Soreness is a phenomenon that most associate a good workout to.
It makes them feel as though they did something, but should it be a real indicator of whether the workout worked or not? Not necessarily.
There are a lot of factors that go into making people sore. Some are controllable and some are not.
The first point to remember is that the muscles should be sore. If the joints are starting to bother you, then there is another issue at hand.
One influence of soreness is new demands placed on the body. This can be new exercises, rep range, or intensity.
Variation is a serious influencer of how well you are going to move your limbs the next day. If you constantly are switching exercises and rep ranges, then your soreness will be higher.
I have always noticed that I might have Jello legs after week 1 but it is never that bad again (until a new exercise is introduced). This can also occur when moving to lower reps or higher weights.
A second way to manipulate soreness is through the use of eccentric exercises. Eccentrics go in the direction of gravity and allow more muscular force to be produced.
Any negative exercise, RDL’s, and decelerating from running all cause a lot of eccentric stress on the body. These exercises use high loads and can be a great way to build strength.
The use of more weight is what really causes excessive soreness from eccentrics.
There is also evidence that soreness is individual. This means that some people are more prone to soreness in certain muscles than others.
I know that single leg RDLs are going to make me sore any time I do them. It was like that for months and never changed.
Everyone has their exercise when they know they are going to feel it the next day. Does this mean that the person is constantly getting better at that exercise?
It probably means that the muscle does not recover well.
A muscle is going to be really sore if the damage is not minimized. It is also not going to adapt and grow if it does not recover.
This also means that it will not be trained. Adaptation is a function of stress and the subsequent recovery from that stress.
Without recovery progress will not be attained. If the muscles are always just sore the next day then they are not recovering; and as a result not adapting.
This is why post workout nutrition and a progressive program are so important.
A program should get the body prepared to create a disturbance in the muscle, but not so bad that it takes too long to recover from.
Food is also necessary for replenishing the muscle with glycogen and protein which will allow it to grow.
It is not too often that people are thrilled to hit the gym again if they cannot even move. This means excessive soreness is going to affect future workouts.
You cannot perform optimally when the muscles are really tender.
For the reasons above, soreness is not necessarily a good thing.
It can be manipulated so certain exercises will make you sorer than others. Just performing those will make you hate life the next day. This would not make you better, just beat up.
Does it happen? Yes. It should not be something that determines whether you worked hard enough or not.
I also do not want you to purposely not work hard to avoid soreness. I just want to spread the word that feeling good the next day does not mean you had a bad lift.
If you are always sore, then your program needs some consistency or your nutrition needs to be dialed in. If you still feel as though you work hard but don’t feel it the next day, then you are adapting well.