No pain, no gain, right?! Wrong! Well, sometimes. The phrase has often been misinterpreted. Most people believe that this phrase suggests that during a workout you should push past the point of physical pain or you won’t gain any strength or muscle! Believe it or… believe it, this phrase actually suggests that you should feel muscle soreness within 48 hours following a workout session, but not longer than this 48-hour period. This is known as the DOMS effect (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness).
Muscle soreness peaks at 48 hours post-workout. This is also the reason that you should avoid training the same muscle groups heavily more than once within 48 hours. Your muscles need this time to repair and recover and because you will not feel the peak discomfort from a workout session until 48 hours later, you will not be able to judge just how much muscle damage you have incurred! So best not to incur more soreness until you know exactly how you will react to a certain level of workout intensity.
To get back on track regarding our famous “No Pain, No Gain,” if you are unsure about how much your body can handle, especially at the beginning of a workout routine or habit, it is always best to start slow with lower repetitions, sets, and weights to see how you react within a couple days. If you feel very sore, you’ve done too much! Scale it back on your next workout. If you feel nothing at all add a few more reps/sets next time. Repeat this process with slow increments to find the right level of intensity for your fitness level. You want to experience muscle fatigue, not muscle pain, during a workout.
This ensures that you are exercising your muscles to a point at which they are gaining strength, endurance, size, or whichever your goal. Otherwise, if your muscles are not being challenged, you won’t incur any change! Any body builder or marathon runner will tell you that working out is not easy, but also that it shouldn’t be painful or impossible! Remember, never do too much, too soon, too fast, too often.