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Your legs hurt? You’re not in pain.. you’re just sore.

The difference between pain and soreness in the gym.

When training in the gym the body undergoes a variety of stimuli and stressors. Lifting weights and crushing grueling conditioning workouts can lead to the body feeling a few things the next day.

But how can we distinguish what we’re feeling the day after a workout. Is what you’re feeling a good or bad thing or simply a normal process of exercise.

Let’s take a brief look into what happens to the body after we exercise.

When we weight train, the process of lifting weights actually causes small micro tears in our muscles. These micro tears are the catalyst for what will be the rebuilding process of new, stronger muscle.

Initially the micro tears are accompanied by increased swelling to the area, also known as cell swelling. Bodybuilders call this the ‘pump’, the swelling contains the remnants of oxygenated blood that was transporting nutrients to the muscle whilst exercising and is now pooling around the muscle waiting to slowly drain via our veins.

After a couple hours post workout your muscles begin the recovery process. Range of motion within the joint is still unaffected and there is no actual soreness experienced.

The day after however, our joint range of motion is reduced, stretching our muscles is difficult and contracting fatigued muscle is quite uncomfortable. This phenomenon is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS.

Now let me say, DOMS are completely normal. And almost unavoidable if you’re new to training.The good thing is, it does subside and gets less and less severe the more you train consistently.

So if that is an incentive to keep training, then use it!

Unfortunately there’s nothing we can do to speed up the recovery process for DOMS but we can reduce the severity.

  • Foam rolling
  • Static stretching
  • Dark chocolate

Now let’s move onto other feelings post workout.


And how to recognise that you’re in pain and not just experiencing a severe bout of DOMS.

Well firstly, DOMS don’t completely leave you unable to move (even though you may feel like you cannot walk, I promise you can) where as pain leaves you generally unable to move without sharp sensations.

Whether its nerve pain, a slight tear or strain, pain is often associated with sharp, intense pains. Often described as electric shocks or a stabbing sensation.

When you feel anything like this, it’s likely you’ve injured yourself and should get that checked out by a professional such as Exercise Physiologist or Physiotherapist.

There is a difference between post gym soreness and post gym pain. Understanding this will allow you to push thru and continue progressing and not skipping workouts unnecessarily.

Christopher Watts

Author Christopher Watts

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