posted on November 12, 2018
Everyone likes to be a little sore. You wake up the next day or two with that feeling of accomplishment. But what if one day that soreness isn’t there? And honestly what really causes you to be sore in the first place? Some people may jump to the conclusion that they slacked off at the gym if they don’t wake up in some sort of pain. But this isn’t the case.
Let’s first address a very common myth: Lactic acid does not cause soreness. Lactate is produced during anaerobic exercise but it acts as a buffer in your cells. Lactate will buffer hydrogens that are being produced during exercise. Once oxygen is introduced again lactate can then be utilized as energy. Lactate is your friend.
Soreness is your body registering the microtrauma (small tears) that was caused to the muscle fiber during exercise. Now not every portion of a lift causes soreness or microtrauma. There are three main components of each lift: eccentric, isometric, and concentric. The eccentric portion of the exercise is when the muscle is being lengthened. When your muscle is bearing load during a lengthening phase that’s when the most microtrauma happens. The second portion is the isometric (or an isometric exercise) phase, which causes some microtrauma but not nearly as much as the eccentric movement. The concentric portion of the lift causes minimal to no damage to the muscle fiber. This is very useful when you want to work out but you are sore. Concentric movements can be used as recovery. The best examples of concentric only exercises are walking with the sled or more exercises using the sled.
The question is still– do I need to cause microtrauma to get a benefit from working out? No. True, microtrauma will produce the most effect towards any fitness goal. But you don’t need it every time you workout.
Let’s take the concentric movements only as an example. Doing this will still produce an excess of post-exercise oxygen consumption (increasing metabolism) and will still get a CNS response to help the body prepare for moving weight. This meaning if you still want to lift big weights your body will be prepared for that and if you want to lose weight concentric movements will still increase your metabolism.
So if one of these days you don’t wake up sore, don’t beat yourself up. You still put the work in! Being sore all the time is not necessary! Yes, at times you need to load that eccentric phase to cause microtrauma but giving yourself a break sometimes will still get you toward your goals.