As an athlete, soreness is a familiar feeling. New workout routines or heavier weights often make it painful to move in the next day or two. This delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, usually appears six to eight hours after a workout and peaks around 24-48 hours post-workout. Microtrauma in muscle tissue causes this soreness (damaged muscles means they will repair themselves to become stronger), so does this mean you did not have a good workout if you don’t hurt the following day?
While a hard or new workout produces soreness, muscles become used to routine and adapt accordingly. This is why changing up your workout is so important. However, soreness isn’t the only indicator of a good workout. Progress and results are more reliable markers of quality workouts than feeling stiff the following morning.
Eccentric muscle contraction, when the muscle lengthens as it contracts, makes you more prone to DOMS. If you perform many concentric exercises, you might not experience as much soreness but will still get in a good workout.
Soreness can be connected with a good workout, but it certainly doesn’t ensure effectiveness. Workouts must be paired with getting enough protein; otherwise the muscles won’t be repaired. It can also be detrimental in that when you are sore it is harder to complete a tough workout with maximum effort.
Focus less on soreness and instead track your workouts with a training log and see if you can increase weight week to week. This way, progress is based on evidence of improved performance, not whether you can walk the next day.