10 Post-Workout Muscle Soreness Recovery Rules

Sore muscles are one of the less pleasant side effects of exercise. Depending on the type and intensity of the workout, muscle soreness can range from barely noticeable to extremely painful.

Why do our muscles get sore in the first place?

Muscle soreness which follows physical activity (commonly known as DOMS or delayed-onset muscle soreness) is a sign that the muscles have been injured, as per the American College of Sports Medicine.

When this harm, or very small tears, takes place, your body starts the healing procedure by prompting inflammation at the hurt area, as indicated by Shawn Arent, PhD, CSCS, a professor and the seat in the department of exercise science at the University of South Carolina in Columbia and the chief of its games science lab.

Excess moisture collects in the muscles, creating additional strain on the injured areas, which creates the common feeling of discomfort and discomfort that usually sets in 12 to 24 hours after your exercise session, Dr Arent explains.

While working out, although certain activities tend to be more damaging and lead to greater soreness, you still cause a certain degree of harm each time.

Any exercise unfamiliar to you, more rigorous than typical, or that involves a lot of eccentric movements, is likely going to lead to more soreness and injury than other workouts.

According to Jan Schroeder, PhD, a professor in the department of kinesiology at California State University in Long Beach, the stiffness experienced is due to the extending muscle contractions.

Contemplate going for a stroll or running downhill, or the downward movement in a bicep curl or chest press. Your muscles usually suffer more harm during these activities than when engaging in concentric exercises (where the muscle is working while it is contracting).

The tension that muscles are subjected to during both forms of motion is considerable but based on the review published in the May 2019 edition of Frontiers in Physiology, fewer muscle fibres are activated for eccentric contractions compared to concentric ones (for instance, the act of lifting a dumbbell up or pushing weight overhead).

Some muscle soreness is a good thing, but it shouldn’t last for too long

Damage to or irritation of muscles can be unpleasant – it’s no secret that we usually want to reduce inflammation as part of our daily life since years of research show that long-term inflammation is linked to various illnesses – however, Professor Arent has stated that some levels of inflammation can be essential indicators of improved muscle development and recovery.

If you aid your muscles in restoring from the harm, they will probably increase in size and strength, “so we don’t exactly want irritation to happen, yet we need to get it in check right away,” Arent states.

Warming up lessens post-workout muscle soreness

You may be aware that extending your muscles can help avoid hurt and aches. You should avoid stretching your muscles before engaging in physical activity. Arent expressed that they are not in favour of stretching before commencing physical activity.

An analysis conducted by the Cochrane Collaboration of 12 studies on whether stretching before or after physical activity has an impact on muscle aches for the ensuing week revealed that stretching does not appear to make any difference to post-exercise soreness.

It has been theorized that performing an active warmup before exercise may slightly decrease the level of muscle stiffness two days after the workout, however, the degree of relief seen in studies is minimal.

Things you can do during and after your workout to ease muscle soreness

There are no instantaneous remedies to troubling muscular pain–it requires some time to mend–however, there are some procedures that can assist in bringing down the pain and accelerate the healing process. Here’s what you should know.

1. During and after your workout: Hydrate

Being well-hydrated is a crucial part of helping muscles to recuperate. Having enough water intake is necessary for the smooth running of your body. It helps reduce any kind of swelling, eliminates toxins, and provides essential nutrients to your muscles, according to Arent.

It can be difficult to detect if and when one is dehydrated because the feeling of thirst often doesn’t arrive until after the person has already been dehydrated, according to Schroeder. The hue of your pee is a good measure to tell whether you are hydrated or not: If it is a medium or strong yellow in colour, it is a sign of dehydration, but if it is light yellow, you are hydrated.

Be conscious that ingesting vitamin tablets may make your urine appear more yellowish than normal. Which individuals will experience an impact from which varieties of vitamin supplements? That’s hard to say. “Everybody’s different,” Schroeder says.

2. Immediately after your workout, use a foam roller (self-myofascial release) or massage gun

SMR is a way of lessening tension in your muscles and related tissues through aids such as foam rollers, lacrosse balls, and massage sticks, which can assist with the circulation of fluids that accumulate after physical activity.

A study conducted in 2015 and printed in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy suggested that foam rolling could enhance the range of motion and reduce delayed onset muscle soreness.

Rolling with a foam roller, alongside other massage techniques, raises blood flow to the touched area, carrying more oxygen and nourishment to it and thus reducing swelling and discomfort, according to Arent.

If you would like to give foam rolling a go, you should start with a model that is cushioned. Harder foam rollers give you the option to apply greater force, however, if you are unfamiliar with them, they can be very intense.

Lacrosse balls can be a helpful tool to keep on hand, specifically for massaging out tight spots that may be difficult to access. For example, this could include the buttocks, lats, calves, and IT bands, according to Arent.

Massage guns (sometimes referred to as “percussive massage treatment” or “vibration therapy”) have become a common way to help muscles recover after working out.

Arent explains that percussive self-massage devices operate similarly to traditional massages. These handheld devices offer quick oscillations which, when placed on your muscles, can assist in increasing circulation in that region. Massage guns typically have different-shaped and sized attachments that can be used to focus on different muscle groups.

Leada Malek, DPT, CSCS, a board-certified sports specialist based in San Francisco, has noticed minimal research done on massage guns in particular, however, massage guns may be a combination of two treatments that have been verified by science: classic massage and vibrational therapy.

Studies in the past have revealed that both strategies are equally successful in keeping away DOMS.

If you would like to try out massage guns after exercising, Dr Malek advises locating any stressed muscles and using the massage gun to softly move over the surface of them. She urges to apply pressure properly, but not too intensely.

The Hospital for Special Surgery suggests that you perform three to five passes on a single section before moving on. Be mindful not to remain in one position for an excessive amount of time or you may end up vexing the muscle.

3. Eat within half an hour after an intense workout

Providing your muscles with the nutrients required to mend and become more powerful can help to increase the recovery period, according to Arent.

He advises beginning your healing process by ensuring you get 20-40 grams of protein and 20-40 grams of carbohydrates inside your body in the first half hour of an exhaustive or prolonged exercise (one lasting at least 60 minutes). One snack option that can be enjoyed is a bowl of Greek yoghurt mixed with a few berries and a spoonful of honey.

Protein contributes to the rebuilding of your muscles via the various amino acids it provides, while carbohydrates refuel the energy your muscles have lost from exercise, as stated in the 2017 edition of the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

But don’t just have a snack after your workout; not eating food or not eating nutritious foods the rest of the day won’t do your muscles any favours, according to Arent.

Make sure that meals are a top priority and maintain a regular level of protein consumption every day to guarantee your body gets its necessary amino acids regularly.

The International Society of Sports Nutrition suggests that active people consume 1.4 to 2 grams of protein every day for each kilogram of body weight, splitting the dosage between every three to four hours.

If you are 150 pounds, your body requires roughly 95-136 grams of protein daily.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states that it is essential to include fruits, vegetables, and legumes in your diet to receive vital vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C and zinc, which are essential for recovery.

3. Practice active recovery

The research appears to demonstrate that static stretching post-exercise will not be of assistance with a muscle strain. But the active recovery might. The low-impact exercise created to give your muscles a break after an intense exercise routine is called active recovery.

You can incorporate active recovery into your fitness routine in a few different ways:

  • During your exercise routine,: Interval training involves alternating between short periods of intense workouts and short periods of rest.

  • At the end of your exercise routine: Carry out slowed-down and comfortable movements as part of the cooling-off procedure after a strenuous workout.

  • On your days off: Make the most of your break by engaging in mild activities such as yoga, swimming, or taking a walk.

4. Opt for ice or heat therapy 

The disagreement concerning whether to apply cold or warm temperatures to aching muscles may never come to a definitive conclusion. This rationalizes why there is conflicting evidence on the best technique. It is unclear who will come out on top, however, both hot and cold therapies can be beneficial for relieving aching muscles.

Getting to know the process of each technique can help you make up your mind if you should apply cold or hot temperatures to your muscles. Applying cold can decrease circulation, potentially decreasing swelling and any pain that may be associated with it.

It’s useful for new injuries or pain. Utilizing heat therapy boosts blood flow, which may help restore muscles by getting rid of tense, painful muscles. It’s helpful for older injuries or pain.

A study discovered that applying either cold or hot treatment within an hour after doing exercises can ease muscle aches. Ice baths provided pain relief for as much as a day after treatment, while heating pads had a better-prolonged effect than 24 hours.

You can begin by treating the pain with cold therapy and then transition to using heat therapy once the delayed-onset muscle soreness reaches its greatest intensity. Since the proof is inconclusive, it may be beneficial to experiment with one approach or both to determine what fits you best.

5. Consider massage therapy

If you don’t wish to do self-massage, you can opt to seek massage therapy from professionals. Post-exercise massage promotes muscle recovery by reducing inflammation.

A 2012 investigation implies that having a massage 4 hours after doing intense exercise may help to diminish pain and enhance muscle abilities. A different research project ascertained that massage proved to be more efficient compared to other healing techniques, like active recuperation and contrast hydrotherapy.

6. Wear compression gear

Putting on tight-fitting exercise clothing after physical activity can hasten muscle healing and improve blood flow. In a limited experiment, long-distance runners were provided with compression socks to wear while running a 5K course. The runners stated that there was much less ache and were still able to maintain the same pace during the second 5K race.

But compression gear isn’t just for athletes. In another investigation, adults who were not physically active had compression stockings on while engaging in exercise. After 24 and 48 hours, they experienced a major decrease in tenderness in their muscles.

7. Use kinesiology tape

Athletes of all calibres swear by the benefits of kinesiology tape for reducing the pain caused by muscles, helping to prevent any injuries, and improving performance. There is conflicting data about whether or not it can increase your athletic abilities. The research appears to indicate that the stretchy glue could help alleviate discomfort in muscles after rigorous physical activity.

8. Apply essential oils

Essential oils are often employed to improve health and well-being, ranging from muscle and joint aches and pains to other issues. There are numerous possibilities when it comes to selecting essential oils for aching muscles, like lavender, peppermint, and rosemary oil. Be sure to look for quality products.

Essential oils are incredibly potent and can cause inflammation in the skin. Don’t forget to mix the essential oils with a carrier oil before applying them directly to your skin. Begin with a spot test and then use a small quantity of the mixed oil on painful muscles.

9. Add anti-inflammatory foods to your diet

Studies that are still being conducted indicate that particular dietary habits consisting of anti-inflammatory edibles can assist in easing Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. They are filled with antioxidants and other elements which could assist in mending muscular tissue and reducing discomfort.

In a limited research project, participants who ran had tart cherry juice over seven days before a race. The competitors experienced less muscular discomfort upon completion of the competition when compared to those who did not take part.

But you don’t have to focus on one food. Strive to maintain a well-rounded diet with various anti-inflammatory items that could reduce Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. Examples of foods that might be beneficial for health could include oily fish, watermelon juice, red beet juice, and caffeinated drinks like green tea.

10. Get a good night’s sleep

Don’t underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep. High-grade rest can increase the health of your heart and contribute to a better state of mind. And it’s essential for muscle recovery.

Adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep for their muscles to be able to mend and expand following physical activity. Insufficient sleep has been associated with increased sensitivity to pain. Acquiring enough rest could diminish the harshness of DOMS.


Post-workout muscle gains may be indicated by the soreness that typically follows a challenging or novel exercise routine. It can be very unpleasant and obstruct your physical training regime. Natural remedies like compression socks or essential oils could provide swift relief from sore muscles.


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