No Pain, No Gain.
We've heard, read, and told ourselves this statement probably hundreds of times. We've probably tried to enjoy the soreness days after we workout, like something's happening, working, and, taking effect.
But is it just rhyme without reason? Or is there a scientific basis of correlating muscle soreness to muscle growth? To help us demystify this, we consulted a sports medicine specialist, Dr. Sander Rubin MD from Northwestern Medicine.
"Muscle soreness can absolutely indicate that our muscles are growing," Dr. Rubin said. Some inflammation is required in order for your muscles to get bigger and stronger, he explained. Your body sends out pain signals as a part of that response, which causes the feeling of soreness and even discomfort after intense exercise.
HOWEVER, you can still make gains even if you're not feeling sore all over.
Dr. Rubin pointed out that if you don't feel sore after a workout, it doesn't mean the exercise "didn't work." He explained that "post-workout soreness is caused by a variety of factors." In fact, the actual cause of common muscle soreness is referred to as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) in medical terms. It's thought to be related to inflammation caused by microscopic tears in your muscles.
If you're looking for muscle growth, soreness isn't the only indicator. Try looking at other factors than just soreness. Notice when you're able to increase your reps, go up in weight, or finish a workout faster. This is a better indicator of your gains.
Additionally, it's typically OK to exercise through DOMS-related soreness. Just make sure you do a lighter workout if the discomfort is intense because the soreness can also be a sign of a more serious injury. These could include pain that doesn't improve with rest, Dr. Rubin told POPSUGAR, or that's worse on one side. If you're unsure, see a doctor to check for a pulled or strained muscle.