Why Are Muscles Sore After Working Out?

Why are muscles sore after working out? It’s a question that many of us have asked ourselves at one point or another. There are a few different theories out there, but the most likely explanation is that it’s your body’s way of telling you that you’ve worked it hard.

So next time you’re feeling a little sore after a workout, don’t be discouraged. It just means that you’re doing something right!


Have you ever noticed that your muscles tend to become sore after exercising? This uncomfortable phenomenon is known as muscle soreness and is caused by the microdamage and microscopic tears that occur in your muscles when you exercise. Muscle soreness may affect both beginners starting a new workout program, as well as experienced athletes who have pushed their body past its limits. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at why this occurs and how it can be managed so you can stay safe while exercising.

Causes of Muscle Soreness

One of the most common side effects of working out is feeling soreness in the muscles afterwards. Knowing why this happens can help you decide how to plan your workouts and recovery more effectively. There are a few main reasons why your muscles may be sore after a workout. Let’s take a closer look at each one.

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is a type of muscle soreness that typically occurs within 24 to 48 hours after exercising. It is characterized by a dull, aching pain that affects the muscles and can last for several days after the initial exercise. This delayed response may occur due to several contributing factors such as feeling unaccustomed to the physical activity, increasing the intensity or duration too quickly, and lactic acid accumulating in the muscles.

DOMS can be especially uncomfortable during activities such as running, weight training, climbing stairs, carrying heavy loads and sports like volleyball or tennis. Symptoms vary from person to person but generally include: tender muscles, stiffness in joints and connective tissues, swelling, decreased range of motion when performing certain tasks or movements and decreased power in certain exercises or activities. In severe cases, there may be bruising or joint swelling present if an injury has also occurred alongside DOMS.

It’s important to note that muscle soreness is NOT necessarily a sign of progress; DOMS can range from mild discomfort to very intense pain which could lead one to believe they are progressing when they are actually overworking themselves and becoming more likely prone to injury. Therefore it’s best practice to slow down your training frequency if you experience any sharp pains directly related with specific movements so you don’t cause any lasting damage or strain yourself too much.

Eccentric Muscle Contraction

Eccentric muscle contraction is one of the main causes of delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) — fatigue and discomfort resulting from physical exertion that typically sets in 12 to 24 hours post-exercise. When muscles lengthen or stretch under tension, this type of contraction occurs. An example of an eccentric contraction is when you lower a weight during a bicep curl versus raising it up. Not only can overtraining lead to injuries, the repeated lengthening and contracting can trigger DOMS due to inflammation in the muscle. A good way to decrease soreness is to engage in active recovery activities like foam rolling and different forms of stretching after every workout session as they both help reduce inflammation while supplying increased amounts of oxygen-rich blood to the necessary muscles.


The most common reason for muscle soreness after a workout is the occurrence of microtraumas to the muscle fibers. Microtrauma is small tears that occur in the muscle fibers after physical activity. These small tears cause swelling, inflammation, and tenderness in the muscles, resulting in a sore feeling that can range from mild to intense depending on how hard you have exercised your muscles. Muscle microtraumas can occur during any type of physical activity. When you do something that puts high levels of stress on your muscles such as running or weight lifting, more microtraumas occur and you may experience greater levels of soreness afterwards. In addition to causing soreness, microtrauma also stimulates protein repair and regeneration of connective tissues leading to faster healing and muscle growth over time.


After working out, your muscles will likely be sore or tender, a phenomenon known as delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS. This phenomenon can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days after your workout, depending on the type of exercise you do and the intensity of it. Preventing DOMS is possible with proper diet, exercise, and rest. This article will explore some of the best tips and strategies on avoiding DOMS while exercising.

Warm Up

Warming up before your workout is essential for avoiding muscle soreness. Warming up your muscles helps to both prepare your body for more intense exercise and reduce the risk of injury. A proper warm-up should consist of both dynamic and static stretching, as well as light cardio.

Dynamic stretching involves movements that mimic the exercises you plan to do during your workout, while static stretching involves holding a position for an extended period of time. Examples of dynamic stretches include: arm circles, high kicks, butt kickers, power skips and lunges. Examples of static stretches include: spinal twists, standing side bend, seated spine twist and tri-hip stretch.

In addition to warming up with dynamic and static stretches, it can also be beneficial to perform 5-10 minutes worth of light cardio before undertaking more intense exercises as this will help to further increase your heart rate and circulation – increases that will provide additional nourishment for your muscles during exercise.

Proper Form and Technique

Proper form and technique are essential for an effective workout and injury prevention. It’s important to master the basics of posture, form, and proper body mechanics to ensure you are performing movements correctly. Correcting your form not only reduces the risk of injury but also maximizes the benefits of each movement.

Using proper form helps produce better results in the gym because it places less stress on your joints, ligaments, and muscles, allowing you to get more out of your exercises. Incorrect form can increase the amount of stress put on certain muscles while neglecting or under-working other muscle groups. This can lead to overdeveloped body parts or possible strain or injury. To avoid this, focus on proper alignment and stability before progressing to heavier loads and more complex exercises.

Incorrect postures can create bad habits which will be difficult to correct in the future. It is wise to stay within your skill level; start with basics until it is mastered before challenging yourself with tougher movements. Work gradually through different types of exercises by beginning with lighter weights or easier variations of a particular exercise then progressively increasing movement complexity as your strength grows. With time and practice, you’ll become more confident in yourself while noticing marked improvement in your workouts’ effectiveness as well as overall fitness levels!

Increase Intensity Gradually

If you are a beginner, it is important to gradually increase your intensity when you exercise to prevent sore muscles. Ensuring gradual progression helps to avoid strenuous taxing of the muscle beyond what our body can handle. This can be done by starting off with lighter weights or fewer repetitions and increasing the weight or repetitions gradually over time. It is also important to remember that muscle soreness does not indicate you exercised correctly or “harder” than you did before; it might actually be indicating a risk of potential injury. Additionally, it is beneficial to pay attention to form and posture while exercising, as incorrect form can eventually lead to injury and tedious rehabilitation exercises.


After a particularly strenuous workout, sore muscles are a common complaint. The good news is that sore muscles are easily treated with some simple remedies. Depending on the severity of the pain, there are many treatments you can try for relief. In this section, we will cover various ways to reduce the discomfort of sore muscles after an intense workout.


Rest is a key component of any exercise program. Combined with good nutrition and correct form, rest provides the body with the opportunity to recover from intense physical activity. When muscles are worked intensely and beyond their normal capacity, microscopic tears in the muscle fibers occur. It is during this period of rest that the body repairs these tears, which results in stronger muscles over time. This process can result in soreness and discomfort; however, it is natural and should not cause alarm or disruption to your exercise program if managed properly.

When recovering from a workout session, it’s important to get adequate rest between workouts for optimal recovery and progress. Aim for at least 48 hours of recovery between similar workouts or muscle groups; for example if you work out your upper body on Monday, aim to wait until Wednesday before working out your upper body again.. Additionally, make sure you stay hydrated before, during and after a workout session to promote proper muscle repair. You might also find relief in doing light stretches or low-impact exercises such as walking or yoga as part of your recovery routine.


One of the most popular treatments for muscle soreness is massage. Massage has been used to promote a feeling of relaxation and to reduce muscle pain, inflammation and stiffness. Massage therapists typically use long strokes, kneading, circular movements, tapping and vibration techniques to help alleviate muscle pain and fatigue. It is also used to increase flexibility and range of motion in the joints by breaking down adhesions in the muscles. The immediate benefits of massage may include a decrease in both heart rate and blood pressure as well as an increase in circulation which can lead to faster recovery times. In addition, massage techniques that focus on increasing local circulation can be beneficial for reducing localized swelling after exercise or injury.


Stretching helps to increase flexibility, which is an important component of overall fitness. Stretching increases mobility in joints and muscles, improves coordination and balance, can reduce or prevent muscle soreness after exercise, and may reduce the risk of injury while working out. Different types of stretching can be used depending on the goal of the stretch: static stretching, dynamic stretching and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) are all effective for increasing mobility. When performed correctly on a regular basis, stretching can improve joint movement and muscle performance as well as contribute to a more comfortable recovery after exercise.

Heat and Ice Therapy

When it comes to treating muscle soreness after physical activity, many athletes look to heat and ice therapy for relief. These treatments can help promote faster recovery times for aches, pains and sore muscles, as well as preventing further injury.

Heat treatment often consists of using a heating pad or hot water bottle on the affected area. The warmth provided helps to stimulate blood flow to the sore muscles, allowing them to relax and reduce pain. It also encourages inflammation of the tissue in order to speed up healing. Heat should be applied gradually and kept at an even temperature with regular breaks between applications.

On the other hand, ice treatment is used mainly for swelling and bruising caused by injury or strain on the muscle fibers. The cold helps constrict surrounding blood vessels, reducing inflammation. It also numbs nerve endings that cause pain in the affected area. Ice should be applied for shorter periods at a time and only directly onto skin when packaged in a plastic bag or other covering material otherwise it can damage tissue due to frostbite risk from direct contact with skin.


Looking at the evidence, it is clear that sore muscles are the result of exerting strain on the body. When you weight train or engage in strenuous exercise, your muscles undergo microscopic tears which then need to be repaired by your body. This process is what causes muscle soreness, usually 24-72 hours after a workout. Muscle pain and stiffness should subside within 2-3 days if you provide your body with sufficient rest and hydration.

To reduce the severity of muscle soreness, warming up before a workout, cooling down afterwards and engaging in Active Recovery are all helpful interventions. Additionally, adequate nutrition will ensure that your body can repair the soft tissue damage quickly and effectively.

Ultimately, muscle soreness is a natural consequence of challenging yourself physically. As long as you structure an appropriate recovery plan for yourself and stick to it diligently, you can continue to progress towards your fitness goals without compromising on health or physical wellness.

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