Why being sore isn’t the sign of a great workout

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We’ve all woken up in the morning after a big session in the gym only to experience that you are so sore you can hardly move (especially sitting down on the toilet – you know you have felt that) and can’t stop wincing.

Well, if you weren’t sure this pain is called DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). But when DOMS leave you broken, it’s a telling sign of a great workout, right? Sorry to tell you this, but no it’s not.

What are DOMS?

Doms are the feeling of being sore after a workout. Depending on the level of damage you have done to the muscle, it can take 12-48 hours for the pain to be noticeable and can last up to 72 hours in some cases.

You probably don’t know what causes DOMS apart from the fact you did a gruelling session and with you doing different classes and different workouts all the time, it’s hard to pinpoint the cause. But I can tell you there are certain exercises that will make you sorer than others. The pain of DOMS usually comes from doing slow eccentric (lowering phase) of certain exercises i.e lunges, squats and deadlift.

Over-stretching the muscle tissue, not effectively warming up and trying totally new exercises/workouts will increase the chances of DOMS. The soreness comes from the breaking down of tissue, swelling of the sheath (like clingfilm around the muscle) or it can be the connective tissue itself.

Are DOMS the sign of a good workout?

In short, no.

It’s a common misconception that you can judge a workout of how sore you are after a workout. 

You should feel a small sign of DOMS if you haven’t trained for a long period of time or you are doing a new exercise/workout. But if you are sore for three days after and this is happening often, this is a sign of poor recovery and poor training/program design. If you’re constantly sore, this is a sign of your lack of understanding of volume (total reps and sets), too many similar movement patterns creating stress on the muscle tissue, lack of correct warm-up or most likely a combination of all these things.

Just like having DOMS isn’t the sign of a good workout, a lack of DOMS doesn’t mean you have had a poor workout. You’re constantly chasing them DOMS and when you don’t get them, you don’t think you have worked hard enough. This isn’t the case at all.

Once you have established a consistent workout routine you will find you will only get sore when you introduce a new exercise, other than that you shouldn’t get sore. The aim of the game is to work through a training program with the focus being on progressive overload (trying to lift more each week), but not pushing so much that you get DOMS every week.

Focus more on correct technique, movement patterns and tempo. This is my issue with classes, as there is no emphasis on correct form and programming. So as you can see, not having DOMS is the sign of a good workout.


Building muscle and strength should be the goal, not smashing yourself to bits every session. Think of this logically, how long will killing yourself last?

Until you realise that when you’re in the gym its not just about how many calories you burn because everything burns calories. The goal is to look and feel great, battering your body doesn’t do that, does it? 

If your goal is fat loss and to have a body you love then focus on a structured weights program in the gym and be active outside the gym (walking and cycling to work for example). If you’re constantly sore then you won’t be able to be active, will you? Resulting in burning fewer calories and never allowing you to get to your goals.

Hopefully this will give you a much better understanding of DOMS and how they aren’t a good thing, whereas they are quite the opposite.

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