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We’ve all experienced sore muscles, from the “hurt so good” to the flat out “hurt” variety. Most people associated sore muscles with a productive workout, but it’s important to explore that connection more in depth and determine exactly how sore muscles should be interpreted.

About Muscle Soreness

As you work out, your muscles are constantly contracting and extending, another way of saying they shorten and lengthen. This motion allows you to move, lift weights, jump, and everything in between. Normal movement doesn’t cause soreness, but experimenting with new moves or pushing yourself to do more reps may cause your muscles to lengthen more than usual, ultimately leading to small micro tears in those muscles.

Microtears cause that dull pain and stiffness that you know as sore muscles. It could be minor, like a bit of trouble flexing your calves the next day, to more encompassing, such as having trouble even sitting down without feeling stiff.

When You Work Out, But Never Feel Sore

If you have been using the same exercise program or routine for many weeks, months, or even years, chances are that over time your muscles have grown used to the movements of your workout and no longer suffer microtears from the effort. Once your body is used to a certain style of training, you won’t notice as many sore muscles unless you switch up your routine and challenge your muscles in a different manner.

Based on this logic, you can have an incredible, productive workout without feeling sore the next day. While sore muscles can definitely indicate that you pushed and challenged yourself in your workout, it’s not a prerequisite to labeling a workout as a success. To understand if your workouts are still having a positive impact on your body, even without making you sore, take a minute to evaluate yourself. Are you able to do more reps or lift heavier weights than one month ago? Do you feel more toned? Is your workout performance steadily improving? If you can answer yes to those questions, then a lack of soreness is not a concern.

On the other hand, if you never feel sore and also don’t see any progress in your skills or physique, it could help to switch things up and find a new routine to challenge your muscles.