Gimme a break?
August 14, 2007 8:13 AM   Subscribe

Sore muscles. Should I work out anyway?

My arms and upper back are sore from working on some projects around the house over the weekend. Today is when I normally do my weight routine, either a muscle fitness class or reps on the weight machines. Would working out help with the soreness or do I need to let my muscles recover before working them again? I can always just do another cardio day today instead, but would rather stick to my routine if I can.
posted by Nathanial Hörnblowér to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It depends how sore they are really and what you did. When I ran cross-country I ran every day with sore legs. Strength training is different and requires more rest to avoid overtraining. My limited knowledge tells me this: there's soreness from tearing muscle fibers, which happens lifting serious weight, and then there's soreness from lactic acid build-up and prolonged use, which you get from endurance activities or from things like holding your arms up in the air for a long time, which is probably what happened to you working around the home. My experience tells me this: in the latter case yes you can do strength training the next day. I can swim and then lift the day after, not vice versa. Anyway I wouldn't worry about it, you can try and see, and you'll probably just be more sore than usual the day after, which is fine but this is when you should definitely rest and allow your muscles recovery time. The absolute worst that could happen is you'll have a very mediocre lifting session and be sore as fuck the next day.
posted by creasy boy at 8:27 AM on August 14, 2007

You gain through recovery. It sounds like you are not sufficiently recovered to work toward a new recovery yet, but only you can really decide that for sure.
posted by caddis at 8:28 AM on August 14, 2007

I should've added: the line between pushing yourself appropriately hard and overtraining is something you have to discover on your own. The only time you necessarily need rest is after doing low-rep, high-weight strength training, like 10 reps to muscle failure. For at least a day afterwards you should rest those muscles, or you will see poor to no results over time & a frustrating plateau.
posted by creasy boy at 8:33 AM on August 14, 2007

creasy boy: The most recent research I've found discounts the lactic acid theory. I'm pretty sure this non-theory will be not-un-dis-proven any moment now, given the way fitness research seems to progress.

To Nathanial, just take a break and do cardio and light stretching. A day of rest won't hurt you.
posted by chairface at 8:42 AM on August 14, 2007

Oh and I definitely should've added: if you do decide to work out then make sure you warm up and stretch before doing anything drastic.
posted by creasy boy at 8:43 AM on August 14, 2007

It depends. If you feel like you can get through your normal routine OK then you'll probably be fine. But at the same time, it really doesn't matter if you work out tomorrow instead.
posted by PFL at 9:08 AM on August 14, 2007

My experience is that active recovery is better than pure rest. In my case -- I race bikes -- I generally get on the bike and ride easy if I'm sore, but avoid the higher intensity and muscle tension work that leads to more soreness. Working the affected areas at low intensity helps clear lactic acid and spur quicker recovery, and I feel better faster. On the other hand, doing intense lifting generally only prolongs the agony.

This is probably a little different than the prescription for someone going to the gym specifically to lift, but some form of active recovery will probably help you feel better than either nothing at all or a very intense session.
posted by dseaton at 9:13 AM on August 14, 2007

Keeping with chairface's discussion of reciprocal contradicting theories, current thinking is that cold stretching before a workout does nothing to prevent injury and potentially is an opportunity to hurt yourself by doing it wrong.

Warming up, however, continues to be considered critical.
posted by phearlez at 9:26 AM on August 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

Phearlez does that apply to all forms of exercise, i.e. including heavy lifting? I never stretch beforehand anyway because I'm too impatient, but I thought stretching would reduce muscle stiffness, making it less likely that you'll tear something with sudden movement under heavy weight.

Chairface: that's interesting too. But whether lactic acid causes soreness or not, my point is more that activities involving lactic acid & aerobic metabolic chains, i.e. lots of pushups or jogging 5k, produce a soreness that you don't necessarily have to take seriously. If this guy is sore from craning his neck or holding his arms up to the ceiling for hours I would attach no significance to it. If he dragged a washing machine up the stairs I would rest, in his position.
posted by creasy boy at 9:55 AM on August 14, 2007

One day of extra rest won't hurt. Most people are overtrained, and the extra day of recovery will be fine. Some aerobic work keep you feeling from being sedentary.
posted by filmgeek at 9:56 AM on August 14, 2007

Creasy - a quick link here and a summarization here. You may hurt less later if you stretch before or after but it's not going to stop you from getting injured.
posted by phearlez at 10:45 AM on August 14, 2007

Phearlez does that apply to all forms of exercise, i.e. including heavy lifting? I never stretch beforehand anyway because I'm too impatient, but I thought stretching would reduce muscle stiffness, making it less likely that you'll tear something with sudden movement under heavy weight.

Stretching before weightlifting is actually contraindicated, from what I read. Its only effect is to prematurely fatigue your muscles, meaning you won't get as good a workout. Warming up is still important, though. You should do at least one warm-up set with reduced weight for each muscle group.
posted by Khalad at 10:58 AM on August 14, 2007

My understanding is that you should warm up before strenuous lifting, but stretching should be done afterwards. This way, you spend an hour (or however long) contracting your muscles, then spend some time stretching and elongating them back to "normal."

I suppose the theory is that stretching and elongating your muscles before strenuous contracting (lifting) makes you more susceptible to injury.
posted by PFL at 1:26 PM on August 14, 2007

I have a question: if your muscles have no soreness at rest, but some soreness when doing exercise at strength (before they get to burn), is it still too soon?
posted by lastobelus at 4:59 PM on August 14, 2007

Soreness means nothing. If I didn't lift sore sometimes, I would never get to the point where lifting didn't make me sore.
If you feel weak, tired, have a high resting heart rate, soreness in the ligaments (as opposed to just normal muscle soreness), rest, because you might be injured or overtraining. Otherwise, don't worry about it.
posted by ch1x0r at 5:52 PM on August 14, 2007

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