Weight training creates small tears in your muscles fibers. After a workout, your body goes through many changes to repair the damaged tissue. Recovery time between workouts varies based upon training style, fitness level and muscle groups, but the standard recovery time is 48 hours of rest before retraining the same muscle group.
Following an intense weight-training session you may experience some mild pain and swelling in the trained muscle. This is a result of fluid accumulation occurring within the muscle. This acute pain or soreness may last only a few minutes or up to several hours immediately following exercise. The most common muscle soreness referred to in weight training is delayed-onset muscle soreness, or DOMS. DOMS is the muscle soreness felt a day or two after heavy exercise and typically lasts two to four days after exercise. The soreness is a result of both swelling and stiffness but may also be from biochemical changes in the muscles that increase nerve sensitivity, leading to muscle pain, notes Dr. John M Berardi, PhD
DOMS usually is a result of eccentric muscle action and associated with actual muscle damage. Eccentric muscle action is the lengthening of the muscle; whereas, concentric muscle action is the shortening of the muscle. For example, downhill running or the downward motion of the biceps curl is an eccentric muscle action. During the two to four days of DOMS, there is a loss of strength in the muscle, but it usually returns within five days after the initial exercise bout. DOMS can be minimized by gradually increasing the intensity of your training and reducing the amount of eccentric movements you perform. However, DOMS is also important for stimulating muscle growth and may be necessary to maximize training response, notes Jack H. Wilmore and David L. Costill, authors of “Physiology of Sport and Exercise.”
Muscle soreness may diminish within a few days following an intense bout of exercise, but it may take one to two weeks for full muscle strength to return. Loss of strength might be caused from a change in muscle calcium balance and energy production, poor recovery of muscle energy during this period or a decrease in muscle protein content.
Always rest a muscle group at least 48 hours before training it again. If you are still experiencing muscle soreness, pain or swelling after 48 hours, wait a few extra days until the pain has subsided before training that muscle group again. Training separate muscle groups each day instead of in one session allows time for rest for individual muscles groups to ensure maximum recovery time. For example, on Monday train chest and triceps, Tuesday train legs, Thursday train back and biceps and Friday train shoulders and abs. Additionally, taking a week off from training every three or four months will give your muscles a time to have complete muscle recovery.
- John Beradi: Weight Lifting and Post Exercise Muscle Recovery
- "Physiology of Sport and Exercise;" Jack H. Wilmore & David L. Costill; 2004
- American Council on Exercise: Strength Training 101
- Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.