Why Do Muscles Get Sore After the First Workout?

If you’ve ever started a new workout routine, you may have noticed that your muscles tend to be sore after the first few sessions. Why is this?


Beginning an exercise routine can be physically taxing, especially in the days following the workout. It is common to experience aching muscles and possible limited mobility during this time, known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). Whether you are a beginner or elite athlete, DOMS can be linked to how hard you train; the main factor being intensity.

While athletes can view DOMS as a mark of accomplishment and advancement towards reaching their goals, for some people it may be an indicator to take it easy. Regardless of your goals or level of athleticism, understanding why you are sore helps to make decisions on how best to care for your body while achieving them. So why do muscles get sore after those first few workouts? Let’s dig in and find out!

What is DOMS?

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is a common phenomenon that most people experience after their first workout or after exerting their muscles in an unfamiliar way. It is characterized by muscle stiffness and soreness that develops a few hours after exercising and can last for up to several days. For people unfamiliar with DOMS, it is common to be caught off guard by this post-workout phenomenon. Let’s take a closer look at why DOMS happens.

What Causes DOMS?

Delayed onset muscle soreness, commonly referred to as DOMS, is the muscle pain felt a day or two after intense physical activity. It typically starts 24 to 48 hours after exercising and can last up to 72 hours. Symptoms include tenderness, swelling and stiffness of the muscles and joints. Although DOMS is not fully understood yet, researchers think it is caused by microscopic tearing of the muscle fibers during strenuous activities that the body was not used to before. This type of injury causes inflammation, resulting in pain and stiffness. Other potential causes of DOMS include lactic acid build-up due to anaerobic exercise, stretching beyond normal range-of-motion causing microscopic tearing in the muscles fibers and nerve compression leading to irritation in the nerves that control the muscles. It is important for athletes or anyone who engages in physical exercise to warm up properly prior any activity involving manual labor or strenuous movements of muscles; if done properly, this can reduce or prevent any discomfort post exercise..

How Long Does DOMS Last?

Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is a condition that can occur after a strenuous physical activity such as strength training, aerobics, running, or sports. It is characterized by muscle pain and stiffness that typically lasts 24 to 72 hours after exercise. Although the exact cause of DOMS is not fully understood, it is thought to be caused by microscopic disruptions and tears in the muscle fiber tissue during exercise.

DOMS usually reaches its peak within 24 hours post-workout and then slowly subsides over 2-3 days. Depending on the intensity of the workout and individual body responsiveness to exercise, some individuals may experience DOMS for longer or shorter timespans than others. Hence, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly how long one can experience DOMS effects as every subject responds differently. Generally speaking though, symptoms of soreness should dissipate within 3–5 days at most.

Prevention and Treatment

Muscles getting sore after the first workout is a common issue for beginners. This is technically known as ‘delayed onset muscle soreness’ (DOMS). It is caused by the breakdown of muscle fibers during exercise, which leads to inflammation and a feeling of soreness. In this section, we’ll look at some of the ways you can prevent and treat muscle soreness after your first workout.


Stretching is an important part of any workout and should always be done before and after exercise. After your first few workouts, it is especially important to stretch to help reduce the soreness in your muscles. Stretching helps increase flexibility and range of motion, which can reduce the likelihood of injuries or strains. Dynamic stretches, such as calf raises and leg swings, are great options before a workout while static stretching, such as wall sits or heel-to-toe walking, are beneficial post-workout. Each individual may have their own preference for which type of stretching fits best with their routine. It’s important to listen to your body and consult a coach or physical therapist if you’re having any issues with soreness or pain in your muscles when performing stretches.


Maintaining adequate hydration is important for overall health, as well as reducing muscle soreness after exercise. When exercising, it’s important to drink water or a sports drink before, during and after exercise. This helps to maintain muscle and joint health while preventing dehydration and possible kidney damage. Sufficient hydration will help the body make energy more efficiently, reduce the chance of cramping and support muscle recovery after exercise.

Muscle inflammation can be reduced by drinking plenty of fluids during exercise as well as shortly afterwards to replace lost fluids. Additionally, consuming electrolytes such as sodium, potassium and magnesium can help replace any essential minerals that were lost or depleted through sweat or strain from physical activity. Sports drinks offer an easy way to get electrolytes back into the body quickly in order to reduce soreness or fatigue from overexertion.


Nutrition is an important part of preventing muscle soreness and aiding in recovery. During exercise, the depletion of nutrients such as carbohydrates and electrolytes can lead to fatigue and an increased risk of soreness. Therefore, it’s essential to maintain proper hydration and nutrition before, during and after exercise.

Adequate protein intake is important in helping muscle recovery, especially after workouts involving resistance training. Protein helps rebuild muscle tissue that has been damaged during a strenuous workout. Consuming protein before a workout may also help reduce muscle soreness.

In addition to increasing your protein intake, make sure you get enough carbohydrates for energy to fuel your muscles throughout the day and during your workouts. It’s best to consume complex carbohydrates such as whole-grain pasta or brown rice prior to working out instead of sugary snacks or drinks that will cause a spike then rapid decline in blood sugar levels resulting in fatigue. Also be sure you are getting adequate vitamins and minerals such as calcium, magnesium and iron which are essential for healthy muscle function.


It is clear that soreness following a new or vigorous workout is a very common experience. This phenomenon, known as delayed-onset muscle soreness (or DOMS), can occur anywhere from twenty-four to forty-eight hours after exercise, lasting for up to a week. Although we may never know for certain why it occurs, it is likely a combination of factors, including lactic acid buildup in the muscles, muscle microtrauma and inflammation.

The best approach to dealing with DOMS is to gradually increase the intensity of your workout over time and allow your body to adjust accordingly. Taking breaks between workouts can also be beneficial, allowing your muscles and joints to rest in between activities. In addition, proper nutrition before, during and after exercise can help reduce muscle soreness by providing your body with the fuel it needs for optimal performance. By following these simple steps and building up your fitness level gradually over time, you can help keep your muscles feeling strong and healthy choosing an enjoyable activity!

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