What If I Don’t Feel Sore After My Workout?

Have you ever had a great workout only to wake up the next morning feeling… refreshed? Chances are you might have felt frustrated or disappointed that you must not have worked hard enough, or that you aren’t going to see results. In today’s post i’m going to share with you why “soreness” is totally individual and doesn’t indicate whether or not your workouts are effective!

What is DOMS?

First and foremost, as we begin a new exercise regimen we generally experience something called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). This phenomenon happens as a result of our bodies trying to adapt as quickly as possible to new stressors placed on it. This inflammatory muscle soreness generally feels tight, hot, impedes full range of movement, and persist for up to 72 hours after exercise.

While DOMS can be shocking to experience, it’s totally normal and generally goes away on it’s own with time.

Hypertrophy – Is Muscle Soreness and Indicator of Gains?

In order for muscles to get larger (often called “hypertrophy”) there needs to be: muscular damage, mechanical tension, and metabolic stress placed on the body.

In general, DOMS is highly correlated with muscular damage as it occurs when you perform an exercise you aren’t adapted to yet. DOMS is generally followed by a rapid adaptation to prevent further injury when you perform the same movement again. if you experience DOMS, there’s a high chance you’re stimulating some hypertrophy. But how much?

According to B.J. Schoenfield, It’s hard to tell. DOMS can be influenced by exercise selection (for example, exercises with a greater emphasis on the eccentric phase), hormones (like testosterone, IGF-1, and HGH), your individual inflammatory responses, nerve afferents, and perceptions of pain.

So although DOMS may provide a general indication that some degree of damage to muscle tissue has occurred, it cannot be used as a definitive measure of the phenomenon.”

So, What’s the Deal?

Experiencing muscle soreness may actually be counterproductive. Firstly, severe muscle soreness can decrease your performance in the gym and your ability to perform a workout safely. Secondly, many individuals will refrain from further exercise once they’ve experienced DOMS. And neither of these is good for long-term success.

As stated before, muscular damage, mechanical tension, and metabolic stress all play a role in the adaptations required for hypertrophy. Experiencing soreness is not a good indicator that you had an effective workout, and it’s not too reliable to keep track of your progress.

In conclusion, relying on a measuring tape to check muscle size or the progression in your weights lifted in the gym, is a better indicator of progress over time. If you don’t experience soreness after your next workout, don’t worry! That doesn’t mean it wasn’t effective.


Want some further reading? Check out this info!

Nosaka, Ken (2008). “Muscle Soreness and Damage and the Repeated-Bout Effect”. In Tiidus, Peter M. Skeletal muscle damage and repairHuman Kinetics. pp. 59–76. ISBN 978-0-7360-5867-4.

Brad J. Schoenfeld and Bret Contreras, “Is Postexercise Muscle Soreness a Valid Indicator of Muscular Adaptations?” Strength and Conditioning Journal, vol. 35 No. 5 pp. 16-21 (2013)

Brad J. Schoenfeld “The Mechanisms for Muscle Hypertrophy, and Their Application to Resistance Training” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, vol. 24(10) (2010)

Connolly, Declan. “Treatment and Prevention of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness” (PDF). National Strength & Conditioning Association. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 September 2012. Retrieved 8 October 2012.