My sore muscles are back

My sore muscles are back

Patrick Bardelli
Zurich, on 30.03.2020
Pictures: Thomas Kunz
Translation: Eva Francis
Jump lunges party yesterday – muscle hangover today. That’s what I get for working my glutes.

As thy gym is closed, I’m doing my strength and endurance workout at home. It’s a new kind of training for me – bodyweight exercises require flexibility and coordination. And sure enough, a good old friend is back: I wake up with sore muscles the next morning. Why?

Intense training sessions or unusual, new movements cause sore muscles. If you’re doing exercises that you’ve never done before or haven’t done in a long time, your muscles will tighten up faster. In Eminem’s words:

Guess who's back, back again?

The return of sore muscles

Your body isn’t perfectly prepared for that intensity and your muscle fibres don’t yet work together as a team. What happens is that a few fibres do all the work while the others are «resting».

In other words: overstraining your muscles may result in tensions and small ruptures within the muscle fibres, so-called microtraumas. Even well-trained marathon runners have sore muscles after their first squash session, as they’re performing movements their muscles aren’t used to.

What happens to your muscles?

Micro injuries in your muscles are responsible for reduced strength. The concentration of inflammation markers in your blood increases and tissue fluid enters through the small ruptures. Your muscles swell and stretch. This causes pain. Especially eccentric (walking downhill, yielding actions) and plyometric training (jumps or fast runs) with abrupt changes of direction lead to sore muscles.

How long do sore muscles last?

Muscle soreness doesn't occur immediately after training, but with a delay of several hours. It often peaks 24 to 48 hours after the workout. Don't worry, in most cases the pain disappears quite quickly. Even the most severe muscle soreness should disappear within no more than a week.

Muscles get used to training

Sore muscles are therefore nothing more than small injuries to your muscular structures. Your body is clever: it rebuilds the damaged fibres and forms additional muscle structures through so-called supercompensation. This elevates you to a higher performance level – provided you give your body enough time to recover. If you perform the same exercise routine again after two to three days, you'll experience less or no muscle soreness. Your body has adapted.

Usually, two to three identical workout sessions are needed for your body to get used to the intensity. After this, your body has reached a new level and the muscle soreness stops.

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How to prevent sore muscles

Muscle soreness is the most intense after a long break from sports or if you're new to working out. These tricks help prevent sore muscles:

  • Start slowly and increase intensity gradually. Warming up is essential to prepare your muscles and reduce tensions. The goal of a warm-up is to get your body ready for the activity that follows. Your cardiovascular system kicks in and your muscles interact better with the nervous system. Warming up brings your body to operating temperature, so to speak. This prevents sore muscles and injuries and improves your fitness at the same time.
  • Avoid fast and explosive movements if you’re tired. If your muscles are tired, your coordination is limited and the muscle fibre interaction is significantly reduced.
  • You've finished an intense workout and tomorrow's pain is already on your mind? Running is a good way to cool down, reduce the risk of tensions and help you recover faster. If your muscles are already sore, it's important to stay calm and take a break. That's the best way to recover.

    These home remedies also help

  • moderate exercising (running, swimming, cycling)
  • warm herbal baths, contrast baths / showers (and sauna)
  • massages with oils that stimulate blood circulation
  • foam rolling

    What’s more

    If the pain occurs gradually, it's probably muscle soreness. However, if you experience sudden, stabbing pain, this may be a sign of injury. In this case, postpone your training for one or two days. If the pain doesn't go away, consult a doctor.

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Patrick Bardelli
Patrick Bardelli
Senior Editor, Zurich
What matters isn’t how well you play when you’re playing well. What matters is how well you play when you’re playing badly.

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