Do you typically enjoy stairmaster workouts? How about a barre workout? Or maybe you’re contemplating between Yoga vs Pilates or circuit training vs HIIT? Whatever your chosen workout, make sure to be aware of your body’s limitations. If you’re someone who stays active, you’re no stranger to sore muscles. Sometimes, even a mild workout can leave you with burning biceps, tender glutes, or aching abdominals the next day.
When you experience aching muscles, you might find yourself wondering, should I work out while sore?
When working out is part of your regular routine, you’re likely to hesitate before skipping the gym due to muscle soreness. The good news is, you might not need to. Although there are some risks associated with working out while your muscles are sore, doing so is not completely out of the question. In fact, it can even be good for you—and your muscles. Here’s what to know.
Why Working Out When You’re Sore Can Be a Good Thing
Each person’s body is different, so knowing your personal limits is key to exercising safely. While a big part of staying fit is pushing yourself a little bit further each time, pushing yourself too far can result in injury.
That said, there can be benefits to pushing through your workout even when your muscles are sore. In fact, a certain amount of muscle soreness can be a sign that your workout is, well, working.
Why is that?
When you experience muscle pain after a workout, known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), it’s because of tiny tears in your muscles and/or breakdown of the connective tissues that surround them.
This type of damage is normal after exercise, especially if you’re focusing on a new muscle group or exercise style. When this happens, damaged muscle tissue, blood vessels, and immune cells activate a kind of skeletal muscle cell known as satellite cells.1
These are special cells that form when your muscles experience trauma and, in response, they perform two vital tasks:
- Repair damaged muscles – Satellite cells fuse with damaged muscle tissue, helping to repair those microscopic tears sustained during your workout.
- Grow new muscles – Satellite cells are somewhat dormant, until your muscles experience trauma. Then, they re-enter your cellular system and start proliferating and building new muscle.
In other words, that microscopic damage your muscles sustain during your workout actually encourages the muscle growth we colloquially refer to as “gains” by waking up cells that build and repair muscle.
How to Work Out When You’re Sore
So, should you work out when sore? You can, but there are some things you should know before hitting the gym with muscle pain.2
Firstly, it’s important to determine whether your soreness is a standard case of DOMS or a more severe injury. While working out with sore muscles is generally okay, working out with an injury can make matters worse. Signs of injury include:
- Pain that lasts for longer than 48-72 hours
- Numbness, swelling, or tingling
- Loss of function
Once you’ve verified that you aren’t injured, exercising when your muscles are sore might actually be better for you than skipping your routine. If you do work out when sore, you can give these exercises a try:
- Active recovery workouts – These are low-intensity exercises that promote blood flow, which helps your muscles recover. Walking, swimming, and cycling are excellent examples of active recovery workouts you can try when your muscles ache.
- Alternate workout focus – Waking up with sore legs after leg day is no reason to skip the gym altogether. Instead, focus on a different muscle group, like your arms or chest, or switch to an exercise that doesn’t ask a lot of your legs.
- Full-range exercises – Activities that force you to put your body through its full range of motion can be beneficial to your sore muscles. Exercises like cycling, walking, and yoga increase your blood flow, which encourages muscle elasticity and brings nutrients to your muscles to help relieve soreness.
- Weight training – Weight training can help you learn more about your body’s limitations. That way, you know if you can take on a more intense workout or lighten up the load. Whatever your choice, the most important thing is working within your comfort zone.
What Are The Risks of Working Out When Sore?
If you’re wondering “should I workout when sore,” you should be aware of the associated risks. As mentioned above, sore muscles don’t have to get in the way of your physical fitness. But overdoing it can be detrimental. The following symptoms are just some signs that you might want to take it easy:
- Increased muscle or joint pain
- Above-average resting heart rate
- Lack of appetite
If you’re experiencing these symptoms, it might be time to see your healthcare provider.
Work Out At Chuze Fitness
Should you work out when sore? Yes, if you do it wisely. But if you’re not quite sure how to work out safely with sore muscles, the friendly folks at Chuze Fitness can help you develop a routine that soothes your muscles and keeps you fit. That way, you won’t cause further muscle damage.
At Chuze Fitness, we’re passionate about helping people achieve their physical fitness goals. You might be wondering, “Is there are Chuze gym near me?”With many convenient locations in different states, fitness classes for all levels, and even a playlist tailor-made to boost your motivation, you’ll wonder why you didn’t “chuze” us earlier.
Get started today.
Ani is the Vice President of Fitness at Chuze Fitness and oversees the group fitness and team training departments. She’s had a 25+ year career in club management, personal training, group exercise and instructor training. Ani lives with her husband and son in San Diego, CA and loves hot yoga, snowboarding and all things wellness.
- Frontiers. Satellite Cells in Human Skeletal Muscle Plasticity. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphys.2015.00283/full
- Healthline. What You Should Know About Working Out When Sore. https://www.healthline.com/health/working-out-when-sore#benefits