It doesn’t matter what type of exercise you’re doing, whether it’s CrossFit, weight training, yoga, or anything else, if you’re putting 100%, you’re probably getting sore after almost every workout. That can be true regardless of how fit you are, so while it might be especially true that a novice will feel significant soreness, it’s also true for seasoned professionals. So that begs the question: Should you be training sore muscles?
Scientists believe that muscle soreness is caused by micro-tears in the fibers. In other words, soreness is muscle damage, but since that “damage” means eventual gains in size and/or strength, it’s a good thing.
But does that mean training sore muscles can cause too much damage or even injury since there are micro-tears? The fact is, training a muscle hard while it’s still sore is like scratching the scab off of a wound before it’s completely healed. It slows down the healing process and can cause enough muscle damage that it impairs proper recovery. That’s a bad thing…
However, note that we said training a muscle “hard” can be a bad thing. Studies have shown that moderate pump-style workouts when a muscle is sore—in other words, training that doesn’t do more damage but instead pushes nutrient-rich blood into the muscle cells—is beneficial to healing and recovery. It also helps replenish glycogen stores for more size and muscle volume.
There’s a style of exercise known as Heavy/Light training which is ideal for those who are constantly sore. It involves doing a heavy, intense workout for a muscle followed a few days later by a lighter, sub-failure muscle-pumping session.
If you’re prone to chronic soreness, you might consider this heavy-light training approach. You’ll get muscle-fiber damage (in a good way) at one workout; then three days later you’ll speed up the healing and growth process with higher-rep sub-failure sets that engorge the recovering muscle with much-needed blood flow. Plus, seeing and feeling a big muscle pump is extremely motivational, so Heavy/Light training can potentially speed up the recovery process while also boosting your motivation.
Here’s a sample of what a Heavy/Light exercise routine would look like for chest, and you can make similar changes to all other body parts:
Bench presses, 3 x 8, 7, 5
Dumbbell flyes, 2 x 7-9
Cable crossovers, 2 x 7-9
Bench presses (sub-failure), 2 x 12-15
Superset (to exhaustion)
Cable crossovers, 2 x 10; Flyes, 2 x 10
As you can see, you obviously use more weight on Heavy day which results in a reduced number of reps. On Light days you decrease the weight enough so that you get the higher rep numbers listed, but don’t train to failure on Light day since you’re still sore. Use a weight which would allow you at least a couple more reps than what’s listed, and be sure to stop short of failure. Remember, the goal is reduced weight with higher reps (increased tension time) as a means to get the muscle cells engorged with nutrient-rich blood.
Try this tactic as a new way of training sore muscles to increase your recovery ability while minimizing any downtime from working out.
Note: For information purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.