Do You Even Lift?
Since Penn State must not get enough of its students’ money, they charge us for gym memberships that allow us access to the various gyms around campus. Since there is actual money on the line, I am almost more motivated to workout. Recently, I lifted for the first time since the beginning of summer. It appeared like I belonged in the gym in front of the other Penn State students but the next morning I was regretful. Every muscle in my body ached and I could barely walk to class since my legs resembled stiff tree stumps dragging across the pavement. While I was in agonizing pain, I wondered if lifting while I was sore would be helpful or detrimental to my body.
Why Muscles Get Sore
When people lift weights, they contract and stretch the muscles needed for the exercise. These various contractions result in delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS. DOMS is caused by micro fractures within the muscle cells. When I lifted for the first time in months, I was more prone to DOMS since my muscles were not used to the movements I was doing. The tiny fractures in the muscles cause bleeding which can further cause swelling and inflammation. Since the muscles are essentially injured, they need time to heal.
How Long it Takes for Muscles to Heal
Muscles that undergo eccentric contractions, which consist of basically shortening and then stretching the muscle, take longer times to heal since the muscle often is not used to that specific movement. John Berardi stated that muscles do not fully recover after being broken down until after about 14 days, however, it is safe to resume working out 48 hours after an intense workout. Muscles do not grow and get stronger during the workout, which is what many people believe. This happens during the recovery process.
Since muscles are in the process of healing when they are sore, it is not advised to lift or further break down your muscles. This will disrupt the healing process and actually prevent the muscles from growing. Eventually they will slowly repair however they would not grow as fast as they would with a proper stage of healing. Because muscles need to heal for about 48 hours following the workout, several body builders often rely on steroids to reduce that time, which allows them to build even more muscle mass. Most people think that steroids just make the muscles amped up during a workout which causes the person to lift more, but it is really the boosted healing process that allows steroid users to get ripped. Without steroids though, it is recommended that you wait before you lift again.
Since muscles can only grow by repairing themselves after being broken down, it is best not to interrupt this process of healing. If you lift again while your muscles are sore, while it may seem that you’re becoming stronger by working through the pain, you are actually preventing your muscles from healing properly, and further preventing them from building more mass. So should you lift when your muscles are sore? Probably not. I recommend you work on a separate muscle group so you can maximize your gains for later.