What is Muscle soreness and is it safe to exercise if my muscles are sore?

Well, it depends on how bad the soreness is!  DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) usually occurs 1-2 days after exercise.  The most likely cause of DOMS is microscopic muscle tears or breakdown in muscle that occurs during a workout.  When you add new exercises or activities to your routine or increase the intensity slightly, DOMS can occur.


Exercising when you are sore can sometimes alter your body mechanics (alignment and posture) as you compensate for the parts that are sore by trying to use other muscles & redistribute your weight.  This can put more stress on ligaments and tendons and increase your chances of injuring yourself.

If you train hard & often and don’t take any rest you can put yourself into a state of overtraining which decreases your ability to perform – the opposite if what you are trying to achieve.  It can take several weeks or months to occur.  Look out for the following signs and symptoms and take a few days off if you experience any as a result of exercise:

– Increased resting heart rate
– Changes in mood, depression
– Increased incidence of colds and flu
– Overuse injuries
– Muscle and joint soreness
– Fatigue
– Insomnia
– Decreased appetite
– Plateau or decreased performance not improved with rest or reduced training.

If the soreness is only slight, exercise can sometimes temporarily make it feel better.  You should only do light resistance work and low intensity cardio OR exercise the muscles that aren’t sore i.e. if legs are sore, work arms and core.

Training programmes are usually designed to allow for muscle recovery.  48 hours is usually the time frame used, depending on the type and intensity of training completed.  Weight trainers who lift weight everyday work to a split routine so they work different muscle groups on different days.  The smaller, postural muscles of the core are built for endurance so can be exercised more frequently.

Always remember that muscles don’t grow during a workout, but in the rest periods following exercise.  If you don’t take time to rest and recover, you won’t see the benefits of your workouts.

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