If you’re thinking about starting a workout program, you might be wondering if you’ll be sore after training at the gym for the first time.
The short answer: if you’ve never worked out before, some mild muscle soreness is likely, but a fitness professional can help you ease into a program so you aren’t overly sore.
The good news: as you get used to working out, you won’t be as sore as often because your body will adjust to the activities you do.
Very experienced gym goers also get sore from time to time. This usually happens when they do an exercise for the first time or significantly increase the intensity of a workout by adding weight or volume or by reducing rest.
While it’s true that people can work out at such extreme levels that they become ill or injured, it’s very rare—especially when people train under the supervision of a qualified, credentialed coach.
A good coach will always evaluate clients’ current fitness levels and prescribe only reasonable amounts of activity that result in progress toward goals, not inappropriate levels of soreness. Trained fitness pros can also teach you how to do movements properly so you avoid joint pain and injury, which are not normal aspects of training.
So what causes muscle soreness, also referred to as “delayed onset muscle soreness” (or “DOMS” for short)?
Scientists explain that soreness is caused by microscopic tears in the muscle. Don’t worry: this exercise-induced stress to the muscle can be a good thing. Appropriate levels of exertion challenge the body. The body responds to that stress by repairing itself and adapting to be ready for similar and even greater challenges. So if 10 squats make you sore one day, the body might add muscle so it takes 12 squats to make you sore the next time.
Great coaches understand exactly how to challenge muscles, connective tissue and physiological systems so they adapt to become stronger, more powerful and more efficient. An effective workout program balances appropriate stress with rest, recovery and nutrition to ensure the body is always improving itself.
As you become more experienced, you’ll start to recognize that certain low levels of soreness are just part of the process. And your coach will always check in with you and adjust training intensity to make sure your workouts are appropriate.
Eventually, you might not get sore very often. And then you’ll probably ask, “Does that mean I’m not working hard enough?” The answer is that soreness doesn’t reflect the quality of the workout. A workout can make you fitter even if you aren’t sore afterward.
Here’s the bottom line
Fitness training has the potential to make your muscles sore, but a great coach will ensure that everything you do is safe and appropriate. As you get fitter, you won’t be as sore as often, but you still might feel mild soreness after certain workouts.
If you’re new to training or thinking about starting a fitness program, the best plan is to talk with an experienced coach about your history and goals. That coach will put together the perfect plan for you and ensure it’s adjusted regularly based on your feedback.
We sit down with all new clients to talk before they start training. We ask questions and we listen to your answers, then we tell you how we can help. We’ll answer all of your questions, too, so you feel comfortable. Once you start training, you won’t be on your own. Your coach will guide you, adjust your workouts and make sure you’re always on track.