April 28, 2010 4:14 AM   Subscribe

So, I kind of overdid it on the weight machines at the gym on Monday. What should I do when I go back on Friday?

After a somewhat lengthy abscence from the gym, I'm finally trying to get back into the habit -- and I got a little over-enthusiastic with the weight machines dealing with my arms. Not too much -- I only tried about five pounds more than I was doing before. But I'm still sore; just in the arms though (specifically, the triceps and the insides of my elbows). Fortunately, that's the only bit that seems affected. Everything else is in good shape, so I'm going no matter what.

I want to stay on schedule, but I don't want to push myself too much. Should I a) skip the weight machines dealing with my arms altogether until they heal, or b) do those weight machines, but just go REALLY easy on them (say, only lift ten pounds as opposed to the 30 I did this last time)?
posted by EmpressCallipygos to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The pain indicates that your body is still repairing the damage you did to your muscles on Monday. This is a good thing (well, unless you've hurt a tendon or something), and interrupting it would be a waste. Just wait until your arms don't hurt anymore before you do anything to them. Although if you're sure that only certain muscles are hurting, you could do exercises that focus on the non-hurting muscles.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 4:27 AM on April 28, 2010

Not a difficult one.

Stop overdoing it.
posted by Biru at 4:34 AM on April 28, 2010

Rest those muscles entirely until the pain stops, work on other muscles + cardio in the meantime - there are plenty to choose from!

Learn to differentiate between DOMS (kind of good) and tendon damage or muscle tearing (bad). The former basically indicates you have worked nice and hard and the muscles were pushed to the point that they have to repair+grow, the latter is going way too far.
posted by polyglot at 4:41 AM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

A split routine, where you work out different body parts on different days, may be something to consider.

You can make great muscle gains by working each muscle group once per week. My routine splits body parts thusly (I start my workout "week" on Saturday):

Saturday: Chest and Shoulders
Sunday: Back
Monday: Rest/Cardio
Tuesday: Rest/Cardio
Wednesday: Legs
Thursday: Biceps and Triceps
Friday: Rest/Cardio

The biceps/triceps day is a bit extra (you work biceps and triceps a lot for any upper body exercises), so you could just incorporate that into your upper body day(s). (Chest, shoulders and triceps all use a "push" motion, while back and biceps are more of a "pull" motion, so they go together well.)
posted by xingcat at 4:57 AM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

If the pain is soreness rather than sharp then it's most likely just muscle pain, I'd recommend taking it easy for the next workout rather than skipping it.

xingcat: I think that for someone just getting back into strength training, a split routine isn't really necessary.
posted by atrazine at 5:42 AM on April 28, 2010

I've done this "getting back into the habit" thing quite a few times over the last 20 years or so, and I get this type of soreness after the first session every single time. That pain on the inside of the elbow is classic delayed-onset muscle soreness from bicep exercises. I've never had any problems result from just doing the same routine again in a few days, and after three or four similar sessions, there's no pain the day after any more.
posted by FishBike at 6:05 AM on April 28, 2010

Obviously if you're actually injured with muscle tears or something else stay the hell away from the gym.

Agreeing with atrazine, you don't need to skip workouts for (regular, healthy) soreness -- when your body gets warm and loose, muscle soreness virtually disappears. You probably don't need to go down in weight as much as you think you do right now :) I wouldn't push yourself hard, but you'll probably be surprised at how normal you'll feel once you work up a sweat.

Sometimes DOMS will feel like a serious injury after starting up after a break. I went to a Crossfit free introduction class a few months ago -- and couldn't lift my arms above my waist for almost a week... really. That said, it was just healthy soreness, but you better believe I took it easy for a week -- don't push yourself into injury.
posted by wrok at 6:10 AM on April 28, 2010

What machine was it? Unless you are doing super-high-rep sets (which are pointless for your goals so why bother), tendonitis is unlikely. Additionally, the fact that you say you're getting back into the gym indicates you haven't been lifting at all, so my best guess is simple DOMS as others have noted. If you only lift Monday and Friday, you'll be fine on Friday. Going from thirty pounds max to ten pounds max is pointless and would do literally nothing for you.

Stuff you didn't ask about but which I am including: you will see markedly better progress if you lift three or four times per week. Ludwig_van signal: you should read Starting Strength which is highly recommended. I also recommend Strength Training Anatomy so you have a better understanding of what your body is doing, as well as the mechanical movement behind most lifts. As a beginner, if you're not squatting and deadlifting, you are probably getting only half or less of the potential benefit of lifting. Isolated arm exercises will not release the quantity of hormones or signals or magic pixie dust or whatever that leads to higher bone density and real strength. Use free weights instead of machines. Good luck!
posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:11 AM on April 28, 2010

By Friday your muscles will be ready for another workout. This is completely normal for the first time out.
posted by eas98 at 6:30 AM on April 28, 2010

I would do same routine, dialing everything back--like if you'd used 12 pound weights on Monday, use 10 on Friday.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:35 AM on April 28, 2010

As Optimus said, your best bet for strength, fitness, and safety is to stop using machines, stop isolating muscles, and learn to lift weights. You'll also be able to accomplish more work in less time.

Also, understand that building strength requires progressive overload, so using more weight than you did before isn't necessarily "over-enthusiastic" -- it's required if you want to get stronger. However, you'll be able to progress much more reliably with exercises that use more muscles working together in concert.

As for Friday, if it's just DOMS -- if you're experiencing muscle soreness that began some time after you finished your workout -- just proceed as normal. There's no need to go lighter than you usually would as long as the soreness isn't limiting your range of motion during your warmup. As wrok says, once you warm up the soreness will probably be greatly diminished. Working your muscles again will get blood flowing to them and will in fact speed recovery compared to doing nothing.

If you experienced a sudden pain during your workout, that's a different story. But DOMS is a normal part of lifting, and is to be expected especially when returning from a layoff.
posted by ludwig_van at 7:26 AM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I just wanted to emphasize that, as a lady who completed her very first dumbbell bench press a mere 6 weeks ago, that sort of godawful soreness will subside with each workout. I wanted to cut off my arms the mornings after I first started lifting, bitched to my roommates about how I was maybe paralyzed, but kept working out anyways. Soon enough the soreness stopped appearing and I was just experiencing that weirdly pleasant muscular ache that lets me know I've been pushing myself hard. If you power through the DOMS (and, as others mentioned, increase your workout days) it'll get much easier than if you quit exercising all together and start from the beginning a lot later.
posted by zoomorphic at 9:53 AM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

It is almost certainly DOMs. It will likely be gone by Friday. Even if it isn't, you should still go in and get blood flowing in those areas. Some fitness fanatics wish upon stars to try and feel that soreness again (it is fundamentally a sign that you exerted yourself in a new way). For a new lifter, it will be bad the day after the workout, and worse the second day after the workout. On the third day, it pretty much goes away (so again, by Friday, you'll be fine).

Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory as is high quality fish oil. These will reduce soreness that results from lifting (or exercise in general).

You're fine, keep up the good work. If you keep at this for long enough, you will eventually miss the soreness that comes with doing something that your body is not yet trained/adapted to.
posted by milqman at 10:16 AM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

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