Jumpers Knee: It's Okay to Train through Pain If… [Checklist]
Why it’s OK to train through pain
Your muscles feel sore after your last workout. Problem is, its time to train them again. Should you skip the workout completely and take an extra day or two of rest? Or do you just carry on as normal?
Inexperience is a proving ground for pain. Muscle soreness is usually at its worst when you start a new routine, when you do an exercise you havent done before, or when you return to training after a few weeks off. As your body gets used to a particular workout, post-exercise muscle soreness tends to ease off. Great. But this leaves you wondering: "Is my training actually working?"
After all, if a muscle feels sore, you must have damaged it. Once its repaired itself, that damaged muscle will come back bigger and stronger. As they say, no pain, no gain. So soreness is a good sign, right?
Feel the burn
Firstly, the nerve fibres transmitting the sensation of delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) are found mainly in the connective tissue between muscle fibres, as well as the junction between the tendon and muscle, according to research published inThe Journal of Physiology. In other words, DOMS appears to stem from the connective tissue that helps to bind muscle fibres together, rather than the muscle fibres themselves.
Its true that there's a link between DOMS and damage to muscle cells. But the former is not necessarily caused by the latter. In fact, Japanese studies show that muscle soreness isn't a reliable gauge of how much damaged they've sustained. You may feel so sore after leg day that you cant walk up the stairs without wincing, but that's no guarantee youve created an apocalyptic level of muscle damage. And nor do light steps indicate that your quads are entirely unharmed.
There are also genetic differences that affect how you respond to a workout; US research shows large variations in the individual damage response to exercise. In fact, there seems to be a population of high responders who lose more strength after a workout, and take more time to recover. They also experience a much greater degree of muscle soreness.
Less is more
What this means is that you and your training partner might do the exact same workout, but if you happen to be in this group of genetically predetermined high responders, you could wind up with John Wayne syndrome the next day while your mate's still able to squat.
So, should you train a muscle thats still sore from the previous workout?
Theres no reason why not, particularly if its just a one off. You might think that a second bout of training would interfere with recovery from the first, or at least make muscle damage worse. But when scientists from Taiwan's National Chiayi Univeristy put the idea to the test, they found that training sore doesnt appear to create any further damage, or slow the recovery process.
Though the occasional workout with screaming muscles is fine, if you're training sore every session its time to take a step back and look at how your training programme is set up. The chances are youre trying to combine a large volume of training with a high training frequency. You can do one or the other, but not both.
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