We have all felt it the day after a heavy lifting session at the gym. Your arms might feel a little heavier than usual, or it might be somewhat painful to walk up a flight of stairs. Soreness is a natural part of muscle building. While muscle soreness is expected, have you ever stopped to wonder how it affects your progress and performance? Is soreness good? Why does it happen in the first place? Here’s what you need to know about muscle soreness.
Why Do We Get Sore?
That tightness and pain you feel the day after an intense workout is caused by micro-tears in your muscles. The muscle growth process is the result of this tearing and subsequent repair. Any time you do a more intense workout than usual or involve new muscle groups, you’re looking at a day or two of soreness. However, these tears will heal, and over time those fibers will become stronger.
Is Muscle Soreness Good or Necessary?
While soreness essentially means that you put your body to work during the workout, that doesn’t mean your goal should be to feel sore after every trip to the gym. Some muscle soreness is okay, but you should focus on getting it under control before your next intense workout. Along with taking it easy and resting, there are some ways you can help yourself recover faster.
There’s tons of debate in the community about when you should drink your post-workout shake or eat a snack. Some might claim you have a “protein window” after lifting. The truth is, it comes down to what works best for you. What’s not up for debate is that nutrition plays a crucial role in muscle recovery. So, whether you drink a protein shake while still in your weightlifting clothes or it’s a little later, be sure to prioritize nutrition after the lifting session.
Focus on Recovery
Recovery plays a huge role in bodybuilding. While we all love to get excited about the latest bodybuilding apparel and new workout variations, rest and recuperation are just as necessary. Make sure you’re getting around 6 to 8 hours of sleep every night, and rotate which muscle groups you exercise to give your body a chance to recover while still crushing your goals.
Practice Self-Myofascial Release
Self-myofascial release is the practice of releasing tension using foam rollers, massage sticks, or lacrosse balls. This can help move the lactic acid that has built up in your muscles and help you get some relief. You can improve your range of motion, release tension, improve blood circulation, help your body relax, and ease muscle soreness when you practice self-myofascial release regularly.
Cold and Hot Therapy
Muscle, ligament, and tendon inflammation don’t stand a chance against cold and hot therapy. Ice packs and heating pads have saved the day too many times to count. Heat therapy helps improve circulation to your damaged muscles, and the heat can provide some comfort. Meanwhile, cold therapy encourages blood flow to a specific area, which can help reduce swelling and inflammation.
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