You Asked: Does Lack of Soreness Mean You Aren't Exercising Hard Enough?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
SparkPeople member WESTENDGIRL75 recently asked this fitness question: "If I'm not sore the next day after a workout, does that mean I'm not working out hard enough? I used to get sore often, but now I [work] until I'm too tired to complete the exercises with good form, and I still don't get 'sore' then next day? Should I be pushing myself harder, or be happy that my body can handle it?"

Want to hear what I had to say?

When you're exercising regularly for the first time, or after a long hiatus (weeks, months or years) from the gym, it's very normal to be sore. Sometimes the tightness and pain you feel when starting a new fitness program can last for a couple of weeks! But the body is amazingly adaptable, and it when the movements you do are no longer new and different to your muscles, that initial soreness goes away, even as you continue your workouts.

Believing that post-workout soreness is proof that you worked as hard as you should is similar to thinking that the degree to which you sweat measures your workout intensity. Neither of these assumptions is necessarily correct.

Assuming that you're referring to strength training, it sounds like you're doing your repetitions correctly. You should be lifting as many reps as it takes until you can't do another one in good form. If you feel sore and exhausted during the workout or particular exercise, then you're doing what you should be. That might not necessarily translate into delayed-onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, which occurs 24-48 hours after your workout and is caused by microscopic tears in the muscle tissue.

The Bottom Line: If you're not sore after a workout, that does not mean you didn't work out hard enough. However, keep these things in mind when it comes to strength training:
  • Vary your program. If you've been doing the same exercises since day one, it's time for something new. Refresh the exercises you do every 4-8 weeks.
  • Increase your weight. Don't fear bulking up by lifting heavy weights. When you can do 15 reps in good form, it's probably time to increase your weight to continue seeing results.
  • Lift to fatigue. Do as many reps as it takes until you can't do another in good form. If you're not doing that, then you really aren't benefiting much from your efforts.
  • Look for signs of progress. One of the best indicators of whether you're working hard enough, doing enough reps, or lifting enough weight is that you're able to notice progress. Are you getting stronger? Lifting more weight than before? Then your workouts are probably fine. If you've hit a plateau or gotten weaker, then it's time to re-evaluate.
  • Watch out. Being sore all the time is NOT a good thing. It can mean that you're or not giving your body enough rest to recover and get stronger.

Need answers to your fitness questions? Post in the comments below and I just may answer your question in a future entry!