Any kind of exercise can cause sore muscles, but weightlifting is especially prone to do so. The resistance weights pose to muscles forces them to stretch and contract. The most common reasons for soreness after weightlifting are injury and delayed onset muscle soreness. Injury usually occurs when a muscle is overworked or when an existing injury is exacerbated and worsened by over training. Delayed onset muscle soreness, however, does not indicate an injury and is a normal response to unusual exertion. You can prevent injury entirely, and delayed onset muscle soreness can be decreased by following a safe workout routine.
Consult your doctor before beginning a fitness routine if you have any injuries or if you suffer from conditions such as arthritis or osteoporosis. Your doctor may recommend a modified routine, may suggest that you avoid working certain muscles altogether or may suggest wrapping the affected area. Ask your doctor if there are any specific stretches you should do to minimize your risk of injury.
Stretch and warm up before you begin lifting weights. Even if you're only exercising a single muscle group by lifting weights, stretch your entire body before beginning. To stretch your legs, sit down on the floor with your legs together and extended outward. Bend down to touch your toes -- or as close as you can get to your toes -- and hold for several seconds. Stretch your shoulders and upper back by bending your elbows and pushing them together behind you. To stretch your neck, bend your neck to each side as if you are trying to touch your ear to your shoulder. Stretching is unlikely to prevent delayed onset muscle soreness, but it does decrease your risk of injury.
Lift weights slowly, focusing on proper form rather than speed or number of repetitions. If you are new to exercise or are beginning to increase the intensity of your workout routine, give your body time to gradually adjust. A sudden, rapid increase in intensity or a new routine is much more likely to result in both injury and delayed onset muscle soreness.
Perform a low-impact aerobic exercise such as walking after a weightlifting routine. This increases blood flow to the muscles and promotes muscle development.
Apply ice in the first 24 hours after exercise for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. Thereafter, apply alternating heat and ice for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, with 20 minutes off for each.
Use a foam roller on the affected area if you feel pain a few hours after working out. Foam rollers loosen up tense muscles and can speed up recovery times. Roll on the affected area, but do not place your entire weight on the roller. If you feel pain during rolling, stop.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen can help ease moderate muscle pain.
- Drink plenty of water both before and after working out. Dehydration increases healing time and can contribute to muscle pain.