Pulling a muscle sucks, and figuring out if it’s an actual strain that needs attention sucks even more. We’ve all experienced strains, cramps, soreness, and general tightness, but it doesn’t help that these all seem to cause varying degrees of similar pain. Here’s how to tell if it’s really a pulled muscle and what you can do about it.
“Feel the burn!” is an oft-repeated cue to get exercisers to work harder and longer than they normally would. A good many relish in this uncomfortable feeling, but depending on the circumstances, this “burn” isn’t always a reliable indicator of a good or effective workout. Here’s what’s going on and why “feeling the burn” is overrated.
I like this approach because it pushes back against the pressure people feel to exercise a certain way with a certain attitude. I was having a similar conversation last week with a friend who teaches fitness classes. She said, “whatever works for you. whatever makes you happy”.
It isn’t easy getting fit. There’s a lot to learn: Your workout itself, whether the number of reps you do matters, and then there’s all the gym and exercise lingo you’ve never heard before. Say no more. We understand, and we’ve put together this primer to help.
Keep in mind that fitness jargon is endless, so this list isn’t comprehensive. It is made up of many terms that you may have heard before but didn’t understand, or heard a trainer toss around.
This has been one of those ideas floating around for years and I still see posts about people feeling as if they didn’t have a good workout if they don’t get DOMS or actually chasing DOMS. That is, based on the belief that DOMS equals growth, DOMS becomes the end-goal. When growth and progress should be the end goal.
This led me years ago to develop what I call the Blunt Force Trauma Theory of Hypertrophy. Since you want to be sore, I will beat you with a hammer all over your body. Growth should ensue.
While DOMS is associated with muscle growth and repair, it doesn’t track with any specific measure—you’ll have damage before you feel soreness, and you’ll feel better before the muscle is fully repaired, for example. And some people/some sports can build tons of muscle over time without ever getting sore.
Another thing the author mentioned that I want to highlight: DOMS comes with decreased strength. You don’t just crap out on workouts because they hurt, you actually have less strength—and this loss of strength persists even when the soreness is gone, for days or in extreme cases weeks. So if you’re sore a couple times a week, you’re probably always underperforming, and might be able to make bigger gains if you backed off a bit.
When you’re struggling to walk down the stairs the day after a tough workout, should you view your soreness as proof you worked hard, or as a sign you overdid it? The truth is somewhere in between. Let’s learn about where soreness comes from and how to keep it from making you miserable.
There is good reason massage therapists are part of an elite runner’s entourage. And why the lines for a postrace massage seemingly extend for miles. A rubdown—even a deep, intense one—feels great. Runners report that massages help lessen muscle tension and improve range of motion, while also making them feel relaxed and rewarded for their hard efforts.
Yet despite massage’s popularity and positive reputation, there’s been little scientific evidence to support why athletes feel so good when they hop off the table. “It can be hard to merge basic science with alternative medicine,” says Justin Crane, Ph.D., a McMaster University researcher who conducted some of the first objective studies on massage in 2012. Practitioners say massage relieves muscle soreness, promotes circulation, flushes toxins and lactic acid from the body, and eases joint strain—claims supported by centuries of anecdotal evidence from China, Sweden, and around the globe. But science hadn’t confirmed just what massage actually achieves—until now. Recent research has sorted out what’s true and what’s not.
Massage does help to relax muscles, though, which can help to relieve tight muscles. The same action can break up adhesions, a type of scar tissue that sometimes forms in muscle. Massage promotes recovery.