significant lesions. These benign lesions could then become more serious, leading to more extensive tearing of muscle fibers or bundles. Instead of pushing the muscle towards growth, the muscle would find itself in a phase of convalescence and fragility over the longer term, with the obvious risk of melting due to the inactivity imposed by repair.

In short, it's hard to escape muscle soreness if the aim of your training is to achieve muscle growth. In fact, for a muscle to grow, it needs to be stimulated accordingly, and thus provoke the micro-tears that will be the starting point for muscular adaptation to effort. Training on a muscle that has not yet recovered risks compromising growth and accentuating the risk of deeper injury.

Stimulate your muscles, but also listen to the signals they send you, so as not to jeopardize your chances of achieving your goal.

Author Alexandre CARPENTIER

Bodybuilding Champion N.A.C 2012

Alexandre shares his experience of bodybuilding with MegaGear blog readers